Will Cotton | Dessert Imitates Life

Will Cotton, Cream, 1999, oil on linen, 48 x 72 inches. All images courtesy of the artist and Mary Boone Gallery

Will Cotton, Cream, 1999, oil on linen, 48 x 72 inches. All images courtesy of the artist and Mary Boone Gallery



Words | Scotto Kim


Can you describe your works of art? How do you start a painting and how do you finish it?

Will Cotton: I make utopian landscape paintings, drawings, and prints composed of sugary desserts, often inhabited by figures. My work has explored gluttony, beauty, and unquenchable desire. In addition to making paintings, I served as the artistic director of the "California Gurls" music video for pop singer Katy Perry. 

My practice entails a somewhat laborious process in order to paint the most believable picture possible. I typically begin the process of making a painting by building props, costumes, maquettes, and sometimes life-size sets, all in my studio. I will make sketches to work out composition and scale and refer to both the props and sketches while painting. 


What are you working on now?

WC: I’ve been making several new costumes for the models in my next paintings to wear. One is made of donut bags and the other from cocoa bean sacks. 


Are you still baking? What are your favorite desserts?

WC: Yes, I still bake. I bake many of the cakes and sweets that make up maquettes and props in the studio. A bakery moved in on my corner last year, Maison Kayser, and that’s where I like to eat sweets now. My favorite is a small raspberry tart. 


Do you have a favorite recipe to share?

WC: Here’s the recipe for my Grandma’s cupcakes: 




12 servings



2 eggs

1 cup sugar

1 cup flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp vanilla

½ cup milk

2 tsp butter 

Beat eggs and sugar, and add flour sifted with baking powder. Heat the milk, melt butter in it and add to other ingredients with vanilla. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. 




½ cup butter

1 cup brown sugar

¼ cup milk

1 ½ to 2 cups confectioner’s sugar 

Melt butter. Add brown sugar and cook over low heat for 2 minutes stirring constantly. Add milk and continue to cook and stir until mixture comes to a boil. Remove from heat, cool, and add confectioner’s sugar until proper consistency to spread.


Will Cotton

Born: 1965

Cotton is an American painter. His work primarily features landscapes composed of sweets, often inhabited by human subjects. Will Cotton lives and works in New York City.

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