A few weeks ago, I was strolling through the various boutique shops of San Francisco's North Beach area -- the whole stretch is essentially one boutique store after another, with an occasional bar, or pizza by the slice place, or strip club interspersed throughout; it's definitely worth the trip, is the point -- when the print pictured above caught my eye.
It's a collection of the most intricately-designed food trucks in the Bay Area and L.A., and it perfectly encapsulates how the explosion of the food truck business has extended into the art world. Where once the simple rarity of such trucks allowed for owners to forgo worrying about design elements, now, because there are so many food truck fish in the asphalt sea, they need a way to distinguish themselves. And there's no more succinct way of doing so than by making them look awesome.
The print was created by artist Eric Rewitzer from 3 Fish Studios. (If you're interested in purchasing a print, which you should certainly be, head this-a-way.) I spoke to Rewitzer about what makes the new generation of food trucks so visually appealing.
So, why food trucks?
Eric Rewitzer: My whole infatuation came from a few trips down to L.A., before the food truck scene really started blowing up here in San Francisco. I'm always interested in icons of urban life, and they certainly are that. So what I started doing was taking pictures of some of these trucks on the street. I was really interested in the ones with narratives on the side. Like anthropomorphized peppers, or the Pieta. [laughs] Like, there was this one with someone holding this dying lady in her arms, with a volcano erupting in the background. It was just these epic stories being told on the side of the trucks. I liked the ones that were hand-painted, and so if they had to change the price they just peeled it off and wrote on the new price.
How long of a process is it to create each print?
Eric: After the photo, I have to do the drawing of the photo which will take about two to three hours, and then transfer the photo to a sheet of linoleum, which takes another two to three hours, and then I have to carve it. So, depending on the complexity of the carving, it will take anywhere from six hours to twenty hours, depending on the intricacies of the truck. Once all that's done, I then have to turn out my paper and ink up the plate and print them up individually. The printing process doesn't take too long, I have a press here, it's a manually operated one. Once they dry, I will go through and add a watercolor to them, and probably spend about 15 minutes each just adding the little spot color and watercolor. And there ya go!
Eric: When I do go to an event like Off the Grid, and I've been invited to show there as an artist on a couple of occasions, I'll bring a couple of prints with me and I'll go up to the trucks and let them know that I'm going to have them for sale. But I'll always give the truck and their crew a copy, and say hey, thanks for providing me with this imagery. And they're always excited. Well, all but one. I'm very sensitive to the fact that I'm taking something that's branded and they've got a corporate identity, and if they have a problem with it, I won't do it. I had one experience with one truck owner who didn't really like the fact that I was taking his branding and doing something with it that had a commercial bent to it. And I said, okay, that's fine. Sorry. Here's a print. And I won't produce it anymore. But that was only one out of dozens.
What do you look for in a food truck that's worth drawing?
Eric: I have this word I use a lot, the more "janky" the truck, the better. The more interesting it is to me. The more hand-painted and just weird imagery, the more I'm drawn to it. And then once I started seeing what they were doing with the food scene here in San Francisco, I had this thing of where I'm not going to do this unless I really like their food. And that just opened up a whole new world for me.
You said you first noticed the change in L.A., but has San Francisco caught up?
Eric: Oh yeah, San Francisco's crazy. Not just the taco truck. The Chairman Truck is amazing. The graphic elements that they put on the side of that truck is just absolutely beautiful. The Curry Up Now Truck, another great example of just excellent graphic design being slapped onto the side of this huge vehicle. San Francisco has taken the concept and put their own flair to it. You can buy anything from crème brulee to duck confit tacos. That's the other nice thing about being able to drop off these prints. I always get a free meal out of it.
Want recipes and food news emailed directly to you? Sign up for the new Food newsletter here!