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!

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.

New Website!

I designed my website in early 2012, before I even launched my business. This year, my software has become so outdated that I am running across all sorts of technical issues and it is incredibly difficult to update my site since I am not well versed in html. I want to be able to share photos of my recent murals on my website but I haven’t been able to. I’ve been sharing a lot on Facebook, but I realize not everyone has an access to that.

I’ve also been frustrated that my site wasn’t mobile friendly due to my dated software, so this year I decided it was time to start over with a fresh new look. I have been teaching myself WordPress, and it has been slow going for me as I’ve been trying to figure it out in between projects and all the events of daily life. But I think I’m finally starting to get the gist of it! So please have patience if pages don’t load correctly, and don’t hesitate to contact me if you are interested in hiring me to paint a mural for you. Thank you!


Portrait of Mikey, Acrylic on Canvas.
Portrait of Mikey, Acrylic on Canvas.