When Stan McClenton started his job, “I wasn’t going in as a painter. I was going in to sweep floors. One day they said, ‘Why don’t you try this? See if you can paint.’ I wound up being better than I thought I would be and I kind of took it from there.
“Before I got into painting I played a lot of sports, and then I got into dee-jayin’,” he said. He worked under the name “DJ Hitman.” He recalled, “I’ve done a lot of parties and a lot of clubs. I miss being in a crowd, people hollering and screaming. But I feel like I’m doing something so much more promising.”
As a journeyman commercial painter, McClenton can still attract a crowd when he’s working 50 feet in the air. “I didn’t do that until I got in the union,” he said. “I thought I would be nervous but it turned out I actually liked it. I’m the center of attention — ‘Oh, look at that guy!’ Everyone wants to stop and watch you paint.”
McClenton said his career hit new heights in many ways once he joined the union eight years ago. “All the stuff that I should have been getting taught, I wasn’t getting taught,” he said. “They were skipping over a lot of stuff. When I finally got into the union, and they were showing the safety videos, I was saying, ‘Hey, I was doing that wrong!’”
McClenton appreciates the ongoing training opportunities the union provides. These days, he’s still taking training — most recently, a class in scaffolding. He’s also providing it at the Finishing Trades Institute in Little Canada. ”It’s pretty cool if you think about it,” he said. “If someone says, ‘I don’t think I can do it,’ they’re telling a person who was sitting in the same seat they’re sitting in. I never thought I could be a teacher, but the union saw something in me to say, ‘Hey, this guy is a good guy.’”
What does a commercial painter do?
When you paint a room in your house, it is easy. But what if there’s a hole in the wall? A painter has to know how to fix it. I’ve learned fine finishing — it’s like a material that goes on the wall, but it’s not paint. You can use something as simple as tissue paper, and that will turn into a fine finish. I’ve learned all the different materials to use. We even do floor work. A lot of people would never know that a painter does that kind of stuff.
What’s the best thing about your job?
I like the fact that I can take something so bad and make it look so nice. Going into a commercial building, when you walk in, it looks so terrible. When you walk out, it looks so immaculate.
What is the most important factor in a successful paint job?
Preparation is one of the biggest parts of painting. Painting is the easiest part of the job. It’s the prep that’s usually the hardest part.
Are there jobs available for commercial painters?
There are jobs — quite a few of them. There are 700 union painters who went back to work in the last 3 months. That tells you the work is picking up. With two stadiums and redoing the Mall of America, there will be so much work for many, many years.
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