How To Remove Old Paint From Wood

When I was a child, our father used to paint wood in our backyard. Some of the paint would be on the outside and some was on the inside.

When you look at a photo of that yard, what are you seeing? The trees? No. The paint. I think it was a grayish color back then and I don’t remember seeing a lot of it on the inside. It was mostly white and black, depending on the tree. Some trees had more in common with pine trees than with spruce. It was really hard to tell that there was wood on the outside and there was paint on the inside because my brother and I would be playing in there every single weekend.

My Dad was old fashioned in that regard and made some pretty crude paintings. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen old pictures of him, but he had this beard and he was really short, like under 5’11”. My father wasn’t a great painter. He was good at making pictures of birds to illustrate his writings. He would paint pictures of birds, but he didn’t have paintings like these. He would paint a few birds and then he would put a bird on the top of the bird and a bird on the bottom of the bird. When he would sit down in his chair with those two birds on top, you couldn’t tell anything was different from the bottom to the top. My dad didn’t like painting pictures with more than two birds on them. If he was painting a picture of a bunch of birds, he might paint another one on top of the first one. Then, he’d paint a third bird on top of the second and a fourth bird on top of the first and so on. Some of the birds were really big and some of them were really small. But, he didn’t put more than two birds on one picture. He just painted them on top of each other until they were completely covered.

One day, he was watching me playing in his backyard when something caught his eye.

It was an ornithopter.

Omnipresent. No, it couldn’t be. He didn’t get that kind of paint on a bird. Birds were smaller in those days. As I stood behind Dad and watched the first one, I couldn’t really see it. It was so dark and so close to us. I saw the bird for what felt like maybe four or five seconds. And then, my mind turned back to painting and I was gone. As the bird made its flight, the paint came off and my mind flashed to a painting I had done when I got into paint. I had wanted to do a painting of birds. I was painting the birds that flew over my house to impress our older brother. I decided at the time to paint a bird with the face of a person. I wanted to have the bird appear to be looking at you. So, I went back to the drawing board, and that’s when I created a painting that had the look of that person’s face. And that’s how that picture was born.

I used to paint all over the wall when I was a kid in those days. But, Dad never painted over old paintings that had been on the walls for thirty or forty years. He kept them, painted over them and repainted them over. He also painted over old pictures of birds and people. The old paintings were there to be seen. I guess he liked the way people were drawn when they were children, so he kept those paintings and painted over the old paintings of birds and people. He never seemed to notice the time.

When I was in school, I had a painting in the school. In the painting was wood grain and the bird was on a branch. On top of the bird was wood. I was really surprised by all of that in one picture.