8 months ago I was given the opportunity to paint a guitar for a family friend, Rhonda. This blog details all the troubles I experienced while performing this completely unknown task. When I agreed to this project I did not have to worry about ruining the sound or injuring the instrument because it had been previously damaged and was no longer playable. However, because I had never attempted a project like this and I wasn't sure how it would turn out, we agreed that I would only charge her for the material costs.
As with nearly every projects I set out to do, I was completely unprepared for the problems to come. The issues began with my house. I needed to sand down the front of the guitar before painting, but my house is small. like bachelor pad small. With carpets and birds that have sensitive lungs. It's also in a high rise, smack dab in the middle of the city. So no yard, no garage; and I wasn't about to go sit in the stinky ally with the homeless people (as nice as they may seem.) Since my bathroom is mainly tile and the only room that actually has a door, I sat myself on the hard toilet and positioned the guitar between The wall and my legs... comfy.
This is me. 10 hours into sanding and nearly done!
Let me start of by saying I'm cheap, and I was determined to keep material costs for this project at a minimum. However, sanding this thing by hand was literally taking forever. On hour five, and less then quarter of the way done, I found myself standing in a hardware store with a power sander in hand.
This handy little tool cut my time in half allowing me to finish in less then 12 hours. (and yes, thats twelve consecutive hours. Besides the quick trip to the hardware store I did this in one very long day.)
The guitar looked so pretty sanded I nearly didn't want to paint it!
However, after some thought in regards to Rhonda's tastes, I chose to paint the silhouette of a fox.
Inside the silhouette would be a mountain scene that would wind down the body and become a tangle of vines for the tail.
This is where things started getting rough. In order to achieve the sharp silhouette shape of the fox, I chose to mask the guitar with tape and cut the shape out from my drawing. The face and body were easy. Once I reached the tail however, I continually forget what I was cutting out and what I was keeping on. I'm pretty sure I used half a role of tape redoing that tail. And guess what, in the end, I didn't even keep it...
This is the project mid-way. I became furious with that horrible, yucky, mess of a tail (or as my boyfriend, Dean, kept calling it "a field of wheat!") and ended up abandoning the entire project for about 3 months. This may seems like an excessive amount of time to you, and you may think I actually forgot about it, but NO!
That thing sat on the edge of my living room, nagging at me every time I sat on the couch for approximately 80 days (not that I was counting.) I stewed and scowled at it and some days even went so far as to stick my tongue at it.
I would find myself pacing, scratching my head I tried squinting my eyes, leaning close, standing far away and tilting my head to the side. This would continue until my brain ached.
Finally, in a fit of anger, I picked it up, I grabbed a wet brush and I rubbed that tail until it was one large blotch of yucky, poo brown, paint. I think after that I kind of went into shock because it was another month before I could bring myself to touch it again.
I am relieved to say however, I overcame my frustrations and painted in some rather beautiful white leaves with a bright red background.
Cue second major catastrophe...
Did anyone else know you can't blend Red and Green? because it turns out I know nothing about colour theory. I fought and fought with the green body and the red tail for weeks. trying without success to make them meld. it wasn't until one fateful evening when I was into my umpteenth fit of tears that Dean came to my side and asked one simple question. "what are trying to achieve?"
Through hiccups and tears I explained that my red and green refused to work together and because of that the whole thing looked terrible and I would never be able to finish and, and, AND LIFE IS HORRIBLE.
You wouldn't believe he laughed at me. LAUGHED.
But you know what, It's okay. I laugh at me too now. You see it turns out you can't blend green and red. They are on opposite sides of the colour wheel. It simply cannot be done.
Without adding the right colours between them...
The trick was purple! Honestly it makes sense that I didn't think of this, because, to put it nicely, I hate purple. With a passion.
I had to add the purple to combine my red to my blue (I had added the blue thinking I could use blue to mix green and red...) and then I added orange and yellow to finally connect my green to my red!
Once I got that I thought (naively) it was going to be smooth sailing...
cue major catastrophe number 3
I went to the art store glowing with confidence, a smile on my face, and a skip in my step. I was nearly done. I just needed to get a waterproof sealant and it would all be over.
I went to the front desk to declare I needed to order some (because of course they were out of the only kind I needed...) The lady was very nice and was interested in what I was up to. I declared with boundless pride that I was doing a water colour painting on a guitar and I needed the golden archives to seal it.
I saw the panic in her eyes, and at that moment, I swear, I thought the world was going to end.
We ended up having a very long discussion regarding how incredibly stupid I am for using water colour on a guitar, and that I was even dumber for thinking I could use something like a spray fixative on WATER colour (which you know, RUNS when it gets WET...) There were other problems too. Like it not sticking to the wax in the wax based water colours I used, which could result in bubbling and peeling. Possibly destroying everything I had worked so hard on.
I went home in utter depression, sat down on my couch and for the thousands time, looked over to see the guitar nagging at me from the corner of the room.
After some studying though, I decided the archival spray was really my best option. It had to be sealed and putting it in a glass frame to protect it from the elements wasn't an option. Besides, if I was going to ruin it, I might as well use the high class spray to do it.
of course I tested it first. Unexpectedly, It didn't seem to damage my testing stick, so feeling as confident as I was going to I brought the guitar out to the stinking ally. and began to spray.
I believe I sprayed the guitar about 10 times. Waiting 30mins between coats.
This is pretty much the end of the project, but not my frustrations. I thought I had done very well keeping my costs at a minimum. However, after adding all the material costs together I managed to hit a startling $102.32. To say the very least, I was in shock. I can only imagine Rhonda's jaw hit the ground when I sent her the bill. What I'm sure both of us thought was going to be a $20 dollar project had suddenly quadrupled in price.
I would like to emphasize how incredibly eye opening This project has been for me. It has not only given me a whole new level of appreciation for other artists work but shown me how much I still need to learn and how much I have learned while working through all of this. I am taking my first steps into understanding material costs and how to price my later pieces. I am learning new skills every time I start one of these insane pieces, and honestly, though I know more tears and frustration will be waiting for me, I cannot wait to start my next one!
I would like to say thank you to Dean for being by my side and helping me through all the tears. Thank you for laughing at me when I needed it and putting up with that guitar in the middle of house for 8 months. Thank you for all the encouragement even when I knew you wanted to strangle me. You are truly wonderful to me.
Lastly, thank you Rhonda. Thank you for not blowing your top when I sent you that enormous bill. Thank you for believing in my skills and thank you for giving me this amazing opportunity to learn on your precious instrument. Every piece I do gets me that much closer to achieving my goal as a successful artist. I truly hope you love your guitar even more now. I know it is in a good home and will be treated well.