Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Afraid to create

Do you ever get there? Fear of a blank page. Feel like an idiot for picking up a pencil or brush. I bought a small, lightweight sketchbook to encourage myself to draw again - something I can have with me at all times. But I find myself leaving it in my bag on breaks or at the end of the day.

When I was young, I'd copy illustrations over and over. Amano pieces from game guides, Naoko's characters from Sailor Moon. When I was gifted eyeshadow palettes, I'd turn them into watercolor paints. If my friends took too long when we went out to eat, I'd make lipstick drawings on paper placemats. I'd draw on friends legs at band practice, on the margins of my notes, on binders, on pencil holders...everywhere.

In college, I didn't know many people. The ten minutes between class and work study would be filled with music in my headphones and pages upon pages of poems that would spill out of me.

I wish I had that feeling more often, not only the joy of creation - but a total compulsion. I need to get that back. Do you ever get that way, a little lost?

Monday, July 1, 2013

I try to Ace the Cake. GET IT? - Mom's 50th birthday, aka Tardis Cake saga.

Art Saga: Where I take my excess creativity and try, desperately, to do something over the top and ridiculous.

ART SAGA #1: The Tardis Cake.

When my mom turned 50 this summer, I wanted to create a surprise. Something MEMORABLE.  We'd both fallen in love with Doctor Who, and I thought a Doctor Who cake would be fun. But fancy cakes can be expensive. I thought "Hey! I'm creative! I'll make a simple cake, and paint on it with icing!"


So I'm looking at icing gel colors by Wilton while calling my brother after work, to get his opinion. He decides that, as we watch Iron Chef and used to make things from clay and are therefore creative geniuses, that we should make a 3D cake. Because PAINTING on cake, when I'm not a baker, isn't cool enough. It should be like a groom's cake. Of a Doctor Who tardis.

If you have not seen the show, and why not?, you won't know about the T.A.R.D.I.S. Imagine a British telephone booth. Now make it blue. And turn it into a "police box", a telephone booth where you can call for police assistance. Now make it a time machine. (Time And Relative Dimension In Space). That's what my dear brother wanted me to make.

 This is a tardis mug, wearing a birthday crown. Silly tardis, you're drunk again.

It's two days before the birthday, and my coffers are light. And I'm not a masochist. So rather than fondant I decided we would decorate it out of icing. And we would use rice crispies instead of cake, as it provides better modeling support. I tried to convey this idea to my engineer brother via text message in line at the store. He thought we were making a complicated layer cake and didn't understand my rice crispy treat blatherings. Apparently, I thought this would made sense to him:

Is it that damn hard to understand cereal construction metaphors? SHALL I DRAW YOU A PICTURE?

I think this is what I was envisioning:

Mom and Tardis Cake
Mom, the cake, and the adorable Matt Smith trying to stick his tongue in my mouth. What could go wrong?

I told my co-workers days before that it would a) be beautiful OR b) lead to me crying over a bowl of crumbled cereal and icing while my brother ran to Wal-Mart for a pie at 1 in the morning.

So I went to the dollar store for rice crispy treats, a pizza pan, cheap icing, cake mix and spatulas. I got noise makers (which suspiciously make no noise whatsoever), cards and paper crowns. I bought royal icing mix and gel color at a craft store. What follows is the tale of my creation. To those of you who decorate cakes, it will be horrifying. But to "WHY THE HELL NOT?" types like myself- dreamers, if you will, it serves as a tale of triumph and love. And high blood sugar.

I first baked two simple white cakes from box mixes, thinking I would use them as siding and as a base in the pan. One of which our new oven promptly burnt...despite the fact that I left it in for 8 minutes less than asked.

The cakes were poor quality, and shredded to bits. I mashed cake crumbles into the bottom of the pizza pan to construct the ground and stuck it in the freezer to "cool", because clearly the temperature was the only issue that would cause me a problem icing the monstrosity.



I managed to stack the crispies. There were extra. Clearly, I thought, this is a sign that I should make FIGURES as well. In for a penny, in for a WHY IN THE HELL DID NOBODY STOP ME?

So, I cut a hole in the cake "ground" and smashed the tower into the hole (mm, yeah girl, that's what she said). Then I went about painstakingly making "grass" by mixing Wilton gel into a tub of icing with toothpicks until it went from puke green to OH MY GOD, THAT IS SO GREEN! green.

Let's not talk about how painful it was to ice what was essentially moist crumbs that I smashed down with my hands - SANITARY!

At this point, I felt a bit hopeful. I may have had a mild sugar high from ingesting too much gel-happy icing. You can see the start of the lumpy, impromptu figures in the background on the through with their skewers of cake-affixing doom.

I mixed a pretty blue, spread it over the rice crispy tower in a zen-like trance, and tried to jab the skewered figures into the quarter-inch cake grass. Which did not work. I ended up having to stick them against the wet tardis, and prop them up with broken toothpicks at a 45 degree angle - covering the base with more smashed crispy to get them to stay.

At THIS point, I started to feel like I was in a little over my head. L-R: Rory, The Doctor (11th), Amy.

I had tried to paint some blue on their bottoms as pants. This is where I a) should not have done figures or b) have planned better and done fondant and gumpaste or modeling chocolate. But "Eh! I can do it! I can do ANYTHING!" So I globbed icing on cereal Amy with a tiny spatula, creating an obese ghost about to learn they have Type 2 Diabetes while trying not to ruin the Tardis itself.

As you can imagine, the icing was running the entire time. And not "laps during gym" running. More like being chased by Zombies selling Encyclopedias when you just REALLY DON'T NEED ANOTHER BRITTAINICA survival running.

I managed to slather them all with icing, between a spatula and an unused paintbrush from my art box. I also took spoonfuls of the goop and slammed them on saucers, mixing colors on the fly by slapping ever-increasing amounts of gel at the plates in desperation. It was like a painter's palette from sweet, sugary hell.

...I might have hit a wall of despair at this point. But there really wasn't any going back now.

The "I still have so far to go before I sleep" face. Where I'm crying. From in-too-long contact burniness, not yet from emotional pain. That's later!

Cue a desperate hour of ridiculousness where I smacked icing all over them, and could get no more photos. I had about two bowls, two cups, 4 spatulas, three paintbrushes and two plates covered in icing. I had two brothers running interference - "GET ME A PAPER TOWEL. WE'RE OUT? GET ME LEMONADE. TO DRINK. SOMEBODY WASH THAT BOWL. OH, GOD. NO. I DON'T NEED ANYTHING - I JUST NEED YOU TO STAY AWAKE". And such great delegating skills are what creates successful creative enterprises, much like Warhol. With slightly fewer peni.

Not really. One went to sleep, and one kept walking away with supplies to watch Bob's Burgers. ("Wait. What am I doing with this, again?") I love H. Jon Benjamin as much as the next girl, but it got ridiculous.

I used the brushes to paint colors on the sloppy ghost people - I use toothpicks right in gel to stab eyes and mouths into their marshmallow-y faces. I tattooed a bowtie on the doctor. Amy's arms fell off at one point, and probably were eaten. It's hazy. So I picked up a toothpick and I started lining everything, to delineate some IDEA of figure in the icing blobs. Clothes outlines. And hair outlines. At which point, one brother popped in to tell me that it was a bad idea. TOO LATE. I COULDN'T STOP. I slapped on little blushing ovals on their chicks from leftover pink icing, because it seemed like there wasn't much I could do at that point to make things any worse and I found it funny.

I had also bought two tubes of icing. The tubes worked along with a long ago purchased cupcake tip set to brilliantly line features and write things on the icing. It went splendidly.


The tubed icing combined with the much-larger-than-I-imagined cupcake tips created a huge mess. But that adds to the charm. I think. I tried to write "TERRI DAY", instead of "HAPPY BIRTHDAY", as I knew I couldn't fit much else without obscuring the whole cake, and it looked suspiciously like "TERRI DAN". The name of her ex-husband. Look, you don't make it to 50 without some painful associations - what do you want me to do. We speckled "flowers" all over the ground, after I dropped a blue brush in the grass - I may have been out of control - and called it quits.

I put the whole shebang into the oven (and it was off, thank God I had that presence of mind) to be safe overnight. Along with half a dollar store cake that Benji iced with the last of the thin icing, so we'd have some cake to eat. We woke up the other brother to sign cards and I "wrapped" gifts in a cute bag. Individually wrapped in grocery bags, as somebody threw away my leftover pink sparkly tissue paper FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, CAN NOTHING GO RIGHT?

And I went to bed. And tried to sleep for a few hours.

In the morning, we called her in and they said happy birthday...etc, etc. I said "SHOULD WE SING?" from the kitchen, discreetly grabbing the monstrosity. She announced that there had to be cake, if it wasn't cake time we couldn't sing because it'd piss her off. Jokingly, but we're pretty serious about cake around here.


So I said "OH! OK! LET'S SING, THEN!" And I came around the corner of the bar holding THIS:

Yet another Frankenstein labor of love success by yours truly. BE JEALOUS.

She said, and I quote: "WHAT. What. Is. That. WHAT. Oh, God. What is going on. What. I. WHhhhhh".

And then the laughing started.

It ended with her on the floor, literally, 20 minutes later. Tears running down her face. She punched me a few times, in the arm. Gagging on her guffaws. Every time she calmed, she'd look up at it from her spot on the floor, make strained bubbling noises and start screaming with laughter all over again.

I was laughing too. I know, it looks pretty ridiculous. But I'm not a baker. I created this after spending my present money, just to have SOMETHING SURPRISING...something MEMORABLE to have a picture with for her 50th that did not scream "50! Oh, My!" and I succeeded. I don't think she has EVER laughed that hard.

Out of joy, of course, for the creative child she birthed and has yet to kill.

With alllllll of that said, I love the wonky little bastard. The story behind it is as brilliant as the thing itself.

Amy looks like a fat mess, but Rory is the absolute star. I love his little 'spression.

We've yet to eat it. I mean, it's not really EDIBLE...but I wouldn't mind an iced crispy right now. I bet it tastes like VICTORY. And tears.

With more planning and not done in one mad burst too late at night and with too few correct tools, I might try it again.