On her website Good Food Crap Drawing, Sydney artist Anna Vu outlines her stridently simple approach to her work : "I just eat the food. And if I think it's good, I draw it."
Since 2011, Vu has garnered a cult following for her playful illustrations of dishes from around the world. Tokyo's Afuri ramen and the veal brain from Paris's Clown Bar have been given the pen-and-ink treatment, while close to home she's turned out two-dimensional versions of roasted broccoli from Melbourne's Embla, the rice bowl from Hobart's Rough Rice, and potato dumplings with trout XO from Sydney's Cafe Paci. Even those dagwood dogs from the Sydney Royal Easter show have been immortalised by Vu.
Now, she's giving back to the struggling industry that's fuelled her appetite and creativity. Five dollars from every Good Food Crap Drawing print sold will be donated to the restaurant the dish is from; buyers can also opt for a "wine pairing" from Vu's spin-off project Good Wine Crap Drawing. If the restaurant is closed, the proceeds will be directed to the chef, or to a charity of their choice.
"Good Food Crap Drawing wouldn't exist if all of these restaurants didn't exist, so it's really in my best interest that these businesses survive this crisis and keep operating," says Vu. The A4-size prints are $75 each, and are printed to order, with larger sizes available upon request.
The artist has deep roots in the Australian hospitality industry. For several years she served as Gourmet Traveller's art director, and was the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival's artist in residence for 2017. (She also, once upon a time, lived next door to Sydney's Fratelli Paradiso). Even from Berlin where she's currently based, she's kept tabs on how the local restaurant industry is faring through hospitality friends and social media. She acknowledges the sector is facing significant challenges in the current crisis, but is buoyed by the rapid creativity and adaptability of restaurants.
"I don't think it's all been negative, there have been some exciting delivery and takeaway initiatives that have taken off which will hopefully stick around even after this is over," she says. "But for the most part everyone is really struggling."
Vu too has been impacted by Berlin's lockdown restrictions – the restaurant and cafe shifts that supplemented her artist income have been cut back. She's in "survival mode", she says, but counts herself lucky to access Germany's emergency relief grants for artists and freelancers.
For now, she's keeping busy working through a backlog of pending illustrations. She's especially proud of her recent pizza illustrations, including one from Roberta's in New York – "I think I'm really nailing that crust." Since the outbreak of COVID-19, a few non-restaurant dishes have made the drawing board: her mum's bun rieu (a Vietnamese tomato-and-shrimp noodle soup), for example, and a friend's duck cassoulet. And still, she's on the long hunt for finding just the right shade of marker colour to represent bacon and natural wines. Faber-Castell connector pens, once her preferred textas of choice, no longer cut the mustard. "I've had to resort to trying out some other brands and invest into some Copic markers [...] There are some crazy skin-contact-coloured wines out there."