Artist Makes Portrait of Rachael Ray Using Cheetos
By Amber James Posted Jul 31st 2010 02:00PM
The next time your mom nags you to "stop playing with your food," tell her about Jason Baalman. The Colorado-based artist has found a delicious way to create celebrity portraits -- by using food. Most recently, he used about 50 bags of four different flavors of Cheetos to create a portrait of Rachael Ray. (He did a similar creation with Conan O'Brien in January.) He has experimented with other edible goods, like spare ribs mixed with BBQ sauce, as well as chocolate syrup! And he's not just focused on Hollywood stars. Baalman has also recreated the Mona Lisa using Heinz ketchup and the 'Creation of Adam' from the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo using only sidewalk chalk! So what makes this guy tick? PopEater chatted with the mastermind behind these yummy creations to find out how the whole concept started.
Tell me how this whole using food to create art thing got started.
I had just finished eating some fast food and stepped on a ketchup packet that fell on the floor. It made a huge mess that made me put it all together and realize I needed to make something with it.
Is being an artist your first passion or is this more of a hobby?
I don't have formal training in art. I spent a good portion of my life trying to avoid it ... With food, it's me playing. I have serious artistic interests but don't have the time to work on them. These art pieces are just surprising accidents. It's just fun and challenges me.
You recently created a portrait of Rachael Ray. How long did it take?
I started out with 50 bags of Cheetos, and it was a matter of sorting from there because I needed a lot of relatively straight ones, but most are curled. After that, it took about 25 hours spread over a week to create it.
Do you usually set out with one person or idea in mind?
It is usually an impulse ... I have a list of ideas in my head, but like with the Elvis Cheetos portrait, I thought I'd be able to smear everything with my fingers, but that wasn't working. I had to start changing my plan. I usually don't know how I'm going to get from the start to the finish.
Do you make money from these portraits?
Yeah. Sometimes I can stabilize them and sell them. If I plan far enough ahead, I can get a high resolution digital scan and make a print. Half the time, it is just a YouTube video -- and that's it. I do make money though. YouTube has a partnership program, so there is revenue associated with ads that run with the videos. There is a steady part-time income just from those videos. Four-year-old videos can still make me money because people are watching them.
These portraits are all made of food. Do they actually last? I'd be scared some rodent would be eating it in the middle of the night.
Ha! I have no idea how long these actually will last. The color might break down over time, [but] I try to seal it all up with varnish so the air won't get to it. Honestly, I think the idea is to put it in your mouth and eat it. [Laughs] ... Most people are just interested in buying it as a conversation piece, like, "Oh look what I have..." And aren't too concerned with its lifespan.
Which celebrity is your next project?
What food are you dying to use next?
Wasabi with chopsticks and rice. I'd love to do something in the line of anime or cartoons.
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