Illustrating a recipe book: watercolor lemons for the Lemonayo Kickstarter campaign
My most recent collaboration took me on a citrus discovery. I was asked by the foodies at Kraut source to create watercolor illustrations of two varieties of lemons for their most recent Kickstarter campaign. The two lemons in their Lemonayo recipe are Meyer and Eureka lemons. My illustrations will be included on the cover of (and inside) a recipe book, offered at several of the reward levels. My family got to taste the final product—Lemonayo—and we all loved it. It’s fresh, lemony but not acidic, and just brings something new and different to a lot of dishes. We tried it with asparagus, salmon and just with potato chips, which was delicious! It’s also a fermented food, so it’s full of good stuff.
I started doing some research, just to make sure my drawings would be botanically correct. This involved mostly images, along with a few living samples I was able to buy.
I did learn a lot about lemons in the process of illustrating this recipe book cover: for instance, that Meyer lemons (Citrus x meyeri) are actually a hybrid citrus fruit. They are a cross between a citron and a mandarin/pomelo hybrid. I found a good article about The Citrus Family Tree by National Geographic’s Daniel Stone that explains this. Meyer lemons are rounder and sweeter than regular lemons, and my favorite thing about them is their deep yellow-orange skin. Eureka lemons (Citrus limon “Eureka”) are a much brighter yellow. They are larger, oblong, and often have a bumpy skin with a pronounced mammillary (that little knobby blossom end that looks like a nipple, hence the name).
I sketched the various citrus fruit from different angles, with branches and leaves, or halved (top image, left). I chose my favorite angles, those that would work best on the cover of a recipe book, or alongside text. Then I drew the selected pieces more precisely, and inked the drawings with a Sakura Pigma fine liner (top image, center).
After the sketching and inking stages, I took the time to paint these three lemons (two Meyer and one Eureka on the left) as a quick practice run, to make sure I got the yellow hues just right. They lack the detail and fine brush work that the final illustrations have, but this step helps solidify color and texture choices.
Then came the long and meticulous task of adding watercolor to the line art. This involves many different layers of watercolor, with complete drying in between each layer. I had to make the differences in hue and skin texture perceptible, but subtle. Below are the final results that I sent to the client.