As I find myself in the middle of a home improvement project that started as a first-floor ceiling repair and evolved into painting much of the second floor, I recall my training at the feet of the great house-painting master, Baba Yogi Sher Winwil-Liams.
There in his native Trinidad, as we sat cross-legged on our drop cloths listening to the sound of our breathing and the gentle spinning of paint rollers, Baba Yogi had us meditate on the idea that every freshly painted surface is merely an old surface reborn, but usually not with one coat. Man is imperfect, therefore painting by man is imperfect. Just ask his wife.
At best, man can only strive towards perfection or at best call in a professional.
Among the ways to seek perfection through painting are the three M’s: meditation, movement and moving out. The latter is an advanced move that paradoxically involves not painting at all, but it does require remortgaging and is therefore not for beginners.
Instead, I’d like to share with you some simple latex-based exercises and meditations that will bring you spiritual painting peace or at very least make you feel better about how different that colour looks on your doorframe than it did in the store.
The Infinite Swatch
Focusing on your breathing, enter the hardware store. Walk towards the paint section, exhaling through your nose. Do not inhale through your nose, because the person you just passed appears to have cut one. Okay, now you can inhale. Facing the row of paint swatches, stand with your feet slightly apart. Stare at the rows and rows of colour samples – Redacted Cornflower, Corvette Hangover, Sweet Poppin’ Hot Dog, Green Perplexity, Bert Convy’s Afro. Meditate on the infinite number of colours and the plight of the innocent who must choose one. Acknowledge your despair, make eye contact with it, invite your despair out for a drink, then ditch your despair with the bill. Only then will you be free to pick the colour of your choosing, probably cream.
The Descending Raja
Bending at the waist, lift your paint can from the basement floor and carry it, arm hanging straight, up two flights of stairs. Picture in your head the paint brushes, which you now realize you left on the first floor. Descend one flight, retrieve brushes, then turn gently and re-ascend. Meditate on the words of Yogi Baba, “How much can can a paint can paint,” because this will give you something to do as you return to the basement to rummage for some kind of screwdriver to pry the lid off. Ascend to the kitchen, where a butter knife will have to do. I think you know where you’re going now. Upon arrival, exhale loudly as you open the lid to discover this is not the colour you wanted. Repeat.
The Reverse Paint Can
Mount your stepladder and place the paint tin on the ladder tray. Then turn so that you are facing away from the ladder towards the wall you want to paint, because you didn’t quite think this through. Without moving your feet, twist your upper body to load your brush with paint. Become aware of your body’s motion, specifically how it doesn’t twist like it used to. Continue this motion until you require two Advil.
Dog Down or Possibly Cat
Move from a squatting position to all fours. Lower your head slowly to the floor. Open your consciousness to the fact that the baseboard is covered with animal hair, as one’s soul is covered with past transgressions. Paint over it anyway.
Oh, this isn’t a position, just another paint colour I forgot to mention. Coincidentally also the name of Yogi Baba’s favourite pub.
The Perilous Stairwell
Standing at the top of the stairs, fix your gaze on a spot in the stairwell you simply cannot reach. Calm your thoughts by recalling that your life insurance is paid up. With a loaded brush, deftly mount the stair railing, but not too deftly after all the Reverse Paint Cans. Find your centre of gravity by chanting “Whaaa! Whoooaa! Yeeee!” Outstretch your arms and gently fall forward, stopping yourself with one hand flat against the opposite wall. Paint the bare spot, then push yourself back into the upright position, hopefully successfully. If unsuccessful, do not attempt a second time.
These exercises will help you reach a higher plane, or at very least that hard to reach part of the ceiling. As Yogi Baba Sher Winwil-Liams said, “Enlightenment comes to he who climbs the tallest ladder, but paint fumes also help.”
Please visit my Kickstarter page to find out how you can support the publication of my debut novel, A Hole in the Ground. Thanks to all the help and encouragement, the campaign is at 83%. Huzzah!
Aw, damn! I didn’t know there was a Green Perplexity option. I painted my living room in Blue Bewilderment.
Still beats A Whiter Shade of Fail.
Bam. Pow. One after another. How do you guys do it? It’s the consistency of the quality that impresses.
There must be a Portland, OR, based paint company looking for someone with your skills. Bert Convy’s Afro? I almost spit my coffee on the monitor.
Hey-o! Look who’s here. Bert Convy’s Afro is my favourite part of this piece. So thanks for spitting.
Mine was the Corvette Hangover. I missed the Bert Convy ref, but I’m a bit obtuse. I liked the image of falling forward like that, I’ve done that. Can’t remember how when or why, though.
I painted for College Pro a couple of summers. I remember being perched on a steep roof, no boards or harness, stretching to reach the soffit of a dormer, thinking, “I’m not paid enough.” I left it unpainted. After that, leaning over a stairwell doesn’t seem so bad.
Ha! Oh Ross, I am terrible at all home projects and painting on not an exception. The wife wanted the kitchen ceiling painted creme colored. She picked out the paint and I bought the brushes and rollers. It is just a square and I am tall enough to reach the ceiling so it was simple, right? Wrong. The fateful day came and I covered the counters and table with drop cloths and started rolling. The ceiling was stipple and I could not get paint in between the stipples.Sure I was doing something wrong, I called my friend who is a contractor. He laughed at me and said there was a special split foam roller for stipple ceilings – so I went out to Home Dept and bought a couple. Sure I was on the right track now that I had a real contractor’s advice, i began painting. It went well for about 20 seconds as the paint flowed smoothly between the stipples. At this point the cat entered the room to observe. As I continued, first little bits of paint soaked plaster and then larger chunks began to rain down from the ceiling. Each rotation the foam roller made, more and more chunks of plaster flew off and stuck to me, to the floor, to the walls and to the cat. For some reason the cat did not seem to worry about that and just narrowed her eyes and kept watching. I was so sure this was OK that I continued – after all a contractor had told me. After a few minutes, the cat departed and apparently jumped up on my wife who was watching TV – and covered her with paint soaked pieces of plaster. She let out a yelp and I heard her jump up and come quickly to the kitchen to be met with a rain of paint soaked plaster pieces. She told me she was sure that was not supposed to be happening and insisted I call our contractor friend back. I did so meekly and told him the problem. There was a long pause and he replied: “You mean the ceiling hasn’t been sealed?” Apparently it is standard to brush on an oil based paint the first time stipple is painted in order to seal the ceiling and this keeps pieces from shooting off with further coats. It took a week for the cat to become paint/plaster free.
Ha! Yes, if you require a hard hat painting, you’re doing it wrong.
That would make a good rule – I’ll have to remember that. Thanks Ross!
1. Open oil-based paint can.
2. Close all windows tight.
3. Forget your own last name.
I’m surprised the kids today haven’t latched onto Rust-oOleum and Krylon as their new drug of choice. You can just call back to your mom, “Nothing, I’m just painting my room!”
Back in the 90s, I apprenticed under a pro painter in Denver to supplement my winter income (not a lot of call for personal gardeners in December although I did have a snow blower for hire). I bought a pair of white jeans and a man’s white button front shirt and steeled myself to listen to eight hours of Rush Limbaugh per day. Never work in an enclosed space with a hardcore conservative. He told me to mask and prep a bedroom so in I walked with my tape, plastic, and caulking gun, brimming with the pride of being the one employee who did not need instruction. I did a hell of a job. He was very happy. Always hire a perfectionist.
At the end of the day, we all stood around pulling dried paint off our hands like sunburnt skin and discussing types of beer when I let it slip that I needed stronger fingers for caulking. He looked at me funny and I held up my index finger which was shredded and bleeding on the pad. I had been doing what I’d learned to do long ago with small projects, smoothing the caulk along it’s crevices with my bare hands. I just never had to do a whole room before. He looked horrified, picked up a rag, wetted it, then covered his finger with the rag as he smoothed the caulk. It wasted a ton of caulk but took a fraction of the time. That’s the conservative way.
I’m still waiting for that workman’s comp check.
Handy Hints from Heloise. Or Herb, as the case may be. I’m going to try that one.
On the other hand, the bleeding and whining could net you your favorite dinner followed by sympathy sex.
Oh, wait…you’ve been married quite a while, haven’t you? It would probably just be peals of laughter.
i think i am the worst fix it, repair, remodel person ever. i am good at hiring though.
We’re not even good at hiring. We ask contractors to come have a look at our project, they promise to, then never show up.
Once a paint brush touches a wall, you’re screwed. There’s no turning back. It’s the worst kind of vortex. But, I’ll tell you what, the results are immediate and dramatic. Lots of effort but lots of upside.
Bert Convey–‘Love American Style’ regular and the pride of Canada.
Bert Convy was Canadian? Between him and Alex Trebek’s moustache, we are a stylish people.
Yes, I love a fresh coat of paint. I love going through the house and touching the almost rubbery semi-gloss trim.
Well, that’s what I always thought. Wikipedia disagrees. St. Louis born and raised. Sorry for blaming Canada.
Thanks for the pledge. I would say I owe you a book anyway but one does not repay a Hornby with a Murray.
There better be beavers.
I guarantee a beaver cameo.
Along the same lines, never underestimate the power of freshly shined shoes.
Zen and the art of wall color maintenance. The master has spoken.
Om sweet om.
I’m one of those weirdos that likes painting walls. And, I obviously enjoy yoga. It’s like you wrote this post for me. 😉
My daughter tried to teach me some yoga moves. I fell over a lot. A propos of nothing.
As an aside Ross, I just did a guest post over at Cordelia’s Mom’s. I would be honored if you had the time to drop by. Thank you. https://cordeliasmomstill.com/2016/06/11/youre-insane-guest-post-by-paul-curran/comment-page-1/#comment-17509
I hate painting almost as much as I hate watching it dry.
Joking aside, I find painting pretty relaxing.