A Do-It-Yourselfer Feels the Pain in Painting

Drink sushi shakes.

Own a cat.

Date Linda Tripp.

Drive a minivan.

Vacation in Bosnia.


Party with Orrin Hatch.

Perform my own vasectomy.

These are just a few of the things I would gladly do rather than paint.

Painting, and I'm talking about the application of color to wall here, is the most unsung and unappreciated of the fine arts.

Anyone can whip up a landscape, knock off a nude or slap some traumatic aspect of his or her middle-class childhood onto a canvas in the name of abstraction.

But try to paint a white baseboard without getting anything on a blue rug.

Or how about doing a door without hitting the brass lock?

Or a textured ceiling.

Or--and just mentioning this gives my colon pause--window panes.

No, the ability to paint, to track a brush along an exposed edge while toying with only a millimeter margin of error, is more than just a skill. It is a talent, a gift, a genius to which you are born.

Or not.

When it comes to painting, I have been multiply cursed:

I have no talent or temperament for it.

I have no money to hire someone who does.

I have bare wood.

I have a spouse.

So . . .

I go to the paint store, and the guy asks: Oil or latex? I ask: What's the difference? He says something about how you can cover one with the other, but not the other with one. And I say what I always say when I don't understand a clerk's explanation: "Give me the cheapest."

I think about buying a paint brush, but then I remember we already have a paint brush, a big, wide one that covers wide spaces with each stroke.

I find the paint brush right where I left it, in the cellar in a Maxwell House coffee can half-filled with some kind of solvent.

I pull the brush from the can, only to discover it is attached to an inch-thick hunk of gunk.

I scrape the gunk off, but that leaves the end of the brush looking like it has just been electrocuted.

I grab a pair of pruning shears and give the frizzy bristles an old-fashioned buzz cut.

I open the cheapo paint with a screwdriver and start to stir, except I can't because there is a kind of crust covering the top.

I remove the crust with a pair of borrowed eyebrow tweezers, which leaves a swirly, brownish-yellowish oil spill.

I mix the oil spill into the paint beneath, producing a solution that's runnier than a big nose in January.

Finally, I dip the buzz cut into the paint--the color of which is previously unfamiliar to mankind--and begin.

(Next week: Painting, Part 2)


Jim Shea is a columnist at the Hartford Courant. To reach him, write to Jim Shea, Hartford Courant, 285 Broad St., Hartford, CT 06115.

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