Friday, June 14, 2013

I'm an Artist, Not an Artisan

Paint Example
Paint Example (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Paint since 1978
Paint since 1978 (Photo credit: dogwelder)
Supply (economics)
Supply (economics) (Photo credits: www.mydoorsign.com)
I have a neighbor who likes to comment wryly from time to time about the fact that, unlike most of the other men in my suburban neighborhood, I'm never seen tinkering around the yard or garage, building or repairing things, spot painting siding, or any of the other myriad DIY projects the suburban male seems addicted to. My wife gardens and spot paints, and now and then even washes the car when she gets to it before I take it to the car wash.

Now, there's a reason for this that my neighbor doesn't understand. First, I worked for the US government for decades, and most of my jobs required extensive travel. After completing a long plane flight, the last thing I wanted to do was mow the lawn. I finally got the wife to agree to hiring a lawn service. I do trim the hedges, walk the dog, rake leaves in autumn, and take out the trash and recycling. When my wife spot paints, I hold the ladder for her. That's our division of labor, worked out over many years because of my travel schedule - and, even though I'm retired now, my speaking engagements and consulting has me traveling almost as much as before, and I'm in to full time writing, which takes a lot of time. It was also worked out, though, because of our personalities.

My wife is a perfectionist. If I spot paint, and the paint on an edge is off by an eighth of an inch, it drives her crazy. I paint, watercolors, acrylics, oils, etc., and the occasional accidental drip of paint results in a better picture. Not so when you're painting a window frame. I used to garden, but again, her perfectionism caused me to give it up. I once planted grape vines near the back deck. Tended the damn things for years until they were finally bearing fruit. One day while I was at work, she decided she didn't like them where they were, so she dug them up and moved them. They died. That was the end of my gardening. She's not being mean either. She once planted a little herb garden and tended it faithfully. When it threatened the health of her pepper plants, though, she uprooted every one of those suckers. She walks around the yard picking up every stray leaf because they offend her sense of order.

So, I'm an artist, not a craftsman or do-it-yourselfer; so, sue me. That's just the way it is. My wife, on the other hand, is definitely the craftsperson type. I once got her to take up painting. She got the base layer of a painting of a vase of flowers done, and then asked me to paint in the flowers and details of the vase. That's not art, it's a craft project.

Other than the jobs I mentioned above, I hire professionals to do work around my house. They need the work, and they know what they're doing. It's cheaper to hire them in the first place than it is to hire them to fix the mess I'd make.

So, to my fellow male suburbanites: sorry, but I won't be joining you in your weekend trek to Home Depot(TM), or any other hardware or building supply store. I am just not mechanically inclined. I know the difference between a flathead and a Phillips screwdriver, but it doesn't mean I know, or care, how to use them properly. Hell, I know the difference between a Formula One racer and a Prius, but you won't catch me driving either. If you need me, I'll be in my upstairs office, working away on my next novel.
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