Still-Point Painting – Chats With My Constant Traveller

I do some of my best thinking when I am painting.  Not landscapes, or portraits, or abstracts, or still-lifes…I enjoy painting walls.

I consider it a contemplative, still-point exercise.  As I apply it, the act of painting itself stills me.  The focus and dedication and change and patience and breath and commitment to excellence with which I approach painting stills me.  Life, expressed through this action, stills my wild heart.

If you were to observe me as I am painting a wall which, I believe, would be a rather lackluster decision, you would be led to believe that there is nothing still about it.  Painting is all action.  But therein lies the paradox – the outward action that stimulates inner flow is achieved through a still-point state.  And deliciously, it sets up a flow that is best described in circular terms – state leads to action that leads to state that leads to action…

This is how flow creates endless moments.  We interpret these endless moments as still-points.

If this seems cryptic or out of reach for you…don’t worry.  Just paint. 

You have decided that it is time to paint a room.  Perhaps there are scuffs on the walls, or your partner wants to change the color.  Whatever the reason, you will be there with yourself for the duration of the task, why not create a space in which you enjoy it?

Any task that has been performed in the history of the Universe has begun as a gleam in the doer’s eye.  Offer it your non-resistance, give up yourself wholeheartedly to the exercise.  Observe your thoughts.

Observe when, where, why and how in the painting process that your resistance bubbles up:

When did you begin telling yourself that you don’t like to paint and dreading the day when you have to begin?

Does your resistance to the task make it easier to do the things you must do to prepare?

Do you feel you are not a good enough painter to do the job?

Perhaps you should call a professional painter?  Most likely they will be a much better painter than you are, but you don’t want to pay a professional to paint your room.  You don’t have their experience.  You may be right.  This may be a reason, but it doesn’t have to be an excuse.

Having trouble choosing the color of your paint?

What if the color you choose is too dark, or too light, or doesn’t turn out the way you planned?  What if you choose the wrong color and nobody likes it?  This is the perfect opportunity to ask yourself, Why do I care?  This is my home, not theirs.

Have you begun at the beginning?  Exercise the 5P’s – proper planning prevents poor performance.

Proper prep begins with moving furniture, taking down wall art and clearing the room of accessories as well as taking off light switch and thermostat covers, taping off areas on which you don’t want to get paint.  This can take a while, especially if you are taping off baseboard, crown molding and other trim.  Also, it is wise to purchase a drop sheet to collect any spray.

Once the prep work is complete painting is a much easier task.

Are you impatient to get on with other things?

Resistance to painting generally means painting as quickly as you can so you get the distasteful job done.  There are always more important things to do when a person decides that they dislike painting.

Do you work incrementally?

Exercise your options – paint one wall at a time or one room at a time.  Give yourself the gift of time.  Perhaps you have given yourself a deadline – now you only have a weekend to get this done.  Why did you decide that you had to finish it this weekend?  What is the source of your stress-pressure?

Do you get frustrated when you make a mistake and paint outside the lines?

Some painters have such a steady hand and can wield a paintbrush with such precision that they can cut (painters use this term when they are painting along trim and other boundaries) free-hand, but many of us cannot.   Perhaps you cannot hold your arm steady for an extended period of time or to apply the focus that is required.  Maybe you no longer have the eagle-eyed precision to clearly see the lines.  That is why they made painter’s tape, my friends.  I enjoy working with painter’s tape.  There is a bit of skill that is necessary to apply as well as remove the tape, but the time it takes to do so can lead to super results.

How good are you at settling into corrections and reapplication?

It takes at least two full coats (with a 24 hr drying time in between) to get optimum results.  The wise painter approaches the second coat with the same dedication to excellence as the first.  Decades ago, when I began painting I would go so fast and create so much spray that I was cleaning tiny paint drops off windows and floors for days afterward.  Spray still happens (we will always miss some), but maximum enjoyment equals minimum cleanup.

Unless you are painting with the same color paint as your trim, there will be times when you will need to touch up.  You don’t want to leave that Sky Blue smear on your crisp white trim.  By this time you can see the end of the painting task and really don’t want to spend any more time than absolutely necessary making corrections.  This is not the time to let impatience and frustration get the best of you.

Are you Slap-Happy?  Consider the importance of developing a personal Standard of Excellence…

My mother had a term for those who rushed through something in order to get it done (I believe she may have created that term for me!).  She described those folks as slap-happy.  They would give it a lick and a promise and then move on.  I have seen many rushed paint jobs in people’s homes (heaters smeared with paint, receptacles painted over, cupboards covered in paint where the wall met the wood…door knobs and window sills…) as well as in businesses where it was clear that the owner did not allocate funds to hire professional painters.

As a coach, I believe in establishing a unit of measurement for evaluating performance.  I advocate for the development of a personal standard of excellence.  Why?  Because your time is valuable, your energy is valuable, you are worthy of your best effort, and you are better than a substandard performance…or paint job.   Taking the time to clarify how you demonstrate excellence in what I describe as the Thoughtful, the Expressive, and the Active Domains enables you to see it, and be it, and act with integrity in every task you perform.

Are you prepared to deal with disaster?  Sometimes the painter moves really slow, and sometimes really quick…

I practice being methodical and Zen when I paint, however, there have been times when I have inadvertently tipped over a small container full of paint, stepped in my paint tray (I still have the socks to prove it somewhere…), sat on a paintbrush, and snapped myself in the chops with the roller handle.  I have had to wash kitty feet and tracks when one of my cats decided to jump in the paint tray.  However, the most intense mess was the time I was on a ladder and my paint container fell onto the floor below, splashing about a litre of paint all over the floor, the wood trim and a closed door.  I reacted as I normally do when something like that happens, I began focusing on my breathing as I climbed down…and tried to be all cool about it.  However, when I realized how rapidly the latex paint was drying into the porous pine door…and was hit with the realization that I may have to sand the door if I didn’t get that paint off faster than now…I did freak a little.  And I may have uttered a couple of 4-letter cuss words during that time.  Paint on, paint off, Paula-san…Mr. Miyagi would have had a chuckle…

Do you celebrate a job well done?

A goal achieved is a reason for celebration, but it is not the only one.  The ability to create a goal is also a reason for celebration.  Waking up on this side of the grass in order to paint is a reason for celebration.  To have your own walls to paint is a reason…to have the extra funds to afford paint is a reason…

Working hands and arms and feet and eyes are stellar reasons for celebration.  N’est pas?

Another reason I enjoy painting is that painting is perfectly grounding.  It brings you up front and center.  When I follow my paintbrush strokes and consider every roller stroke… when I pay attention to how I load my brush or roller with paint…when I observe how my hands and knees and legs and shoulders and back feel…I realize that not just painting, but any task, can be utilized in this manner, transforming ordinary tasks into my version of extraordinary art.

With spring renovations right around the corner, I invite you to try still-point painting.  It’s all very Zen.



Published by Paula D. Tozer

I am a writer, poet and singer/songwriter. I am a Toastmaster, motivational speaker, personal creativity coach, and workshop leader. My most sincere wish is to share my words with others, and that we both benefit from the exchange.

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