Friday, April 22, 2011

Happy Accidents

I’ve been busy the past few weeks. I bought a set of acrylic paints on sale and tried my hand at painting on canvas, which I’ve never done before.

It's 11 x 14", and it’s perhaps best described as a somewhat uninspired snowy forest scene. Those obese-looking birds in the birch tree with the unbirch-like branches are chickadees. Those bare branches sticking out of the ground have small red berries. I like to think that after a lunch of berries, the chubby chickadees decided to rest in the branches in the tree nearest the food, too full and too lazy to fly anywhere else. I don’t know if this is what happens with birds in nature but I decided to use my imagination. It’s not like I had this scene in front of me as a reference—I just sort of thought of things that might look good together and painted them. If by chance there are any birds reading this, perhaps they could comment on its accuracy and set the record straight.

Painting intimidates me. I think it’s because once you start to lay that paint down on the canvas, you have to commit to it. Well, at least until it dries and you can paint over it. Drawing on paper is easy because you can just crumple it up and throw it away, but with canvas you’re roped in because it costs a lot more than a sheet of paper. Then you feel like you have to put it somewhere on display regardless of how it looks. Or give it away to some good-natured relative who wouldn't even think of turning their noses up at the earnestly creative yet poorly executed artistic efforts of their loved ones. Currently, it’s sitting against the bookstand on my mother’s piano.

As I painted my hackneyed winter scene, I tried to channel Bob Ross, thinking to myself, “What would Bob Ross do?” I didn’t keep a squirrel named Peapod in my pocket as I painted, but I tried to think of every mistake as a Happy Accident, and I made lots of Happy Accidents. And I tried to make Happy Little Trees, but sadly my trees look merely satisfied with their current situation and are open to new entry-level tree-related opportunities in other amateur paintings.

When I was little, I would get up early on Saturday mornings (or was it Sunday?) , go to the downstairs rec room, and watch the ultra-soothing Bob Ross on The Joy of Painting on PBS. That was pretty much my only exposure to art growing up  in a small rural Newfoundland town other than the mixed media "art" I usually made out of things like egg cartons, popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners, construction paper, non-toxic glue and glitter in primary school and Brownies. You won’t find popsicle sticks and glitter in the Louvre, though. I’ve always been more interested in illustration, animation, and commercial art than fine art, to be honest. Art that has a practical application is what I like. I collect and follow favourite illustrators the way some people follow their favourite hockey players. My dream was always to become writer/illustrator but that hasn't yet materialized.

Anyway, speaking of art with relatively practical applications, my cake decorating class is almost over. It’s Wilton’s Decorating Basics course and it's comprised of four classes. In the second class we had to ice and decorate our own cakes based on techniques that we had learned up to that point, including transferring a pattern using piping gel onto the top of our cakes and then using icing to fill it in.

Cupcake Cake

In case you’re wondering, it’s supposed to be a cupcake. When I came home that night after class, I wanted to throw it in the garbage. I was discouraged because my icing was full of cake crumbs and I didn’t have time during the jam-packed frenzy of the class to smooth it all out and use all of the finishing techniques to make it smooth and pretty. Although it looked kind of rough, I brought it in for my coworkers the next day--they were thoroughly impressed. They thought all of my errors were intentionally planned details, so my embarrassing decorating mistakes turned out to be Happy Accidents after all. I’m glad I didn’t chuck it out because it was probably the best tasting cake I have ever made. It was a vanilla cake with a raspberry cream filling and vanilla buttercream icing. So, so ridiculously good. The taste more than made up for the appearance.

And these are my cupcakes from the third class this past Tuesday:


I now know how to pipe different flowers using icing, but the bright orange blooms on the cupcakes above are only one of two types of flowers that I can make at this point that actually look like flowers. And for anyone who might be curious about the taste of the cupcakes, they’re vanilla cupcakes with vanilla icing and filled with chocolate buttercream.

Next week is the last class of the course and so I’ve been planning my final cake design and busily hunting down pictures of cakes online for inspiration. My final cake is going to be chocolate with chocolate in it and covered in more chocolate, and decorated with all sorts of brightly coloured flowers.

It's almost Easter, which means I get a long weekend, a much longed-for long weekend. But seeing as how I have to make a cake for my final class on Tuesday night, I’m not going to spend the weekend making an Easter cake like I did last year. I need a break from cakes for a while. It seems as if all I've talked about or shopped for or thought about for the past three weeks has been cakes. I was tempted to pick up some marshmallow Peeps and Cadbury Creme Eggs and perhaps make an Easter-themed dessert on a smaller scale, but my cake decorating-rattled nerves convinced me otherwise. There are all sorts of interesting things you can do with Creme Eggs, and there are a surprisingly high number of creative uses for Peeps.

And then there’s the amazing annual Peeps Show contest held by the Washington Post where people submit their amusing yet questionably edible dioramas made with the marshmallow chicks and bunnies. My favourite from this year's gallery is a toss-up between The Silence of the Peeps (#21 in the gallery) and Spinal Peeps (#22). And the Mupeep Show (#29) is a runner up.

Maybe a Peeps diorama is a good creative project for me to think about for next year. Scene suggestions are welcome!

No comments:

Post a Comment