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.

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.