Those of you who were at Surtex may remember the giant cupcake tree in my booth.
A few months before the show, I wrote this post about its ever so humble beginnings, but in my pre-show frenzy I forgot to post it right away, and eventually forgot I wrote it (!). I just found it again and figure I should post it now before something shiny catches my eye (again) . . . so here you go:
Drawing without thinking.
This can be a really amazing thing - when truly uninhibited creativity springs forth from the Universal Consciousness in magical ways.
Or, this can just be a really stupid thing. Thoughtlessly putting lines where you don't mean for them to be. Drawing things crooked or misshapen but not in a clever, artistic way - just in a crooked or misshapen way.
It happens a lot around here. Thanks to Photoshop, it's not quite as devastating as it used to be, but now and then I do something so stupid it's not worth fixing and I'll simply start the piece over. Especially if a piece is at a very early stage, it doesn't feel worth to the time and effort to mask or work around an ugly mistake. I feel like the design will have better energy in general if I feel good about it from the beginning.
That would have been the case recently, when I had just started laying out a little picture of a cupcake tree (did she really just say "cupcake tree"?). Yeah, anyway...
So without thinking I blasted some lines across each cupcake where the frosting would meet the paper, and suddenly hated everything about it. I re-drew the lines where I really wanted them, but the badly-placed ones were still there also, in ink.
I briefly considered frosting the cupcakes with dark chocolate which would have hidden the lines, but was really in more of a buttercream mood for this batch. I thought about Photoshop, but it was almost every cupcake, and it was right where I wanted to add subtle shading; too much trouble. Since the only time-and-effort investment I had in this piece was those initial lines, I would have normally tossed the paper aside and started over. But then I remembered this:
A few months ago I saw this and thought, "wow, undo-button in a jar!" and bought it immediately, but hadn't yet broken the seal. I thought this would be a perfect test-project, since I wouldn't risk ruining something on which I'd already spent hours or days.
The product feels like acrylic paint when wet, but dries more chalky and velvety. Not really like matte-acrylics, not really like gouache or tempera; this stuff is it's own unique animal. Interesting. But after the first couple coats, I was not very hopeful.
It lifted the grey ink (the lines had been drawn with alcohol-based Pantone markers) and smudged it pretty badly. I let each coat dry to the touch (this happens pretty quickly) and just kept adding more.
I imagine that it might have been a nice extra step to gently sand it down a bit at this point, as each of my many coats had gone on lumpier than the last. But you might remember from my household DIY projects that I really suck at thoughtful and tidy details like sanding between layers. I could not wait to get my paint on.
On went some super-watery yellow paint. And to my surprise, it went onto the lumpy little mess like watercolor goes on paper. There seemed to be no difference between the way it was soaking in or sitting on the covered parts and the surrounding paper.
I know, I know. Small, lightly-tinted and mostly solid areas of paint vaguely depicting cartoony little blobs of buttercream frosting does not indicate how this product will perform on a serious watercolor painting.
But I'm pleased enough with the result that I will definitely consider it a good option next time - and there will be a next time, that much is guaranteed - I spill. Or splash. Or swipe. Or smudge. Or simply draw without thinking.
And I'm happy to report that the cupcake tree was picked up by some of my lovely licensing partners at the show and will be showing up on several new products in the coming year - I will keep you posted when I am able to share the details!