Painters apply paint, stain, varnish and other finishes to buildings and other structures. They select the right paint or finish for the surface to be covered, taking into account durability, ease of handling, method of application and customer's wishes. Painters first prepare the surfaces to be covered, so that the paint will adhere properly. This may require removing the old coat of paint by stripping, sanding, wire brushing, burning, scraping, or water and abrasive blasting. Painters also wash walls and trim to remove dirt and grease, fill nail holes and cracks, sandpaper rough spots and brush off dust. On new surfaces, they apply a primer or sealer to prepare the surface for the finish coat. Painters also mix paints and match colors, relying on knowledge of paint composition and color harmony. They also cover walls and ceilings with decorative wall coverings made of paper, vinyl or fabric.
Heller’s protagonist, Jim Stegner, is an unschooled but talented painter who struggles with drink, with womanizing, and with his temper. These traits have led him to be a killer, although Heller goes to great pains to let us know these acts are not premeditated. They’ve also, in accordance with these United States’ innate streak of violence, allowed him to be a cult figure - a talent around whom one feels it necessary to walk on eggshells. (For what it’s worth, this trait is to this reader and social observer the cause of a hollowness within the national psyche.) Stegner wants atonement for his acts, but he doesn’t know how to go about that. So Heller must allow Stegner to be the subject of retributive violence, which allows the painter, as might happen to a pre-adolescent child, to have atonement forced on him. Stegner is as a person and as a literary creation, a mess. Perhaps Heller intends him to be a faux Hemingway: hard drinking, bullying and a crybaby when those tables are turned on him. Stegner doesn’t seem to have the backbone about which an anti-hero’s fatal flaws can be built, though; he’s too much at the whims of fate for that. Heller tries to create philosophical depth for Stegner, but these attempts ring hollow. What he has created in Stegner, however, is a depiction of an instinctive artist, something the American psyche always seeks: talent and success untrammeled by subjecting that psyche to training and the lessons of culture and history. That Stegner is, in the end, a talented but pitiful figure, should tell the reader something very important: instinct that refuses at least a small measure of acculturation eventually become debased.
Hegel recognized the failure of attaining a universal concept of beauty and, in his aesthetic essay, wrote that painting is one of the three "romantic" arts, along with Poetry and Music, for its symbolic, highly intellectual purpose. Painters who have written theoretical works on painting include Kandinsky and Paul Klee. In his essay, Kandinsky maintains that painting has a spiritual value, and he attaches primary colors to essential feelings or concepts, something that Goethe and other writers had already tried to do.
After having shot a man in a Santa Fe bar, the famous artist Jim Stegner served his time and has since struggled to manage the dark impulses that sometimes overtake him. Now he lives a quiet life. . . until the day that he comes across a hunting guide beating a small horse, and a brutal act of new violence rips his quiet life right open. Pursued by men dead set on retribution, Jim is left with no choice but to return to New Mexico and the high-profile life he left behind, where he’ll reckon with past deeds and the dark shadows in his own heart.