Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Life Lessons from Painting

Life Lessons from Painting | Wynn Anne's Meanderings
After one coat.
Emily and I spent last week painting our main bathroom. It desperately needed it -- the room is terribly humid and the paint had begun to crack and peel all over. As we were working on the room, I thought of some tips I could share with you.

And then, because there is lots of time for quiet contemplation while painting, I also thought of how those tips could also apply to real life. (Some may be a stretch, so bear with me.) Here they are.

1. Preparation before painting.

In my younger days, I would buy the paint and immediately start painting the wall. Just like that. As I've gotten older, I've realized that a small amount of time spent, scraping, puttying, sanding, and cleaning bear a lot of fruit in delivering a paint project that looks great and lasts longer.

In this case, Emily did all the scraping and puttying -- and there was a lot of it. This made the painting go so much smoother.
Life lesson: For major projects, a little time spent thinking, planning, and preparing can save a lot of wasted effort.
2. Clean up immediately.

If you hope to reuse your brush, pan, or roller, clean up immediately. Don't even wait until you've had a break because (if you're like me) you will forget. And the longer you leave it, the harder it is to clean out. Spend a good deal of time and really rinse until the water runs clear. You may feel that brushes and roller sleeves are cheap, but when you've finally bought a good brush you will be glad to have it handy. And roller sleeves are cheap, but are a pain in the patootie if you have to keep running out to the store for new ones.
Life lesson: when you screw up, make things right as soon as possible. (An immediate apology is far better than trying to make amends days or months later when resentment has allowed walls to be built high.)
3. Unless it's easier to clean up later.

If paint drips onto a hard surface, it may be easier to let it dry and then just pop it off with your fingernail or a putty knife. Ceramic, plastic, stone . . . they all are easy to scrape. But be careful: you don't want to scratch these surfaces. Also: grout is really hard to clean!
Life lesson: Sometimes, you need to let the dust settle before you can undo damage that has been done. Don't rush others to reconcile before they are ready.
4. Slow and steady as she goes.

For this project, I did the cutting in (the fine brush work) while Emily did the rolling. In both cases, you will get a better result -- and have fewer touch-ups -- if you go really, really, really slowly. This is not something I have always been good at. But I took great joy this time in watching the line of paint glide smoothly along the trim or ceiling.
Life lesson: Slowing down really helps you focus on what you're doing and thereby do a better job. I've also found this with cooking -- turning down the temperature, chopping more slowly -- instead of rushing to get dinner on the table, I am more present while I cook, and that allows my brain time to be inspired.
5. Work as a team.

Emily and I worked on this project together, but because the bathroom is quite small and could only accommodate one of us at a time, we had to tag-team. While I was cutting in, I kept in mind whether a particular spot would be too awkward for her to reach with the roller, in which case, I'd brush a little further out. For her part, she kept a brush handy so she could do touch-ups on the fly if she noticed I'd missed a small spot.
Life lesson: When you're working together, think about how your work will dovetail with someone else's. Think about how a small effort on your part could save someone else additional trouble.
6. Don't panic.

When I did the first coat of cutting in, I almost panicked. The colour was wrong -- all wrong. It looked brown! It looked orange! It was way too dark! It clashed with the tile in the tub surround!

I would have taken the paint back and re-tinted it right then, but decided that it would be better to have at least one full coat under whatever colour I decided to put on top, otherwise, I might need three trim coats.

So that's what we did. Emily did the first coat of rolling and -- lo, and behold! -- it looked great! The colour had mellowed and lightened.
Life lesson: Sometimes, it's good to stick with your gut instinct and tough things out a little before changing course. 
7. Get advice from others.

Even though I've done this many times before, I consulted Young House Love (my favourite home-design blog) for instructions on "cutting in" and found out about a new kind of brush: a short-handled 2-inch brush that makes cutting in much easier, especially in tight places. (I couldn't find the exact brand they recommended, but I found a similar, good-quality brush.)
Life lesson: You always have more to learn and discover, so keep asking and searching.
8. Remove obstacles that you know will just get in the way. 

It's tempting to take what seems like a short cut and just leave the switch plate covers and accessories on the wall (ugh! screw drivers!), but the job will go much more quickly if you just take them off from the outset. In this case, I even had Steve take the light fixture off the ceiling. It made the job SOOOOOO much easier!
Life lesson: If you know in advance that something will be challenging, don't ignore it hoping that it'll go away. Accept it. Deal with it. Then move forward.
9. Dress appropriately.

No two ways about it: you are going to get dirty. Have you ever seen a professional painter? They are spattered with paint. You are not likely to be a more careful or precise painter than they are, so wear clothes that you don't mind ruining. I happen to have a set of "painting clothes" set aside for dirty jobs like this. And I go barefoot.
Life lesson: Dress for the demands of the job.
By the time I got that far with my contemplation, the room was finished. What tips do you have to share?

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