Local artist makes a splash with eye catching, whimsical murals

  • Written by Deborah Stone
Lisa Nelson was commissioned to paint a mural for the door of Toys That Teach in Country Village. Courtesy photo.
The first time Lisa Nelson realized that she might have artistic talent was when she was around 7 years old.

"I got a book on horses," she says, "and I began drawing them at home. I would draw for hours and I loved it. Then one day in school, my teacher asked us to draw a horse. Mine was the best in class and all the kids told me that I was going to be a famous artist one day."

Nelson went on to study fine art and interior design in her native country, England.

While working for a sculptor, she was asked to paint a mural in her brother-in-law’s bathroom.

"He wanted a Roman theme because he was really interested in history," explains Nelson. "That’s when it all clicked for me. I saw mural painting as a wonderful merging of my passion for art and interior design. And then it just took off from there."

In the ensuing years, she undertook countless projects for residential and commercial clients, painting on walls, ceilings, furniture, window treatments, cloths and canvas.Her work began to appear in such publications as "Elle Decoration," "The Daily Telegraph," "25 Beautiful Homes" and "Kent and Sussex Today," among others. In 2006, Nelson’s husband got a job with Microsoft and the couple moved to the U.S. and settled in Bothell. She continued her decorative work, focusing on bespoke murals, Trompe L’oeil and decorative finishes for fine interiors, children’s rooms and businesses.

"My favorite thing to do is children’s rooms," comments Nelson. She adds, "My murals are more than just static pictures. They’re an event because they tell stories. I love the idea of a story being played out in a painting. The experience is much richer."

The artist’s most significant influences are not from the world’s best fine artists, rather, they are from some of the great children’s illustrators of our time. She says, "These are the people who embellish the narrative and bring stories to life."

Last fall, Nelson was commissioned by Scott Loveless, owner of Toys That Teach in Country Village, to paint a mural on his storefront.

Loveless has a passion for space memorabilia and the words on his shop say, "Where toys are out of this world."

Nelson took these cues and designed a rocket ship that appears to be crashing into the store.

In explaining her work, she remarks, "The fact that aliens have crash landed in Bothell is certainly newsworthy, whether they come in peace and are delivering toys or whether this is an attempt at extra-terrestrial smash and grab remains up to the viewer."

The mural has been a hit with both parents and kids, according to the feedback Nelson has received from Loveless and his team. It is bright, colorful and eye-catching, and serves to entice potential customers to explore the store. Recently, the artist has been focusing more on doing commissions for portraits done in the style of Trompe L’oeil (French for "trick the eye").

This art technique involves the use of realistic imagery to create an optical illusion that makes the depicted objects appear in three dimensions, instead of two.

"These are not posed portraits," explains Nelson. "They show an event, a little piece of theatre and are intended to capture the character of the subject –typically, a child or a pet that’s always up to something!"

She adds, "There are many areas in a house that can be brought to life with this approach. For example, the art niches that appear in entrance halls and other areas. Quite often muralists are commissioned to paint Tuscan scenes, urns or vases for the niche or alcove. But, how personal is that to you? I love the idea of somebody opening their front door and seeing something that makes them smile."

Currently, Nelson is working on a Trompe L’oeil portrait for a local family, featuring its three children in a setting that makes them appear as if they’re stepping out of a doorway.

She’s also working on illustrating a children’s book for a local author.

"I like to work on a few projects at one time," she says. "The variety is both fun and challenging." For Nelson, painting is a peaceful way for her to spend the day. She adds, "It’s calming and it allows me the opportunity to really flex my imagination."

For more information about the artist or to see samples of her work, visit

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