The pandemic has made bakers of us all. A friend has “gotten back into quilting”. People are pickling their scraps and off-cuts, investing in gnocchi boards, burning through Netflix. But it wasn’t COVID-19 that caused chef Dan Pepperell, most recently of Restaurant Hubert, to buy a box of acrylics, but rather a pretty major injury. His artwork is simple, playful and food focused, with a Keith Haring-esque humour and pun-infused cheek. The spines of a sea urchin tell us “don’t tread on me”. Lemons? “Seedy bastards”. Check them out for yourself. Anyway, here he is, in his own words.
Sophie McComas-Williams: First of all, how are you?
Dan Pepperell: Hey Sophie, I’m good thanks, I’ve had a long break, actually the longest break I’ve had in 16 years of cooking. So I’m feeling pretty rested and recharged.
SMW: These last three months have been weird, how have you been spending your lockdown?
DP: Well, I’m fortunate enough to live near the ocean so I’ve been swimming and chilling out in the sunshine. Hanging out with my daughter a lot, doing lots of cooking.
SMW: Have you always painted? Or is this something new? How did you start?
DP: Painting is very new. It started out of necessity to be able to do something productive and creative. About a month ago I had a terrible accident skateboarding. I fell onto a glass bottle severing all the nerves, tendons and an artery in my wrist making my left hand completely unusable for the time being. The day I got out of the hospital, I went and bought some paints.
SMW: How would you describe your painting style? And what paint do you use?
DP: My painting style is as far as my painting skills will allow me, I’ll call it simple and sometimes colourful. I use acrylic paints.
SMW: Where do you paint? Can you describe your studio to me?
DP: We have an apartment in North Bondi and I have commandeered our lounge room into my aspiring artist workshop. The dining room table is my little painter’s studio and our place looks over Ben Buckler which adds a lot of serenity to the experience.
SMW: What time of the day do you find yourself painting your best work?
DP: Anytime I put the beret on which is normally in the morning after a coffee and a French country style omelette!
SMW: Naturally. Berets are key for any artist. How do ideas for paintings come to you?
DP: The ideas just pop into my head at random intervals - on the train, watching a documentary, sometimes in dreams. Or sometimes I just want to paint a certain object and make the concept work around that.
SMW: Why painting? What does it give you? How does it make you feel?
DP: Painting was the only creative outlet I could practise with one hand. It’s challenging and also very therapeutic.
SMW: Is painting like cooking?
DP: Cooking can be therapeutic, challenging and very creative so I guess there are similarities, also they both use your hands and senses.
SMW: At what point do you call yourself an artist, do you think?
DP: I think anyone can be an artist at any point- they just don’t know it yet I guess.
SMW: Is your work for sale? How can people buy it?
DP: Yep it’s for sale through my Instagram.
SMW: How much are they?
DP: $150, or $250 for a commission.
SMW: Do you miss working in a kitchen right now? Why/why not?
DP: I do miss the camaraderie and excitement that a professional kitchen brings. But also, I’m enjoying this time. I’m going to go back to cooking soon so I’m just making the most of right now.
SMW: What’s next?
DP: I’m working on a new project but I can’t comment on that at the moment unfortunately.