How Julia Child Ended Up in My Kitchen

Back when we installed the open shelving in our kitchen, I had an idea to pay tribute to Julia Child by including some artwork, or a photograph, or even a quote by that most beloved, gravelly-voiced American cook. I searched Etsy, allposters.com, and more looking for the perfect piece, but nothing really caught my eye. A shelf re-styling came and went, and still there was no Julia in my kitchen.

Recently, I’ve been working on a little gallery wall of sorts to bring visual interest to the otherwise blank wall above our chest freezer and in between our fridge and china cabinet. It all started when I bought this cow, my first piece of “real” art purchased for this house.

See how happy she looks? That’s because we still haven’t broken the news that she stands guard over our freezer full of…beef…Ironic, I know.

Today, Mrs. Cow is not so lonely, thanks to a bit of crafty ingenuity:

Clockwise from top left: cow painting from Etsy seller RozArt; handpainted frames and antique grater; menu chalkboard; handpainted frame with American Letterpress carrots; new Julia Child art!; handpainted frame with a photo of us eating at our wedding reception; menu from our anniversary dinner at The Catbird Seat

Though that canvas at the bottom right stood empty for a couple weeks, you can now see that I decided to paint a subtle silhouette of Julia Child. Finally, she has found a presence in my kitchen and I feel that my humble tribute has been made. Let me tell you how I, a self-proclaimed not-very-g0od-freehand-artist, made this art.

First, I hopped onto google and found a few “action” images of Madame Child that I liked. I even traced them on plain white paper to see which shape I liked best, since I knew I wouldn’t be relying on Julia’s facial expression in my finished piece.

This one was a bit violent in silhouette form:

This one seemed a bit too tame:

With this one I tried to add in the outline of her contagious smile, but it came out on par with a Halloween mask.

photo credit Paul Child

But this one was juuust right:

This one conveys domesticity and poise but also strength and power. I printed it out as big as I could on my computer paper, cut it out, and traced it onto my canvas.

I wanted to do a two-tone canvas so I also drew a horizon style line to give the image some dimension. Then I painted the background as close as I dared get to my outline with the clumsy foam brush, then switched to a finer paintbrush to cover up my pencil lines and fill in the details. To give more suggestions as to who this actually is, I freehanded her apron, towel, shirt collar and pearls, hairline, earrings, and “L’ecole des 3 gourmandes” button. I left the face blank though, to suggest the ways that Julia’s spirit and attitude towards food may speak to any of us – that anybody could look at the painting and capture that same joie de vivre.

So, here’s the gallery wall in its current state. I’m waiting on a couple more photographs for those top right frames. I might even outline Madame Child in a darker color so it’s a bit more clear from far away who she is. But overall I’m pleased with the way this freezer-to-ceiling display helps to fill an otherwise empty wall and create a more distinct divide – a transition area, shall we say – between the kitchen and the dining room. When you have an open floorplan (and a not huge space to begin with), you’ve gotta take advantage of things like wall space.

What do you think? Have you tried any silhouette art – your kids or pets, perhaps? Do tell.

P.S. Like the hand-painted frames you saw here? I’ll be selling frames like this on my Etsy shop very soon so you can grab some wall swagger for yourself or a friend.

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