Mar 15, 2017
Have you ever wondered - am I too slow? This article may answer your question, and at least give you tips on how to get faster. After a hectic summer it might be time for a little reflection and to take stock of your speed.
And no, Bibi's not resorted to drugs - yet!
Here we are at the end of another very busy summer, filled with jobs of all kinds from the fab to the frustrating, the sublime to the ridiculous. I ended my season with the best job of the year, not far away, well paid, not too much to do, a very nice company fun day with perfect weather, free lunch with profiterole pudding and appreciative customers :) The fact that I was up at long past midnight the night before trying to find where it was (wrong address, wrong postcode, and it was in a park not on the A-Z!) is another story.
Whilst I could write endlessly about thoughtless clients and outrageous punters, my focus here is fellow painters. For a long time it has bugged me (I’m not alone) that sometimes there is not a thought for consistency in speed when working as a team. Of course quality is important too, but it seems to me that over time, painters tend to improve in quality very well, but speed can get left behind as a consideration. I guess no-one oohs and ahs quite as much because you did it fast, but the person at the end of the queue with a long wait ahead would really appreciate you noticing!
When I find that I am turning out 4 or 5 to my colleague’s 1 or 2, something is wrong. As I struggle to minimise the queue, my painting gets depressingly worse, and I find it even more difficult that I have a ‘show off’ painter next to me, oblivious to the queue, cranking up expectations.
There is a distinction between painting for your own satisfaction, and painting appropriately for the circumstance. A professional is mindful of the situation, not their own ego. If you have a nice gentle job with just one or two people waiting, you can indulge in a little creativity. But if there is an hour long queue, for goodness sake, get on with it! There is a skill to being able to interpret a given design as a ‘quick version’ that is perfectly acceptable, and a longer version that pleases you, and wows everyone. So even something as standard as Spiderman can have 2 approaches, the quick one, and the longer version. Don’t get bogged down in thinking that every time you paint something it has to have every last possible detail or think that you are short changing them in some way. They don’t know that the one you did last week had more flowers on it! If you don’t work from pictures this is much easier to do, but even if you do have pictures, make sure they are good renditions of a simple design that you can elaborate on if you have time, your customers will be even happier than they thought they would be! You don’t need too many designs, you can always suggest something different if you want to, and it can slow up a queue if there are so many choices that decisions are hard to make.
If you are having trouble, some tips on speeding up:
If you are right handed, have your paints on the right, left handed – on the left, no matter what! If you are twisting to get to them, not only will it take you longer, your back will hurt too. Bring your own water, you only need a small bottle and you won’t have to disappear for half an hour to find the loo....
Make sure all your paints/glitters/brushes etc are within reach, it’s easier not to have too much choice of materials if you want to be fast. Know your favourites and leave the rest in your case if you know it’s going to be busy. If you use big pots, consider converting them to ‘half and half’ with 2 shades of green etc in one pot – this takes up less space. However, do make sure that you have a usable amount of paint and you’re not wasting time scraping around the edges of the pot for the last little hint of paint. You can always top up the new pot after a while with what was left from the last one; you don’t have to finish it at work not to waste it.
Brushes are different. If you have a brush per colour you won’t have to rinse them out completely all the time. Definitely have 2 of each of your favourites for details and lines for black and white. Keep your brushes in a pot where they are easy to grab, perhaps separating the ones you use most from the ‘specialist’ ones for occasional effects. Whenever I hear the tinkle of brushes being thoroughly rinsed, I know I am in the company of a slow painter. I hate the brush tinkle. Your brushes will last longer for not being pounded to be cleaned in a hurry, or reloaded when you hardly needed to. Your water will stay cleaner too. Use the biggest possible brush to make one stroke rather than 3 or 4 with a small one.
You can load 2 colours on a sponge, this will make blending quicker. If you know you are going to need orange and yellow for a tiger, load orange one side and yellow the other before you begin. That’s only one lot of spraying and loading, saves ‘loads’ of time! I will be introducing the double load Bibi sponge soon!
A willing child with their face available is much quicker and easier to paint than a reluctant one. You may find that they present their face better for you if they are sitting up straight, it’s actually very difficult to have your chin up if your back is rounded – try it and see. Getting them to sit up straight will not only save your own back, you will get more done! They will probably feel more confident for sitting upright too, posture is very important to how you feel. Walk tall and feel tall! Two of you scrunched up in a little huddle may be intimate, but it’s not efficient. You will also find that you have more arm movement sitting well with ‘open shoulders’ and have better brushstrokes.
Don’t chase the child around the chair – be confident and ask them to sit properly. Your free hand kept lightly on their head will let them know that you want them to turn and make it clear that you have ‘permission’ to touch them. Ask them to keep their hands on their knees; this makes a real difference to the way they sit.
Children under 3 generally take a lot longer to paint, they don’t understand what is required of them, and the parents usually interfere a lot more, making them respond by turning round at a crucial moment! My life has got a lot easier, and my painting a lot quicker by simply not painting faces of under 3’s. I will happily paint a quick design on their hands and leave them to smear it all over mummy’s nice dress later.
Don’t be fooled into believing that ‘just a small design’ on the cheek will be quicker, they usually take much longer than a full face, and aren’t as impressive either. It’s usually the ignorant that suggest this; the parent that’s trying to be helpful, or the client that simply hasn’t booked enough painters. If need be, get some stencils or Stamptoos for really quick ‘cheek art’.
In case you are wondering what is an acceptable speed, I would say 10 an hour is decent, but be aware that there are folk who regularly turn out 20 an hour (usually on pay per face – money motivates it seems) of an acceptable quality. The three minute face is viable, but you will lose out on the fun of interaction with the children and personal satisfaction. The fifteen minute face is an indulgence! Make an occasional check on just how many you are doing an hour now and again. One way to do this - have 10 dried peas (or ten pennies) and pop one in your brush pot after every face. Check the time when you start, and the time after the tenth. This is best done in the middle of a job, not at the start when it will be slower, or at the end when you speed up so you can get away!
Take some time to work out what works well for you that’s FAST, some lines are better done quickly, some designs benefit from less is more. Redesign your old favourites if necessary, you may have got complicated over time as a way of making life interesting! I’ve come up with the term ‘wallpaper faces’ to express the undeniably wonderful paintings – that destroy the face beneath as the detail is lathered on, usually 10 too many flowers. From a distance these certainly loose all their impact and become... well, wallpaper.
For those that have worked with me that may be reading this - there’s no hidden message here, I’ve been completely up front with the ‘buggers’!