Thursday, August 12, 2010

My Wife's Bright Idea

Have you ever been inspired to tackle a project out of your normal repertoire? This recently happened to me while doing some painting at home. It was late in the day;
I was up on the ledge of our 2 story foyer, finishing one last section of wall and my wife said to me “why don’t you paint a mural around that window?” Glancing at her with a perplexed look, my initial thought was “what, right now?” I’ve never painted a mural before. But as I looked at the “blank canvas” she was obviously looking at I said “why not?” A mural in this unique space would really add the “wow” factor, especially when viewed from the upstairs hallway. She really inspired me on this one. Most of the surface we were talking about is taken up by a large circle top window. The mural would surround the window (see photos), so it wasn’t a very large area to paint. “What’s the worst that could happen”, she exclaimed! If you mess it up, just paint over it. Easy for her to say, she wasn’t the one doing the painting on a 4 foot ledge 10 feet up! Did I mention that I’m afraid of heights?
Without hesitation, the very next morning I went out to buy some paint, not wanting to think about this project for too long, for fear of talking myself out of it. I gathered an assortment of colors suitable for a Tuscan landscape. RUST-OLEUM brand Painter’s Touch, a heavy bodied latex paint seemed to be a good choice. I also bought a few sponges and the smallest sash brush that Home Depot had in stock. The sponges can be used instead of a brush to apply large amounts of paint.
The wall area around the window is about 8ft. by 8ft. square. We just happened to have a Tuscan landscape painting hanging in our dining room which is also square. This would be perfect to use as a model. All that had to be done was to scale the painting to the wall area. Now I had my inspiration and my subject; I was halfway there!
Using a pizza box, I made up a palette with disposable foam bowls used as paint cups. I cut up the sponges in various shapes and sizes, gathered the rest of my supplies and hauled everything up the ladder to the ledge. I wasn’t quite ready to paint; the area had to be prepped. Since the walls and ceiling were painted the day before, everything needed to be masked to keep everything as clean as possible. The area where the mural was going to be painted was framed with 12” masking paper. The window frame was also taped off. Taking extra time in preparing the area saves tedious touch up later. Believe me, been there done that; more than once. Now, ready to paint.
I carefully brought the pizza box palette up the ladder. Each bowl contained a different color of paint, with a few extra bowls for mixing custom shades. The ceiling of the foyer is painted a color aptly named Cloud Blue, from the Ralph Lauren collection. Using a brush and a small paint roller, I painted the top 1/3 of my canvas this same color, as a base coat for the sky. With a large piece of sponge, various colors were blended; gray, white, yellow, gold and silver to mimic the sky in the Tuscan painting. Next, the bottom 1/3 of the mural was painted brown with some dabs of black, green, yellow and beige mixed in. In the middle section, a sharp edged sponge was used to add houses and other buildings. Using the small sash brush, windows and rooflines were defined. The trees and shrubbery were sponged with shades of green, brown, beige and black. Finishing touches were the bright red flowers in the lower portion of the mural.
This project went well because I didn’t think about it for too long. From inspiration to completion was about 24 hours! Normally, I’ll think a project to death. This was a first for me. I’d never done a mural before, and to complete it so quickly, certainly was a plus. Sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith and just give it a shot. What’s the worst that can happen?
I think I’ve heard that before!

Check out my article on InfoBarrel on how you can paint your very own Tuscan inspired mural!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

To Do or Not To Do

Being an avid do-it-yourselfer, I always seem to be asking myself that question. Should I attempt the project at hand, no matter how big or small, or should I hire someone to do it? Will I save money doing this myself? How is it going to look when it’s done? Am I going to have to call someone to fix my mess? I can only imagine how many of you have had this same dilemma countless times. Here are some thoughts I use in order to make a confident “To do or not to do” decision.

First of all, what exactly is the task? Is it painting a bedroom or painting a 2 story foyer? There are some dramatic differences to these projects; the skill levels and stamina required are immensely different. Painting a bedroom is fairly straightforward. Pick a color, move some furniture around, dust out the cobwebs, take the pictures off the walls and cover and mask everything. There. The hard and tedious work is done. Painting is actually the easy part. My dad always told me “It’s all in the preparation”! When I used to work with him, all I did was prepare. Sand this, wash that. Scrap that loose paint, and so on and so on. Rarely did I get to paint! (My dad was a professional painter for about 50 years or so). Before you know it, you’ll be cleaning up. The job is done.

Painting a 2 story foyer, however, is a completely different ball game! This requires quite a bit more planning. Can it be done from a ladder with an extension pole or do I need to rent a scaffold? You mean I have to rent a scaffold for 2 hours worth of painting? I’m afraid of heights; but my wife isn’t. Will a scaffold even fit in the foyer? It will take longer to set up the scaffold than it will to paint the foyer. This is where the stamina part comes in. You are bombarding yourself with questions, either trying to convince yourself to go for it or bag the whole idea. What if I start this and can’t finish it for whatever reason. Maybe I should leave it “builder’s white” like the rest of the houses on the street. I’ve said to myself many times “Why did I start this stupid job”. Oh, just suck it up! Go for it! Quit being a baby! Think about how it’s going to look when it’s all finished. What’s the worse the can happen?

These are just some of the thoughts that flood my head upon getting the bright idea to take on a project. The bottom line is that you must be honest with yourself. Don’t underestimate what is required to do a job. Try not to overestimate your skill level. Just because it looked good on HGTV doesn’t mean it will look good in your house. People who do this stuff for a living make a job look easy. I’ve never done a do-it-yourself project that was easy every step of the way. There are always challenges. Is the task something you can complete in a reasonable amount of time? Remember the stamina thing. Are any special tools required? Will I really save any money doing it myself? If you answer these questions honestly, you’re probably ready to go. Of course, the ultimate reason for “To do or not to do” is because… I can.

So, do it.