Happy Friday! Okay, I won’t lie: this is one of the happiest Fridays I’ve had in quite some time (and I really have had some lovely Fridays in my day!). I’ll warn you that this paragraph really has nothing to do with the artist palettes, paintbrushes, paints, or even cookies, but I feel that you should know as I sit here typing, I keep clicking back to The Pioneer Woman’s Photography website. This week she is having another one of her amazing Photo Assignments, and the theme is Food Photography…you may see where this is going! Being such a newbie food photographer and submitting among so many outstanding photographers, I’m so excited to report that 2 of my cake photos were selected by Ree to be in the running: one in yesterday’s group and another tonight. Somebody, pinch me, please. Truly, I didn’t know it would affect me so much, but I am downright giddy, and I hope you don’t mind my sharing that with you. If you’d like to see those photos, along with so many unbelievable entries, you can click here for Group 3 and here for Group 4. Now, let’s talk colourful artist confections!
A few months back, I noticed a comment on one of my blog posts from “A Fanciful Twist.” I have to say that it jumped out at me, and I was curious as to who was behind this enchanting name. After clicking the link, I was suddenly immersed in an artistic world like none I had ever seen before. I knew whoever was behind all of this beauty, magic, and intrigue had to be pretty special. Well, she is, and her name is Vanessa Valencia. She is the kindred spirit behind A Fanciful Twist. We became fast friends, and her talent astounds me daily. Not only is she talented, but she is the most unique and curiously mysterious girl I’ve ever come to know.
Her artistic range is broad, including original paintings, prints, cards, dolls, jewelry, pottery, and so much more. Her portfolio is seemingly endless, as she is experienced in the art world, yet each piece she creates is fresh and captivating. I immediately connected with her confection-themed pieces, in particular, and wanted to share some of my favourites with you. Here are some of the pieces that truly inspire me:
At the Patisserie
Cupcake Macaron Fete
A Perfectly Sweet Day
And, ah yes, my current favourite: The Party. Now that’s my kind of party! And that cake? She’s just so beautiful, and I love everything about this–the entire piece speaks to me. Reese (my 3 1/2 year old) fell in love with her at first glance too. She, being the painter she is, ran for her brushes, paint, palette, and paper, and said “Mommy, I want to paint her too!” And so she did. In about 2 minutes flat, she brought me this perfect little painting–her version of Vanessa’s The Party:
Oh dear me. Let us not even speak of the unmeasurable pride and joy that this painting brings me, or I may cry. Mama-love x infinity.
Between my sweet and infinitely creative friend, Vanessa Valencia, and my little Reese, painting inspiration surrounds me. Not a day goes by at our house when there isn’t a handful of paintbrushes, open jars of colourful paint, and a string of finished works of art hanging on the fridge to dry; Reese simply cannot get through the day without painting a picture. I think these artist palette and paintbrush cookies are so much fun, and they fit right in at our house. Both of these cookie designs are decorated with a combination of fondant and royal icing. Now, I will admit that they are not a quick and easy design; they’re not difficult, but just a wee bit time-consuming (but worth it, if you ask me), particularly the brush cookies. However, to me, life is in the details!
A potentially confusing tidbit: I painted the paint and paintbrushes with paint and paintbrushes. Ouch; my brain hurts.
If you’d like to make these artist cookies, here’s the how-to:
Let me start by saying that I wish I had a photo tutorial for you! I believe, though, that if you are going to give these a try, that you won’t have trouble with these steps:
Artist’s Palette Cookies:
1. Bake & cool round (or oval) sugar cookies. Roll out white fondant to approximately 1/8″ thickness, and cut out circle (or oval) using the same cookie cutter as you did the cookie itself. Cut a small “bite” out of the side and, using your fingers, shape and smooth edges to look resemble a palette (I use a bit of shortening on my fingers.). While the fondant is still soft, take a small round cutter and score 5 circles in fondant. You can set the entire piece aside, or you can attach to cookie now. I prefer to do all of the palettes and then adhere to the cookie all at once.
2. Using an offset palette knife, spread a very thin layer of royal icing onto one cookie, then lay the fondant circle on top and very gently press onto cookie. Set aside.
3. Colour royal icing any “paint” colours you like, and pipe little swirls onto each circle. For this project, I filled a small disposable Ziploc-style bag with a small amount of each colour and cut a small triangle out of corner, rather than using piping bags or tips. For the gold “paint” I let the white royal icing swirl dry, and I painted it with gold non-toxic paint. I won’t lie to you: it was my 24 karat gold paint. I cannot stop using this stuff.
And there you have bright and colourful artist palette cookies! Now, onto the paintbrushes:
Artist’s Paintbrush Cookies:
For the wooden brush handle:
1. Bake and cool 7″ x 1/2″ (or so) sugar cookie “sticks.”
2. Dye some white fondant (depending on how many you’re making) light brown, and taking equal parts white fondant, make two long rope-shapes using each colour. Twist loosely into braid, then roll into ball, followed by long handle shape pieces. I did about 7″ wooden handles. Cut one end of flush. Set aside.
*Tip: When rolling fondant or gumpaste into long uniform pieces or “snakes,” I roll with my hands until it takes on the basic sausage shape, and then I hold a big plastic cutting board and roll the piece underneath in a back and forth motion. This ensures it’s of uniform diamater.
3. Using white fondant, make a tear drop shape for each brush tip. Using a knife, or other sharp tool, make little tip lines to create the illusion of the brush tip. Set aside.
4. Mix a drop of brown gel colour with some clear lemon extract or vodka, and with a paintbrush (yep, painting-the-paintbrush-with-a-paintbrush thing again: weird.) brush the liquid onto each handle. Because woodgrain is characteristically imperfect, this can be a very quick paint job. It looks great no matter what you do! Set aside to dry completely.
5. Once dry, using a dab of royal icing, on end of handle and secure to the straight end of the handle. Let dry.
6. Roll small and very thin piece of fondant for the metal wrap, and cut it to about 1 1/2″ length, wrapping around the joint between the tip and handle, using a few dabs of water to adhere. Taking a pin or toothpick, make small dot markings and lines for realistic finish (see photo of paintbrush). Let dry.
7. Paint the wrap piece with a metallic non-toxic paint (lustre dust mixed with clear lemon extract or vodka). Because I have been sniffing too many paint fumes around here lately, I, again, used my 24 karat gold paint. I just love the look. Then, if desired, paint the very end of the paintbrush tip with corresponding colours to your palettes).
8. Using a very thin bit of royal icing, gently secure the paintbrush to the cookie. Let dry and voila!
A little bit of extra work, but I think these cookies are worth it.
To be properly dazzled and mystified by the wonder that is Vanessa Valencia from A Fanciful Twist, visit her on her official website, or her blog, or over at her Etsy shop. She’s exceptional. I promise.
Have a wonderful (and colourful) weekend!
*All art images via Vanessa Valencia.
Good luck & enjoy!