What painting a house taught me about painting an artwork.

You’ve heard of the Great Resignation? How employers are scrambling to find staff? It’s exacerbated in Australia where the closed borders for two years meant immigration stopped.

With unemployment running now at 3.4%, there’s extreme demand for all skills. No surprise then that when I tried to find someone to do a two week paint job at our place on the Shoalhaven River, there were few takers. Remember, this is in the same town where good restaurants, like Troopers Rest are closing down because they can’t find staff.

The only people available to paint were from Canberra where the quotes were $13,000 a week. $26,000 for two week’s work. Why was it so expensive?

It’s tedious, we don’t want to do it

House painter from Canberra

It was cheaper to fly from Seattle to Braidwood to paint the house myself.

For a $1,500 flight and $800 in paint supplies, it was far cheaper to do it myself. Would it be as rewarding as painting in the studio?

Artists are known for their experimentation. Every day you try new things, layering, overpainting, reworking, resting and trying again.

How different could house painting be? Sure you use paint to paint a house. You use paint to paint a canvas. That’s about where the comparison ends. The number of times someone said to me:

You’re an artist, you must love house painting!

Passerby on the streets of Braidwood

All artists hate house painting.

There’s no joy for artists in house painting. The prep is tedious. There’s no creativity in it. The painting is equally tedious. Sure you can paint wild strokes but it affects the final finish, so all you can do is paint one or two weatherboards at a time. Left to right, top to bottom, for 10 hours a day.

Then there’s the drips. No amount of tape, drop cloths and brown paper can cover your enthusiastic application of paint.

As a treat, I would rush into town for a coffee and do some quick grocery shopping, bumping into artists around town, they all gave me the look of their own personal hell. Turns out, all artists hate house painting. And they all know it, they have all been lured into the idea that painting equals painting.

Artists can do anything, except paint houses.

The nature of art is artists put themselves through all kinds of experiences for their art – and do all kinds of jobs to support their practice. It’s not always fun or jolly.

Yet the thing we have such a disliking for, is something remarkably similar to what we do every day. It’s the very similarity of paint in different applications that is such an anathema to artists.

All Things Great and Small opens at Studio Altenburg on December 8.

The good thing about being back in Braidwood so briefly is seeing Cecile Galiazzo who runs Studio Altenburg and is showcasing All Things Great and Small, the legendary end-of-year group show of Braidwood based artists, including these two works from me. There’s 40 artists exhibiting together which kicks off on Friday 9 December for celebratory drinks.

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