Thursday, 24 November 2016

2017 Cookie Calendar: Mushrooms and Snails

Illustration for "September" in Killer Zebras' 2017 Cookie Calendar

Earlier this year I was so excited to receive an invitation to contribute to Killer Zebras' 2017 Cookie Calendar, to raise money for Operation Underground Railroad (rescuing child victims of human trafficking) and the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

My excitement stemmed mainly from the fact that I had recently created a set of detailed, handpainted mushrooms based on botanical illustrations, and I was completely obsessed. I wanted to make more! It was September at the time, and my garden still had a late summer feel but there were hints of autumn appearing, with damp days and a few mushrooms sprouting. So I volunteered to do "September" for the calendar.

I had a vision in my head of a background almost entirely one large field, with distant hills near the top, from a picture I saw somewhere, but could not find again. There were children in that picture wandering along a lane across the bottom. And so there are children in mine, but not the human kind!

Giant cookie background for Calendar glued onto slate

You'd think the background would be simple, but no. The large piece broke under its own weight, and needed to be glued down with royal icing to keep it still for the flood.

Giant cookies flooded with overflowing royal icing

And then the flood was just too much and flowed off and pooled everywhere. Oddly, it took a fair bit of swearing and weeping and stamping of feet before I remembered that this project was for a photo... which wouldn't be showing the edges!

Giant cookie calendar background of fields and trees handpainted onto dried royal icing base

 Once dry, the icing was painted in field, hill and sky colours. This icing was also quite old, just using up what I had lying around, as this part of the project wasn't intended for eating, and after I'd whipped it up, it dried fairly porous, so the background has a slightly rough textured look. Which I decided to like seeing as I was not going to be starting over and had already used up my swear quota.

Cookie calendar background piped with ears of wheat

I piped simple stalks of grass (using a method similar to my ears of wheat in this 'What's New, Honeycat?' tutorial). Seperately I created transfers of pink flowers, as I felt the piece needed a lift of colour, and to keep it in the 'late summer' rather than 'early autumn' category.

Close up of tiny royal icing snails

And then I made these little snails. I love them! They were so simple. Pipe a thick bendy body, using a scribe tool to tickle up the ends into little eye stalks. Then pipe a swirl over the side.

Close up of fully painted tiny royal icing snails

Once dry I painted them but wanted to avoid using too much wet as some were so tiny I thought I'd just wash them away. So I used a sort of 'oil paint' by mixing the colours with Americolor white as a base. It worked really well but was a little flat. Clearly what they needed (and got) was a dusting of pearl lustre dust.

Close up of very tiny royal icing snail on human finger for scale

Then on to the mushrooms. Hand cut, flooded with white, left to crust, and then flooded with a rich mustard yellow.

Mushroom cookies handcut, flooded white and yellow, before painting

I rather liked them simple like that, but simple was not the plan here. I painted over the white to create depth and detail.

Detail of handpainted cookie mushrooms and snails

As for the photo, in the end I didn't stick everything down, I just played around with the pieces until it looked right, and just then the sun came out, low in the sky, casting light and shadow across the scene perfectly.

Close up of trial arrangement of sugar cookie mushrooms on background for cookie calendar

I got the picture I wanted, boxed up the mushrooms and snails for a snail-loving little boy I know, and dumped the slate with the massive cookie background (which was stuck so tight there was no getting it off without a rock hammer, and I wanted to keep my slate in one piece!) on into a bucket of water to soak it all off.

Line up of handpainted mushroom cookies and sugar snails

I was very pleased to contribute to both a very worthy cause, and something so fun! Remember if you want a Killer Zebras 2017 calendar of your own, the profits all go to two charities that do amazing and important work.


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