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Meet Michelle Smith of The Ratchet Snack in Sherman Oaks

Today we’d like to introduce you to Michelle Smith.

Michelle, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I’ve been painting since forever but decided to take it on to the digital space once my friend insisted I download Instagram. I didn’t expect any of my art to get good feedback nor was I planning to post much art on Instagram. However, after the great response off my first illustration post, it became addictive and I started to populate my feed with more art. At first, I drew fashion influencers. I loved fashion and at the time fashion accounts and Instagram models were predominantly who I followed, so naturally they became my inspiration. My artworks at the time were heavily based on fashion illustration, which also led me to meeting and working for the incredibly talented fashion illustrator, Connie Lim! She was from Los Angeles but based in London. One day I decided to join her on her trip back to LA.

Connie was the one who introduced me to the incredible food scene in LA which I totally fell in love with. Back home in London, we are so not blessed with as much delicious food as Los Angeles. Hands down. At that point in time, I was looking for something new to draw rather than fashion and so I decided to get knee deep into my newly found inspiration, food!

One of my favorite dishes from our food adventures in LA was the “Chefs Favorite“ burger from Plan Check. From the ketchup leather to the crispy two ways cheese, everything looked and tasted incredible and I had never seen or tasted anything like it. It was a must for me to paint and shortly after it was complete, I posted it on Instagram. It was one of the first food items I drew and it even caught the attention of the chef who created it. That’s when I thought food was definitely an area I could expand upon. It then became a hobby to go to different restaurants and paint their delicious dishes.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
It has not been a smooth road at all! I’m really blessed with a lot of creative projects that don’t involve food at all and so at times I do neglect my food illustrations to take on bigger projects which require me on board full time. The hardest thing for me, is to balance my time as my paintings are so detailed that they can take hours to do.

Another struggle I faced along my path was creating a brand identity. I found that when you narrow yourself down to a niche and focus on what you really want to deliver, you’ll be more successful.

Please tell us more about your art.
My backbone is for sure watercolor food illustrations and that is something I know inside and out. However, I also do graphic design and small animations here and there but my speciality is definitely illustration!

One of the goals I had with my food art was to try and take the traditional, static aspect of a watercolor painting and make it something fun. I wanted to see how I could bring it to life or how in general, I could make watercolor paintings seem more fun. I decided to do it through branding. I renamed my Instagram “The Ratchet Snack”, which I absolutely love. it’s something that always triggers a conversation or a grin and it’s something that people are actually always able to remember!

What sets me apart from other food artists is mixing my art up! I love turning my food pieces into animations and also creating videos around food.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
Yes so many shout outs! First of all shout out to all the chefs and foodies who have supported my work. Big shout outs to the restaurants I have worked with/carried my products such as E.P. & L.P., Howlin’ Ray’s, Inda, Eat Lately, RiceBox, Go Cakes and many many many more!

Major credits to Connie Lim, she was a great mentor. She taught me a lot about the fundamentals of drawing and just a lot about life itself. She also introduced me to Los Angeles, the place I now call home, so I am forever grateful for that! She is incredibly talented and such an amazing person.

Another Person I’m grateful for is for the founder of Muay Thai clothing brand, Satrawoot. He was the person who always encouraged me to keep going when I didn’t see my illustrations going anywhere. He also helped me come up with my business name and also introduced me to making products. He really helped me take The Ratchet Snack up a level for sure.

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