Small accomplishment, big blue.

What do I know about painting?  I can manage a pretty picture, and I dominate paint by numbers.  Painting a wall, or several walls?  I don’t know much, but it seemed easy.  And how badly could I mess up an 8 x 5 room?  Especially one that was half covered with tile.

About 15-20 years ago (eek), I was taught that Tom Sawyer was a mastermind of the cleverest proportions when he convinced others to paint for him.  Apparently, I am the fool that paints by choice and by my own initiative.  It’s not even my wall!  I must be particularly foolish.

However, I needed a project where I could use my hands, and where I could accomplish and finish something.  A discernible task.  Most of my day is spent thinking, reading and writing.  When I’m working, I progress through projects, and it is nice to finish one and proceed to the next, but all I have to show when I’m done is a (sometimes very lengthy) word document, or pdf, or excel spreadsheet.  It doesn’t feel like a tangible accomplishment.

And these walls needed painting.  They were begging for a makeover of epic proportions.  Do you remember when sponge painting was the rage?  I’m not sure how old I was, but it took over the suburbs.  Painting walls a solid color, then adding an accent color on top with a sponge.  My childhood bedroom turned into a purple oasis.  Medium purple as base, with a light purple sponged on top.  And it seemed like such a great idea to go free-hand and sponge green vines close to the ceiling as a border.  It was glorious for a ten-year-old.  Sigh.  We covered that monstrosity with a solid sage tone years ago.  Thank goodness.  However, my bathroom also suffered from the sponge painting craze.  It featured a white base, with erratic sponged accents in yellow, pink, light blue, dark blue, and green.  It was like a firework missed the toilet and vomited on my bathroom walls.  In my defense, I truly thought it was pretty and fun!

When I moved back to my parent’s house (which is a story for another time), this firework vomit slowly started to bother me.  And when I needed the outlet of a project that was both manual labor and had a distinct finish, I knew I’d found my huckleberry.  So to speak.

I chose a bright, cheerful blue, channeling a Tiffany’s box.  The first night, I cut the legs off of some ratty stretched out jeans, put on a shirt that earlier in the week my mother had emphatically deemed a bad color for me, and put down the tarp.  I’d taped off wall edges the night before, but I was unprepared for the lack of mobility once I put the plastic sheet down to protect the floor.  It stuck to everything except the floor.  It was especially enamored with sticking to my feet.  I started to avoid moving around too much.  To backtrack slightly, I don’t think the sticky tarp was my first mistake.  I actually think my true rookie mistake was having a huge bowl of ice cream right before I started painting rather than having beer as I progressed.  I remedied this the next few nights of painting.

I blared the Garth Brooks channel, turned on the 33-year old (almost deafening) exhaust fan, and applied myself to the task.  I knew I had to do something extra to hide the ugly that was already on the walls.  FOUR coats of primer.  FOUR.  The ugly was resilient!  Yes, I didn’t know I had to mix it well prior to application, so the first coat was quite weak.

Slowly, the sponge paint was a vestige of its former self and I started to apply the blue.  Sweating in the glare of the single bathroom light, and sipping my beer occasionally, I slathered blue over most of the walls during the second night of painting.  Slathering was definitely the appropriate word.  My technique landed somewhere between rolling it on and globbing large amounts of paint on the wall then spreading it quickly with the roller to avoid drips.  Mad skills, right?  I followed up the next day to find and go over problem spots.  Over and over, and over, and over again, until I was satisfied.  Running into the wet wall was a common error, and so were minor drips.  If there were too many drips, I knew I was either sleepy or tipsy and it was time for bed.

When I zoomed out my focus from the immediate task to view the room as a whole, I was slightly shocked.  It was so blue.  So very blue.  A bright blue which shouted SMURF or IT’S a BOY!  No, no, no, I told myself (rather unconvincingly): it has a vitality that suits a small bathroom, and it is so much better than 20-year-old sponged, yet not faded, firework vomit.  It’s cute, I told myself.  So … cute.  Yet I was deflated.  My father said that it would fade as it dried so it wouldn’t be so very bright.  I thought better of my disappointment: I needed to embrace the color, and accept it.

When I removed the painting tape, I was surprised that it wasn’t perfect.  And disappointed yet again.  I sweated over this!  I was meticulous!  But the anticlimactic moment came, and the line was not straight.  My mom commented that the tape may have been over ten years old — fantastic.  There were blue gobs where there should have been a nice clean line, and I was instantly flattened.  Indefatigable, I resolved to get just a sample size of white flat pain to fix the spots.  I thought my cheap and easy fix would work.  Two stores later, I discovered that they don’t sell flat white in sample sizes.  Jerks.  I had to buy a whole quart to use less than half a cup!  I know that’s the point, but I certainly don’t have to like it.

After the wonky lines were fixed and everything was dry, I added a new shower curtain, a white bath mat and a small white curtain.  This could work – the blue was still bright, but it was not overwhelming.  Shoot, it was starting to look downright charming.

I finished.  And I did a good job.  Flooded with a sense of accomplishment, I turned on the light, and showed off my new, bright, cute bathroom to anyone who would come into my parent’s house to see it.  Not surprisingly, not many people were lured in to view my bathroom, but the few oohs and aahs were quite rewarding.  My small accomplishment of creating such a big blue was worth it.

A week later I found 3 places I wanted to touch up.  Such is life.

– Your huckleberry

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