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HOME DESIGN : A SPECIAL ISSUE OF ORANGE COUNTY LIFE : Walls of These Children’s Rooms Have Ears--and Teeth and Tails, Too

Bagheera, the gimlet-eyed panther from Disney’s “Jungle Book,” bares two ivory fangs and the pink tip of his tongue as he peers from a painted perch in Vicki Miller’s bedroom.

Below him--eye-level from Miller’s bed--wild child Mowgli dances a jungle jitterbug with one of the river monkeys.

“Yeah, people think it’s kind of weird,” Miller said, with a throaty laugh.

But that’s business.

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Miller, 30, painted the Disney juvenilia on the closet door in her bedroom six months ago to launch the business she calls Rainy Day Creations--custom murals for children’s bedrooms. In the Balboa Island bedroom of a 2-year-old girl, Miller painted a spray of apple blossoms surrounded with a bow.

A client in Irvine requested one of the Flower Fairies from the works of artist Cicely Barker.

Parents of a 4-year-old Newport Beach boy asked for Noah’s Ark, loaded two-by-two with cartoon animals.

In an act of willful wishful thinking, a pregnant client from Laguna Niguel recently commissioned an 8-by-4-foot pink giraffe for an all-pink nursery. “She had two grown sons and she wanted a daughter so badly, but she was afraid to find out” by taking a test to determine the sex of her unborn child, said Miller. “So she was just getting the room all ready for a girl.” Time, of course, will tell if the mural helped.

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For each job, Miller draws a detailed pen-and-ink sketch, which she asks the client to initial, along with the color selections for the mural. Then comes the hard part for the artist, the part she dreads: All the preparations before the first stroke of paint.

First, Miller measures the wall to be painted. Then she makes a scale miniature drawing of the mural, which she enlarges to actual size with a projector in her garage. Next she traces the full-sized characters on tissue paper. And finally, on site, she retraces the characters onto the mural wall.

“What I like is painting,” said Miller, brightening. “Especially the backgrounds and the highlights and the things I do freehand--that’s the fun part for me.”

At work on several projects now--including a toy-box mural in a children’s furniture store and four rooms of murals for a learning center in Santa Ana for victims of cerebral palsy--Miller is no less than thrilled to be self-employed and using her artistic skills to make a living.

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“Sometimes I worry that the kid might be afraid of the mural,” she said. “It hasn’t happened yet, but one concern I have is to be real careful to use characters that won’t scare the kid. I’m always looking at the work thinking: Is this friendly? Would this give a kid nightmares?”

This from the lady who sleeps under the predatory gaze of a black panther.


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