When I moved into my current home eleven years ago there was a feature wall in the bedroom painted a deep, dark purple. It was a nice colour in itself, but I didn’t like it there, so I covered it up with burnt orange. This shade was called Crome Yellow but it dried to be the complementary colour of the existing purple.
For the edges I used a paint pad. This did not go well. Uneven and wobbly, I transferred to a brush soon enough. For the majority I used a roller. No matter what I used the paint went on unevenly. Not only was it uneven in general but you could see where the layers had doubled due to overlapping, and you could see the purple through it, like a menacing background darkness.
Another coat ended the tin of paint but it didn’t end the issues. Now there was a lot more consistency and the colour was, while not as bright as on the tin, a particularly rich and interesting ochre, thanks to the purple still having its effect underneath. In art this is called underpainting when you do it on purpose to create a particular depth of tone. Mine wasn’t on purpose, and this showed where the pad and the brush hadn’t managed to leave even coats. It looked like a badly painted wall. But it had a kind of interesting feel to it, because every time I noticed the flaws I remembered the days after we moved in. But it was a bit of a mess. I had little kids, I didn’t revisit it until now, today.
I put on a coat of primer, which went on unevenly. But two coats would probably have fixed it. But for some reason I thought I could get away with three layers of colour paint. In one layer of colour paint my laziness proved to be, once again, a mistake. I will probably need four coats and even then I think that the legacy of the purple will still emerge, subtly, like the faintest memories of old wine under my brilliant sunset. Also, due to the paint pad fiasco I went for a brushed edge which has now left me with something that looks like an attempt at a Mark Rothko painting – darker at the edges, with an incompleted, worked obliteration in the centre.
It’s got an interesting texture and depth of field thing going on thanks to all the layers of attempt, failure and bad decision making. I think I like it more than I would like a wall of perfectly flat colour. When I look at it I see hidden depths, possibilities, the shadows of other worlds. I particularly love this effect in fiction too, when only the superficial story is in focus but there’s so much more in the background, underneath, behind, at the edge – glimpsed and then abandoned and never resolved or explored. It feels so real.
I like layers and my one real wall.