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. All new artwork must meet our standard guidelines in order to qualify.

Thanks to everyone who participated in our year of HandPicked Design Challenges. What a success! There are more challenges on the way in 2020. We are currently hosting a BIG CONTEST that we hope you enter.

We hope you have enjoyed our first year of design challenges.  Many good things have come from these challenges. Artists have been featured in publications and hired for projects. Art directors have discovered new talent and have commissioned artists for work. We posted and shared over 1,200 yummy new illustrations thanks to all of you!

Global Cuisine  (This challenge is now closed)

Curated by Joy Aquilino, Editorial Director, Quarry Books and Rockport Publishers

Create a food illustration or illustrated recipe of your favorite foods, flavors or dishes from around the world. We would love to see holidays foods and recipes too. This is like one big international party!

Notes from our curator: "This seems like the perfect time for everyone to share your favorite foods from cultures all around the world. Maybe you've sampled amazing food while traveling or have a family recipe that's part of your heritage. Perhaps you just love drawing the foods and ingredients from a particular region of the world. Whether you create an illustration of ingredients, dishes, special cooking methods or an illustrated recipe, I can't wait to see what you bring to the table! This month, let's raise our pens and brushes to celebrate the heritage, colors, flavors, textures, ingredients, and recipes of cuisine from all around the world. here's to eating globally and making art locally!"

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

Here are a few words from our curator Joy about all of the entries, "Thank you all for your fantastic submissions. An inspiring trip around the culinary world, including many holiday offerings, all with beautifully presented recipes, ingredients, and lettering."

Showcased in our Featured Collection December 23 - January 6

Illustration by Marie Hermansson

Illustration by Starlene Designs

Illustration by Shosannah Hausmann

Illustration by Lainey Yehl

Favorite Food Memories! (This challenge is now closed)

Curated by Lynne Shlonsky, Creative Director, American Greetings

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

Notes from our curator: "Take a minute to reflect and summon a food that has a special place in your heart and feeds your soul. Use your illustration skills to share your memory; whether it be the food, the ingredients, the event, or the recipe. Food is one of the most powerful memory triggers known and it often involves all 5 senses. I have so many favorite foods and cherished recipes because of the people and places they evoke. One of my favorite food memories happened during an ordinary dinner at home when I was a kid. Our mom had made fresh chocolate chip cookies for dessert and all of us kids were dunking them frantically in our milk, slurping the milk from the cookies and making a mess. Mom, who was a home economics teacher, seized the teachable moment to halt our barbarities and demonstrate a more refined, pinky up, sophisticated dunking method. But as she pulled her partially dunked cookie from her tea and raised it daintily to her mouth the cookie broke apart, fell back into her cup, splashing the mushy cookie parts and contents of her tea all over her blouse. We all broke into laughter but the memory is so deep because, despite her foiled session, it was mom who laughed the loudest and the hardest.
I can't wait to hear your stories and see your amazing artwork. At American Greetings we are always looking for new illustrators and graphic designers to collaborate with on various projects."

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

Here are a few words from our curator Lynne about all of the entries,"I am blown away by ALL the contributions to the Favorite Food Memories challenge! I could literally feel the love coming through each and every illustration and story. The range of approaches and techniques is inspiring and I find myself looking at them over and over. I hope to reach out to many of you in the future for potential freelance work. Thank you for sharing your amazing work and triggering even more food memories for me (and each other!). I hope tapping into happy memories from your past continues to be a great source of inspiration for your work."

Showcased in our Featured Collection October 28 - November 11

Illustration by Sam Rudd

Illustration by Jamie Runnells

Illustration by Mira Paradies

Illustration by Karen Bunting

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."

Showcased in our Featured Collection Sept. 2 - 16

Illustration by Suhiidraws

Illustration by Jenine Paul

Illustration by Kat Santos-Yutani

Illustration by Christine Cuddihy

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