It was seven in the morning, and watching my breath turn to fog, I was reminded how cold it was. My spackling tools needed cleaning. I went to reach into a bucket of water, but instead found a block of ice. I took out my hammer, and began whacking the ice, in an effort to break through to the liquid beneath. Somewhere in Montauk, in the middle of winter, in an enormous unheated mansion, I put down my spackle tools and sat on the steps.
I could hear my dad and brother working away, on the other side of the house. The sun had just risen, and they already had put a coat of spackle on the nails. And then I heard my father’s steps approaching.
“Kevin, what are you doing, sitting on the steps? Did you get hurt?” “No dad, I just… I just… I don’t feel like working. It’s cold.” My father paused, his massive frame looming over my gangly teenage limbs. I knew I was asking for trouble. But then his face softened, and in a very tender voice he said “Ooooooooooh Kevin, my little baby, you don’t want to work? Goodness, I wish you told me before we left this morning. Why, I would have let you sleep in. And I would have payed you double.” I smelled sarcasm. “Kevin, you just stay right there, I’ll just spackle the rest of the house with your brother Sean, and I’ll pay for your college too. So sorry to disturb you. And, I’ll pay you triple time for today.” I squirmed in embarrassment, his saccharine arrows having hit their marks well. My dad softly patted my head. Ses he walked off, he sang out ” That poor little baby, imagine, having to work at just seventeen years of age. My my my.”
I was mortified. I picked up my tools, and began to work. And I continued to work for the next few years. I didn’t like spackling, but I did it because I had to work at something, through college.
It’s funny, the most valuable tool ever given to me came from spackling. I learned how to work, whether I liked it or not. And it’s amazing how much grunt work there is when you’re an artist. I have spent the past couple of days shuttling back and forth between home and Home Depot, carting wood, cutting, sawing, drilling, routing, sanding, gluing, screaming, leveling, chiseling, screwing, nailing… And now I have eight beautiful, handmade easels for my new studio. It would have cost me about $2,000 dollars if I bought them. But I was able to make them for about $350 dollars. And honestly, I didn’t enjoy a moment of the work. It just made me all the more eager to be painting again.