On Painting

Charlene journal

Singapore

I haven’t been shooting much since I’ve been back in the motherland, so this post has nothing to do with photography, travel, or anything I usually blog about. It’s about about painting. Walls and such.

From Instagram stories, Feb 2019

I’ve been domestically preoccupied for a few months. Late 2018, before I headed to Copenhagen, there were weeks of prep for the big government upgrading program to our flats that gave thousands of us brand new bathrooms – among other things – and Mum’s own concurrent renovations. Then it was a week of cleaning, and I painted my room before heading off to Denmark for a couple of months.

In the couple of weeks I’ve been back from Copenhagen, I’ve been painting the rest of the house.

Let me just say first, that I’ve not done this before. It was a fresh experience from the get go. Why did I do it? Well, our flat isn’t that big – 2 bedrooms, a living room and a storeroom, and it was going to cost an unreasonable amount of money to get painters in. Also, I’d never painted a house before, so why not?

Lessons

Has there been hilarity? So much. Some of which you might have seen if you’ve been following my occasional posts on Instagram stories.

From Instagram stories, Feb 2019

But it’s been an enlightening experience. Things I’ve learned:

Walls are easy to paint: A good roller, loud music and they just about paint themselves. The prep took far longer than the painting itself.

Doors, are not easy to paint: And it’s sloooooow going. Ermagherd, people. Enamel paint is hard to handle, if you, like me, have never encountered it before. Our doors aren’t a flat surface I could attack with a roller; they have styled ridges and stuff that mean brushwork only. Trying to get paint on all of it evenly made me want to stab myself in eye with the paint stirrer. By day 3, I was losing the will to live. I still have the main door to paint, after Chinese New Year festivities are over. But that will be it. And I will crack open that bottle of rum when it is all done.

Prep is everything: It takes as long to prep as it does to paint. But it’s worth being meticulous about it – moving and covering furniture, newspapering, taping, getting tools and paint and stuff ready. It makes the job easier, more efficient, and at the end of a long day, means that cleaning up is a cinch.

Good tools, dammit: In painting, as in photography, use good tools. They don’t have to be expensive tools, mind, but a little more money for quality goes a long way.

Buy, for instance, that $10 sponge roller instead of the $2.50 rag one. The good $9 Selleys brush instead of the lousy $1.50 one. Insist. Even if your mother is giving you a what-have-I-done-in-a-past-life-to-have-such-a-wastrel-child look. Because:

  1. You are doing the painting. She is not.
  2. You will work 300 times faster.
  3. Your work will be 300 times better – more even, smoother, and less splatter-and-drip prone.
  4. You will save 300% in paint – $7.50 more in roller/brush saved $30 of paint. That’s a bottle of New Zealand white, or a fair bit of cider. Need I say more?

But it’s done, save that main door mentioned earlier. It’s not the world’s best paint job, but it’s a respectable result for a first attempt. My agony at the mess of wet doors quieted after realizing that once the paint dried, it evened itself out. So if you look closely, you’ll see that it could have been done better, but it’s not obvious.

I’ve learned a few things about paint, persistence, and got in lots of singing practice to boot. The last of these is a good antidote to extreme grouchiness when painting doors, and it also appears I remember the lyrics to a lot of music from the 90s. Mum’s saved well over a thousand dollars getting professionals in. Some of which I am telling her she can spend on kiwi wine for Daughter Of The Year 2019.

Our flat and its doors are now a light, bright shade of Whispering White, just in time for Chinese New Year.

Happy Year of the Pig, all of you who celebrate. Xing nian kuai le, wan shi ru yi, shen ti jian kang, gong xi fa cai, and of course, hong bao yi ge lai!

Freshly painted wall and door sample.

P.S., If anyone is wondering about my very brown arm and the Chinese New Year references: I’m half Chinese (Mum), half Indian (Dad). In Singapore and Malaysia, people like me are known as Chindians.