Monday, May 23, 2011

painting with a twist

on friday evening, i attended a class at our local painting with a twist.  despite my curiosity, i was really wary of doing this for a long time, but after two unacquainted friends both raved to me about how cool it was, i finally broke down and signed up.  i felt sure that i would fall flat on my face having never painted anything but walls.

the idea is that you walk in the door, with or without any artistic ability/background (i am most definitely in the "without" camp on that one), sit down at a blank canvas with paint, brushes, and water cup, follow the directions given by the instructor, and walk out with your painting 3 hours later.

sounds ridiculous, right?  i certainly thought so.  i'm an engineer, and we don't do art, which is why i struggle so much to find other creative outlets.  as evidenced by the handful of blog posts i've made thus far, i really am all over the place as far as projects go.

the "twist" part of painting with a twist means that students are welcome to bring in any food and drink - yes, this includes booze - they'd like to partake of during the class.  i elected to bring in a fruit salad, cheese, crackers, and a bottle of merlot.

they usually have 1 to 2 classes per day, and each class walks students through how to paint a different painting.  the class i chose to sign up for was chanel.  i did not realize it at the time, since as i said i am totally ignorant when it comes to all things art, but my friend later told me i chose a semi-difficult painting to cut my teeth on due to all the blending.  oops.

so on friday night i walked into class with my bottle of wine, fruit, and cheese and set up camp.  turns out this was a very small class of only 5 students.  perfect.  lots of individual attention, which i fully expect i will need.  3 veterans who have taken previous classes, 2 rookies.

i'm not sure what i expected, but it was amazing.  the instructor was fantastic.  she reassured us all from the get go that acrylic paint is wonderful because you can mess up as much as you want and it can always be fixed, so don't stress yourself out by trying to be perfect.  i did my best to follow that advice, and after two glasses of merlot it wasn't all that difficult to do!

here is my blank canvas.  i took this picture as evidence that i really started with nothing.
we spent the first hour of class following step by step directions on how to sketch the base of the painting.  this was broken down for us into a series of lines and shapes from one corner of the canvas to the other.  i had no idea so much of the class would be dedicated to sketching.  i suspect this part would be really difficult for any person(s) with O.C.D.  next, we started outlining miss chanel's silhouette in black paint.  here is a picture of my sketch with the first bit of painted outline.
the next step was to slap blue and white paint all over the background, which was super fun.  then we kind of hopped around a bit.  we did some work on the scarf, which is actually white layered with blue and black and then layered with white again.  finishing the scarf was my favorite part, as i really loved how mine turned out.

the face and the hat both scared the heck out of me.  we really did freehand all those circles and lines in the hat.  i was horrible at doing the shadowing on the face.  i did a lot of floundering before i got something that looked alright.  there was a lot of mixing paint with water and adding more paint and blending and craziness.  i was using too much paint and everything came out really dark, but the instructor showed me how to fix it up, and it turned out looking like a face, so hooray!

i started to fall behind a bit when i was struggling with the shadowing, and i got so wrapped up in what i was doing that i didn't get to take any more "in progress" pictures.

here is my finished masterpiece.  the last step was to sign in the corner.
i'm pretty darn satisfied with it.  i would have sworn my friends were taking crazy pills, but it really was a lot of fun, and you really do not need any artistic talent whatsoever

i'm happy to have another creative outlet at my disposal.

Friday, May 20, 2011

bird feeder

i saw this idea at the local art festival a couple of years ago, and i wish i still had the artist's business card so i could properly give him/her credit here.  a friend of mine bought one, and we kept saying that we wanted to try to make one ourselves, but you know how that goes.

well today i finally tried it out, and i'm really excited at how it turned out.  please excuse the fact that there is no birdseed in the bowl yet.  i honestly didn't expect this to work out so nicely, so i didn't buy any.

first, i went to a local thrift store and spent $2 on the plate and bowl.  next, i went to home depot and bought a length of pvc pipe for $1.71 and a sample jar of outdoor "oops" paint with primer in it for $1.66.  (buying that pvc was interesting, by the way.  it comes in 10' lengths, and i drive a 2-door saturn.  i had that thing slanted through my car and hanging out of my driver's side window about 2 feet.  i felt like i was jousting every car i passed.)  i'd already bought the spoon for 15 cents at a yard sale, and the length of beads is just an old piece of jewelry i don't wear anymore.

when i got home, i sawed off a 4' section of the pvc and painted it with the "oops" paint.  while that dried, i pulled out my tube of Super Goop and secured the bowl, plate, spoon, and beads together how i wanted them.  then i hammered the pvc about 6" into the ground by my hibiscus plant and Super Goop'd the feeder on top of it.  voila!

i think next time i would use a larger plate and bowl, and i'm not sure how the spoon and beads will hold up in the elements.  worst case scenario, i build another one for $5 when this one starts looking icky.

Monday, May 16, 2011

my first furniture project to commence!

so my new addiction is estate/yard saling, and last weekend i was on the hunt for a smallish piece of furniture that i could cut my furniture refinishing teeth on.  mission accomplished!  i found this adorable bench at an estate sale last friday.

nothing too fancy, but just enough real estate for me to get maximum experimentation out of it.  my plan is to strip the top and stain it dark.  i'll probably try out the dark walnut that miss mustard seed is quite fond of.  then for the legs, chalk paint in versailles and some distressing.  i'm super excited to try this out.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

adventures in fondant

earlier this month i decided to take a stab at working with fondant.  for those who might not know, fondant is that pretty, smooth, fancypants looking coating that you see covering most wedding cakes.  anyone who's watched ace of cakes or cake boss has probably seen fondant.

also, while researching fondant, i found out that it's the main ingredient in cadbury creme egg filling.  this made it difficult for me to not shovel spoonfuls of it into my mouth as i was mixing it.

i settled on making a spring themed cake geared toward my boyfriend's two nephews, who are 4 and 2 years old.  i figured even if it turned out awful they'd probably still eat it with gusto, which would make me feel good about the project regardless.

my friend who lives in texas made a fondant cake for her boyfriend's birthday last year, and she shared this link with me.  you'll find the recipe and instructions i followed on that site.  basically, you mix powdered sugar and melted marshmallows together into a ridiculously sticky dough and let the dough set overnight.  then you roll the dough out into a sheet, fold the sheet over your frosted cake, and trim.  decorate as desired.

it sounds easy, and honestly, it kind of is, but i spent hours wrestling with the sticky dough and my wooden rolling pin.  i need to buy a nonstick rolling pin before i do this again.  i also need to buy much smaller cookie cutters, because i also wasted quite a bit of time feeling rather disgusted about how far off my proportions were with the decorations.

i'm thrilled with how the cake with the initial layer of coating came out.  it looked very pretty and clean.  i'm not thrilled with my decorations, although i seemed to get positive feedback from the folks i showed it to.  you can judge for yourself.

a few things i learned from my adventure:

1. fondant is really, really rich. in other words, not great for eating after it's settled into a dough. it's marshmallow + powdered sugar, but the consistency of cookie dough. it's really just there to make the cake pretty.

2. peeling off the fondant takes a great deal of the frosting underneath with it. my boyfriend made a very big deal about this, as he is apparently some sort of closet frosting addict. next time, i will use a lot more frosting under the fondant.

3. this junk is STICKY. holy moly, i went through half a tin of cornstarch trying to keep the stuff from sticking to me, the counters, the rolling pin, the cutters.

4. i screwed up and didn't color my fondant during the mixing process.  kneading in food coloring was a sticky, horrible nightmare. next time, i will color the fondant as i'm melting the marshmallows. MUCH easier method.

5. i am absolutely making my own wedding cake if/when i get married. one of the simplest, classiest looking cakes i've seen is just plain white fondant with a length of ribbon tacked around the base of each layer and a topper made of flowers. i can totally make that.

6. i love to bake. i need to find an outlet for this, because i cannot start cranking out sugary treats and keeping them at home. i will eat them and get fat. not ok.

7. finding gel based food coloring was a challenge i wasn't expecting.  i went to half a dozen grocery stores before a nice bakery employee told me to try michael's.  i've been able to find it in the cake decorating aisles of michael's, joann's, and hobby lobby.