Lessons from the brush

By Nate Bayne


This summer I had the good fortune to work at a painting company a friend of mine started up in Spearfish. It seemed like a good opportunity to learn a new skill while making some money on the side. But like many ventures in life, it turned out to be so much more. In fact, it was one of the more educational summers I’ve experienced in recent years. And since so much of painting is applicable to the broad category of life, I thought I would share some of those lessons here.

Lesson #1: When staining a deck, especially one situated over a patio, under no circumstances should you place a bucket of stain on a drop cloth that is hanging over the side and is sure to be pulled down by your coworker at any moment. Failure to abide by this lesson will result in excessive scrubbing of concrete, awkward conversation with owner of deck, and more severe sunburn than would otherwise have been incurred.

Lesson #2: When the painter informs you (the owner of a deck) that applying a semi-transparent stain to a deck that was previously stained a solid color is a bad idea, heed that advice. No matter how good the deck on the can of stain looks, your deck will never look quite like that. Instead, it will look like that time you were a kid and you swept the dirt in the living room under the rug. Only in this scenario the dirt is really splotchy and the rug is semi-transparent. Based on the available data, I can only hope that you are in the rational minority that understands why this would be a problem.

Lesson #3: Some people love painting more than you have ever loved anything, and that’s okay. Be happy for those who find immense joy in such a task. And when your boss, in an attempt to demonstrate proper technique, paints a board, admires it, and describes it as “beautiful”, do not interrupt the tutorial. Instead, say something like, “Yeah, that is nice. But I didn’t see how you did that part there.” And then allow him to do the next board and bask in its apparent glow. At this point your best option is to continue smiling and nodding for as long as he wants to show you his superior painting prowess. Because at the end of the day, this person is clearly pursuing a personal passion, and who are you to deny him that pleasure?

Lesson #4: When painting indoors, be sure to turn on some fans for ventilation. Because when the conversation starts to seem a little bizarre and every comment is way funnier than normal, it’s really just a sign that a significant headache is coming your way.

Lesson #5: When the summer sun is beating down on you and the paint is drying too fast to spread and you could swear the earth is rotating just a little slower than normal and it’s only Tuesday, just take a moment to remind yourself: at least we’re not roofing.