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Elegant Wall Painting, an ancient tradition updated
Story by Deborah Hoffman
As printed in South Coast Magazine

We 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.

SC:What 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 challenge.

Trompe 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.

One 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:
South Coast Magazine
The Magazine of Art, Architecture & Leisure


South Coast Magazine

The Magazine of Art, Architecture & Leisure


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