A Painting Lesson


I’m helping my beloved niece, Lucy, paint her apartment bedroom. More accurately, she’s helping me. She doesn’t have experience painting a room and today I’m going to teach her. Fortunately, my sister Susan made sure the walls are prepped and ready to go. Putting on the paint is the easy, rewarding part.

There are two tasks to painting a room wall: cutting in the edges using a brush and rolling out the flat surfaces. And really there is only one major objective: get the paint where it belongs (on the walls) and not where it doesn’t (on the ceiling or the woodwork or spilled onto the floor).

The brushwork requires a steadier hand and more skill, so I’ll teach Lucy how to use the roller. She says it looks simple enough: you roll it on the wall.

Yes, but. There’s a process that helps avoid disasters and ensure good results. First, you roll in the paint pan and then remove the excess paint along the ridges in the pan. You don’t want too much paint on the roller because it will drip off when you lift the roller from the pan to the wall. Neither do you want too little paint on the roller because you’ll have to constantly come back for more.

Then I show her how to apply the paint to the wall, gently moving the roller up and down with overlapping strokes, working one section at a time, and finishing each section with a soft hand to avoid any paint ridges. Paint far enough to cover the edge I’m cutting in, but not so far that the roller strikes the ceiling or the woodwork. Always carry a wet rag to quickly wipe up any little spills or drops.

Those are the bare basics and she’s ready to go.

Right away I see she uses a different technique than I just showed her. She goes gently up and down with the roller, at first, but then she rolls on an angle and even horizontally, moving the roller with gusto and pressing hard to get every bit of paint off the roller and going over the same spots again and again.

I’m about to say something: not so fast, not so hard. But I hold off and let her work. It’s not the way I roll out a wall, but her technique seems to be working just fine.

The bed might be messy, but those walls are beautifully painted.

I remember a quote from someone, not sure who, someone famous, who said the way a person goes about their business and doing things is likely the best way—because it’s their own way. As long as they’re not harming or hurting anything or anyone, each person’s approach should be respected. There’s your way, there’s my way, but rarely is there ever “the one and only right way.”

Sure, learning a few tips and tricks can make tasks and life easier, but I believe the act of teaching mostly involves providing just enough tools and information to send you on the path of discovery.

I showed Lucy how to put paint on the roller. I showed her how to roll the paint onto the walls. She followed some of my advice and found her own way for the rest of it. Who am I to say? The walls look beautiful: two teal, one purple, one blue. No missed spots. No unsightly paint ridges. Next time I’ll teach her to use the brush. Or more accurately, I’ll show her how I use the brush and then she’ll figure out the way that works best for her.

By David Klein

David Klein

Published novelist, creative writer, journalist, avid reader, discriminating screen watcher.


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