Sunday, April 3, 2016

Another Creative Side of Me

A little known fact about me is that I went to art school for four years in place of traditional high school. A bit like a Canadian Juilliard, I auditioned in Grade 8 for entry into an Integrated Arts Program at Eastwood Collegiate Institute in Kitchener, Ontario. While doing the standard school credits, my timetable also included a HEAVY dose of drama, visual arts and vocal music. It also included a specialized English stream that focused heavily on Shakespeare and other aspects of the arts community.

 Due to my lack of confidence and an abundance of anxiety, my drama performances left a lot of room for improvement. My artwork, as well, lacked refinement. I tried and tried, but I wasn't able to convert that masterpiece in my head into something equally stunning on canvas. Somehow, in the four years of school, I was able to make a name for myself as a writer. I loved writing and was often called upon by my classmates to write skits and plays. My writing seemed to be only place that I felt comfortable, even though I never won awards or much recognition from others.

While many of my fellow graduates went on to study the arts in post-secondary I couldn't. Not only did I lack the funds, but I also lacked family support which required me to get a diploma as quickly as possible. I needed to work to support myself and four years of university with low employment prospects (that starving artist trope holds true in many cases) wasn't the type of employment that could pay back my student loans.

So I went to Journalism school and never looked back. I always said I would go back, maybe work in community theatre, perhaps volunteer, and maybe get back into painting one day.

But then I got married and had children.

As time went on my adult life separated me farther and farther from that artistic side of me. I did, however, raise my children with frequent visits to the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO). I've done art projects with them and taught them about Van Gogh, Matisse and Renoir, to name a few. We listen to classical music and they've taken music lessons. I've loved teaching them about Shakespeare and taking them to the Stratford Festival Theatre and Shaw Festival in Niagara. We don't live near Kitchener any more so they don't have access to the same school I did, but they are still active in their regular high school's arts activities and that makes me happy.

My intense study of the arts has affected my life in surprising ways. Not only can I paint baseboard trim WITHOUT the use of painter's tape, but I can also decorate a cake like nobody's business.

My son's 13th birthday cake. He had a Dungeons & Dragon's party.

Both my kids' birthdays are in March and ever since they were little I've made their cakes. I'd ask them what theme they wanted their cake to be and have gotten a range of replies over the years. Pirates. Princesses, Lego, Minecraft,  I have to say my skill with icing has improved more than my skill with a paintbrush.

My daughter's Sweet 16 cake.

A Fairy House cake for my daughter. 

A Minecraft cake I made last year, complete with checker board insides. This was finicky but fun to reveal at the party. 

A Lego Pirates cake, which is really a Bundt cake and ramekin dish inverted and covered with icing.

My first rosette cake. 

I used fondant once and we all hated it. For the most part I stick with the basics and haven't resorted to buying every gadget and gizmo available for the budding cake artist. I have a few piping bags, and have purchased maybe six tips total over the years often buying just one tip at a time when I have a specific technique in mind. Buttercream icing is my go-to recipe and this year I stumbled upon this video on Youbtube that has helped me make the most mouthwatering icing ever, 

Getting creative and coming up with a design is the funniest part of the process. I am often surprised at how well some have turned out, but there have also been times when it didn't work out as well as I had planned. It doesn't matter because according to my kids they have all been wonderful.

The last time I stepped on stage may have been over a decade ago (ahem..or more) and I'll never be a famous artist, but my background in the arts has impacted my life in so many other ways. I don't think of those years of study as a waste, but rather a huge step in the culmination of skills that I can draw upon to do some fun and amazing things, including, but not limited to, writing some stellar novels. 


  1. As a young wife I made special occasion cakes, not only for my daughter's birthdays (cool and cute), but for weddings, anniversaries and other's birthdays, all very traditional designs, as that is what people wanted.

    Oh, but your cakes are wonderful. Those rosettes are beautiful and mouth-watering. Although, I cannot choose a favorite.

    There is nothing as lovely and delicious as good buttercream icing.

    And, you know as well as anyone that nothing is ever wasted, not effort or learning or, most of all, yearning. Creativity moves out of us whether we want it to, or wish it would stay hidden. It is a very vulnerable geography in which to find one's self. But, it is awfully nice, yes?

  2. I agree, nothing is wasted. Each step on the journey builds on the last.