Painting the Thingamabob

It’s hard to believe, but five years ago this month I registered with Vernon County to be a sole proprietor, thus beginning my career as a professional artist! I am so grateful to each and every one of my customers who helped boost my confidence that first year, and every year since. I treasure all of you. I love painting murals!

I want to share some photos from one section of my biggest mural that first year. This mural involved painting the open area under a large staircase in a basement, as well as an enclosed, hidden area even further under the stairs. My customer wanted this to be a fun “clubhouse” for their grandchildren, with bright, bold primary colors throughout. I’ll start with some “before” photos, so you can see the transformation.

P.S. The door already had little cut out shapes that I could incorporate into the design!
P.P.S. I love this wall sconce! Three plates of colored glass! I had to be sure to include it in the design somehow!
P.P.P.S. I can’t think of anything clever to type right now!IMG_3260

Open the door and find the hidden room ~ with very low ceilings and a wooden bump-out that covers up basementy-type stuff. There is actually quite a bit of area in that little room off to the left, but today I will focus on this “bump-out” thingamabob. It was especially fun because I had to figure out what kid-friendly clubhouse design to paint on it, and it was just screaming for something trompe l’oeil. (Don’t know what trompe l’oeil is?? That’s okay, I never even heard the word until 2011. It is pronounced tromp-loy, and is french. It means “to fool the eye.” It traditionally refers to ornamentation like molding and trim, but many modern artists use it to mean artwork that is painted realistically with shadows in such a way that you can’t tell what is real and what isn’t.)IMG_3262


Here’s a view of the whatsit from inside the little room.

I primed the wood and then base coated everything. Then I painted the walls to look “club-housey.”


I started transforming the wooden doohickey into stacks of colorful boxes that were supposedly full of toys.IMG_3306


Here I’ve continued adding shadows and highlights to bring the boxes to life. The red box on top will have an open flap so you can “see” the toys inside.IMG_3320


Yup, that is chalkboard paint in the shape of a butterfly. It was a very time-consuming process as you need to roll on quite a few smooth layers. I was able to work on other parts of the mural while waiting for coats to dry. Hey, see the open sky in the ceiling? I thought the kids might want to lie on their backs and watch the clouds float by.IMG_3338


I had to make sure the chalkboard was attached to the boxes somehow, so I painted a string and a piece of tape. Now, would that work in real life? Probably not.  But you’re not the boss of me. Unless you are my customer. Then you are the boss of me. Anyway, back to the painting:IMG_3754


Now for the top of the thingamajig. I painted the flaps of the red box and then blocked in the shape of a teddy bear and rubber ducky.


A few well-placed shadows and highlights, and the teddy bear comes to life!teddy bear in box

Then I added some stenciled numbers and letters to complete the stack of boxes.IMG_3786

Here’s another view of the whatchamacallit before and after:

This trompe l'oeil mural appears to have bright, bold boxes stacked up with a butterfly shaped chalkboard for the kids to write on. Toys are painted on every wall, and a faux curtain is painted on the door.


In conclusion, if you have a thingamabob and aren’t quite sure what to do with it or what to call it exactly, contact me for a free consultation. We’ll work together to figure out a name for it (or just make up new names) and then I will help you figure out how to transform it!

Dragon Time

So I finally get to paint a dragon! Granted, it is for young kids, so we didn’t want her to frighten anyone and we wanted to give her some fun colors to coordinate with the other elements in the room. She doesn’t look like your typical dragon, but the kids are enjoying her, and that is all that truly matters.  =)

Inside the small playroom, looking back at the entrance.
Inside the small playroom, looking back at the entrance.


She’ll be peeking over the stone wall looking into the playroom. Here I have her outline sketched and I’ve started blocking in other areas of the mural. If you read my previous blog post, this wall is directly opposite of the waterfall wall.

Dragon outline sketched onto the wall.


The distant hills are getting filled in here and the stone wall is almost completed.Dragon 3


Blocking in more background colors for her skin. If you ask me, I’d say it looks rather terrible at this stage.

Dragon 4


“I am an alien from outer space and I am going to eat you.” Okay, nevermind.Dragon 5


Working on her eyes and adding some outlines for where the scales will go. She’s getting there slowly but surely.Dragon 6


Meanwhile, I am also working on her tail.

Dragon Tail 1


Here I added more purple and made sure the shadows are all at the correct angles on her little pointy thingys since the light source is the actual light fixture on this wall.Dragon Tail 2


Well, while I was painting the tail I only got one more in-progress photo because I ended up in my own little world (but like my brother-in-law Pete says, “they like me there.”) And of course that photo was blurry. Dagnabbit. So instead here is one where she is almost completed.

Dragon 8


I realized that no matter where you go in the room, she is always looking at you. I wonder if she will see the life-sized mouse on this wall…. Dragon 7


I still need to tweak her wings, and there are some other anatomical issues I am not entirely satisfied with so I may make changes next week when I finish up everything else in the room. Meanwhile, here is a peek at the room from the doorway. There are many over-sized elements on the angled walls that you can’t see properly unless you are in the room. It has been a very busy week and I still have some solid work days ahead of me. For now, I am going to enjoy the weekend. Stay tuned for another update next week and have a great weekend!

In progress mural

New Play Room Mural

Well, this has definitely been the year of fantasy / fairy / whimsical murals for me! They are actually a lot of fun to paint as there is no right or wrong and we can let our imaginations run wild. Right now I’m working in an attic room (in a gorgeous home) that is about 14′ long and has a ceiling of about 5 feet…so I’ve been super excited at the prospect of not using ladders for this project!

… and then I realized that with my 5’10” stature, I will basically be walking around very hunched over or crawling around the entire time. The. Entire. Time. Yes, there is carpeting, which I am incredibly grateful for, and I have a small stool that I can use in some areas. I didn’t think it would be that big of a deal, but I’m already feeling it after two days. I am not complaining, though. This is way better than working on ladders in a stairwell where I could fall and die!

Looking through the 3-1/2 foot high french doors into the fairy playroom.
Looking through the 3-1/2 foot high french doors into the fairy playroom.

There are quite a few things going on in this room, so for now I’ll focus on this end wall. It took a few hours to sketch most of the elements in the entire room and tape off trim. I generally paint from the top to the bottom, so after I painted the sky I started working on the distant hills. We won’t talk about those parts of the wall that are tucked in the corners beyond the 2′ deep cabinet. I will just say that it helps to have long arms and that I’ve been doing yoga for a few years now.

Fantasy Playroom, Progress 1


For this mural I decided to use burnt sienna for the background of the grasses in order to add more depth and develop some richer colors. This is the point when customers generally start to question my ability to paint, wonder what their finished mural will actually look like, and wonder if it is too late to get a refund.

Close range hills are blocked in with an orange/brown color.

Meanwhile, I need that paint to dry so it’s time to add texture to the crumbling stone walls in the mural. I have these stones on both end walls so it was a lot of crawling back and forth, which I’d rather do on carpeting than on a plank! If anyone cares about how I painted the stones, first I added a thin brown glaze and let it dry. Then I added a darker glaze (with 4 different colors) in streaks and sponged it off. Then I added a light glaze over all of it. Then I added some divots and crevices with shadows and highlights and extra light glaze on the tops. I wish my brain would magically tell me how to do this entire process to make them look like stones, but it doesn’t. I studied Pierre Finkelstein’s process for one of the stone types in “The Art of Faux” and tweaked it with colors that work with this mural. I actually take this book with me while I paint because who on earth can remember that many steps and appropriate colors?!

Oh, and then I added a variety of light green grasses on top of the burnt sienna background and some whimsical curly grasses too. After finishing the waterfall.

Brown background is covered with a variety of green grasses.


Hey, here I am! Just in case you couldn’t envision the size of this room, I set the camera on my chair and took a photo. No, I do not have a selfie stick. They aren’t very handy anyway when you don’t have a smart phone.

Me sitting in front of the mural in progress to show scale.

One final photo for the day. I blocked in these “ghost” mushrooms so I can paint them colorfully tomorrow or sometime later this week. I’ll also be painting the entire cabinet, so I started getting more color on that. In case you are wondering what is up with that light brown spot between the bricks, that my friend will be another small waterfall that pours into the mural on the top of the cabinet. Stay tuned for some perspective work that will hopefully mess with your brain!

End of day progress with mushroom shapes blocked in and front of cabinet painted in burnt sienna.