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From Vacation to Vocation: They Draw, Cook, Travel, Share

Written by in Books, Create, Inspire

“They Draw and Cook”
“They Draw and Travel”

Love of Illustration, Food, and Sharing 
Unites Illustrators Around the World

It started in 2010 with a crate of figs, some fetuccine, butter and balsamic vinegar.  The next thing they knew, they had spawned a community of food and illustrations around the word. Salli S. Swindell and her brother Nate Padavick of Studio SSS—were on vacation.


“They Draw & Cook (TDAC) is the internet’s largest collection of illustrated recipes created by artists from around the world.  Nate Padavick and Salli S. Swindell are a brother/sister design and illustration team known as Studio SSS. They have created hundreds of magazine and book illustrations, thousands of greeting card designs, and, of course, many super tasty illustrated recipes!”


“Nate was cooking fettuccine with figs in butter balsamic sauce—sounds amazing, right?” recall Salli.  “While he was cooking, I was at the counter drawing the crate of fresh figs and sipping wine. It was an ‘Aha!’ moment. Drawing food is fun! I told Nate we needed to find more food illustration jobs.”

They Draw and Cook first began as a printed book of illustrated recipes they’d give away to friends, family, and clients. Nate had the idea to invite other  friends to contribute to the book. Weeks and months passed. While awaiting one submission for the book,  Nate grew impatient. On a whim, he posted eight of the illustrated recipes to a blog he and Salli decided to brand They Draw and Cook.

Word spread. Others began submitting illustrated recipes. In a short time, they had hundreds. Then thousands: more than 250,000 follow the blog on Facebook; more than 40,000 follow it on Instagram. Schools are using these sites for classroom assignments. “Some of our finest illustrated recipes are from students attending MICA, CCAD, and SCAD,” adds Salli. “We welcome a range of styles and skill level, and especially like it when we see an artist improve their skills one recipe or map at a time.”

The site’s popularity has inspired Nate and Salli to think of fresh ideas to unite illustration and personal interests. The compiled a list of “They Draw and …” variations.  Nate’s love of travel includes an interest in map design. The brother and sister added a map feature to their site to enable visitors to find other illustrators around the world.  Then they created They Draw and Travel—a companion site that is just as fun as their food site.


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Chicken and Prawn Paella Recipe & Illustration by Liv Wan.

Although these started on a whim,  blog and site maintenance occupy a lot time. Salli handles the cooking site, while Nate manages the travel site, each contributing 15 to 20 hours a week. They now seek to offset costs with smart sponsorships such as illustrated recipe contests. Salli explains, “Big companies such as Glad, Kraft, UPPERCASE magazine, and The Food Network have sponsored contests on the sites with cash prizes of up to $5,000. Contests are fun and create buzz. We don’t have any planned right now, but we’d would love to! Anyone? Anyone?”

they draw books

They also have published several books as offshoots of the sites that help pay for website development. Cookbooks ranging from cocktails, vegan, fig and holiday recipes are available on their online shop, and Nate just published his first illustrated map book, titled The Draw and Travel, 100 Illustrated Maps of American Places by Artists Around the World.


Perfectly Preserved Lemons

“I love all of my illustrated recipes for one reason or another. Sometimes It’s because of the recipe itself and sometimes it’s for the illustration I created. I like Perfectly Preserved Lemons for the pink and yellow color combo, and because learning about preserved lemons has totally changed my salads and side dishes. I could add finely chopped preserved lemon rinds to everything.” — Salli S. Swindell

The collaborative nature is helping artists find new clients. “We’ve met many new friends and discovered new food and adventures with every recipe and map submitted,” Salli says, adding, “What started out as a way for a few friends to meet new clients, has evolved into a way for thousands of artists and illustrators to connect with art directors across the world. Artist contributors frequently report to us that an art director spotted their work on Draw & Cook or Draw & Travel and contacted them. It doesn’t get any better than that!”


Jackson Hole Illustrated Map Inspires Visit

“My favorite drawing is an 8 x 12-foot illustrated map wall mural in Jackson Hole, Wyoming created for a Haagen-Dazs shop. The mural map combines summer and winter activities and features all the things we love: hiking, biking, skiing, swimming, and exploring. The map inspired us to visit Jackson Hole last August for my birthday. We did all the activities shown on the map, including a hike and swim with Kris Shean, owner of the Jackson Hole Haagen-Dazs shop!” — Nate Padavick

Salli will be speaking about her and her brother’s projects for the online Build a Better Business Conference held April 20 & 21 and sponsored by Maker Mentors. The conference is two days, and includes presentations from 12 creative pros. Those who sign up gain access to all live sessions, network with other attendees, and have questions answered in real time.