Saturday, November 02, 2013

Why painting is like writing your novel

As my friends (and enemies!) will tell you I have a thing about moving furniture. I do it a lot. Like once a month.

Part and parcel of moving the furniture is painting the walls behind the furniture.  Even I am not so crazy as to repaint once a month...but I do like to paint.

But there's only a brief window of time between summer and winter (too hot to paint, too cold to leave the windows open!) to paint not just a wall but the entire apartment.

I decided to go for it.

First question of course was color.  I love colors -- big strong colors -- but you would not know this by looking at me because I tend to wear a lot of black. I still remember rooms with colors I loved from when I was a kid (Mrs Pickering's shade of marigold in her bathroom; my beloved aunt's deep rich fuchsia in her dining room)

My apartment walls have been bone white for years cause I loved the look of all the color in the room being the art on the walls.

But this time I thought:  Color!  I went online to the various paint companies and they let me look at all the colors I could imagine and more than a few I couldn't.  And they "let" me buy samples.

Yabbadabbodoo we are in business!  I ordered a bunch of samples, turned up at the store and hauled my treasure home.

And painted a sample square on the wall.

Wait! What??
This is..well I don't know what this is.

It looked like this on the color guide!

On my wall it looked like the zombie apocalypse started in Brooklyn, at MY house!!


Ok, try again.

Wait, no, that's not right either.
That looks like zombie puke. yeesh!

And it was so pretty at the paint website

Ok, that wasn't right either.

Something not quite so...big.

With a name like Sausalito Sunset, it had to be pretty right?
It was pretty at the store!

Now, these pictures obviously are taken with foul light and by a not very skilled photog (ie ME) but can see why at this point I was tearing out my hair.

I'd gotten those three colors with the idea they'd be the main color on the wall.  It was clear I was clueless about color when I saw my choice for the trim or accent color up next.

Yes, that is kangaroo.
Not only did it look pretty, it sounded almost as fun as raccoon fur.

But they weren't pretty. They were...well, they were just awful. And kind of scary.

(And if you're wondering what those black scratch marks are, that's what you get when you lean your bicycle against the wall every day for ten years.)

At this point I was officially losing my mind.

And my weather window is closing.  The heat came on in the building for two nights and that's
a pretty reliable sign it's getting cold enough that you don't want to leave your windows wide open for 48 hours.

What to do?

Well of course I took my complaints to twitter. Not to seek help, what was anyone going to do, come to my house and choose colors? Not likely (although if anyone wants to do this, I'm open!)

No it was just to seek company in my misery.

But like all good things, Twitter surprised me.  There were some pretty good links provided.

This one from Thistlewood Farms was really good (thanks @Craigsoffer!)

And then there was this: from the amazing and talented @HelenaHunting.

It wasn't so much that I got the right colors from these links, I didn't.  It was more what I learned about the process of choosing. And seeing a LOT of examples.

And what I hated (purple) and what I was afraid of (green.)

Why was I afraid of green you ask?

Well, meet the snot-green couch.

This is the couch that refuses to die. The couch that I bought without actually sitting on it (that is a mistake in case you're wondering).  A couch I bought cause I liked that it had an extension on one side so I could put my feet up while I read.

A couch that looked like it was a very pretty brown in the furniture store (and don't I suspect they had tricky lighting in that store??)

Anyway, the snot green couch had to live in the room with the paint.  Paint the walls green and I thought it would be like like living inside a particularly nasty headcold.

So I dithered around some more. Most of this was going in the early morning and late evening when dithering takes on a quality of panic that just might resemble psychosis. 

But then I saw this. And if you look below the color block to "goes great with" you'll see a color called Texas Sage. And I swear this is true: I thought "Stephanie Jaye Evans lives in Texas and so this has to be a sign" which is illogical and crazy and completely nutso, and despite all that, I ordered samples of it anyway.

And got it home last night.

And painted a test sample.

And didn't actively hate it.

Which is about five steps forward from every other paint sample (except Straw which I liked on the wall but was too washed out for this size room, and godhelp me the brown trim with it looked like baby poop)

the snot-green couch with straw and kangaroo

So here it is.  And if you hate it don't tell me, cause I think this is the right color. Also, yes, I'm painting the walls on the angle.

This photo makes the top color look much more orange than it appears. It's actually a pretty lovely shade of peach. And the Texas Sage doesn't give the snot-green couch the sniffles. So, I think we've got our paint colors.

A lot of dithering, a lot of fang-gnashing, a lot of twitter-whinging, and a lot of good natured help from pals far and wide.

I can hear you thinking "get to the point about novel writing, enough with your paint stuff!"  Ok here it is:

When you start to write, you know what you like and what you want your novel to be. And then sometimes when it's on the page it doesn't look like what you wanted at all. In fact it looks like zombie puke.

When this happens, it's no surprise you're utterly perplexed. You know what you want, why isn't it turning out right?

So you dither, and kvetch, and stomp around. All good things to do for loosening up mental debris and getting a breakthrough. But it doesn't always do the trick.

Sometimes you have to just hang out with people who get what you're going through. They'll offer advice and sympathy.  Sometimes the advice isn't exactly what you need but it will shake up your mindset enough that you can figure it out.

Sometimes you have to be willing to do something illogical, crazy and completely nutso, cause sometimes that IS the path toward the goal.

And sometimes you have to realize that what you're afraid of is exactly where you should be heading.

I almost settled for something I didn't really like cause I couldn't figure out how to get what I knew would be better.

Keep working 'til you love what you've got.


LynnRodz said...

Janet, I think you should just go out and buy frames and frame all your samples on the wall. You've got yourself an instant (chic) art gallery! I especially like the first one. (Now if I could only find a way to do that with my words!)

Anonymous said...

I had a red (so red it needed a special primer) bathroom once, probably about the shade of your zombie apocalypse. A friend complained that it was like walking into a spleen, but I loved it.

french sojourn said...

I love to paint as well...out of necessity. Three years renovating/remodeling a farm house.
Give me an ivory or parchment colored wall that sets up the architecture and allows art to be displayed and I am happy.
Different strokes for different em...folks.

Good luck on your project.

John "Ol' Chumbucket" Baur said...

A friend who's a brilliant theater set designer always says, "There are no mistakes in set painting. There's only texture." Because if it's not working, you just paint over it. That's where I am with my WIP, minus the colors. When I started I knew exactly what I wanted. 10,000 words into it, and it's coming out quite differently, a very different story than I'd thought I was writing. I'm plunging ahead to see what the story actually is. If I don't like it, that's what second drafts are for. It's a lot easier to delete words than it is to paint over the wrong color. If nothing else, right now I'm getting a lot of texture on the page.

1000th.monkey said...

I've moved 11 times in 10 years, and almost always re-paint the *new* place as soon as I move in.

My trick is to bring home a ton of the paint sample strips, lay them on the floor next to the wall, and look at them in as many different kinds of light as possible before making my decision.

So, lights on/off. Morning light, late afternoon light, sunny and dull weather. You'd be surprised how a colour that looks great on a sunny morning looks awful on a cloudy day...

Also, how different they look up against different kinds of flooring.

Gabriella said...

I love the mango color! So fresh and zesty.

I hope we get to see a post on the finished wall with sofa when it is done.

 Patrick Lee said...

I love the rectangular faces. Especially the one with the arched eyebrows. I might start painting these on my walls when I'm stuck on a scene. The metaphor about paint colors really does sum up the writing process well!

Terri Lynn Coop said...

I love the colors and the Veronica Roth placement on the sofa really makes it look quite dauntless.

I'm with Patrick about the rectangular faces, I think you have a created a new art form.

And yes on the writing metaphor. I'm working on a flash for NYC Midnight. It is horror about a tattoo parlor and high heeled shoes.

It started out as a barroom tale of sacrificing your soul for the love of a mermaid and has morphed into a vampire tattoo artist who discovers his latest victim is a harpy, or she will be when he finishes inking her wings. Damn.

I'm off, that 48-hour deadline is ticking away! Midnight waits for no one!


Mister Furkles said...

Did you tack and prime first? If not you might as well be buying lotto tickets. And get the right primer--it cost as much as the paint.

Next, what kind of lights do you have in your apartment? Get the kind artists like.

BP said...

So true, and what a fun way to tell it! Loved the paint tour of your place! :D haha

Lance said...

LynnRodz, Patrick, and Terri Lynn have it right: I think you're stuck with the faces. Nice frames for them would diminish the effect. More of a rough lumber outline; maybe some corrugated tin. Like an abandoned warehouse. Who's going to look at the couch then? Great delivery on how the story changes once you get on the paper/display.

Unknown said...

Wow. I know you're smart and tough and all that, but you are also, at times, wise.

Is it coming with age? Experience? Wine?

Lily Cate said...

Dark colors need a few coats. I had our office painted charcoal gray for a while, and it was delicious, but it took about 3 coats to get a rich, even color. This spring I painted my son's door to look like a giant TARDIS. It took 5-6 coats to get an even color.

Which is still way less passes than my average manuscript, which need no less than 10 revisions, at least so far.

Stacy said...

Wow. This is exactly what I'm dealing with in writing my novel. Thanks, Janet!