Pauline Smyth is our assistant food stylist and all-around amazing kitchen goddess. In this blog post, she talks about one aspect of food styling that is often overlooked.
In food styling you would think it is all about the food. This is not exactly true as an atmosphere is necessary in food styling. That atmosphere has to be created using background boards: a baseboard under the dish and a backboard behind it. These boards may be interchanged. Ideally backgrounds made from old vintage doors, floorboards, sheets of marble, rusty metal or anything with texture works really well. But these items are scarce so we have to manufacture them.
How to create background boards
Begin with a piece of plywood or MDF and give it a light sanding. The board is then given a layer of gesso (gesso is used by artists to create texture on canvas), which creates textures and shadows on the paint. Layers of colours and tones are added to create a muted background. Any implement can be used to create the boards; obviously brushes, but sponges, pieces of card, twigs etc., can be used.
To create a marbled effect, start with a dark colour and add layers of lighter colours but leave gaps throughout so the darker layers peek through. Finally, add threads of a very dark and also a very light colour. Another technique is to lay down your base coat of paint in one colour and when it is dry, smear Vaseline at intervals on the board. Then paint on another colour and when this coat is dry, the Vaseline can be rubbed away leaving the first coat coming through.
To create an antique effect on the wood, you have a few options. The wood can be distressed using a screwdriver or a chisel, and nails can be hammered in and extracted. Then the board can be stained using strong tea and/or coffee. You can also try soaking steel wool in vinegar (if you can stand the smell) for 24 hours then paint this on the board, or it can be burnished using a heat gun.
All of the images included in this post are examples of boards I have created; some are a work in progress.