Creative Endeavors: Amazing manicures are best left to professionals

Melinda Mawdsley, left, blows on her wet nail polish while Rachel Sauer air dries her freshly painted nails.



Melinda Mawdsley adds a darker color of polish to her nails. She was attempting to produce a manicure similar to one seen at teenvogue.com.



Rachel Sauer uses tiny pieces of nail tape to keep the polish colors from blending together.



Emily Shockley chose to create an an ombre-effect manicure with a lighter orange color at the cuticle that faded into a deeper red.



Melinda Mawdsley adds a darker color of polish to her nails from a variety of choices of polish.



Rachel Sauer’s thumbnails sport geometric patterns of different colors. It is based on a manicure at nailitmag.com.



I think we all can agree that as far as canvasses go, fingernails are pretty small. Co-worker Melinda Mawdsley and I definitely could agree on this, and that was before we’d even inhaled all those fumes.

So, do we blame ourselves for the blobby lines, the smudges, the color slopped well beyond the boundaries of actual nail and onto the surrounding skin? Eh. Not really.

Well, OK, maybe a little. Kind of. I feel like I should have been better at it. I don’t know about Melinda, but I entered the exciting world of nail art by asking the question that has preceded many of the more spectacular disasters in my life: “How hard could it be?”

Pretty hard, it turns out.

(Melinda here: I underestimated the chasm between “painting my fingernails” and “nail art.” Painting fingernails is child’s play. Nail art is an exercise in embarrassment for non-artistic, impatient types.)

Continuing our Creative Endeavors series, we scoured Pinterest — which we do at the beginning of every new project — and a theme emerged: fingernails. They’re all over Pinterest, in the most elaborate, whimsical, mystifying, amazing manicures I’ve ever seen.

“We should try some of these,” I told Melinda, who, in the almost four years I’ve known her, I’ve never once seen with her fingernails painted. I, on the other hand, paint my fingernails about once a year to remind myself why I never paint my fingernails.

“OK,” she said. She’s agreeable like that.

(It’s true. I’m relatively agreeable, unless it involves camping or putting pineapple on pizza, and I never paint my fingernails. I didn’t even have my nails done for my wedding.)

Pinterest pointed us to Teen Vogue’s website, where we admired a “chic mod mani” (teenvogue.com/beauty/nails/2013-11/mod-retro-manicure-nail-art/?slide=1), which Melinda claimed.

(What grown woman doesn’t want to find inspiration at teenvogue.com?!? Actually, I wanted this one because it resembled the color-blocking art of Piet Mondrian, which I love.)

Then Nail It! magazine’s website offered chevron-striped nails in multiple colors (nailitmag.com/nail-designs/lissamel9-nailrotica/nail-art-tutorial-rainbow-striping-tape-nails), and I was enthralled. It would involve something called nail tape and tiny, tiny paint brushes. How hard could it be?

(The nail tape was ridiculous. I hope Rachel talks about how ridiculous it was.)

Joined by co-worker Emily Shockley, the ultimate good sport who felt inspired to try an ombre-effect manicure in shades of red and orange, we started off in high spirits with a clear base coat.

So easy! Even painting my right hand with my nondominant left was a snap.

Then the color. Melinda went for an aqua green base while I chose a lovely sky blue. One coat down, on to a second! Except I began noticing a few streaks and blobs, but I figured those would be covered up by other colors and a top coat.

It turns out, however, that Maybelline, Hard Candy and other nail polish makers are big fat liars when they claim something is “quick dry.” There was nothing quick about it, even going outside to wave our hands around like we were shooing all the flies in the whole world.

(Needing every layer to dry was paramount to these styles working, so our lack of patience set us up to fail from the get-go. Or perhaps the polish’s poor performance could be attributed to the fact some of Rachel’s polish was 18 years old. True story.)

Finally, deciding “dry enough” was appropriate, we began the actual decorating. Melinda’s first Mondrian-esque rectangle in a darker green went on each finger like a breeze, whereas I struggled to even find the end of that wretched nail tape, which is so thin I’m sure it’s measured in micrometers.

(Good, she talked about it.)

Then actually putting it on my nails — that was a treat. I started with my left thumb and quickly jettisoned the idea of tiny chevron stripes, since I’m not a total head case. Instead, I thought a sort of stained glass effect would be lovely, and require just three tape stripes crisscrossing my nail.

Then the painting. It was very hard to stay inside the lines. The brush that came with the nail polish was much too big and burdensome, so I switched to a paint brush consisting of what seemed like six hairs total. So, that wasn’t too painstaking.

Meanwhile, Melinda was sighing over rectangles that were straying well beyond their chic mod lines.

(Who can draw a rectangle with straight lines on a miniature curved fingernail?!? Seriously, find me this person.)

I applied that stupid nail tape to my other thumb and grudgingly painted more tiny sections in variegated colors. That was when I made the executive decision to just paint white clouds on the rest of my nails, declaring it was the sky beyond my stained glass thumbs.

(For the record, I predicted this would happen. Rachel has a tendency to go off-roading when she loses patience or something isn’t working as she envisioned. In fact, I may have even predicted she would end up painting clouds. I know her pretty well.)

To my right, Emily had an ombre tragedy smeared all over her fingers like she’d been dipped in cartoon poison, and to my left Melinda was muttering along the lines of, “Just forget it, these fumes are going to make me pass out, anyway.”

And of course, I smeared the whole deal getting my keys out of my purse. I took particular, angry delight in rubbing it all off the second I got home.

(My thumb was smeared before I even left the building, too. Two other fingers smudged when I got into my car. I, like Rachel, took the polish off as soon as I got home. Unlike Rachel, I still have some aqua gunk stuck under my nails. Pinterest fail!)


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