Dancing the Meringue

August 9, 2012

Surprisingly, or perhaps not so surprisingly, Katie and I have done an awesome job making a new recipe every week. Largely the process by which we’ve done this is to check out a bunch of cook books from the library, copy all the recipes that look yummy, and then try them. If they’re good, we keep them, if they’re not, we give them to our friends.

(I kid, I kid).

Part of Katie’s secret plot is to expose me to some flavors we don’t typically cook with. I’m all for it since Father Burb** did a good job of giving us a huge range of foods as kids. I mean, how many people have had caviar before the age of 12 or have helped butcher their own deer. Seriously. That said, I’m a *little* skittish about certain flavors that I have not really cared for in the past. Most of those fall in to the category of Indian spices and flavors (This means you curry, coconut milk, and ginger!). The conflict comes in where Katie loves them and I hate them, so she checked out a book that had everything to do with using spices to make exciting food. I agreed to be open-minded about it, and we began copying recipes.

All of that is the preface to an only sort of related thought. In flipping through this book, Katie noticed a recipe for nougat. Like, REAL nougat. Not that stuff you find in candy bars, the stuff you find in the Mediterranean. She also recalled that I happen to REALLY REALLY LOVE nougat. Who knew it would be that easy to get me to like eastern flavors. Ha!

Anyhoo, she decided to “make me some” which actually means she started them, then got wrapped up in something else, so *I* made nougat. Still, it doesn’t really matter how it happened, the important thing is that it did.

Nougat, like so many other forms of yumminess, start with a hefty amount of sugar. In this case we are working with a blend of sugar, corn syrup, and honey. Bring this to a boil, stirring/whisking occasionally until it incorporates and begins to boil. Clip in your candy thermometer and brush the sides of the pan down with water. Then let it go.

While the syrup mixture is coming up to temperature, take some room-temperature egg whites and start whipping them in to meringue. Tip: Using room-temperature eggs is awesome because they are so much easier to work with, especially for something like meringue. Because the eggs are warmer, the proteins have an easier time relaxing and stretching out, meaning you can work it harder faster. Whip your egg whites in to softish to lightly stiff peaks. Tip: Save back your egg yolks! We turned right around and used them in a custard because obviously. I guess you could also mix them in to your dog’s dinner to promote a healthy, shiny coat, but  I think everyone will agree that custard is  obviously the better option. Obviously.

Once your eggs are about the right consistency, make sure your syrup reaches a “soft ball” stage. This means that when dropped in to water, the syrup will form a ball shape that is soft and loses its shape when pressed between your fingers. On a candy thermometer this is around 234 F or 224 F for those at altitude. You can see that the syrup is very very lightly starting to take on color. The bubbles will transition from small and fast to larger and slower.

Once you reach the soft ball stage, turn your eggs back on at a slow mix and pour approximately one quarter of your syrup in to the eggs. You want to pour slowly and toward the edge of the bowl so you disrupt the eggs as little as possible. Working too fast can deflate your eggs and ruin the fluffy quality of the meringue. Once you get the syrup in, turn the eggs to medium speed and put the syrup back on the stove.

Bring the remaining syrup up to a “hard crack” at around 300 F/ 290 F at altitude. When this syrup is dropped in to water it forms in to a firm and brittle sugar chunk.

You can see how the syrup has taken on a much deeper color under the bubbles. The bubbles are also bigger and slower, as compared to the bubbles in the soft ball picture. Once you reach this temperature, turn the stove off and again slowly add your syrup in to your eggs, which should be mixing at a slow speed.

Once all the syrup is in, increase the speed and continue to whip the mixture until it is fluffy and glossy.

Once everything is incorporated and smooth, add in a bit of butter and some vanilla. We also chose to add pistachios, which are traditional, although the recipe called for almonds. Another traditional flavor is rose water. Just be careful with the rose water. It’s strong stuff and can make your confection taste like soap.

BE CAREFUL! The sugar is  extremely hot and will make your mixing bowl similarly really hot. Further, working with sugar can be dangerous regarding burns. The natural instinct is to wipe it off if you get sugar on you. DON’T. It will smear and burn more of you. Get it under very cold water as soon as possible to cool the sugar off for safe removal. Also, wear shoes when you work with sugar. Seriously. Dangerous stuff. Also: delicious stuff.

Once your mixture is incorporated, you’ve mixed in your roughly chopped pistachios (or other ingredients), take the nougat at pour it in to a WELL BUTTERED cookie tray. This stuff is super super sticky so if you don’t grease your tray well…have fun getting that out. Pour in enough nougat to comfortably fill the tray, smooth it in to the corners, and refrigerate to chill and set. It’s important to let it chill for at least four hours. Remember how it was super hot? It will stay hot in the middle for quite a while. Plus it will be much easier to cut when it is cold.

Once cool, place a piece of wax paper over the top of the tray and smooth on to the nougat. Then turn your tray over and work the nougat out. I did this over a cutting board so that I could then directly slice it. I also found that it is helpful to loosen as much of it as you can before flipping it – I took my bash and chop and worked it under all the sides so that I had a lot less to detach when upside down and awkward.

You can actually see my bash and chop lines in the middle. While the sides were free, I had to take the BnC and loosen the middle. This is  significantly easier with a buddy.

Once out, place a second piece of wax paper over the top. Then take a well oiled knife and cut the nougat in to smaller pieces. You could go high class and wrap each piece in a piece of wax paper. We took the heathen approach and just stacked them in to a container. The downside is that because our house was a million degrees, they kind of stuck together on the sides. The good news is that you can pretty easily snap them apart when cold. The better news is that it also means that “one piece” might not be the same as one piece 😀

This recipe actually made two trays worth, so we had quite a lot. The nougat is sticky like a taffy (mind your teeth!) and tastes strongly like honey. However, when you get a bite with the pistachio, it is utterly to die for.

**EDIT: Mother Dear Mother was also a HUGE driver of the variety of my diet.

Pop Stop And Roll

February 10, 2012

Katie and I have been making a specific effort to shape up our diet a little bit, but we both definitely like sweets and things to munch on. One great filler is popcorn because it can be made in a low-calorie way, that takes up lots of space and makes you feel like you get more bang for your buck.

The other side of this equation is that we are looking for ways to tighten up our finances. As much as we love getting the little 100 calorie boxes of kettle corn, it’s expensive over time. So we figured, meh, why not make our own?!

So, dear readers, here is how it is done, sans kettle.

Start with stovetop popcorn. I use a little bit of light olive oil (because it’s good for you), let it heat up and then throw in a half a cup of popcorn seeds. You’ll know the oil is hot because it will sizzle if you flick a drop of water in.

Once the kernels start to sizzle a bit, pour in a quarter cup of sugar over the top. The oil will immediately soak in to the sugar causing it to clump. It will also cool off the temperature, so it will take a few minutes to get back up to temperature and begin popping. Be patient- just when you think you’ve messed it up horribly, it will start to go.

Put a lid on it so that it will stay in the pan while popping. Once it starts to pop, shake the pan every minute or so to keep the popcorn from burning on to the bottom. That will also help with coating the now melted sugar on the kernels.

We happen to have clear pot lids, so we could watch the process as it began (until steam clogged the view). The sugar will begin to caramelize eventually, so it’s important to keep it moving. Similarly, because of the sugar, it will burn QUICKLY once it’s done so as soon as the popping slows down, pull it off the heat and get it out of the pan.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Whenever you’re working with melted sugar, keep in mind that it gets very very hot, and it is very sticky. If you get some on you DON’T attempt to wipe it as it will stick and smear. Run the area under cold water right away. Also, always wear shoes (Mom would be proud).

Once the popcorn is out, toss it with a little salt (we use kosher or sea) and let it cool a touch and enjoy!

Please Be Seated

January 18, 2012

This here, is a bench.

Not only a bench, but an ugly bench. We picked it up because we always need more seating and such and figured we’d do something with it eventually. Well, eventually finally came, after the inspiration of our new bed pillows. We picked up a new bench fabric at the same time and figured now was good. The bench was about $5, and the fabric I’d guess is around $10, and the trim another $5 maybe. Of course, Katie could say differently if she wanted.

Anyway, reupholstering is another thing that makes a piece of furniture look pretty snazzy and it can be simple to do. This bench required unscrewing 11 screws, removing staples, stapling new fabric, cutting said fabric, and hot glue. Not bad.

First, take your object and disassemble it. This was a pretty straightforward project, but if you are doing something a bit more complicated, be sure to track your parts and order so that you know how to get it back together at the end.

Once the top was off, we removed the staples holding the black fabric and the mustard fabrics on. The black fabric is basically to keep the raw edges from showing underneath. Remove your staples carefully if you want to preserve this piece of fabric. I find a flat-head screwdriver or needle-nose pliers are best for removing staples.

Once all the staples are pulled out, you should be able to lift the top fabric off.

Underneath, hopefully you find foam or padding that is in good shape. If your foam is in tough shape, you can get new padding, glue it down, and you’re good to go. Ours was in good shape so we just recovered over the existing padding. The white in the corner is some extra padding to help fill out the foam, which was missing a chunk in the corner. We also were left with the frame. I’d like to paint our frame at some point but we didn’t have a good color at the time.

Next, take your new fabric, lay it out right-side-down and place the bench top on it upside down. Staple one edge with a staple gun, starting at the corners and middle, and filling in the in-betweens.

Next, pull your fabric under so that it is tight. You want it to be tight so that you don’t get loose fabric on your cover. It may take a buddy to help keep it tight while you staple.

Now, there are a couple ways to go about the corners, which I think is the trickiest part. You can measure and cut your corners ahead of time, and sew them in to the right shape (Make a cut from the corner in, then fold together and sew), as was done on the old cover. You can ease the corner around like fondant and avoid a crease, or you can miter the corner by folding it. We chose to miter it.

Once stapled, you can clean up your fabric edges if you want, or place your backing (old or new) on the bottom and staple it. Then, reassemble!

Our final touch was to add a decorative trim around the bottom. In our “final pictures” it hadn’t been glued on yet, but I basically took a glue gun and glued it to the bottom of the top piece (not the frame!).

Voila!

LET THERE BE LIGHT

January 16, 2012

So yeah. One of the things that annoys me the most about being a homeowner is that we inherited all the bad taste of the previous owners. Let’s just say they liked wood. A lot. Anyway, one of the small things we’ve been doing to really spruce things up and give it our flare is to replace the lighting. SO much of it was so tacky, it’s awful…and the top of my priority list was to remove the fugly fan that lived downstairs.

To set the stage, I’ll say that we probably have seven foot ceilings, so it’s kind of low to begin with. Then there was a giant monstrosity of a fan, with wicker inlay and flower-shaped glass shades. Teh awesome to be sure.

Halsey

Kind of like this one.

So we decided to get a nice and compact light that would provide plenty of brightness but MUCH less visual space.

Zoomed: Style Selections 4-Light Chrome Flush Mount Fixed Track Light Kit

Now, I kind of like replacing our lighting fixtures because it makes me feel like a badass. The first step was to shut off the breaker. ALWAYS do this. It hurts to get shocked. Once you’ve had someone else touch the wire to make sure its off (just kidding..kind of), start taking pieces off. We started with the blades, then shades then the fixture, then the ring, then the remaining pieces.

After removing all the pieces, you should be left with an inset box with two to three wires. One black one, one white one, and one that is usually the ground, and is often green.

It’s a little hard to tell in this picture because the plate is in the way, but the far right wire is black, the middle is white, and the third is a copper wire on the left.

We removed the plate because it was a right pain in the ass.

Next we removed the components of the new light. We put up the initial bracket-

The dust ring is disgusting. I’m also not sure why I look so concerned. Don’t worry, I didn’t cry.

Next twist your wires from the fixture to the wires in the box. White to white, black to black. Make sure they’re secured, then twist a nut on to the end to secure it. You can also wrap it with electrical tape.

Next the ground wire, or green wire should be either screwed under a green screw (as in this case) or wrapped around part of the metal framework.

Our screw was green and said GRND so we knew where to go. The wire was wrapped underthe screw, which was then secured.

Then the fixture goes on to the bracket. Screw it on, place the shades on, the bulbs, and voila!

We wound up with a light I wasn’t embarrassed to own. I chose the moveable track lighting to spread the love since this one light covers a large space. It’s a nice way to spruce up a drab looking area.

Crepes

January 15, 2012

Crepes have always been one of those things that is hyped up to be hard. So one day I thought why not? It turns out that they’re not too hard to make and they are quite a versitile vehicle to hold other food. Like fruit. Or chocolate. We’ve made them for sweet and for savory crepes, as well as in the traditional crepe and chocolate crepes (add cocoa powder!). Here is the basic recipe:

1 cup flour

2 eggs

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup water

2 tablespoons melted butter

salt

Stir the wets together and add the drys, stirring just until they’re incorporated.The batter can be a little lumpy but try and smooth out the big bumps.

You can see in the back bowl there are a few lumps but largely the batter should pour nicely. Get a flat pan with some sides (we used a frying pan but a saucier is ideal) and get it screaming hot. Spray the pan with oil and pour in your first crepe. They don’t always turn out well, so we photographed the second one.

I find that to get a nice, large crepe, to use about a half  a cup of batter. Once it’s in the pan, swirl it around until you have a flat, even layer. They sell a special tool for spreading out the batter, but you don’t need it.

You can see that the liquid batter is coming over the now cooking edge along the bottom. Keep swirling in circles (although I make slight rounder crepes than Katie did :D)

When all the liquid batter has begun to cook, give it a moment to fully cook. You have to work pretty fast because these are thin little pancakes that will cook quickly. Once it’s cooked on the bottom, flip the crepe over and give it about 20 seconds on the other side. We flip them in to our oven set on warm to keep them toasty.

Before, during, or after, you can consider your filling. Ham and cheese is nice – I’d put those in as the bottom is cooking and then roll it omelette style, nutella and bananas, fresh strawberries and cream – the possibilities are endless. For this particular breakfast, I sauteed some apples in butter and brown sugar.

After dicing the apples, I threw a tab of butter in to the pan and let it melt and get hot. I then added the apples.

I gave these a moment to cook down, and then flipped in about 2 tablespoons of brown sugar. That melted and began to caramelize, so I also added some honey and cinnamon. This cooked until the apples were soft (but not mushy) and nicely caramelized – about five minutes. This will depend on how finely your apples are cut.

You can see they took on a nice chicken brown color. They also smelled delicious.

To prepare the crepes, I took one from the oven, filled it with a line of apples, and rolled it up. We had two each topped with the remainder of the apples and the leftover caramel sauce.

Oh so yum. Hopefully you’ll give these a go, and they will seem a little less scary. They’re totally worth it.

This weekend I popped out a quick project that is cute, functional, and cute. I guess I said that already. A friend of mine got married this weekend, and I decided she’d love nothing better than to get some hand-made placemats with matching coasters and napkins, held together of course, with napkin rings. The project cost was a little higher since I went for cute oil cloth, which runs about $17/yard. I think I got a half yard of everything, and a yard of the napkin fabric.

Here were my two choices. I went for a double-sided placemat set so that either side could be used. A set of four would be ideal but I didn’t quite have enough fabric, so I did two double-sided.

I went with oil cloth because it resists water, liquid, and yuckies. One side is green with a yellow and blue motif (even though it looks aqua) and the other a natural color with purple, blue, and orange. They totally didn’t go! I love it.

Decide how big you want your placemats to be, cut them out, and then pin right sides together.

I did the same for the coasters, making them 5×5″

 

You have a couple options for how you put these together. One option is to surge the edges together, in which case you’ll want to put wrong sides together. I went with a turned set, so I sewed wrong sides together on three and a half sides, then pulled it inside out. To get a nice edge, I pinned the open section and sewed a second seam around the edge to finish it off. You can’t even tell where the turn was.

For the napkins, I went with two double-sided lunch-sized napkins, so with wrong sides together, we surged the edges, so they looked like this:

The result is a nice clean edge.

Of course I forgot to take pictures of the final set before it was packed off to my friend. Oh well.

The napkin rings I did similarly to those in a previous post:

I picked felts to go with my placemats, embroidered the yellow, sewed on the button, glued it all together and hand stitched them up.

The entire project took two to three hours start to finish, and cost about $40.

 

It’s all cookies, all the time around the BurbEx. This is the season we just plain go to town with them. Yesterday Katie posted about peanut butter cups and dipped pretzels. Today, I’m going to talk about sugar cookies.

I love sugar cookies, but I hate making them. I feel like they’re a lot of work for things that I just plain like better. I guess what I’m saying is that I love the idea of sugar cookies a lot.

This year, to make it more interesting, I thought I’d take my hours of watching ‘Unwrapped’ and apply it to my sugar cookies.

Starting with a generic sugar cookie dough, I split one third off in to another bowl, a small chunk half the size of my (small) fist, and the rest I left alone. these are going to be my three colors.

I re-chilled the dough before I colored it. When coloring, I prefer the gel-based colors because they don’t add weird texture issues to your dough. I made the small chunk red, the medium chunk green, and left the rest “white.”

I then re-chilled the dough. It gets quite sticky when warm, and because it has some butter in it, it warms and melts fairly quickly because of the heat from your hands.

So the pattern that I chose is a wreath pattern. I started with a log of the white.

I made mine kind of large. I’d suggest rolling one that is about 1/2″ wide or so. This forms the center of the wreath. I then rolled out the green, to wrap around the log. This will make the actual wreath.

To prove that we have bad days too, you can see that my logs look kind of sketchy. Between it being to warm and sticky, and too cold and not sticky, I had a hard time getting them to play nicely. Eventually though, I bullied them together.

The final step is to roll another white log to go around the outside. The red I rolled in to two thin snakes and put them next to each other to create a bow, which will go next to the green and inside the white.

As you can see, the layers come through and it at least resembles a wreath, even if it’s not Martha-worthy. The ends get ugly, so just slice off enough to find the pretty stuff.

Yes, I used a meat cleaver to slice them. So sue me. Actually, please don’t. We’re poor.

You can see that my dough wasn’t sticking well to itself. However, I muscled through it and got:

I made the sad attempt of rolling the log in red sanding sugar, to make them prettier, but obviously that didn’t go so well either. Le sigh.

At least the end product was tasty.

Until we make more cookies….check in tomorrow. Same bat-time, same bat-channel.

xo

Rach

Tis the season for cookies!

December 17, 2011

So everyone knows that the holidays are really just an extended excuse to bake and eat. Basically for a month, between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, diets, as well as common sense is suspended in favor of childhood memories. We always make a LOT of cookies-mostly to give away, but there’s plenty of eating too. Two childhood favorites of mine are dipped pretzels and peanut butter cups. These recipes are both fast and easy, as long as you know how to turn on your stove, you can probably do both of these things, but they look fancy enough to give away.

To make the peanut butter cups, you start by melting together 9 oz white chocolate with 3/4 cup of peanut butter in a double boiler or mixing bowl over a pot with a little boiling water. While you’re waiting for that to heat up, chop a decent handful of roasted, salted peanuts. Once your peanut butter and white chocolate is melted and combined, fill the bottom half of mini cupcake papers in a cupcake pan. Then sprinkle with the chopped peanuts.

After that, combine 8 1/2 oz milk or dark chocolate with 3/4 cup peanut butter and melt together. I generally use the same bowl as I used to melt the first half. It doesn’t matter if there’s a little left over in the bowl since you’re going to be eating it together, and the darker color of the chocolate will cover the color of any white chocolate left. Once that round is melted together, fill the top half of the papers. Stick them in the fridge and let them set. If you can’t wait, try not to burn yourself.

In this picture, you can see the two layers, as well as one of the sprinkle of peanuts. Having the peanut layer in the middle gives you a little texture, and helps make these a step above other peanut butter cups. I also put a few holiday sprinkles on top just to make them look festive.

Dipped pretzels require the same skills as peanut butter cups. The candy coating goes by various names in the grocery store. Some times it’s called “bark” or “vanilla bark.” It also gets called just “candy coating” or “vanilla candy coating.” All of these products are basically the same thing. Break off a few squares, and melt them in your double boiler or mixing bowl. I generally use at least 3 squares to have enough melted candy to dip into, and not more than about 6 so I can fit it all in a bowl.

This is about 6 squares, just starting to warm up. Once you have your candy melted, you can turn down the heat a bit. This isn’t actually white chocolate so it’s not overly temperature sensitive, but you can make it too hot and cause it to seize. If everything seems to be going fine, and all of a sudden you start seeing lumps, turn your temperature down! Similarly, if the bark is starting to just run off or puddle, your bark is too hot.

Another trick I learned from Rachel is to place a skewer between the bowl and the pan to let steam out. It keeps the bowl from bumping around as the water boils, as well as to keep moisture from bubbling up the side.

Once the candy is melted, take a handful of pretzels, and dip them in. We typically use stick pretzels, and dip them about halfway. This is easiest, because you’re not trying to fish around and make sure you got all of the pretzels out of the candy. Also, the sticks break less then the twists, so you’re not digging around for nice looking pretzels. Once they’re dipped, lay them out on a wax- or parchment-paper lined cookie sheet.  I put holiday sprinkles on these while they’re warm too, because why not? Pop your cookie sheet into the fridge for a few minutes, until they’re set.

So pretty! We also have a few other kinds of cookies in the works, but in a vain attempt at holiday rationality, we’re trying to limit ourselves to two kinds a day!

So riddle me this.

French knots are a key point (ha) in embroidery. They represent dots, eyes, anything small and round. I cheat and just make small * shapes because I can’t, for the life of me, tie a french knot.

It’s supposed to look like

However, a quick search reveals these instructions:

  
  

Books, the Google, everywhere has this same illustration. And I still have the same problem that I. Don’t. Get. It. Every time I make one, it pulls through. I wrap more times, no change. I use tighter-weave cloth, it still pulls through. How do you make a bloody French knot?

Here is the gist of how to make one.

  1. Pull your thread through and toward you with one hand, needle in the other.
  2. Using your non-needle hand, wrap the thread twice or so around the needle.
  3. Using your non-needle hand, hold tension against the thread so it does not unwind from the needle. If you pull too tight, you will make it hard to pass the needle through the knot, too loose and it won’t be a nice knot.
  4. Use one finger to hold the thread and pass the needle down next to where the thread comes up. This was key for me- when I say next to, I mean one space/square/thread away. You want to have that thread between the two needle passes so that the knot doesn’t fall through.
  5. Hold the tension as you bring the needle through and let go as it gets close to the fabric and (allegedly) voila!

I’ll have to try this when I get home, but here is a video tutorial.

Until then, keep calm and french knot on.

Rach

Drawing 101

November 30, 2011

I think everyone is caught up on our latest projects, so I thought I’d tackle something new, thanks to a brilliant suggestion (thanks Ben!). One of the things I excel at is drawing. I started when I was eight and I haven’t stopped. I find it sad when people tell me they can’t draw. Truly, a large part of it comes from practice. You have to practice anything to get good at it and art is no different.

So over the next several days, I plan to break down some of the elements of drawing to help bring some perspective and information in, in an easy to approach way. I encourage you to try it out and share your pictures with us, ask questions, and do what makes your creative side happy.

So to start, drawing is essentially making marks on a surface to represent an object, concept, or idea.  Abstract drawing is drawing that does not reflect a realistic representation. It is often sketchier (in the non-skeezy way) and has strong use of color and line. I draw in a realistic style, meaning I attempt to attain a realistic representation of my subject. For example:

 versus

Whatever style you prefer, it comes down to some basic principles. I’m going to start with shading, light, and how to draw what you see. I used Photoshop to create these images, but the concepts are the same whether digitally or manually produced.

This here’s a box.

You can see here that I’ve added a light source. This tells us a lot about which parts of the picture will be bright with highlights, and which parts will be dark with shadows. The brightest areas should be where the light is directly contacting, whereas the darkest areas should be those most away from shadows. This is not always a distance issue, rather underneath an overhang will be darker than the part of the overhang farthest away from the light source. But for simplicity, we’re going to use this box.

As you can see by this picture, the lightest area is the side the light is hitting. The next brightest are the edges that touch that side, and it becomes progressively darker the further away from that side you get. The back side of the box will be the darkest area. Using a gradient, or progressive shading, you can create a soft effect of tone differentials, using just one color.

Color is an important part of shading. How you use color can impact the mood and feel of your drawing, as well as add a realistic element to it. For example, take the same box and color it green. I’ve used black to create the shadow, because black is dark. You can see from the following picture that it does hint at light, but it doesn’t quite look right.

When thinking about shadow, don’t think about it in terms of light=white, dark=black. Instead it’s about tone. A dark tone=shadow a light tone = light.

Here I’ve used a light tone green, a middle tone green, and a dark tone green. A green box will have green highlights and lowlights because it’s still a green object.

Color tone can also be described in terms of warm and cool. Warm tones are often lighter tones, including yellow, orange, and reds. Cool tones are blues, greens, and purples.

You can see in this picture that the box has become much more vibrant and dynamic. This is also a great way to “color” a white object. I used yellow and red for the warmer tones where the light hits, and purples for the cooler tones where the shadows are.

Play around with it a little bit and explore your colors. Look at the objects around you- what colors are the shadows? What colors are the highlights? How many colors do you see? Is the tone of the object dark or light, warm or cool?

Once you feel comfortable exploring color and tone, look around at the objects you see and select one to practice with. It’s important to DRAW WHAT YOU SEE. What I mean is this. We all know what a flag looks like- it’s a rectangular piece of cloth that has some kind of decoration on it.

As so:

(Ignoring the stars and stripes issues) this is the US flag. However, when drawing the flag, we don’t draw it as a rectangle because it’s likely not in that shape. They drape and fold and flutter. The flag might look more like:

rather than a strict rectangle. Okay okay, so this is a bad drawing, but I think the point is there, that you have to draw what you see literally, not what the object looks like as an object. The shape of a cup is a cylinder and the top is circular, but looking at it from anywhere but straight on, it’s an oval.

So, step by step we’ll learn to draw. Try it!