PETALING JAYA: Like many artists who lost their primary source of income during the pandemic, Thai food artist Sulakkana Marc was no exception.
Unable to secure a job at any art gallery due to the ensuing lockdowns, Hatyai-born Sulakkana had to find another way to make a living. Though she wasn’t sure ‘what’ at the time, she did know that she wanted to stick to food-related artwork as that was her forte.
That’s when her husband recommended that she learn digital art so she could create her own commissioned artwork from her laptop, and sell them anywhere in the world.
A self-confessed foodie, obsessed with food painting since her university days, she decided to explore the many options in Malaysia since it was the closest country to Thailand.
“Every food art tells a story – from its visual presentation to the kind of colours and ingredients used in a dish,” she told FMT.
And since she wanted to expand her business to Malaysia anyway, she wasted no time in discovering the various flavours and colours of local fare so her sketches could be more authentic.
Living near the Malaysian border, the first food haunts she explored were in Penang and Langkawi where she got to sample local favourites like the famous sweet-and-sour asam laksa and nasi kerabu.
Soon she was travelling the length and breadth of Peninsular Malaysia, visiting Kelantan, Selangor, and Johor Bahru to get better acquainted with the many kinds of food the locals enjoyed.
Having a background in fine art, Sulakkana practised making her paintings as detailed as possible. She experimented endlessly until she achieved the right colour composition so her pieces could be visually pleasing and as realistic as possible.
Satisfied with her drawings, after months of practice, she approached restaurants and cafés in Thailand and Malaysia to see if owners would be interested in her work. And while some showed genuine interest, others were not so keen.
Still, she believed her artwork would be of interest to restaurateurs as it would set their menus apart. Plus, she knew with certainty just how much children were captivated with menus that were colourful.
In the beginning, Sulakkhana only charged her clients a nominal fee as she wasn’t quite confident about her work.
But over time, her online sketches improved. She was also able to tackle more challenging dishes like nasi lemak, nasi kunyit, nasi campur, and pasembur that she was able to charge higher fees for.
She explained that being a food traveller had been immensely beneficial as she got to see for herself how food was typically presented. This helped her to accurately depict the correct portion sizes in all her artwork.
“There was a time when I created an artwork of Inji Puli, an Indian pickle made by tempering ginger with spices. I made it look like a big dish, which was wrong, as it’s only a side dish.
“There’s just too much to learn about Malaysian food; it’s something I am continuously learning about. There is a good combination of Malay, Chinese and Indian food here that can’t be found elsewhere,” she said.
She also makes it a point to eat at chic cafés in town to get an idea of what’s trendy and to look out for interesting pastries popular with customers.
So far this year, she’s received 12 requests for food menus and posters, all from Malaysian restaurants.
“My schedule this month is full as many restaurants and cafés have asked me to create their menus. It’s an exciting journey,” she said.
Check out Sulakkana Marc’s artwork on Instagram.