Wall-tering

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" … nobody but the next painter to follow will ever see the subtle complex symmetry I somehow left behind."

Today's project, should I muster enough gumption to begin, will result in a repainted wall. It's an exterior, southeast-facing wall, angled and elevated, lightly weathered by a hailstorm over two years ago. I've prepped and repainted all the south-facing walls in the period since the insurance adjuster proposed hiring painters and I replied that I preferred to do my own painting, thank you. I spoke the truth, I really do prefer to do my own painting. I work at a pace that leaves me coming in second place behind any snails in the field, but I think of myself as someone who values quality above speed. I first excruciatingly evaluate the surface from several perspectives. I stand close, then move further away, building an ever-deepening understanding of the effort facing me. I imagine how I'll begin, what tangles I'll likely encounter, how much paint I might need, and what tools I might employ. This considering might take weeks, with me finding ample reason to dread in anticipation, which might encourage me to consider even more.

I know for sure that once I begin, the work will quickly become my obsession.
I understand that once preparation starts, redemption can only ever come once the job's completely done. I realize that I will encounter about a thousand small seductions to shortcut my finest intentions and that only I will ever likely know if I let go of my standards along the way. I intend to prep until I have persuaded all sources of weathering to go away. Scraping, then sanding, then scraping and sanding again until I have as close to a pristine surface as I can possibly create. Then I'll wash the surface, taking special care to ensure that all fuzzy remnants get washed away. I'll caulk where caulking seems necessary, careful to leave enough breathing room to avoid too solid of a vapor barrier. The siding needs to breathe as well as become properly sealed.

Prime coat comes next, a step the builders obviously avoided, and a step hardly mandatory given the quality of modern paint, but I'm old school. I still count on my fingers and never warmed to the calculus of more modern painting. I will not, for instance, spray on the primer. I insist upon brush and small roller, guided by my own hand. I'm permissive with the primer, too, covering space that might not strictly need priming to overlap any surviving existing coat. I'll prime every inch of caulking, too, just because, and wait much longer than the manufacturer's recommended pause for drying, probably over a night.

The final top coats, never fewer than two, even if nobody could ever see through a well-laid first pass, will go on quickly. I will be surprised at how much paint I use, probably having to excuse myself to run off to the paint store in my speckled painting get-up to purchase a final gallon before I can finish. Top coats dry in fifteen minutes in this climate and altitude, so the final coats go on in a single marathon session, high parts with the help of a long pole screwed into the roller handle. I'll work from a jig platform intended to keep the paint tray roughly level on the sloping roof, and I'll trip over my base station about a half dozen times as I fall into the sort of trance proper top-coating demands. I'll wear stupid surgical gloves on my hands and a stupider havelock on my head. I'll surrender to the sudden realization that I'm finished a short while after the job's actually done.

Then comes the clean up work, accomplished on legs jiggly from hours balanced at odd angles. Down then up the ladder a half dozen times, with one appreciative, assessing eye locked on the job I cannot quite believe stands done. I might find a shortcoming and decide to leave it as a wabi-sabi signature of my all-too human hand. An artist reserves the right to sign his work however he chooses. Once everything's back in what passes for its proper place, I'll find some space to sit and stare up at my newest masterpiece, somewhat satisfied, suddenly too aware of where I might have done myself better. That state will be about as good as it will ever get, certainly as good as it's ever gotten for me. The job will be complete, replete with regrets as well as a budding pride. No one else will ever know. I will too-soon forget. The paint might well outlast me, and nobody but the next painter to follow will ever see the subtle complex symmetry I somehow left behind.

©2019 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved









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