|Jinny has been very ill and is currently undergoing rehabilitation in a Bangor facility so she will not be writing her article for awhile. She is making excellent progress and hopes to be able to return to writing her column in the near future... Adele.
CWhen I was a young girl my father taught me how to paint. Not portraits or landscapes, but walls and trim and furniture. He was a man who could focus on a task with almost Zen-like totality, and even as a child I could recognize it. My father could get in the 'zone' in more variety of tasks than anyone I have ever known. When he was fully engaged there was a quiet calmness about him that was so compelling, that I would sometimes just sit and watch him in mutual silence for hours.
He was an excellent carpenter and could do beautiful cabinet work. I used to love to be with him in the garage when he was building something because I was fascinated by his precision and the smell of the wood. I especially liked it when he used a plane to shave down pieces of lumber. I was intrigued by the planes; he had big ones and small ones, and when he used them he always did so with a smooth and unwavering rhythm that was unique to the task. The plane made the most wonderful sound as it moved across the wood and the shavings always fell to the side in lovely little curls that I liked to pick up and arrange in interesting designs. He almost never spoke when he did these little tasks, but he had a way of half-whistling an unrecognizable tune through his pierced lips that was infinitely comforting. He would happily answer any questions when I asked them, but mostly I just enjoyed being with him in silence except for the scraping of the plane on the lumber and his tuneless whistle.
When I was old enough my father taught me how to paint. I had watched him paint often enough and was amazed by his steady hand and attention to detail. Back before they had the fake plastic removable slats that they put in windows now, the slats were wooden and the individual panes of glass were small rectangles. You couldn't take them off; they had to be painted on the window. My father could paint them with an angled brush and never get a single drop of paint on the glass. He never taped anything off and used what seemed to me to be an enormous brush.
One day, without any prompting at all on my part, he asked me if I wanted to help him. I was pleased and surprised, he didn't often ask for help on his projects. I quickly agreed and my painting lessons began. I found myself in the delightful position of being able to ask all the questions I had pondered in my head for a long time.
"Why don't you use a smaller brush?" I asked him.
"If you know what you are doing you don't need a smaller brush," he answered.
My father, who knew more about more things than anyone I have ever known, was a man of few words. He was the kind of guy who when asked for the time, would know precisely how to make a watch but would never consider telling you how it was done unless you asked.
"Why don't you tape off the window panes with masking tape? I asked. "Wouldn't it help you to not get paint on the glass?"
"Tape," he said simply, "is for amateurs."
This statement was a little intimidating to a young aspiring painter. If this was the standard for professionalism, I knew that I was in trouble.
"But," I ventured, "doesn't everyone start out an amateur?"
"Yes," he nodded, "and they stay one forever because they become dependent on the tape and never learn to do it right."
Ok, tape was definitely out.
My father tore one of the flaps off a cardboard box, took his carpenter's rule and his stubby carpenter's pencil and drew a straight line across the cardboard. He gave me an angled brush and showed me how to dip it just the right amount into the paint and scrape off the excess on the side of the can.
"The secret," he stated, "is to know just how much paint you have on your brush and what is too little or too much." When he pulled the brush out of the paint not a single drop fell from the bristles. He showed me how to hold the brush to have the maximum control and handed me the piece of cardboard. "Try to paint right along this line without going over it or too far under it," he said. "Keep doing it until you figure out just how much paint you have on the brush and how much pressure you need to apply for the bristles to line up just right."
I tackled this practice task with great enthusiasm and intense concentration. I wanted to get it right. I painted along his penciled lines on cardboard until I became totally familiar with the brush and figured out just how much paint I needed and how much pressure to apply to the stroke. Time lost all meaning as I sat on the floor with the cardboard balanced on my lap and the paintbrush in my hand. Finally, I looked up when I felt his hand gently rubbing on my back. My father's back rubs when I was sick or couldn't sleep were the most wonderful and comforting things in my life.
"I'm all done, Doll," he said quietly. "Let's see how you did."
I handed him my piece of cardboard and anxiously watched his face for signs of delight or disappointment. My father had the perfect gambler's poker face, however, and I could read nothing in it. After what felt like a lifetime, he looked down at me and smiled.
"You're a natural," he said. "I think that I'll give you a job tomorrow. You can help me paint."
I don't think that I could have been happier if he had given me the Nobel Prize and a pink mustang convertible. I was a natural.
I am currently in the middle of a painting task and am teaching my son, Chuck, how to paint. He watched me as I ran an angled brush along the thin molding between the floor and the newly painted wall. The brush slid along the line straight and smooth
"How can you do that without ever getting paint on the wall?" he asked with awe. "And why don't you tape if off like other people?"
"It's just practice," I told him with a smile. "And tape is for amateurs."