Meet Fanny Gentle, the New York illustrator behind Newman’s Own’s joyful hand-painted food illustrations.
Tell us all about you...
My name is Fanny Gentle, and I grew up in Sweden. However, for the past 18 years, New York has been my home. I've always had a passion for painting and creating things, but I never realized it could be a profession. In 2000, I came to New York as a model and had a successful career for seven years. However, deep down, I always yearned to be an illustrator and create art. I'm mostly self-taught but have also taken various classes in printmaking, painting, calligraphy, and more. Despite exploring different art forms, I always find myself coming back to painting illustrations by hand, as it's something I truly love and feel comfortable with.
What is inspiring you in the world right now?
The time I spent at home with my kids. During that period, my focus shifted, and I became immersed in cooking for them. The shapes and colors of the food I prepared inspired me, and I started painting food. I find food to be uplifting and joyful, used in various ways such as for celebrations, nurturing families, or enjoying a quiet meal alone. Recently, I've been reading books on food history, which I find fascinating, albeit sometimes disturbing due to the power dynamics and exploitation associated with it. It's important to educate ourselves about the social structures that have shaped our relationship with food.
How do you begin your creative process, tell us about what the process was for the Newman’s Own illustrations?
When it comes to my creative process, I usually choose a method that suits each project. However, I always like doing at least one of the components by hand. For the Newman's Own project, I started with handmade sketches and then moved on to painting once they were approved. The whole process was pretty much by hand, except from scanning and cleaning up the artwork after it had been created. I believe there's a certain quality to handmade work that computers still can't replicate entirely, although digital art has its own merits. Depending on the project and the client's preferences, I sometimes sketch and paint digitally. As I work on packaging designs frequently, I also consider how the final product will be printed. In one of my recent projects, I even created block prints that I later turned into vector images. I enjoy this hybrid approach and constantly explore and have fun with it.
What is the weirdest thing you’ve had to paint?
I honestly can't think of anything too weird for me. I embrace creative challenges with open arms!
Best advice for someone who wants to become an illustrator or something you wish you knew when just starting out?
Persistently keep doing it. Never giving up. Success doesn't come overnight but requires hard work and dedication. Personally, I was fortunate to meet an illustrator and artist early in my career, who also worked as a teacher at Pratt. Witnessing their journey taught me that achieving success as an illustrator takes more than just talent—it demands perseverance and a strong work ethic.
Something you cannot live without?
My family. They bring me immense joy and provide unwavering support in everything I do.
Last emoji you used?
Probably the hugging one. 🤗
Describe your work in three words.
I would choose colorful, energetic, and happy.
What would you be doing if you were not illustrating?
I would be a certified Pilates mat instructor. I've been practicing Pilates for over a decade and find it incredibly beneficial, especially for my back problems since childhood. I plan to pursue full reformer certification in the future and would likely incorporate Pilates into my professional life if illustration wasn't my focus.
Describe your perfect day off?
My perfect day off would be spent on the beach with my family and friends, enjoying a large picnic and refreshing drinks kept in a cooler.
Finish this sentence, you might not believe this but…
Once, I participated in a photo shoot with Sting, Angelica Huston, Robert Downey Jr., and Hugh Jackman. During the shoot, I had to dance with Robert Downey Jr., and I was quite embarrassed because I didn’t know how to dance. However, he reassured me, saying, “Don’t worry about it, we’ll just fake it.” I even had the opportunity to share some sneaky cigarettes with Angelica Huston. Towards the end of the shoot, we all had to pretend it was my birthday, and a large cake was rolled out while they sang “Happy Birthday” to me! Life can truly be weird and wonderful in unexpected ways.
Go-to song when you’re working?
I prefer anything instrumental. I tend to get absorbed in my creative process, so I enjoy having low background music that doesn’t require too much focus. Additionally, with a busy and bustling family, those moments of stillness during work are often the only quiet moments I get in a day.