The Project from Hell

The project from hell is the one that has at least 27 more steps to it than initially envisioned, and each step consists of 1 step forward followed fairly quickly by 1.9999 (or sometimes 4.999999) back.

So, take 20 miles of a dry lake bed, Summer Lake, seen in September from a relatively inaccessible spot on Winter Ridge approximately 250 miles from home.

SunriseWithCloudsThen add in a decision to use cedar planks from an torn-down homestead from the Playa Art Residency compound as surfaces to paint the irresistible 20-mile panorama on.



[The pile of planks, fondly patted, until reality set in.]

Continue, on arriving back in Portland, with the questions of how much to sand the 2″ thick planks (after the initial grinding off the nubbins at Playa), with what to seal them (white gesso, clear gesso, linseed oil, Liquin), and what paints (acrylic, oil, transparent, opaque) wouldl use the wood grain most advantageously.


Sampling PossibleSandingsPaintsSealingsWllThen throw a minor surgery to the mix, and you find yourself dealing with The Holidays, after which or in and around which, Decisions Must Be Made.

To be more precise, I found myself at the last week of December, standing in 35 degree temperatures, sanding nine 12 x 24″ planks for the third time. That’s clearly, for me, a definition of hell.

It wouldn’t have been so bad if a dear friend, who shall remain unnamed, hadn’t pointed out that in some of the planks,  already sanded twice and sealed with primer, had obvious vertical stripes running down them. The playa is horizontal. I want horizontal. I am not painting rain. The offending boards have to be re-re-sanded.

BoardwithVerticalsWLLRe-re-sanding commenced on my elegantly arranged sanding station (the third placement of said station, chosen as optimal for preventing  sanding dust from covering the Little Red Datsun, noise from causing the neighbors to scream in agony and a more or less level surface on which to work): Each board takes at least three hours of hard grinding work. Some take more. None take less.

SanderAtWorkWLLAll nine of the sanded and primed planks have to be resanded, of course because just one board sanded back to the clear grain placed in the middle of eight unsanded planks won’t result in a seamless pano, no matter how hard I paint.


I also have not mentioned that prior to the discovery of the blinkety-blank vertical lines (while I was still under the illusion that my second sanding and priming had worked) I had to set up the nine planks horizontally so I could mark a continuous horizon line, and the “setting up” had to take into account that 18 feet of planks did not quite fit onto my 17 foot plus wall.


But I will mention that my final solution to the ledge on which the planks became perched, which only took 4–5 tries to get right (4.9999 steps backward), was insufficient to keep one of my precious –and already sanded — planks from falling 5 feet to the floor, breaking it apart.


Which is why I am sanding the sampler board clean as well as the other eight.

By the way, did I mention the temperature in the sanding station? And the “light fog”? And the neighbors’ (imaginary but vivid) howls against the unceasing roar of the sander? And the carpal tunnels that I was digging into my body while running the sander back and forth, back and forth across sealer, old paint, old sealer, lime whitewash, and who know what else? As I said, the project from …..

And that’s why, on the 28th day of December, in a drifting fog, the kind called smirr by Scots, at 35 degree temperatures, dressed in many many many layers, you could have driven by the front of our house to see me, using the city compost bin as a table, sanding plank after plank after blasted plank. Come to think of it, maybe blasting  would have shortened the ordeal.

Did I mention that the fullest images of the pano that I managed to capture in photos has a low horizon and lots of boring blue sky, where as the best (incomplete) pano of the playa itself with all its subtle variations of color and striping shows only 2/3rds of the length of the lake bed? I’m still contemplating that problem, which will probably necessitate a 3.999 steps backward.


I’m thinking that when I get to the actual painting that I should be able to get a first draft done in about two weeks — until I hit the first 10.999 steps backwards.

Did I mention I was stubborn? And this is the project from hell?

8 thoughts on “The Project from Hell

    1. Chuckle? Chuckle????? Is that all? No hints of sympathy, of empathy, of sisterhood and solidarity? Hmmm, just wait until you start sketching in a snowstorm again.


    1. Well! At last some sympathy. Although Nancy, the word “pitiable” strikes me as suspect. Is there really empathy in your heart?

      Of course the outcome will be grand; or it will be an outcome. I think.

      Anyway, you can come out and admire my new sander. And tell me how brave and courageous I am for dealing with such adverse circumstances:-)


  1. I thought with age came wisdom. 😉 Yeah, we ARE an unsympathetic lot, aren’t we? We do love the way you entertain us & distract others from our own stubborn tales of hell. I did share your pain over the broken board. Some things can’t be replaced which is why I get so irritated by people who get after me for my caution with some of my fabric. Yeah I can buy or dye more but it won’t be the same.


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