Elegant Wall Painting, an ancient tradition updated
by Deborah Hoffman
As printed in South
found Mary McPherson and her assistant, Kim Wahl, surveying
the bare walls of their latest commissioned art project,
a 15,000-square foot Laguna Niguel home with over 40,000
square feet of wall space ready for murals and faux
finishes. A group of talented artists will assist Mary
to complete the commission and she is excited to get
started. While Mary assembled paints and brushes, she
spoke with us about the ancient tradition of decorative
finishes and the hard work and joys of an artist's life.
kinds of decorative painting do you offer your clients?
Mary: My specialties are faux finishes and trompe l'oeil
murals, which are two of the fastest-growing trends
in interior design. With faux finishes I can enhance
or replicate existing decor. For instance, using paint
I can replicate marble, granite, match seamlessly, and
make ordinary fireplaces look like granite. It's a wonderful
l'oeil means "to fool the eye" and that's my mission
with decorative murals. I've painted murals on interior
and exterior walls and they always create a mood and
attract attention. Murals can make small rooms look
larger because they give an illusion of depth. Plus,
there's an elegance and light-heartedness about murals
that everyone loves.
SC: Do clients come to you with ideas or do they just know
they want "something?"
Mary: It's about 50/50. Decorative art is so
personal that I feel it''s important to work closely
with the client. In fact, it's odd calling the people
I paint for "clients." I work so closely with then to
create something special that we become friends. We
spend a lot of time talking and looking at my portfolio;
I ask them to collect magazines, photos of locations
and decorative art that delights them. I love helping
them discover how faux finished walls can enhance the
pleasure of their homes and offices.
SC: What is the tradition of decorative finishing?
Mary: We all know that cavemen painted art on their walls.
Since then, decorative finishing has endured the sands
of Egypt, adorned the walls of Parisian salons, and
become standard in homes in France and Italy. Only recently
have Americans embraced custom wall painting to show
their individual taste. Art collectors know how elegant
walls can enhance the richness of a collection. The
right colors and designs can make any room look vibrant.
modern approach I take is that I now paint most of my
murals on canvas. That way, if the clients move they
can take the mural with them or sell it.
SC: How long have you been painting?
Mary: I've been a muralist since my high school days in the
San Francisco Bay area, but I've taken some career turns.
I never stopped painting but I worked as an engineer
for sixteen years for companies like Toshiba and DuPont.
I've been a full-time artist for the past several years.
Interestingly, the engineering has helped my art. The
chemistry and math I learned lets me understand paint.
Not only do I know how to develop vivid colors, but
I also understand the reaction of paints and glazes.
I think that's fairly rare for faux finishers. Being
in the corporate world has also helped me run my art
business; people get the best of both worlds because
I'm creative and dependable.
SC: How can a potential client start with you?
Mary: I visit the client's home or business.
show my portfolio, and begin discussing creative ideas.
I take measurements and examine the artwork, carpeting,
and decoration. It's the beginning of a close relationship,
which is so rewarding. Each person has his or her own
vision, even if it's unknown at the beginning of a project.
I don't push people and there's no pressure. I'll even
sit down with the children to talk about their dreams.
The most thrilling moment is watching a child first
enter a room I've painted with fighter jets or a flower
garden. Those happy faces are indescribable. I consider
myself one of the honored few because I love what I
do for a living. I have a passion for art and for creating
beautiful environments for others. Every day I work
with wonderful people-other artists and clients. My
work brings people joy and increases the value of their
homes. When I hear that my work helps others feel relaxed
and rejuvenated, I'm thrilled that I have been blessed
to have found my calling. Mary can be contacted for
consultation at (949) 661-6909
Article contributed by:
The Magazine of
Art, Architecture & Leisure