Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Cookie Fan Art, Project #3

     I started my 3rd cookie fan art project back in March, and then life got silly so it took me until the last weekend of April to complete it. Then life got even sillier, and now it has taken me until the middle of May to write up my blog post on it.

    This project is based off of one of my favorite Little Golden Books-The Color Kittens by Margaret Wise Brown. She is probably best known as the author of Goodnight, Moon. Illustrations are by Alice and Martin Provensen. I always found the pictures quite enchanting when I was younger. 

    Life can be hard on little children. Christmas comes just once a year, your birthday lasts but a moment, and then it’s gone. In the long stretch between those important holidays I would get mopey and lament that I sure wished someone would give me a present. 

    For those occasions, my mother had a stash of Little Golden Books wrapped in tissue paper that she stored in the hall cupboard. When I would wish for a present, she would grab one of the books for me. The books were maybe fifty cents a piece at that time. This helped bridge the gap between holidays. This also solidified my love of books and reading at an early age. 

    All good things come to an end, of course. There is the infamous story of the time I pined for a gift, my mom headed for her book cupboard, and I loudly added to my lament, “I sure wish someone would give me a present, and NOT just a book.” Children can be so hard to please! 

    Gouache was the medium used for The Color Kittens per a museum display I saw earlier this year that explored original works of art from The Golden Book Series. My cookie art decorating style still ended up being more watercolor than anything else, but I gave it a try. I created frosting washes and used edible painting markers as well. I also did a little fondant work and poured and painted painted with candy melts. I am quite happy with how these turned out.

Saturday, March 11, 2023

Is There a Point?

     Is there a point? There might not be. We so often strive to find purpose and meaning in every little thing. Sometimes there is no deeper meaning than what is happening at the surface level, and that is okay.

    I think with my cookie fanart projects I am trying to capture an aspect of my childhood where you get totally lost or submersed in your play or creativity. I have faint memories of what that was like, to have time melt away, to have all worries and stresses fade out, and just be fully immersed in what I am doing in that moment.

    This is the sensation I am hoping to recapture, to help add to the arsenal of activities and processes that will continue to heal and strengthen my soul.

    Every aspect of these projects brings me so much happiness-from the planning, the reminiscing about favorite books, the creating of elements of the projects, and then the fun of putting all the pieces together. I hope you are able to find ways to engage your whole being in creativity as well.

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Cookie Fan Art Project, #2

     I had so much fun working on this second project of mine. The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats was one of my FAVORITE books when I was in kindergarten. I would have checked it out every week when our class got to go the library but there was a policy-you could not check out the same book two weeks in a row, you had to give other people a chance to enjoy the book the same as you. Sharing was hard concept for me.

    The story was super relatable for me at that age, snow was magical, it was fun to walk about the neighborhood making tracks in the snow, sliding on ice, and trying to be included with the big kids in their play.

    I thoroughly enjoyed the illustrations, as did so many others, from the bright colors, to the shadows. I had never seen collage used for illustration in a picture book before, and I loved it. This book won the Caldecott Medal in 1963, and deservedly so. This book was special in so many ways. It takes place in an urban setting, which had not really been featured before, and has as the main character a child of color. As one of my favorite librarians said, "It may be the best picture book every created." (Full disclosure-my favorite librarian is my sister.)

    I tried to mimic collage in my cookie art fan piece. I used different layers of frosting, transfers, candy melts, chocolate melts, and fondant to layer my piece, give it texture, and depth. I also tried using food safe brushes and food color gels to "paint" with on the cookie surface as well. Helpful tip for this week is that candy melt chocolates, once cooled, are NOT as easily carved as modeling chocolate, two very different things!

    Please also see the links below to learn more about what inspired Ezra Jack Keats and more about his work.

Sunday, February 5, 2023

Cookie Fan Art Project 2023, #1

     New Year's Resolutions are not for me. They just seem like another way to fail. It's not that I don't believe in trying to do your best for in setting goals, I do. It just has never worked out for me to set yearly goals. I get overwhelmed or I start off well, and if I make one mistake or drift a bit, I abandon ship.     

    In 2021 I created a baking project for myself at the beginning of the year, the goal being to try at least 12 new to me recipes. It was a great success. I learned a lot, tried new processes and explored new flavors, and had fun sharing my results with friends and family.

    I ended 2022 creating a cookie project based on a Poem from a favorite childhood book of mine-that had cemented my love of cookies and reading, way back when I was about 3 or 4. I had so much fun with that project, that it became the foundation of my 2023 project.

    This year I am going to do a monthly (or maybe more-just depends) cookie fan art project from favorite books of mine. I will include reasons why I love the art in a particular book, techniques I used to create the cookies, book reviews, and baking tips.

    My first cookie project of the year is-Green Goo-with illustrations by Trey Chavez. We were partnered when my story was part of a contest. My book earned a digital publishing contract, in part, due to Trey's AMAZING illustrations. When we initially worked on the project together, I didn't really have any special instructions for Trey, just for him to read the story and do his thing. I never mentioned in the story that I pictured the main character as a redhead, and yet, that was what Trey came up with on his own. It was interesting to see my storyboard scratching's compared to what Trey created. I am always and forever thankful for Trey's work.

    When my story's rights reverted back to me and I had the chance to produce a printed copy of my book, I was so glad Trey was able to partner with my on this as well. It is the most current illustrations that I based my cookie fan art on for this project.

    In this project it was my first time trying to sculpt a cookie a bit more, layering the dough and carving it and baking it in layers. This was also my first time trying to create a comic book effect by outlining characters and objects with black edible ink.

    My pro-tip baking advice-I ALWAYS use salted butter-because on almost every baking show I have watched, the most common thing that contestants get dinged for is not enough salt, seasoning, or flavor.

My rough sketch on the left, Trey's AMAZING work on the right.

The cookies in comparison to the OUTSTANDING illustrations.


Wednesday, January 11, 2023

A Toast to 2023 for You and Me

     I used to come up with resolutions for the new year. And when those seemed too daunting, I changed my phrasing and worked on life goals. And then when that seemed to be a bit much, I pondered picking a word, a thought, or action to align with for the year. Then that seemed like way too much pressure too.

    In 2023 I have opted for some simple reflection as we transition to this new year. Somethings I still struggle with, but I seem more aware of those issues, so that feels like a small victory in itself. I hope to continue my journey in not dwelling so fully in the past. I have had some traumatic events over the last several years. My initial way of coping was replaying them all, over, and over, and over. I felt that if I could just think my way around the outcomes, figure out how things could have been different in hindsight, that somehow reality could magically change.

    I am at the point where I hope to allow my past to inform my present, but not rule it. I think that might be enough to focus on for this year. Cheers to you and me!


Saturday, November 5, 2022

Tripping Down Memory Lane, Part 2

     Years ago, I took my dad on a little adventure just before Father's Day. It was part of my gift to him that year. We drove up to Croton Dam area near Newaygo and we explored the property that his grandparents and later his parents owned.

    It was a fun trip, as he was never one to shy away from nosing about. No one was at the remodeled cottage, so we walked right up to the windows and peered inside. We walked all around the property. He told me stories about why there was a chunk still missing out of the concrete steps leading up to the back door. It was him, in 1951. His older brother had built a car from scraps and let me 12 year old dad drive it-and he crashed while backing up to the house. He never got to drive it again,

    We walked across the street and looked at the lake where his grandpa, and then his dad and uncle, would put their boat in the water for fishing, the Kildaire, which was supposedly named for the area the Kelly family came from in Ireland.

    As is often the case in this life, you discover how small the world really is through sharing stories. It turns out, all those years ago, my dad knew my Aunt Sandy, my mom's brother Jim's wife, way back when they were children. Sandy's family would come rent a cottage near the dam and she said, years alter, that she remembered my dad's family--and their difficulties in getting their boat across the street and into the lake.

    Back in August, as the two year anniversary for my dad's last illness was on my mind, I started to feel pity for myself. I was feeling nostalgic and wanting to take my own trip down memory lane. But where could I go? We moved around a lot when I was a child. What was my touchstone? And who would want to go with me? Being the oldest sibling, and so much older than my younger siblings, we don't always share the same set of memories, so what I might care about, they might not even have been around for yet.

    I finally settled on touring around Grandville, MI. This was where my mom and her siblings were raised. We often went to my grandma's when we were children. I was in Grandville schools for part of my childhood-when we lived in both Walker and Wyoming. When we lived in the upper peninsula I came down and stayed with my grandparents for several weeks during the summers. As an adult I stayed with my grandma often, after my grandpa died, to help her with chores and take her to church. I even lived with her for several years, before it became necessary for her to go into assisted living.

    Once I had that settled, I deiced to go for my little trip down memory lane after I was done donating platelets since I go to the donation center in Grandville every few months to make those donations.

    The first place I headed was Grandville's small downtown area. When I was in kindergarten through about second grade, my parents tried their hands at owning a business, a bookstore they called The Book Nook. I know which two store fronts might have been it, but I am not quite sure. My mom created a special children's section in the store-that she called Pooh's Corner. Another local bookshop later used that name when they decided to open book stores that were for children only. I was so pleased when the classic older car drove by in the last of this set of four pictures, as we had a gold car similar to that when I was around 6 or 7.


    The next place I headed to was Wedgewood Park, a park that was right by my grandma's house-we could walk there from her house. In the winter they would flood the football field and you could ice skate there. When I was in 6th grade-I went to the elementary school that was opposite the park, Central elementary. At recess, I would go by the fence by the tennis courts-and that was right by my grandma's backyard, and she would hand me chocolate chip cookies through the chain link fence.

    Wedgewood Park has a special children's playground that is dedicated to the memory of a friend of mine, a little boy named Bobby. He died in an accident just weeks before we were supposed to start kindergarten. When I was looking at his memorial at the park and brushed away some debris that was on it, a butterfly floated by.


    Then I went to look at the war memorials and the garden's dedicated to the Rosie the Riveters. I also walked past the softball field. I sued to go there at night to watch ball games when I stayed with my grandparents during the summer. You could hear the games from their house, the crack of the aluminum bats, the cheers. It was so much fun to walk over and watch and grandma always gave me to change to buy snacks-such as Big League Chewing gum, or popcorn, or a candy bar.

    I walked along Buck Creek. We used to look for crayfish and walk along the banks, climbing on the bigger rocks.

    I ended my little journey by walking over to Central Elementary. The playground has changed a bit. The tennis court is now for horseshoes. It isn't the same basketball hoop, but it is where I made my first basket. Grandma used to walk me over there to play and I had two small rubber basketballs, an orange one and a green one. When I was about 5 I finally made my first basket.



Saturday, July 23, 2022

Three Minute Resurrection

     Almost at the two-year mark for when my dad suddenly became seriously ill. I’m not sure what I expected at this point. I suppose I hoped to be less surprised, less shocked, and less disappointed by the turn of events, and then by how everything unraveled in such a devastating fashion.

    As I see memories come up in my feed, from just over two years ago, just before the bottom dropped out of everything, I am so grateful that I had no idea what was coming. I am slowly sorting it out and beginning to accept that nothing could have changed the outcome. Maybe it could have been slowed, or prolonged, but the outcome would have ended the same. This is progress. I still don’t always believe these truths, though. Someday I hope to embrace this completely.

    There are still plenty of days where I hope for a shift of time and space. Some days I still secretly hope that the outcomes I wanted will suddenly transpire. That has always been one of my main coping mechanisms, spending a good portion of my days residing in fantasy-land.

    Happily, my dad has one cousin that is still alive. She is named after their grandfather the same as my dad. She recently turned 89. I was messaging her and her husband, sending birthday greetings and wishes to her. I asked her if she would write down memories from her childhood, whether just her own or ones that involved my dad as well.

    She answered me right away, telling the story of when their own grandmother had died. She was fourteen, my dad’s brother was ten, and my dad was seven at the time. As was the tradition at that time, the wake and the funeral took place in their grandparents’ house. The three children were tasked with walking to the front, where their grandmother’s body was in her open casket, and they had a corsage that they were to put on her, the oldest cousin, Wilma, being the one to pin it on their grandmother’s lapel.

    As the three children solemnly walked to the front, my dad, the sweet seven year old, leaned over and whispered to his older cousin to be sure to be careful and not stick grandma with the pin.

    This made me laugh out loud. My dad always had that sweet nature, not wanting anyone to be hurt. It also reminded me of my own struggles at age seven in trying to understand what death meant, what it meant to be dead. I had a little friend that died in an accident when I was five, and at age seven I still would wake up in the night and call for my mother, asking questions about why my friend died, and what it really means to be dead.

    In  hearing this new to me story, for a few brief minutes my dad was alive again.