Creating children's murals: Turning a hobby into a line of work

Stephanie Cooper used painting to relax from a stressful day spent on her job as police officer. Now, her artistic abilities are creating another line of work for her.

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  • | 9:00 a.m. April 27, 2016
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OCOEE For most people, the thought of painting a children’s mural on the wall is daunting. But not for Stephanie Cooper.

“Cartoon characters are easy to do,” she said. “Especially their eyes. The eyes are easy, because it’s a circle inside a circle inside a circle.”

Stephanie Cooper created this treasure map for her son’s wall.
Stephanie Cooper created this treasure map for her son’s wall.

But it’s more than just cartoon characters that occupy Cooper’s time. She currently is working on painting a scene from the movie of “The Maze Runner” on to her daughter Suzie’s wall. Suzie didn’t want just a scene from the movie but rather to feel as if she stepped into the movie herself. 

To tackle the scene, Cooper thinks in shapes. 

She combined ideas she got from two movie stills — a row of vines and the wall opening up. 

“It’s basically like one long rectangle, a half rectangle, another long rectangle,” she said. 

When Cooper lived in New Orleans, she worked as a police officer. After a stressful day on the job, she painted to relax. 

During that time, she honed a passion for arts and crafts that her mother shared with her earlier in life. 

This scene from Dumbo is in her children’s bathroom.
This scene from Dumbo is in her children’s bathroom.

When her daughter was born, she quickly developed an interest in “Finding Nemo.” Cooper wanted to decorate her bathroom like the movie. But when she learned it would cost thousands of dollars to get the bathroom painted in that theme, she decided to get creative.

She stenciled some patterns on the walls and decided she could do it herself. 

“It took off from there,” she said. “I put princesses on her wall, and then the fairies.”

After Hurricane Katrina, the family relocated to Tennessee, where Cooper replicated the Nemo bathroom. She painted pirates in her son David’s room. 

Later, when he wanted a “Jake and the Never Land Pirates”-themed room, she looked at the pattern on his bed sheets for inspiration. Typically, she sketched the design on a piece of paper, but that time, she free-handed her work on to the wall. 

When David was diagnosed with autism, she looked for a school to meet his needs. Being familiar with the area because of Walt Disney World, she eagerly jumped at the opportunity to enroll him at Princeton House Charter School. 

Because her husband works for the state department overseas, she spends her time caring for her kids. But her paintings have provided a way for her to work. 

Friends have encouraged her to get her work out there and have mentioned her work on various Facebook groups. People instantly express interest in her work.

One client showed her a picture of a biplane, which she quickly set to painting. Another wanted a “Nightmare Before Christmas” theme for a child’s nursery.

So Cooper delivered, creating a Baby Jack theme. 

And slowly, a hobby is becoming a career. 


Contact Jennifer Nesslar at [email protected]


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