The urge to paint

Someone recently commented to me that the testimonials on this site are really powerful. And I agree, they are. I can remember working with each person and the excitement that poured out of them - and into those testimonials - when they saw the potential of their space brought to light with paint. People get really excited about paint; which for a long time I didn’t even stop to consider, like why is that? I was jus so comforted to find that I wasn’t alone in that regard, i just, in a sense, thought, well, some people are like me - they really enjoy the power of paint. They love a beautiful space and having a hand in transforming space is creative and satisfying.

And I think all of that is true: A) I’m not the only paint enthusiast on the planet, we are many, B) paint is fucking powerful in its ability to transform a space, and C) painting a room is a creative act and carries with it that pride of creating something from nothing. And is sufficient reason, more than sufficient, to do it, just all of that right there.

But deep in my heart, I know paint is actually more than that. I’ve been batting about some theories as to what is really going on when people choose paint and paint successfully, arriving at revelations like the ones in my testimonials. And you can just go with me on this, you don’t have to buy it or believe it as I do. The first theory I’ll call “the urge to paint”. The urge to paint is a thing, it really is, I believe that and I have felt it deeply. It has a level of mystery to it so i cannot unpack it fully, but I can describe it and you can tell me if you agree that it is a distinct phenomenon and/or if you have ever experienced it. Sound fair?

The urge to paint first shows up as a vague discomfort. We’ll call that phase 1. You’re just not digging where you live. Or you are little perturbed every time you go into that one room in your place; or it could be even more focal than a room, it could be what I call a zone, which is a part of room, maybe a reading corner or where the bed is or the peculiar space between an entryway and a closet or something. Regardless of the size, sweep, and location of this spot, you just sense deep in your body that it feels off. And you feel off every time you walk into it or near it. Sometimes it feels off because it has been neglected, not really dealt with in terms of function or decor. Sometimes it feels off because you already painted it or put something there — a shelf a plant whatever — and it isn’t gelling with the space. And most importantly it isn’t gelling with your body.

And usually during phase 1, there is a correlating funk going on in your life. But in phase 1, you don’t know that your blindingly tangerine hallway is related to your inability to pay your bills on time, for example. How could you know that? It makes absolutely no sense that your behavior and your happiness related to paying your bills on time could—in any plausible scenario— have anything to do with having chosen the wrong paint color for your hallway. Often during phase 1, there is a welling sense that you should move. You’re just not comfortable here; life isn;t going the way you’d like in one or more areas, and maybe you should just pack up and move to Ft. Greene. Or fuck NYC altogether, I should just move to Beacon and be done with it. Thats phase 1.

If phase 1 is characterized by vague discomfort and overblown remedies, phase 2 is characterized by a sense of agency. The connection between your apartment and your life are not there yet necessarily, but on some level that DIY spirit starts to show up and you start imagining how you could address some of the things you don’t like about your space, those little pockets of “this feels off”. Sometimes the idea of color change enters the mind in this phase and you start going to the hardware store and staring down that wall of paint chips. Maybe you start combing through magazines or pinterest or Houzz for images of rooms that appeal to you, looking for elements you could steal and superimpose onto your rooms. That color but brighter, that color but softer, that lamp, that canopy bed, that rug but in yellow. You start wondering what it would feel like to move the bed over there, further from your neighbors barking dog. You start noticing that the standard issue light fixtures on the ceiling look like single breasts which either delights you or makes you explore changing them out for something a bit less freudian. You start to engage with your space, talk with your space, wonder, dream, imagine, visualize. And the weird thing is, in phase 2, your discomfort actually grows. The urgency heightens. The body wants to feel easier. And there must be a way.


Ah, phase 3! Your urge to paint is at mach 5. You know you need a change, you are prepared to do it, you really don’t like the idea of moving at this point (what a pain in the neck) because you suspect you’ll go through the same agony once you get to wherever you are going, and you find your self carving out blocks of time in your schedule to prepare the walls to paint and ordering items willynilly on amazon - a new shower curtain, two stools that actually match for the kitchen counter, light fixtures that don’t resemble pointy breasts. You’re dipping your toe in. You’re in motion. You’re going for it. This is the phase during which time the urge to paint is driving you and you are responding. Good for you! But here’s the rub - you’re winging it. You’re just winging it. It feels so good to have moved beyond phase 2 that you kindof hurl yourself to a result and cross your fingers that it will manifest in the way you hope. Truth be told we all do this - I do this. And sometimes you’re spot on and your results are amazing! And other times you are painting and repainting. Ugh! Or your results you’d judge to be maybe a 6 out of 10 and you just lose momentum and talk yourself into being happy with what you have achieved. Then a year later, your old friend - the urge to paint - shows up again and you’re off to the races once more.

Alternatively in phase 3, you employ a method to get closer to your dream space, or you hire some color consulting (hello there ;) or interior decor help and get closer to your ideal space that way. Then instead of having to convince your self you like what you’ve achieved, you actually do. and you can move forward with your life, garnering the newfound power and energy you’ve liberated in your environment and applying it into your everyday existence.

And here’s why my testimonials are so glowing: when you come out on the other end of phase 3 and are in love with your newly decorated home, it feels like love. I’m not going to soften that language since I get it, it sounds overblown. It is not over blown. It feels like love. You and your space are in love. That “you are so perfect, my heart is so full, how did I ever get so lucky?!” phase of love. You get to wake up together every morning and feel each others affection and warmth. It is a mutual shared space form of love. And then your life starts to shift, for the better, and you fall in love again. And you can’t quite figure it out but at this point you can connect the dots, ever since I painted my space I wake up feeling differently and my day unfolds differently and I’m moving through my world with more dignity and pride and a sensuality. And I feel seen. Yes, I feel seen by my apartment. And that is one of the best feelings there is. Because whether you realize it or not, your glorious, lovely, humble, cohesive, energized, relaxing space is reflecting back those qualities in you, that were there all along.

Which brings us back to this mysterious urge to paint. It is a beckoning. Your apartment feeling “off” is just the conduit for the message and the message is this, “you deserve to feel amazing” “you deserve to feel unstoppable” “you deserve to feel a sense of integrity as you move through your day” “you are capable” “you are worthy of great beauty” “you are loved”. There are other ways to hear these messages. Your apartment isn’t the only way to liberate your mind and open your heart. But it is one way. And when it wriggles into your consciousness and your body as “must. paint. apartment. now.”, I encourage you to heed it. You deserve to feel amazing at home.

More later on my other theories. Maybe tomorrow I’ll talk about light, which is another major reason people respond so intensely to paint. Would love to hear if any of this is resonating with you.

Happy day to you, dear readers.