A paean to painting with a 2” sash brush

As in all painting, the quality
of the brush matters. And, no,
this isn’t a 2″ sash brush.

Our Christmastide project was to rebuild and refinish our kitchen cabinets and rehang the doors, a task that has stubbornly remained undone for nine years. As with all such tasks, it’s taken longer than I budgeted, the unconscious expectation of which is why I let it ride that long in the first place.
My studio, overrun (these are the insides of the doors).
I like applying finishes, whether it’s on woodwork or painting on a canvas. The actual process is the same—you start with a sticky, gelatinous fluid, and your object is to overcome its innate desire to drip, to puddle, to build up in ridges, to wick where it isn’t wanted, to separate into its constituent parts—in short, you lay it down as elegantly and economically as is possible, in the places you planned for it to go.
Painting on a canvas and painting in a room are both essays in trompe-l’œil, whether it’s a question of creating a face or a forest on linen, or fooling the eye with putty and painter’s caulk.
And, regardless, you still have to clean the brush.
Top cabinets, sans doors. Still more
to do on the window frame.
It’s no accident that one of the most skilled landscape painters I know—Brad Marshall—earns his daily crust as a sign-painter (featured here, in the New York Times). It’s no surprise that the best painters in my household are Sandy, Mary and me, because we’re the three most likely to be found painting on canvases. You develop a steady hand from using it.
This kitchen has the original cabinets from 1928, and a soda-fountain-style banquette, and the game is to update them wittily without overriding them stylistically. That means respecting their weird little corners and worn hardware. Of course this has been far more work than tearing them out and replacing them would ever have been, but that wouldn’t have been very respectful of the house. They were never intended to be unpainted, but after 90 years of repainting, they required stripping, and the birch-and-poplar cabinetry is finish-grade by modern standards, so I decided to stain the upper cabinets and all the doors and paint the bottom ones, which were originally built from a lower grade of pine (and have been substantially rebuilt by my engineer spouse).

Meanwhile, my current landscape languishes on its easel. I can’t get to it past all these doors.

Bottom cabinet, with a drawer inserted
(sans hardware) for illustration purposes.
The dog food is real.