Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Don't Try This at Home, Addendum

Speaking of pizza at the end of my last post on baking oil paintings in the oven, I should include these cautionary tales, lest you think my Jackass-warning sign was for show.

Episode 1

Like most people, I don’t use my oven all that often for actual, you know, culinary purposes; once a week or so is typical. Some ovens have two dials, one that only sets temperature, one that sets the oven mode (bake/broil/off/etc.). This means that you can turn the oven on without manipulating the temperature. At my old place, this meant I would just leave the dial at 200F and turn the other dial to bake or off, as needed. I’d stick a painting in, turn the dial to bake, and the oven would be set at 200F.

You can see where this is leading.

One night a DiGiorno pizza made its way into my oven. I love it when that happens (EDIT: I used to love it; in the years since I wrote this I swear their pizzas have become awful. I started making my own crusts since then). If I recall, these are baked at about 400-425F. The pizza was enjoyed and life was good. I then did an evening painting session, stuck the painting in the oven, and turned the oven on. Of course, the last temperature the dial was set at was now like 425F. My wife yelled out at me a few minutes later, “Is it supposed to smell like that?...There’s smoke coming out of the oven!” What a smell. With the speed of an Olympic hurdler I dashed into the kitchen from my studio, leaping over stacks of books and my cat along the way, and pulled the painting out. There was indeed smoke pouring out of the oven. My first layer of painting, once a brilliant cobalt blue, was now nearly black. The Hardbord had grill marks on the reverse which are visible to this day. You’ll note through all this that said wife remained upon the couch through the entire ordeal. I don’t even think the oven had reached the target temperature. Now, had I taken a nap that day or left the house, well….

Episode 2

I don’t often do painted color studies, but I did one that day. It was a small oil study, maybe 6x9”, for a personal piece I never ended up doing. Part of why I never ended up doing it was that I had done this lovely oil sketch I was quite pleased with and stuck it in the oven. I then went back and did some other stuff. The same wife as was mentioned in the first story decided to bake something, maybe some Banquet Chicken (you mustn’t assume we only eat prepackaged foods!), and preheated the oven, again to like 350F or so. A few minutes later she opened the oven to insert the breaded, yummy morsels, and some choice expletives were vocalized. I could guess what had happened from the other room. My oil study, done on treated Bristol paper, was now a lovely shade of coffee-stain, with grill marks reversed-out in white. It looked rather antiqued in a way, the colors all muted as if they’d survived for centuries. The look of guilt on her face negated any need for expletives on my part, but I lost all heart for doing that painting.

I’m happy to report that those were both probably within a year of each other, and early on. No incidents since then, and I now have an oven with one dial—you have to turn it to the temperature to turn the oven on, ensuring that you will correctly set the temperature each time. This is much safer. As well, we’re both well-trained to always check the oven first! When in doubt, I'll lodge a small brush horizontally behind the knob as a sign to check the oven before adjusting.