HandPicked Design Challenge

HandPicked: Design Challenge!

The founding principal of They Draw & Cook has always been to promote and showcase the work of artists from around the world and help them connect with art directors.


We’ve created HandPicked as a way for more Art Directors to see and discover the amazing work by our talented artists here on They Draw & Cook.

We’ve asked six professionals from a variety of creative businesses to be our Guest Curators and create a Featured Collection based on a theme of their choice. Each Guest Curator is in the business of looking for freelance talent and we want them looking at YOUR work. Double bonus; curated collections will run for two weeks rather than our standard one!


Sign up for our TDAC newsletter or follow us on IG so you know when we announce the design challenge themes. To participate, create an illustration based on the theme and submit your illustration here. Follow our standard size and submissions guidelines. As long as your illustration includes food it doesn’t necessarily have to be a recipe. It can be a pattern, an illustration of ingredients, a kitchen scene, a still life of food or whatever else comes to mind. Be creative and have fun! Submit as many images as you want.


The design challenge theme will be announced three weeks prior to the duedate. We will send this out in a newsletter and share on IG and FB. It will also be available here on this page (below).

The Guest Curator will be able to view all submissions before selecting the four designs they want to include in the Featured Collection. Artwork currently in our system that fits the theme will also be considered. All new artwork must meet our standard guidelines in order to qualify.

The Food Geometry! (this challenge is closed)

Curated by Janine Vangool, Publisher, Editor, Designer, UPPERCASE Magazine

Create a food illustration or illustrated recipe inspired by this theme. It is completely open for your interpretation!

Notes from our curator: “Whether a naturally spherical fruit, perfectly diced vegetables or a structural and graphic cake, food can be geometric. Draw or illustrate the geometry of food: the ingredients of a good recipe or an artfully plated meal or dessert inspired by geometric shapes."

Challenge is closed. Tops 4 picks shown below. See all entries here.

Here are a few words from our guest curator Janine, ""It was fun to go through over 250 interpretations of the theme. There was an interesting variety of styles and approaches, but I saw few common ways that the illustrators tackled the brief. First, to reduce an ingredient or food's shape to its geometric essence. Second, to use the mathematical diagrams as a way to apply geometry to food. And third, to repeat the shape of a food item into an organized pattern. My top picks use one of these techniques successfully."

Showcase in our Featured Collection Sept. 2 - 16

Illustration by Suhiidraws

Illustration by Jenine Paul

Illustration by Kat Santos-Yutani

Illustration by Christine Cuddihy

Meet the curators!

Janine Vangool

Janine Vangool is the publisher, editor and designer of UPPERCASE, a quarterly print magazine for the creative and curious. UPPERCASE publishes content inspired by design, typography, illustration and craft. Her magazine and books celebrate the process of making, the commitment to craft and the art of living creatively. She has been a shop owner and bookseller, gallery curator, sold a line of greeting cards wholesale, made 10,000 books by hand (with lots of help!) and has sewn her own products for retail. She has a particular fondness for vintage things, a passion that has inspired a book about typewriters and an entire UPPERCASE Encyclopedia of Inspiration, a book series on a variety of topics. Feed Sacks, Stitch-illo and Botanica were the first titles in the series and the second batch includes Print/Maker, Ephemera, Vintage Life and Quilted. She has also designed fabric collections with Windham Fabrics, with the third collection available in April 2019. She is often asked, “Do you ever sleep?” To which she replies, “Yes! By the end of the day I’m exhausted!” 

Ceci Butler
Design House Greetings

I love what I do, and feel so fortunate to work with an incredible team at Design House Greetings. Together we collaborate with talented artists, and their agents to create hundreds of beautiful greeting cards each year. Nothing makes me smile more than hearing that one of our cards brought a little more happiness to someone’s day! As owner and creative director of DHG, I aspire to live a greeting card life - birds and flowers,  the ability to recite appropriate quotes when needed, bake homemade cookies, play with my dogs, tell everyone who is important in my life that I love them, and exercise every day. In reality, I never can remember to take my vitamins, have had to learn to be a part-time entrepreneur & biz person! I can now read a balance sheet, have figured out how to run enough of an HR department to get by, and am no longer fearful of negotiating with vendors! I'm a full-time art director and part-time designer, mother hen, and occasional pallet packer and am always trying to spend more time at home in Wyoming.

Lydia Hess
Amber Lotus Publishing

Working with illustrators, photographers, and writers to create products that are clever, mindful, and stunning – that is what Lydia Hess does every day as an Art Director, designer and member of the product development team at Amber Lotus Publishing. Amber Lotus offers unique, authentic calendars, datebooks and greeting cards that nurture, renew, and expand the soul. Lydia is always on the lookout for new contributing artists to collaborate with on their paper products. In addition to her “day job”, she is a seasoned independent illustrator, having published 5 books in the Coloring Books for the Soul series for Harper Collins Publishing, as well as journals, greeting cards, packaging and accepts commissioned assignments.

Lynne Shlonsky
American Greetings

Lynne is the Creative Director of the newly formed Route199, the in-house Creative Marketing Agency at American Greetings. The Agency's focus is to remind people that Greeting Cards are awesome and a creative, meaningful, fun, unique, tangible and sometimes unexpected way to connect with family and friends. Prior to this position, Lynne was the Senior Art Director of Creative Innovation/New Product Concepts at American Greetings. Lynne’s skills extend across a diverse range of creative projects and positions involving design, trend forecasting, brand development, talent acquisition, team building and new product innovation. Lynne has over 15 patents for her work at American Greetings.

Mary Ann Hall
Quarry Books and Rockport Publishers

Mary Ann Hall is editorial director for Quarry Books and Rockport Publishers, two imprints of the Quarto Publishing Group. The Quarry imprint is dedicated to providing instruction and inspiration to creative makers everywhere by offering authoritative, beautifully designed and illustrated inspiration and reference books for a wide range of enthusiasts including artists, illustrators, crafters, and cooks. Mary Ann’s favorite way to unwind after a work day is to putter in the kitchen, wielding her favorite knife, and somehow managing to put together a pretty tasty meal most nights of the week.

Sandra Salamony
Spirituality & Health Media

As the creative director of Spirituality & Health magazine, Sandra Salamony features 12-16 artists in each issue to complement the editorial focus of promoting physical, mental, and spiritual health. And she's always looking for new talent! From reporting on the myriad ways gut bacteria can aid wellbeing, to publishing thoughtful essays on mindful eating practices, S&H's goal is to support the soul/body connection. 

Birthday Bash! (this challenge is closed)

Curated by Ceci Butler, Owner and Creative Director of Design House Greetings

Create a food illustration or illustrated recipe inspired by this festive theme.

Notes from our curator: "Party time! Birthday cards are top sellers for us a Design House Greetings and we are always looking for new and creative ways to put a spin on birthday greetings. What kinds of foods say "Birthday" to you? We love celebrating with cake but sometimes it's good to think outside the cake box! Fancy cocktails, beer with candles or a party pizza might be your thing or a big bowl of ramen. Got any great party related food puns? What about a birthday breakfast? It might be"egg-stra" special. I can't wait to see your ideas. Let's get the party started!"

Challenge is closed. Tops 4 picks shown below. See all entries here.

Here are a few words from our guest curator Ceci: "First and foremost everyone has to remember that we are coming to this with a greeting card perspective - so we look at every illustration as a potential greeting card.

It is important to remember that birthdays are fun and festive occasions, and that a card should contribute to that feeling, so we tend to be attracted to palettes that reflect that vibe. We like bright vibrant colors and we like pieces to feel joyful and fun. 

We also like images that are a quick read. We think of our cards like a billboard, they have to draw people in right away, and when a card is on a rack full of other cards that is sometimes a tough challenge. With this in mind it is important that images for our cards feel dynamic and be graphically strong.

It also really helps a card design when the type is well integrated with the image - stylistically, through illustration and or placement of appropriate fonts, colors used etc. It is important to consider the placement of the type and how you break lines, what words you make larger or smaller and how the type flows within the illustration and in the readers eye."

Showcased in our Featured Collection July 1-15

Illustration by E. Campanella

Illustration by Mira Paradies

Illustration by Cynthia Frenette

Illustration by Loo McNulty

Super Great Super Foods (this challenge is closed)

Curated by Lydia Hess, Creative Director, Amber Lotus Publishing

Create a food illustration or illustrated recipe inspired by this super theme.

Notes from our curator: Kale isn't the only super food! Spinach, Bok Choy, beans, sweet potatoes, salmon, fruit and berries, nuts, whole grains, seeds, beets and other root veggies, mushrooms, alliums, quinoa and non-dairy milks are all super rich in nutrients and super healthy for you. You can focus on one super food or combine it with other foods to create delicious illustrations and yummy recipes. I'm hoping to find some new recipe artwork to license for our 2021 They Draw & Cook calendar! The 2020 calendar featuring 12 illustrated recipes by artists from They Draw & Cook is available for pre-order here.  

Challenge is closed. Top 4 picks shown below. See all entries here

Here are a few words from our guest curator Lydia about the contest entries:
"Previewing all these incredible SuperFood entries has been not only extremely fun and surprising but also excruciatingly challenging. You all made my job really hard…I was so impressed with the caliber, quality and quantity of the submissions for this recipe challenge. The diversity in styles, mediums and techniques that were submitted were off the charts. I really appreciate every one of the entries. - look for my comments on your work." 

Showcased in our Featured Collection May 6-20

Illustration By Olga Svart

Illustration by Natalia González

Illustration by Kristy de Castro

Illustration by Lemon Chicken Por Favor

Eat the Rainbow (this challenge is closed)

Curated by Sandra Salamony, Creative Director, Spirituality & Health Media

Create a food illustration or illustrated recipe inspired by this colorful theme. 

Notes from our curator: Chromatic kabobs, cheery chopped salads, stellar stir-fries, and layered, colorful smoothies, buddha bowls and compotes. Enjoying meals and snacks with a gamut of fruit and vegetables can improve health by naturally reducing inflammation, adding antioxidants, and promoting better overall digestion. Treat your immune system with a feast for the eyes. A rainbow diet is also beneficial for the planet.

Challenge is closed. Top 4 picks shown below. See all entries here

Here are a few words from our guest curator Sandra: 
"A pot of gold! The joyous use of color impressed the whole team at Spirituality & Health magazine. And we enjoyed reading all the stories that came with the submissions. 

I admired the thoughtful concepts and clever details: representing the beak of a crane as the skewer for a kebab; utilizing a single vegetable or non-traditional food to create a rainbow such as heirloom carrots, jelly beans, or teas; and playfully including health benefits along with the food selections. And while I loved the written recipes, I also respected the deft way some artists handled expressing a recipe without words.

Thank you, Salli, for inviting me to guest-curate a challenge. I look forward to licensing work in the future and seeing many of you in the pages of Spirituality & Health!" 

Showcased in our Featured Collection March 11-25

Illustration by Sara Netherway

Illustration by Amiee Sue Malott

Illustration by Denise Ortakales

Illustration by Ohn Mar Win

We hope you have fun with these design challenges and have enjoyed meeting our dynamic group of curators. When asked to collaborate with us they all responded with an enthusiastic YES! They all look forward to seeing new artwork and hope that this leads to meeting new artists to collaborate with and hire for interesting projects. If you have any questions feel free to send Salli an email. Happy drawing & cooking!