Alyson Thomas’ best-selling work is her meaty map of San Francisco.
It’s no secret San Francisco is a food-obsessed city, and no one is happier about that than San Francisco artist Alyson Thomas.
In 2009, the former immigration attorney left her job and started a yearlong sabbatical to figure out what she wanted to do next. Her then-fiance (now husband) encouraged her to pursue her lifelong love of art and crafts. What started out as a daily art project has morphed into a fresh career: Thomas’ quirky food illustrations and butchery diagrams have become her new business, Drywell Art.
“I really always liked those vintage butchery diagrams,” says Thomas, 29, who was raised in suburban Texas. “There’s something appealing about diagramming everything, and I’m really into food. I realized it was a rich area and people get it right away.”
Thomas uses watercolor, charcoal and ink illustrations to create simple and clever images of cows, lambs, pigs and other food and butchery that have become popular with local restaurant industry workers and homeowners looking for fun, offbeat art for kitchen walls. The best-seller – and her favorite piece in the collection – is the 13-by-19-inch “San Francisco Is for Carnivores” poster ($25), a hand-drawn map of San Francisco neighborhoods in the form of a pig butchery diagram, ready for framing.
“I’m proudest of that piece.”
Thomas was in a wine bar in the Mission District when the idea for the poster came to her. “It took a lot of effort to get it done right. In addition to butchery diagrams, I also have a fascination with maps.”
Her collection, priced from $10 to $25 (custom work more), also includes a charcoal “Cow Butchery” diagram ($18) and a 5-by-7-inch ink-and-watercolor illustration, “Hot Dog Mystery” ($10), that pokes fun at the age-old question about the true contents of a hot dog.
“Humor definitely drives a lot of my art,” she says. “It’s kind of nice to get a reaction out of people. I’m not sure I set out to do that, but that’s what I enjoy. It’s really unbelievably satisfying to make people happy and laugh.”
Having already represented the neighborhoods of Seattle in a salmon, Thomas has plans to expand her collection to include butchery maps for Portland, Los Angeles, Chicago and her native state of Texas.
“I’m just kind of riding this meat train for a while.”
Available at Pot + Pantry, 3412 22nd St. (at Guerrero), San Francisco; (415) 206-1134, www.potandpantry.com, and Modern Mouse, 2228-A South Shore Center, Alameda; (510) 814-8830, www.modernmousegifts.com or visit www.drywellart.com.
This article appeared on page N – 3 of the San Francisco Chronicle