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Wednesday, 26 March 2014 14:59

Drawing up the best way to be a DIY’er

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Believe me when I tell you, I cannot draw.

 I can’t paint. I can’t sculpt.
Although I haven’t tried every medium yet, I’m willing to bet that I can’t, either, throw clay, turn wood, blow glass or reproduce a Starry Night in subtle shades of sidewalk chalk.
 In fact, give me a ball of yarn, and although I have both knitting needles and crochet hooks, plus a Yarn for Dummies work book, I will not, at the end of a great deal of time and effort, be able to give you back a sweater, blanket, or even an interestingly-stitched hat or scarf.
Sure, I can bake. I can write. And I can support other artists in their work by surrounding myself with items of creative worth.
Which is why, several years ago, we decided to adorn the walls and shelves of our home slowly, buying pieces from up-and-coming artists and artisans, instead of mass-produced knick knacks and unnumbered prints.
Since then, we’ve acquired an impressionist painting by local a local artist, and hand-crafted coffee mugs from Nelson, B.C.
In the space where I work are two east coast rug hookings; one whimsical, the other depicting a woman who’s standing up to a darkly ominous crow.
Above an antique desk of no known origin hangs a limited edition conceptual photography print, which was the artwork my publisher chose as the cover for my very first (and still only) book).
From modern stained glass to a one-of-a-kind salad bowl, I love living with the works of other people’s hands.
But damn, if they don’t make me wish I could at least sketch an occasional doodle of my own.
This is how, one recent day, I came to buy a how-to-sketch kit, complete with paper, pencils, eraser, and, most importantly, instructions to help me discover the doodler within.
Or, at least that’s what I thought, until it turned out the book assumed I was already an artist, who may merely have skipped over the rudiments on the way to creative glory.
I should’ve read the fine print. Probably I was too busy eating brownies.
Nevertheless, the guide book started me off with essential shapes.
Once I’d managed a passable series of circles, squares, rectangles, triangles, cylinders and ovals, I was encouraged to turn said circle into an apple, and another into a teapot.
Roughly half an hour into my attempts at still lifes of the kitchen, my apple did look something like an apple. My teapot, meanwhile, looked more like an ad for Viagra.
I erased the spout and drew it again.
Erased and drew, erased and drew. Until, at last and at least, the page no longer made me cringe or blush.
Looking back, I can’t say the sketch kit was the best $10 I’ve ever spent.
Right now it’s sitting by the window and I’m keenly aware I haven’t the faintest hope of drawing anything from the next page of instructions.
Nothing I’d be willing to stick on the fridge, let alone a wall.
So, after I swished up a handful of pencil shavings and bits of eraser, then soaped the graphite from my hands with a lather of lime-scented dish liquid, I went into the kitchen.
Sure, it’s probably too soon to abandon my pencils.
As it happens, no matter how much I might like to draw, paint, or even knit, given the chance, I wouldn’t trade my butter, sugar and literary devices for anything, anyway.

Sour Cherry & Pistachio Blondies
9 Tbs butter, softened (plus more for pan)
1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup dried sour cherries
3/4 cup shelled salted pistachios, coarsely chopped
Preheat oven to 325F. Butter a square baking pan. Line with parchment. Butter parchment.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour and baking powder. In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar on medium speed until pale and fluffy; about 3 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until combined. Reduce speed to low and mix in flour until combined. Fold in cherries and pistachios.
Transfer batter into pan. Smooth top and bake for about 50 minutes, turning halfway through baking, until a tester inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely. Cut into a dozen wedges.


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