Thursday, July 20, 2017

Painting carrots

Why it's been quiet here: every day this week I've been at our house, finishing up the painting and tidying away the bits of plastic film that gets delivered with window screens and major appliances.  Also, plotting a DIY approach to a new brick path to make the trench dug for waterproofing look intentional... but more on that in a moment.  Today we are going to talk about rewards for work well done (which are sometimes purchased before the work gets done, since delivery times can be long.)

tiny presents in tiny wrapping

I don't hate painting - I find it quite rewarding in many ways - but I would much rather paint in watercolour while seated, than in semi-gloss off-white while reaching up and crouching down and crawling under the stairs (which is today's job.)  So as consolation for painting all the doors in the house and, worse, the aforementioned space under the stairs in the basement (I am grateful for the primer there, but not so much the spiders)... I bought the Sennelier watercolour paints I've been longing for since January.

This is a very conservative, practical, pocket-sized professional grade set with its own brush

I'm just going to come right out with it: it's totally irresponsible to buy expensive paints before sampling even a small amount to be sure you will be able to work with them.  It's also totally irresponsible to buy a lot of professional-grade paints when you will never, ever be a professional artist or even paint well enough to justify preserving paintings from fading away for more than five years, if that.  But when you are in a huge time crunch and need a carrot to get through the pile of work that needs to be done between Point A and Point B, irresponsibility is key.

This is a student-grade set... in an extremely compact box with space for more paint, or a brush

Also, watercolour paint is less expensive than a trip to Aruba and is more compact than a lifetime's supply of sock yarn, which I already have in any case.

This is a large, professional grade metal-box set with six bonus paints and room for more paints and brushes

I've been painting with student-grade paints up to this point - from Winsor and Newton, and Daler Rowney - since that's what I could find locally in the compact boxes of half-pan paints I crave.  That format is good for me because I like to paint very small things - apparently, tube paints are best for painting large images.  But I don't love the colours I have with either of these sets.  Every time I sit down to paint I have to mix new ones, and I rarely get the brightness I want even with the brightest unmixed colours. 

The Sennelier paints are made with honey which keeps them from drying out, and people seem to love the vibrancy of the colours, though they do need layering.  I layer a lot anyway, because I don't know what I'm doing and keep going over areas I've already covered.  So this was the line I wanted most to try, and the fact that you can only get student grade half-pans at Toronto art stores drove me to US-based online shops where there is a ridiculous variety of sets to choose from. 

I am terrible with decisions, so I picked a small student grade set for its very portable box, an even smaller professional grade set for its brush, and a much larger professional grade set for its vast colour range and capacity to hold more half-pans (which I also bought loose.)  Next big purchase: a ceramic mixing tray, from a shop closer to home.


Or maybe I'll just buy a rectangular ceramic dish from a restaurant supply store, the better to stow it in a drawer?

It's all total overkill but... there is that DIY brick path which is saving us a lot in labour costs, some of which I think really ought to come back to me in the form of future relaxation, don't you?

I've installed stone pavers before, and have been very successful with them, so I am not daunted by this project.  There were several in the back yard - a patio, a few brick borders set flush with the ground to make it easier to run the lawn mower, a pretty path bordering a tree in the corner - and one at the side of our driveway, to help keep our neighbours' weeds down and get rid of excess brick that was lying around our property when we bought the house.  Also, the front path, which I had to set three times because the first time I was learning and didn't do it well enough, and the second time it got messed up by the installation of our driveway.

The last time though, was about 12 years ago, and I am less agile now than I was then.  Also, to do it this time, the asphalt needs to be cut because the waterproofers were not thinking of aesthetics or measurements when they cleared space for their work.  Thankfully Pete is excited to take on that task, now that I have used sidewalk chalk to mark out the cut lines.

The key to success here is not to overthink the process, because the path has to get installed in the next two weeks if we we are to be able to move home easily and get the condo up for rent before fall.  That includes the choice of paver, which we made in about five minutes a few days ago while at our nearest Home Depot.  The tumbled rustic cobblestone from our front walk is no longer sold, and we want to keep most of the reclaimed brick paths I set in the back, so to keep things from looking too choppy we are going with a grey brick that matches our asphalt, set in the style I used for the paths at the back.  Bonus: that brick is also the cheapest!  This never happens to us, liking the least expensive option.


I think to really love a home, I need to be involved in creating it, and more and more I can see it's been pretty hard for me not to contribute to the manual labour unfolding throughout this renovation.  The last few days at the house, actually participating and spending hours there at a time, I have come to accept the painful fact that I don't love having high ceilings!  Everybody seems to want those and our architects were totally focused on giving us the highest ceilings possible, even at the expense of our roof pitch.  I didn't question it, never having lived in a home with anything higher than eight feet.  But the kitchen cabinets that go right up to the ceiling - practical, because then there is no wasted storage space - accentuate the feeling of being small in a tall place.

Hopefully when our things are all in, it will feel like home again.  It did help yesterday that Pete had moved in our new kitchen table, and I brought over a mug for tea and bought a second kettle to keep there.

Meanwhile, I also treated myself to this pretty blue Picquic screwdriver.  Isn't it great?


As screwdrivers go, I mean.  It's super cool - there's a magnet in the top for holding the bit you're using in place, and the other bits are all kept in the the handle.  When you want to switch, you push the old bit into another channel and the new bit pops up.  Okay.  Maybe this isn't advanced or innovative multi-tool technology today, but it is strangely pleasing.


I love this thing so much. It's got all the screwdriver heads I need, and the handle fits in my palm and is very ergonomic.  And it's such a beautiful colour!

I hope I can keep the paint off it, don't you?