Mistints and a Messy Kitchen

Jazz guitarist Graham Dechter in process on my kitchen floor in Idyllwild.

Jazz guitarist Graham Dechter in process on my kitchen floor in Idyllwild.

By Marcia E. Gawecki

During the holidays, most people will admit they have messy kitchens. There’s dishes in the sink, pans left on the stove, and tabletops not wiped down. There might even be a rolling pin or food processor left out from baking pies or pesto. As an artist, I have them all beat.

My kitchen is a mine field.

There’s a large canvas tarp spread across the 15 x 15-foot floor. It’s just a formality because paint is splattered everywhere. There’s not one defining color, and it’s not pretty.

Paint cans, brushes, rags and spaghetti jars filled with water and brushes line my path from the computer to the kitchen sink. At least once a week, I trip over the water jar, sending brushes and water all over the floor. My cats scurry out of the way as I sop it up with rags, towels, bras or anything handy, cursing all the while.

In the mountains above Palm Springs where I live, things don’t dry easily. So I have to wait on my door-sized canvases to dry.

It’s actually gotten better from the days when I would knock over entire cans of paint secured with tippy metal lids. I’ve ruined many favorite clothes trying to get out of the way.

I like mistints from Home Depot, you know, the kind of paint that’s been marked down to $8 a gallon because it wasn’t the right shade of pink, blue or green, and the buyer probably had a snit.

I’ve always wanted to ask the paint clerk about the backstory of why the person refused an entire gallon of paint. Such a waste! But I’m just so happy to have these great finds, that I don’t want to get anyone mad again.

I’d buy up all of the mistints I could afford, but then there were days there was only odd grays and creams left. I’d be like a junkie returning to Home Depot every few days looking to score a green or maybe a bright orange.

Then I discovered paint samples. Those are the small plastic cannisters of paint that look like butter tubs. Most people buy them to try out on their living room, bedroom or kitchen walls. If the sample color looks good, then they’ll go ahead buy a couple of gallons of the same shade. It’s a no-stress way of buying paint because Behr (brand) samples cost less than $3.

When the weather is nice, I paint on my back deck, like this one of Ella Fitzgerald.

When the weather is nice, I paint on my back deck, like this one of Ella Fitzgerald.

I prefer Behr paint because it is Made in the USA, in Santa Ana, California. It makes me feel good knowing that my small paint purchases are helping to save American jobs. I also like Behr paint because it’s top quality, and usually comes with primer built in. So you don’t have to spend so much of it covering your canvases.

The only downside to buying Behr paint samples is that Home Depot may be on to me. When I show up at the counter with five color swatches, and ask for five samples, it must register that I’m not painting all the walls in my house a different color. So far, they haven’t grumbled because it’s work. They have to go to the same trouble as mixing a gallon of paint– for a fraction of the cost.

And they know that I’m not coming back tomorrow to buy a couple of gallons.

Some friends of mine think that buying acrylic house paint is cheap, or less quality. Yep, it probably is. But I figured if it’s good enough to put on the outside or inside of your house and last several years, then it’s good enough to put on my paintings.

Besides, I need large quantities of acrylic paint to cover my door-sized banners. And Jackson Pollock used common house paint in his splatter-paint masterpieces.

Mainly, it’s a matter of economics. You may recall that I am the artist without a studio who sacrificed my kitchen floor. Do you think I have enough money to pay for acrylic paint at $30 a jar?

I’m just trying to find a way to continue painting without having to give it up and just be another bill-paying slob.

Banner of Barnaby Finch in process. The bigger the banner, the bigger the mess.

Banner of Barnaby Finch in process. The bigger the banner, the bigger the mess.

The only people who I allow over these days are my friends. I just can’t stand to see the horror on their faces. One time, a friend came over for a walk, but brought another friend. I mentioned in the walk that I had “sacrificed” my kitchen floor to paint. After the walk, she wanted to see it. I was giddy from all that exercise, so I said OK.

I won’t mention her name because she didn’t have a good reaction. She just stared like I had spread chicken guts all over the floor and left.

It made me feel weird and judged for my lack of tidiness. If I could manage to paint somewhere else in my house, believe me, I would. But for now, it’s all I’ve got.

The only ones who probably wouldn’t judge me would be LA graffiti or street artists. I met a few of them when I wrote an article about them showing at a gallery in Palm Springs. They had videos on their web sites that showed them wading through paper and canvases in their living rooms. They would use spray paint paint that would go everywhere!

It was so wonderful! I felt like I found my long lost brothers!

In the midst of the mess, they’d tack inspirational messages to the wall from other well-known artists like Picasso.

“While other people are talking, I’m doing art,” was the Picasso quote.

LA graffiti artists are probably the only ones who wouldn't judge me. Frankenstein's monster by Marcia Gawecki

LA graffiti artists are probably the only ones who wouldn’t judge me. Frankenstein’s monster by Marcia Gawecki

These guys are amazing artists who can paint anywhere, on a building, a wall or on a grand piano. They create beauty and precision with spray cans of paint. The ones I met have clothing designers and international beer brands courting them.

But there was a time when they couldn’t pay their rent. However, they probably never worried about what others thought of their work space where they also happened to live.

So really it’s a matter of perspective. I could tell people that I have a studio space, that also doubles as a kitchen.

Copyright 2013 Marcia Gawecki Art. All rights reserved.