When an artist and a baker get together — when they get along famously, and the artist loves food and the baker loves art — well, an illustrated cookbook can’t be far behind.
That is the scenario behind the publication of Sweetie Bake Your Day, a collaboration of ECA-graduate and rising iPad artist Raheem “Ra” Nelson and pastry chef Amanda Glover.
On Thursday night Nelson signed books and passed out shortbread cookies to admirers and friends at the spiffy storefront of Fletcher Cameron Design at 91 Orange St.
There the array of gleaming modernist kitchen models also featured large-size limited-edition prints on aluminum of oatmeal cream pies and muffins from the cookbook — all suitable to hang in your kitchen as you bake the real thing.
Why marry Nelson’s simple, appealing images to Glover’s recipes? Nelson said that Glover, who was unable to attend the event, has made a name for herself bringing simple, quality baked cooks to folks in Litchfield County through her Amanda Bakes Airstream truck.
Nelson’s images — a product of the evolution of training at Educational Center for the Arts, The School of Visual Arts in New York City, and falling in love with the mobility, ease, and color palette of the iPad — are a perfect match.
Nelson grew up in West Hills and went to Wilbur Cross. He has a day gig as a paraprofessional working with city high school kids with disabilities. He said that Glover’s recipes are specifically designed to be simple to cook. In the same manner, his illustrations combine the coloring and style of pop art with the coming-at-you vectoring of cartoons.
The result is what Nelson terms “an animated look, kid-friendly, that bridges the gap of generations.”
And the volume has been successful, with sales and signings around the state, Nelson added.
The book is Nelson’s first cookbook, but he has four other books under his belt, including From the Elm to the Empire, a collection of images based on his travels between his native New Haven and the Big Apple, where he honed his skills at The School of Visual Art.
All the images in that and his previous work emerge from the iPad, on which Nelson prefers to use Procreate, a digital illustration app. Nelson previously worked in oil, acrylic, and drawing by hand and has all the basic training of an artist. He says where he has landed, with the iPad as his exclusive instrument, is just right.
“I like the mobility,” he said, and he meant it. As he talked to a reporter, he was already working on new images simply by lifting the device up and clicking on, it happened, an image of a glass of rose wine that was coming into being.
Nelson, a dapper guy complete with bow tie, also called attention to how clean iPad art is. No brushes, no turpentine, no squeezing paint from tubes. And all that with no loss of color capacity.
“I like having an entire color palette. I don’t have to worry about going to the art store,” he said.
He also pointed to “a really cool thing,” he said — the time lapse capacity of the program, which shows the history of every stroke involved in making a composition.
Having switched to working on the iPad in 2010, there’s been no looking back. He has a new commission for a children’s book, he conducts private lessons and gives workshops in iPad art, and he has an informal working relationship as an Apple representative, helping to develop the company’s art products.
The collaboration with Glover has also been, well, sweet. Following the book’s initial publication in the spring, Nelson took his first trip to Europe, iPad in hand. He made images of the glasses of wine he enjoyed in Paris, along with the pommes frites, the pizzas, the sandwiches, and the other fare in Avignon, London, and Lisbon. Those images are now on his iPad receiving finishing touches.
The first cookbook had Nelson illustrating foods that Glover had created. This time around, in the sequel to Sweetie Bake Your Day, Nelson is presenting images of the food he enjoyed on his European trip, and Glover is going to create the recipes to accompany them.