Just by looking at Kelly Sweitzer’s engagment picture with her now-husband Charlie, one can’t help but smile. Flour covers their aprons, faces and hands, and spills over the countertop. The laughter emitting from their Chesire-cat grins practically jump off the photo to invoke effortless, light-hearted joy. Three things immediately are known: They love each other, food and fun.
Pretty much the same feelings are clear when viewing Kelly Sweitzer’s first series of paintings now hanging at Tidal Creek Co-op. Featuring cartoonish drawings of food items spouting puns, the paintings beckon a chuckle or two. The scenic artist, who’s currently working on the Juliette Lewis and Ryan Phillipe show “Secrets and Lies,” had some downtime during filming the series and was bored enough to start a new hobby. She wanted to combine the satire that riffed on her fave TV show, “Bob’s Burgers,” and her love for cooking.
“I was cruising through Instagram one day and happened upon a picture of a pickle with a caption that said, ‘Dill with it,’” Sweitzer explains. “I found some scrap wood, tried to remember a couple of puns from the Bob’s Burgers’ specials board (if you haven’t watched the show, get on it) and began to illustrate.”
The outcome showcases bright colors and simply drawn illustrations. Carrots, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, shallots, and other foodstuff get quippy with their viewers. Even the inevitable pun-hating cynics will admit Sweitzer has wit.
“‘Hit Me With Your Best Shallot’ is a favorite simply because it’s so phonetically accurate as a pun,” she says. “And the shallot I designed for it is adorably feisty. ‘Asparagus the Details’ is another fave.”
Making people laugh is her main goal for the series. She exposes the vegetables to an attitude that may have you looking at your chopping block during dinner preparation a little differently.
“‘Don’t Get Creme Fraiche With Me’ was pretty tough,” Sweitzer admits. “Figuring out how to illustrate a substance that doesn’t actually have a shape was interesting.”
She culled help penning the art from her “punny” husband, as well as a group of “pun-loving” friends, as she calls them. The outcome can be seen across 16 pieces ($45 each).
“We had a three-hour round-table at Dead Crow one evening,” she says. “I have a list a mile long that is going to keep me incredibly busy!’
And it has.
Since her launch at Tidal Creek, and selling work on her Etsy site, The Pepper Mill Shop, a friend who owns a restaurant, Toast, in Richmond, Virginia, called to ask Sweitzer to hang her work. Even though it’s Sweitzer’s first collection, success seems to surround her as organically as the food the she and her husband love cooking together.
“Years of trial and error built my confidence in the kitchen,” she admits. “My husband and I try to eat as healthy and as fresh as possible, so being able to draw a sassy oregano leaf or a grumpy carrot was a way to combine [my] two [passions]. It goes along with wanting to know how things work mechanically—that urge to learn how foods work together has driven my process in the kitchen.”
Sweitzer used thin and light luan plywood, as well as thicker birch wood, to act as the foundation for her art. She worked with latex paint and store-bought acrylics, with each finished piece boasting a clear enamel finish. Even some of the wiring from which each piece hangs gets spray-painted. “All items you can find in a paint shop on the stage at the studios,” she says.
With a love for design, inherent since college, Sweitzer graduated from UNCW. Though she worked in the theatre department, she only took one scenic art class.
“Other than that, I’ve been able to learn something new with every play, musical, film, or television show I’ve had the pleasure to be a part of,” she says. “It’s led me to be the crafty gal I am today. Always wanting to learn how things work or are put together have been a driving factors in my work—and life, really.”
Sweitzer’s art is for sale at Tidal Creek through December. Or folks can visit The Pepper Mill on Etsy to purchase larger, pun-filled veggie paintings for $65. Plus, stickers her husband designed are for sale—each outlining the state of NC with a heart and equal sign to proudly represent marriage equality. “We were crying tears of joy over the vinyl-cutting machine in October,” she says in regards to NC overturning the ban on same-sex marriage.
Even through tears, that zippy happiness manages to twinkle and spark.
Art by Kelly Sweitzer
Tidal Creek Co-op
5329 Oleander Dr.