As I dip a brush into the can of paint – Sherwin-Williams Silken Peacock – I can hear my father’s voice. Dip lightly. Only the tip of the brush should be covered in paint. Remove excess. Wipe the brush against the rim of the can to be sure the paint isn’t too gloopy. Paint. Move the brush up and down, up and down, over the bookshelf, pulling the paint through until the brush is dry. Repeat.
I haven’t heard my father’s voice in nearly 12 years but it’s still in my head giving instructions when I paint. He was a manager of Sherwin-Williams stores in Georgia and Alabama for 40 years, working long hours, often without help. He was a quiet man with an unending supply of dad jokes (in his radio voice: “This is station S-N-O-T with a song by Snot Rogers and his Booger Band. Pick it out, boys.”)
I would like to think my dad would be proud whenever I paint now, despite the problems that arise from my notorious impatience. My instinctive way to paint is to dip the brush nearly to the handle, lift it, dripping with paint, then slap it on the surface. In my mind, more paint equals less time. But Dad taught me to paint correctly and neatly, going back to ensure I didn’t leave any drips to harden into unsightly blobs. If I happen to miss a drip, I sand it down before applying the next coat because that’s what Dad would have done. He taught me to wait, actually wait, until one coat dried before starting another.
My father was not a professional painter. He mixed it and tinted it and sold it, but he only used it when he was helping family members with projects. He was legend in our family, known for being able to paint even the tiniest trim without ever using painters’ tape and for never, ever getting even a single drop on his clothing.
I can’t say the same. Even times when I am actively trying to exercise patience and care, I will soon have paint on my hands, elbows and forehead. Later, in the tub, I will find paint on the bottoms of my feet or even on my eyeglasses. The paint spots would make a great guide for a kindergartner learning to play “Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes.” Click here to read the full column on It’s a Southern Thing.