Noah’s Ark Mural

I had the pleasure of painting accents in Immanuel Lutheran School in La Crosse last year (thanks to Tim Parcher!) with no requirements other than a specific budget and to paint something pretty in the girls’ restroom and something unique in the boys’ restroom. I was able to let my creativity blossom by painting large flowers and butterflies for the girls, and 3-d blocks with toys and more for the boys. Here is a peek at just a couple of those walls:Large flowers painted in bathroom include daisy, tulip, rose, and poppy.

Blocks appear to be missing in the wall and objects are painted in the recessed areas, including a chess piece, a baseball, acorn, caterpillar, and feather.

Then about a month ago, Tim commissioned me to come back! He gave me his budget and asked me to add cartoon animals or kids in the hallways and a trompe l’oeil scene at the end of the hallway. He generously put his trust in me to come up with something creative again and didn’t even want to see sketches. That can be a good thing, and a bad thing. Because I tend to be a procrastinator. I remember in High School I had a big paper due and I literally waited until the day before to write it because I couldn’t think of a topic, so I ended up writing about procrastination. My teacher wrote a huge, “F.  Now stop procrastinating!” in red ink across the top and underlined several times. Keep in mind, I was a straight A student and had never received an “F” before. Then below that he wrote, “Just kidding, A+.” So actually, that didn’t really do much to deter my procrastination. But I did find it hilarious.

So in this instance, since I didn’t need approval of the sketches, it got pushed aside on my to-do list while I enjoyed summer with my family. I always do sketches for myself anyway, but it is much less urgent if the client doesn’t need to see them. I’ve never painted cartoon animals before, so I spent time researching stylized animals. I personally didn’t want random animals all over the place without a way to tie them all together, so I was a little stuck and a little stressed as time was ticking away and I couldn’t think of a cohesive theme.

Then about one week before painting began, I had an epiphany. Noah’s Ark! Perfect for a private religious school! I could have a male and female of every animal! They could do school things! The trompe l’oeil scene could show the end of the flood! Their eyes could all look the same! How about one more sentence with an exclamation point!

My procrastination paid off as I needed the time to make everything click. However, this may lead to more procrastination on future projects…


So here is what I painted: Two flamingos near the main drinking fountain, standing in water and holding a book (see, a school-related element!) I thought it would be fun to paint only the cartoon animals with black outlines.

Cartoon flamingos near the water fountain are standing in blue water. The male flamingo is holding a green book.

On the corner across from the flamingos, I painted two koalas. Since everyone walks past this corner, it is likely it may get scuffed or damaged, so I used that to my advantage. Why not have the koalas paint the tree that they are climbing? (Surrealistic art! Another school-related theme!) Way to go, cutie pies! You’re doing a great job!

Koala bears

Koala detail


Tim asked that I include sports/phy ed elements in the hallway near the gymnasium, so after seeing the trophy cases filled with basketball trophies, I had to include a basketball for this monkey…

Monkey 2


…and a jump rope for this one.

Monkey 1


Giraffes are always high on the list of awesomeness with kids. At least, I think they are awesome. How could I keep them somewhat true to size? They wouldn’t exactly fit with ceilings that are shy of 8′ so I figured they would fit if they were standing in the basement. Or, below deck, as it were.


You may notice that I didn’t include any school-related item with the giraffes. Right?

Not so fast. I had no idea how they could fit the school theme, until literally two days before painting them. There’s that procrastination again! Check out their spots. See anything?

The female on the left has our earth’s continents, and the male on the right has 22 of our 50 states (see, geography education!)


Now onto the trompe l’oeil scene. I used the existing blocks to lay out my design. The door and trim had been black, so Tim spent a lot of time painting it the same color as the wall for me. (Thank you!) I made sure that the exit sign and other items still had their spots on the wall so they weren’t just “floating” out of place in the mural. The door handle will always cast a shadow due to the overhead lighting, so I had to be careful with that area or it would be very distracting.

Door, before


Here is the completed mural, with the cartoon dove sitting on the ledge holding an olive branch. The sheep must have heard him because they obviously dropped whatever school-related item they were using and ran down the hallway to check this out.

Ocean View


Here is one more view, from part way down the hallway. I hope the kids enjoy all the animals!

Long hallway view


I did fulfill one special request to add a butterfly bush near this drinking fountain. The two butterflies are similar to those I painted in the restroom last year.



Time for me to get going on some sketches for the music room of another private school and a painting on canvas. After a snack. And after checking facebook and playing some Maybe I’ll just watch a movie first. Ooh, Inception, one of my favorites!

At least I’m getting better at this procrastination thing.

Fairy Play Room Mural

Phew! I completed another mural and the kids can’t wait to start playing in their new fairy room! There are a lot of different things going on in this room, so this post might get a little lengthy. As a reminder, here is what the room looked like before I started painting. Keep in mind that the room is about 12 feet long and the ceiling is about five feet high, so these are miniature french doors (love them!!)Looking through the 3-1/2 foot high french doors into the fairy playroom.


Here is one of the sketches that I drew to scale and my client approved before we signed the commission agreement. Part of my mural prep is to add a grid so I can paint everything in the right proportions on the wall. Some muralists just paint as they go and don’t bother with a grid, but for me it is a lifesaver. It does take time to put grid points on the actual wall, but it is so worth it. Sketches quickly get out of whack on a wall when I try to eyeball them! Once I get the main elements in the right places, I can make necessary tweaks while I’m painting.Waterfall Sketch


Here is the finished mural. You can see that there are a lot of things going on in this room, which is perfect because I discovered rather quickly that the kids have incredible imaginations and they can pretend to be big or small or whatever they want to be! The front of the cabinet has two tiny, real doors, so that is where I painted two of the 3-4″ fairies to resemble the children. It was handy that they came to visit me often because they got to hand-pick the exact color they wanted for the trim on their doors, and the oldest chose the color of her clothing, wings, and basket of flowers, too! The little boy was pleased to get dragonfly wings instead of the typical butterfly fairy wings. :)A big waterfall cascades in the distant mountains. In the foreground we see a small hill with colorful mushrooms and a crumbling brick wall. A secondary waterfall rushes over a broken stone and appears to pour into the top of the cabinet. The front of the cabinet is a different scene entirely. Distant waterfalls flower into a lake and that stream flows into the foreground. A fairy is painted to resemble each child, and weeping willow trees fill the landscape.


Now let’s get to the fun trompe l’oeil aspect of this mural ~ the top of the cabinet! Here is what it looked like before…Top of cabinet before painting began.


…and here is what it looks like now. My client knew she wanted a water feature of some sort on the top, and I came up with a design that would incorporate their name into a stream. The waterfall in the distance flows into a large lake (which is barely visible) and some of that water flows around the nearby hill, over this crumbling wall and “into” the top of this cabinet. These kids have several toy fairy homes so I left plenty of green space around the stream where they can place them down and play. The sun was shining and creating quite a reflection on the top of the cabinet so unfortunately part of this photo is washed out.Top of cabinet appears to be recessed about 2-3 inches. Grass fills the top with a meandering stream in the shape of letters. Lily pads fill in the center of the letters "D" and "A".


Here is the other end of the stream. I figured the water had to go somewhere otherwise it would all flood the top of the cabinet, the fairy homes would be destroyed, the paint would eventually wear away, and then I’d have to come back and paint tiny boats or something.

Hmm, that would mean repeat business…

But I digress. Anyway, I figured, why not use a little surrealism to make the water flow into a hole in the side of the “wall?” Where does it go? Beats me. I’ll let the kids figure that one out.Right hand side of cabinet, where the stream seems to disappear into a hole in the recessed top. A robin's nest with three eggs is placed near the letter "L" , and a small exotic snail is near the letter "H"


Enough of that area. Turn around after you enter the room, and there are those adorable french doors again!Inside the small playroom, looking back at the entrance.


Here is the sketch for this wall with the approved design, and again I added a grid so I can get the layout accurate. They decided that they’d love to have a dragon, and I thought this would be the best wall for one since the angled walls really mess with perspective depending on the height and angle in which they are viewed. Dragon Sketch


Here is the completed mural, with just a few slight modifications.A purple and blue dragon with orange horns peeks into the room above a faux crumbling brick wall. Mountains are seen in the distance and pink roses are growing near her tail. Angled side walls reveal a 3' long ruby-throated hummingbird.


Initially I painted the dragon’s pupils as vertical slits, but I thought that made her a little too scary. My fear was confirmed when one of the kids asked if I could “give her a smile so she doesn’t look so freaky.” I wasn’t able to give her a smile, but changing her eyes definitely took away a big portion of the “freaky” factor.Kid friendly dragon peeking over a faux brick wall with a tiny mouse nearby. The artist sits in front of the door. The dragon has purple scales on her body with blue scales down her chest. She has four orange horns on her head and her three fingers reach over the wall. Her fingers have orange claws. She has long black eyelashes and yellow eyes.


By the way, did you notice the little mouse near the corner?Life sized, realistic mouse in front of the faux block wall.


So now lets move on to those big side walls. This time I created a bizarre looking sketch since parts of the mushroom and fern cross over onto the opposite walls. This sketch is meant to be viewed by folding it in half, keeping it open a bit like an a-frame, and staring at it while looking up at the ceiling. It is best to do this in a public setting like a coffee shop or something.Both walls shown in one sketch.


It is virtually impossible to get good photos of these walls without a wide-angle lens. If anyone wants to buy me one, that would be awesome. These things are big.
Acorn about 5 feet tall with artist lying on the carpet in front of it. It has a door with a small awning to match the acorn cap. A variety of green curly grasses fill the background.


This large fluffy squirrel is eating a colorful mushroom and sitting under a large mushroom. A fern is behind him and behind the over-sized acorn.


A mushroom with a yellow-orange stem and orange-red underparts and blue cap spans from the floor to the ceiling. The cap of the mushroom crosses onto the opposite wall so you feel like you are below it. A fairy door is at the bottom with a fluted awning to match the mushroom. A smaller mushroom with blue cap and orange spots is behind the large mushroom. Many fantasy curly grasses fill the background and get lighter and lighter in the distance.


When the oldest child first walked under this mushroom, she exclaimed, “I feel like I’m a fairy!” Perfect. That was the goal.  =)
View of large mushroom when lying on the carpet and looking up at the ceiling.


One of the kids was concerned and asked me if hummingbirds eat fairies. Luckily, with my extensive fairy research, I was able to indicate that not only do they not eat fairies, but fairies actually get to ride on them sometimes while they are flying. By the way, the woolly bear caterpillar is three feet long.This three foot tall ruby throated hummingbird is sitting on a fantasy curly grass with more curly grasses fading away in the distance. A three foot long woolly bear caterpillar is along the baseboard and a large purple pansy is in the foreground. The end of the fern from the opposite wall curls onto this wall just above the hummingbird.


Hummingbird size comparison


I want to be a kid again.View of one wall with ruby throated hummingbird, pansy, huge mushroom, and woolly bear caterpillar.