Monday, August 18, 2008

Paint brushes galore

I got to see "too much of a good thing" in action today. Stopping by a craft store to get a couple of new brushes isn't a big deal for me. I walk in knowing what I want, and quickly get it (as long as it is in stock). At times, sure, I am lured into buying more brushes than I had on my agenda, but overall, I'm pretty good at limiting myself.

I saw something totally different unfold today in the paint supply aisle, however. As I was deciding between a number 5 or 6 round brush, a girl with her class list of the types of brushes she'd need for art class walks up to the paint brushes, and stops, her jaw dropping open. Her mom follows quickly behind, asking her just what is needed. Then the mom reaches out and grabs her daughter's list, trying to see if she can make sense of the teacher's directions. She then makes the amateur's mistake of going for the super cheap-y bagged brush set (bumping into me in the process). She looks it over and says, "I think this will probably have all you need..." But then after a quick over-view, they realize it still falls short of the variety they needed. (Plus, who wants brushes that won't even make it through one painting??? Who cares if they only cost $4 for 5 brushes if they're going to shed all over.)

By this time, I had my number 5 round in hand and had moved on to try to find the next filbert I'd take home with me. The mom and daughter duo were still not agreeing on what to get and were having a tough time deciding which of the brushes were truly "crappy." (As the daughter said.)

At that point, I just couldn't hold it in anymore. I spoke up, and volunteered some information, first showing the daughter the type of brush I think her teacher was trying to steer her away from, and then explaining what a flat brush does and which one is a filbert when they asked a few more questions. They seemed to have things under control, so I moved on to look at the selection of archival pens they had. On the way, I got a little distracted by some yarn on sale... but eventually made it to the scrap-booking section where the pens were hiding.

Right then, mom and daughter go walking by, the daughter waving at me. But then the mom stops in her tracks, does and about-face, and heads back to me. "Can you help us?" She sounded beat. She explained that she couldn't figure out just what brushes would be best and was giving up, but when she saw me, thought she'd give it one last shot. So off we go back to the brushes.

As it turns out, I would have been just as frustrated by the materials list her daughter had been handed. The only size brush that it mentioned was the flat brush, and even then, it said you could take your pick of 1/2" to an inch. The only other things it said was that she'd also need a filbert, a round, and a detail brush of her choice. Yikes! For a first-time high school art student, these kinds of decisions can seem all-important and incredibly daunting, like your future life as an artist depends on the right brushes now. (Or at least looking cool and knowledgeable around your classmates.)

So, we went through what types of brush strokes she'd make with each brush and explained when she might use each. From there, she had an easier time imagining what size she needed, and after narrowing down her choices for her, she ultimately picked some great brushes to get her started. Daughter seemed excited to get started, and Mom seemed relieved that art shopping was finished--my work was done.

So, part of the moral of this story is: it feels really great to do nice things, even if they are really little teensy tiny nice things. But here's the other part of the story that I like so much--That mom. She got frustrated, and she realized quickly that she couldn't help her daughter out with what she knew about art/painting, but instead of just giving up, she asked for help. Now there is some creative, out-of-the-box thinking. Plus, bonus points for being humble enough to ask for help (from someone who looks like a like a little kid) in the first place.


sir mister landlord sir said...

How very good of you. And everyone wins. They should make an Arctic Circle commercial about you, and how you deserve the "good stuff" after that effort. You really are so nice.

I used to do that same thing. Kind of. Back in the day when I got my film developed down at K-Mart in south Provo (year: 2000) there was never anyone back at the photo center when I went to pick up my film so I made it a habit of letting myself into the station and pulling my own film out (taking it up front and paying for it). More often than not, when I was back there rummaging through the film someone would approach me as a worker, with a camera question. At first I would just be all, "oh, I don't work here," but after I realized that the types who buy cameras at K-Mart aren't usually "photographers" I just started helping them with their basic questions, and even as a know-nothing I did an okay job of steering them in the right direction. I think.

And I'm not trying to one-up you. Am I?

Nelka said...

I don't know, are you? ;)

Actually, that was a fun little bit of information to hear about from your end-- that you were brazen enough to just let yourself into the photo center says a lot about you, I'd say... Or maybe it just says that you are about as impatient as anyone else when it comes to getting their photos and checking out.

And, please, no commercials.

Kris said...

Sorry this comment has nothing to do with this post...but it took me a good 5 minutes to figure out who this Nelka girl was who commented on my post about new york! Then I realized you have two blogs! Anyway, we still need to do lunch. What are you up to now? Where are you living?