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Saturday, January 10, 2015

Painting with Food Color - Trials and Tribulations

I've been trying for quite a while to paint on cookies successfully.  In my life, this is definitely one of those "baby steps" techniques.  I tend to look closely and see all the mistakes. I find the actual process of painting a true challenge; I don't grasp the basics of color blending to come up with the desired color (even with a color wheel - pathetic I know) and when it is where I think it will be - it dries and it just "isn't".  My brain doesn't translate perspective, and half the time I don't know what brush to use nor how to control it. My hands shake with nervousness.


Piping bags, in comparison, are so much easier!  BUT, they don't allow you to do everything when decorating.  Some time a fine detail, a depth of color for definition, a gentle wash of color requires painted or brushed or "blown" on color.  I find it so much easier to pull out some color and a brush than to drag out the air brush...but then...brush in hand, well, the doubts settle in.

Recently, I followed the painted leaf technique from McGoo U. Mine is not bad, but, again, not what I'd envisioned. I faithfully reviewed Arty McGoo's instructions for setting up a paint palette (after the fact obviously). In the past, I didn't pay adequate attention to LilaLoa's presentation on mastering "color" at CookieCon (I'm sorry, it was the last class of a very long day and my brain just couldn't grasp anything else...I sat there in a's the class I needed first thing in the morning...I didn't even take notes).  I have looked at all the great cookie artists' work and I still ask myself "how did she do that?".  I have tried various "projects" over the past one and a half years and I still don't consider it one of my "cookie skills".
Many of the colors are a mystery on my palettes!
(Before I wondered "is there a better way")
"What would McGoo do?"  Well, it's not this!

Painting - it's been my curse since the childhood Summer art class at Hancock Recreation Center in Austin where I was so frustrated in my inability to paint tulips as a foreground, I let my friend Lisa finish my tulips and windmill picture and with a few blips and blobs, she took a crappy painting and made it beautiful.  I wanted to pull my hair...HOW???  HOW did she do that???  I identify that as the day I gave up on painting.  After class, we went out on the pathways and golf course and pretended to be horses running wild.  I feel I excelled at that event.  I felt all better and put painting failure straight out of my mind.  Oops, there I go. I digress as usual. Back to the future.

So, yesterday, I was staring at all the cookie painting supplies I had and wondering "what the heck is wrong with me?"; I thought about what my problems were.  I decided to be mentally organized and think through how to make this technique of painting on dry icing "better".  You can't make a person be gifted in art, but maybe I could figure out solutions to some of the problems which could lead to improved technique.  I certainly never dreamed I could make some of the cookies I am making these days... I am self taught and YouTube educated, so why not figure out how to solve the painting problems and change my attitude to "can do".

Problem #1:   My paint palettes, except for one project, were not organized in a way I could re-use them with any certainty.  What the heck are those colors?  Once you move them out of the bottle or jar and don't have a label for the color, well, you are just SOL!

Solution #1:  Quit driving yourself insane!  Wash all of those paint palettes and start from scratch.  Put less paste on the palette.  Label the palette or keep a cheat sheet of what's where.  Follow Obi Wan McGoo's instructions. (bowing before the master).

Action Required - Scrub, dry, and remove all color from palettes and then set them up properly.  Now, go do it NOW. (If too lazy, simply buy more - they are inexpensive at Michael's, unlike on Amazon)

Problem #2:  Colors painted on my icing either aren't the right color or they don't look right after drying (too light or too dark)  Anyone who uses gel food color or paste food color KNOWS that what is in the bottle or jar is often nothing like what it looks like in the icing or painted on the cookie!  You really can't even depend on the name!  I mean, copper is really flesh tone?  Really?

Solution #2:  I was making some little RI heart transfers when I had an epiphany.  Why not make little RI paint testers out of leftover icing?  I had some cut pieces of parchment paper leftover from a project so I piped a bunch of blobs onto the leftover  parchment and let them dry overnight.

Then, before I decided to clean the palettes (see Item 1) I tested my little "testers" by trying to figure out what some of the colors were.  Heavens to Mergatroid!  Is that yellow or orange?  Is that green or blue?  What the heck is that dark thing on there?  Turns out to be purple.

Testers...I think it's the answer.  Another way of doing this is to use the Karen's Cookies "Notta Cookie".  I covered a couple of those with white and it gave me much more room to test.

Action Required - Make big dots on parchment paper out of the last bits of white icing.  Make some larger blobs because the small ones are hard to hold and you paint your fingers sometimes.  Use these testers to let the painted food color dry and determine if it is the color you really want on your cookie.  Keep a stock of testers, all sizes, available at all times.   Keep a couple of Notta Cookies base coated and in a plastic bag for larger area testing.  Yes, that's the ticket! (note to self - order more Notta Cookies)

Problem #3:  I purchased fine tip, long brushes thinking they would offer better control.  Wrong.  They just sit there staring at me from the paint brush cup I use for cookie art.  They are glaring at me, I can feel it. How do non-artists know what "size" paint brush to get?  What do all those numbers mean?

Solution #3:  Should I trim them down?  I don't know!  I'm scared.  So what, I say to myself, what's the worst thing that could happen?  You have a paint brush that you don't use now that you can't use after the "hair cut".  I don't know!  I'm scared.

Action Required - Get over it Hook!  Get out those tiny little cuticle scissors that you use for trimming wafer paper and give the paint brush a hair cut.  No one will know but you and the paint brush if you screw it up.  Really, who will know?  Also, educate yourself.  Google the numbers...SURELY someone has written a Wiki about such things...or a YouTube video exists.  Do your homework lady! (Okay, voice in my head, quit nagging - I'll get right on that).

Well, my friends, if you've stuck with me, you are likely a Cookier (or maybe a family member who loves me despite my rants and silliness).  If you know anything I should know.  Please comment.  My comments are moderated because I've had a couple of inappropriate comments and mean comments so I choose what is posted.  If you aren't mean or trying to sell something via using my comment box, well, I'm sure you will see your comment published within the day :-)

Thanks for sticking with me!

Bon Appetit, Y'all!!!


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