Search For:

Share This

Wall Magic

Bears ambling through the bedroom, crowds cheering from the stands in the basement, whimsical waiters holding trays with plunger and potty paper—even wine—in the toilette. Oh mio.

“Let’s face it, paint is cheap and people will see the fun in creating something unique,” says Don Fulford of Elizabethtown, a member of Nolin RECC. Fulford painted murals of waiters in his guest bathroom, the inspiration coming from Italian dinnerware. “Let the serious painters paint their beautiful perfections—they’re good at it. Us amateurs have to paint to our skill level.”

Cameriere (waiter), bring on the palette and paint.

There is an abundance of artistic talent in Kentucky. And much of it is lavished on the walls of our homes. Within these residential gallery spaces, homeowners have taken paintbrush in hand (and sometimes tongue in cheek) and followed their imagination from ballparks to back yards and beyond.

That Disney magic
When you have a relative who painted set designs for Disney, there’s no need to wish upon a star for a captivating mural. Shirley Guthrie, a member of Salt River Electric, got her heart’s desire in a mural that incorporates a few of her favorite things—gazebo, peacocks, hummingbirds, apple trees—by calling her son. Mike Guthrie, an artist/illustrator who once worked for The Walt Disney Company, used a picture from his mom as inspiration, spent about 100 hours at work, and—voila!—it’s paradise found.

Shirley’s other son, Tink Guthrie, and his wife, Lucia, Salt River Electric members, also have a “Mike Guthrie” in their Bardstown home. The one-of-a-kind parlor scene, shown on this month’s cover, painted in trompe-l’oeil style—French for “trick the eye”—appears to be an extension of their foyer. The three-dimensional style is one of the things the couple most enjoy about the mural—that, and the letter G painted into the fireplace grate, a painting of Bardstown’s Basilica of St. Joseph Proto-Cathedral on the wall, and sheet music from their favorite musical, Les Miserables, atop the music stand.

How do you nurture a 5-year-old’s fascination with sharks? Transform his bedroom into an aquarium.

Using just three paint colors—deep-sea diver blue, white, and black—Mark Nevitt of Shepherdsville, a member of Salt River Electric, created an “underwater experience” in son Lance’s bedroom, painting the entire room save for part of the textured ceiling.

“The tray ceiling is painted to look like you’re looking up at the surface,” says Nevitt, noting he wasn’t quite able to achieve the effect of sunlight refraction.

To create the scene, Nevitt used dark blue paint at the bottom of the wall, then blended in white in increasing proportions as he moved up the wall.

 “Applying the darker blend over the lighter shade gave the better effect. The ceiling was a similar technique but used a mottled or camouflage type pattern. The shark was varying blends of white/black and white/blue. I just eyeballed this as I went, using a picture I found online for a guide for shading.”

And the “shark expert’s” reaction? “My son loves his great white shark and is now waiting for it to have a friend on another wall.”

The inspiration for the bear mural in the Willhite home on Barren Lake was a walk-in closet previous owners had used as extra sleeping space for visiting company. This snug “cubbie,” as Connie Willhite, member of Farmers RECC, calls it, seemed perfect for children—and with as many as 10 grandchildren visiting in the summer, the space was definitely needed.

“There are at least 15 animals throughout the three-sided mural the children love to find,” she says.

Turtles in the lake, birds in the trees, sheep in the field—even the family dog chasing the family cat—they’re all here. Willhite added a basket of books and flashlights; the glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling give the room a “camping-out” feel.

A hunting themed mural created by Bowling Green muralist Lori James is what helped seal the deal when outdoor lover Lida Flynn was looking for a new house.

“I liked the house, but I have to say, all the mural work in the house helped with my decision to buy it,” Flynn says of her Smiths Grove home, a member of Warren RECC. “The hunting room mural was icing on the cake.”

“Lori captures the finest details in the turkey feathers, the creek flowing through the rocks, and the deer standing as if it hears a noise,” says daughter Felicia Vincent of Oakland. “This room blows me away and makes me feel like I’m in the midst of the wilderness—and my mom has proudly displayed her 11-point buck in this room.”

Sense of place
Major League Baseball’s Cardinals may be based in St. Louis, but their stadium, replete with scoreboard and fan-packed bleachers, stretches across a basement in Glasgow. Carl Owens’ family, members of Farmers RECC, moved from St. Louis to Kentucky in 1981 when he was a year old. Five years ago, he and his wife purchased his childhood home and he hired an artist friend, Sammy Jo Jessie, to “create a little bit of St. Louis” in the basement.

For Jessie, a tattoo artist with Glasgow’s Soul Stained Tattoos, this was her first residential mural. Known for her extreme color work in her day job, she painted a
stadium-scape across the Owenses’ entire bar area, including a vibrant green playing field, splashes of red in the stands and flags, and bright yellow spotlights.

“Don’t be afraid to try something wildly creative,” advises Nevitt. “If you don’t like the first result, hey, it’s only paint. Try it again.”  

Kentucky muralists

• Mallory DeHarte has painted murals in homes, stores, offices, schools, the exteriors and interiors of pet stores, and more. The Monticello artist loves to duplicate nature using any medium or method: wood carving, weaving, drawing, painting, sculpture. “Even old junk can be upcycled into fabulous art.” Contact her at e-mail or phone (606) 348-7770 or (606) 307-0090.

• Murals by Lori James: The self-taught Bowling Green artist’s work has been painting murals since 1985, including multiple murals in each of 75 schoolhouses. Additionally, her work can be seen in homes, churches, doctors’ offices, and restaurants. You can see lots of examples, including baby animals, ice cream cones, and castles, on her Web site and on (search Murals by Lori James), (270) 799-3154.

• Lexington artist Shirley Jeter likes to “capture and celebrate the richness of light and color” in her work. Examples of her work can be seen at the Kentucky Artisan Center and the Kentucky Guild of Artists and Craftsmen in Berea, and the Chestnut Tree Gallery in Richmond, among other galleries. Jeter also teaches classes in painting techniques;, (859) 252-3297.

• Professional muralist Connie Reader, who has been in the business for about 20 years, estimates she has painted more than 50 large murals and has lost count of smaller murals. “It’s not important to spend a ton of money on supplies to create a beautiful painting,” says Reader, who has used sponges, plain paint rollers, cheap chip brushes—even old credit cards—in her work;, (502) 609-9409.

Other sources for inspiration
• East Coast Creative: Meet Monica and Jess, the hosts of ABC/Disney’s show, Knock It Off, on The Live Well Network. Locate directions to a pirate treasure map mural they created using a mini projector—search “treasure map wall mural” online at

• Houzz boasts they have “17,019 (and counting) hand-painted wall mural home design photos,” many of them quite ambitious in their detail. You can save the designs to your own IdeaBook, ask the artist questions through the Web site, and get how-to tips and advice;

• Learn with Mural Joe offers tips, techniques, and eight videos on how to paint a landscape mural. Individual video downloads are $10 each; the complete series is $59. Google “Mural Joe” to see lots of YouTube videos on various mural themes and techniques;

• Murals by Morgan features lots of examples of the work of California mural artist Morgan Bricca;

• Murals Your Way: If hand-painting a wall mural isn’t your thing, you can buy a ready-made mural—based on available designs or an image or artwork you send the company. Murals Your Way digitally prints images onto a wall-covering material, which you then adhere to the wall. You can view hundreds of murals designed for every room of the house;, (888) 558-0279.

Muralists share DIY tips

• Lori James: “Make sure the prep work is done, that the wall is clean. The worst thing you can do is paint the mural without preparing the wall and the mural starts to crumble.”

• Sammy Jo Jessie: Rather than trying to complete the mural in one session, set goals each time you plan to paint for how much you will accomplish.

• Shirley Jeter recommends Glidden’s Gripper Primer. “I paint on this with acrylic paint and seal it with polyurethane. Make sure it’s nonyellowing.”

Using Italian dinnerware as his jumping-off point, Don Fulford changed a few features to fit the room. “Don’t take yourself or your creation too seriously. If you don’t like it, take out the paint roller and paint over it. This is one thing in life that gives you endless do-overs.”

• Carl Owens: “Choose something that brings you joy and you don’t mind seeing every day. My wife became a St. Louis Cardinals fan from my exuberant fanhood, so we chose a mural that brings a little piece of that to our home.”

• Connie Willhite: Draw your design out on paper first to get the idea down.


More wall creations

Read about and see another six wall mural creations from readers—mountains and a historical home, to tigers and birds, and a pathway and lake—and find creative tips from Pato Paez, a pro with the IMURI Project, when you click “More wall creations.”

Don't Leave! Sign up for Kentucky Living updates ...

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.