Rufus Porter Style Mural & My First Paintings

Marian ParsonsArt, my business story, Running a Business40 Comments

A part of organizing this month has been scanning old documents and photos (I’ll share more on that in another post) and uploading old photos that were saved to a disc to an external hard drive.  At first, I didn’t even know if I had a way to scan a disc onto the drive!  I remembered that we had an external disc scanner, so I was able to get everything uploaded.  While photos and videos were uploading, I worked on organizing some of my computer folders.  Oh, man!  I need to do some serious sorting on my computer.  At first glance, it’s pretty organized…everything is in folders, my desktop isn’t cluttered with a bunch of documents, but my photos are all over the place!  It’s from years and years of taking thousands of photos.  So, I’ll slowly chip away at that when I have the time.

Anyway, as I was sorting, I can across the photos of the first large mural job I did when I started my business back in 2008.  I shared about this project years and years ago, but I thought it would be fun to share it from my 2021 perspective.

First of all, the project was a big one and I cannot even believe I agreed to do it!  I had never done anything like it before and the closest thing was a nursery mural I helped on my own house.  I only did the background and my talented friend painting the feature.  I was tenacious, though, and willing to just go for it.  Yes, put paint all over the walls of a home that was used as a hospital during the Civil War.  Don’t mind me, brand new business owner and muralist…

Anyway, I did some sketches for the family and they liked my ideas, so I landed the job.

I used murals by Rufus Poter as my inspiration.  It seemed fitting for the home and I was more comfortable painting in a folk-art style.  Over the mantle, I painted their home as it looked during the Civil War…

rufus porter style mural | civil war hospital | miss mustard seed

(Do you like my plastic cat apron??)

Included the PA countryside, some folk art trees…

rufus porter style mural | civil war hospital | miss mustard seed

…a covered bridge near their property, and two famous barns in Gettysburg – the Codori and McPherson barns.

rufus porter style mural | civil war hospital | miss mustard seed

Here is how the finished mural looked after I applied a wash of the pale yellow wall color to soften the brightness of the paint and make it look a bit faded.

rufus porter style mural | civil war hospital | miss mustard seed

Of course, I want to hop into the photos and fix things!  Let’s add some more leaves, Marian, work on the perspective of those buildings, and fix the shape of those hills!  

rufus porter style mural | civil war hospital | miss mustard seed

But, it is what it is.

Looking at that mural, I can see how 10-years later it led to the mural in my dining room.

dining room room wall mural | miss mustard seed

After the high of that completed mural and my first big paying gig, I decided to try painting on canvas.  I painted two barns and (oh my, I can’t even believe I did this) I submitted them to a local art show for adjudication.  I can feel the embarrassment swelling in me even as I type this!  At the time, though, I viewed it as a way to connect with other creatives and approached it with a why-not attitude.  I didn’t have any hopes of winning and knew my paintings would be painfully amateurish against the other works in the show, but I was willing to give anything a try.

barn painting | gettysurg PA | miss mustard seed

To complete the circle of the story, the paintings didn’t win anything and they didn’t sell.  I took them to sell at the small consignment shop where I sold my hand-painted furniture and accessories and they didn’t sell there, either.  I decided that I was not the kind of artist who painted on a canvas and I should just focus on furniture.  I ended up putting them in an auction and who knows where they ended up.  Maybe the trash, maybe a thrift store, maybe on someone’s wall.  Maybe another artist painted right over them.  Maybe they’ll resurface one day.

barn painting | gettysurg PA | miss mustard seed

I share all of this because it might be entertaining and interesting to those who haven’t followed my blog from the beginning, but also as an encouragement.

I decided I wasn’t going to be a “real artist” after two paintings.  Two.  I decided I was bad and no one would buy anything I painted on a canvas again.  I would always dream about it, imagine myself painting a landscape at an easel, but those two paintings were a deterrent for years.  The next time I tried painting on canvas, I committed to 100 paintings, knowing practice would be the best teacher.

My most recent sale of paintings sold out in minutes.  I just needed a lot more practice, study, and time to develop.

I’m glad I found these photos, documenting the early years of my business and my journey of discovery as an entrepreneur and artist.  And I hope, to whoever needs it, it gives you some motivation to persist…

Rufus Porter Style Mural & My First Paintings

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40 Comments on “Rufus Porter Style Mural & My First Paintings”

  1. You are a very brave woman. Thank you for sharing. I especially liked how you realized that you weren’t a great artist after 2 paintings but now understand how practice and just “doing” can create an artist. Thankfully, you weren’t so discouraged as to throw in the towel and never pick up a brush. We are all the better for your tenacity.

    1. Well, I know exactly where those two paintings were in 2018. I found them in a Gettysburg antique mall and sadly didn’t have the budget for them (or a place to put them) so there they stayed. I hope they are still together somewhere!

  2. Wow! I am very impressed with how far you’ve come with your painting! Your first wall painting was appropriate for the time period of that home, but I confess that it’s not my cup of tea. Fast forward to NOW, where I’d LOVE to own one of your paintings, but you’ve gotten SO good that if you’re charging what they’re worth–I could never afford to buy one! Congratulations on never giving up! I think it’s safe to say that you’ve given us all hope to continue on with our dream endeavors!

  3. This post is so encouraging! I feel the struggle everyday that my painting isn’t where I want it to be and have been paralyzed by fear of failure. You are inspiring me to push through it!
    Also, your post yesterday was so beautiful and one of my favorite ever!

  4. You have been one of my inspirations to learn to draw and paint. I would look at your art work and so wanted to be able to do what you do. A year ago I took my first Drawing for the Petrfied (and I was petrified) at my local art school and have been taking classes and practicing ever since. Art has become another creative outlet for me…..so thank you.

  5. Thank you for sharing. It’s hard to do!
    FYI there is a flash drive that you out in your computer and it pulls all photos in order and by location. I don’t know what it’s called but you might want to look into it. Thank you for your beautiful post and sharing so much of yourself with us.

  6. I love your first mural! And, I have loved your landscape dressers too. Oh, and the large landscape banner you used to have up at Lucketts!

  7. Marian I just love all your ideas but it is very annoying to concentrate on your thoughts when so many ads pop up. They seem to be companies you endorse especially your online class you give on starting your own business ? Please tell me how I can erase these off.my computer ? ? Thank You for your input.

    1. So sorry! There is a pop-up ad that is “going rogue” at the moment. I have notified my ad network about it, because it’s covering up content and won’t go away unless you refresh the page. We are about to launch a new look for my website and I’m hoping that’ll fix some of the ad issues, too.

    2. There is ad blocking software and apps available, some of them free. It has changed my web surfing experience.

  8. Oh my. This is so encouraging and timely.

    My daughter and I took your oil painting class last year. She, an 18 year old with 4 years of high school art under the instrucion of an amazing teacher who believed college level could be learned at any age, followed along beautifully. Myself, on the other hand, basically threw in the towel almost immediately, claiming myself to be ‘not artistic’, and haven’t tried again since. After ONE painting!! I was actually quite embarassed at my behaviour as well… maybe I can blame that on quarantine stress?!

    I just filled out my goals for 2021 and one thing that I have on my heart is to learn how to paint, so I put that down as a goal, even though the pain of that memory is still fresh. Thank you for this timely reminder that EVERY skill takes time and practice to develop. I love all sorts of ‘making’ and know this in my head, but for some reason with painting it has been difficult for me to work through. Here’s trying again!!!

  9. Hi Marian You know decluttering is not just cleaning out and organizing your house it is also cleaning out advertisements on your computer.Please tell me how I can delete these pop ups from your endorsed companies ?

    1. There is one specific rogue ad that is popping up over the content and it’s annoying me, too. I have notified my ad network about it and they are working on fixing it. We are also revamping the website and will be reassessing the placement of the ads. Unfortunately, the more intrusive the ad, the better it pays, but I don’t like ads that pop=up, cover the content, make noise, or can’t be closed. Any ads like that are ones that are slipping through my filters.

      Ads are how I make a portion of my income and allow me to offer the blog content for free. If you want to get rid of all ads on your browser, you can install an ad blocker.

  10. Love this post and seeing your improvement. I believe that fear is the biggest hindrance to creativity. Once the fear of failure is acknowledged and faced, creating is a joy—you might even discover a great hidden talent.
    By the way…AdBlock has a free version that blocks all those pop-up ads. I have used it for years and it works.

  11. Wonderful, and look how good you are now! Teaching and envied by many!
    You truly are a unique and inspiring person Marian. Thank you for sharing.

  12. My husband and I grew up in York county, PA and we just love the old farm houses, especially the stone farm houses! Lovely!

  13. Thank you SO much. What a great journey you have been on, thank you for inspiring others not to give up. And to remind us how important consistent practice is! I remember a quote another artist made that if you put natural talent and determination in the ring, determination will win every time. I have little natural talent but a lot of determination to get better with painting. Your post was a great reminder that we can improve, if we want to badly enough. I started with your two color charts and besides being relaxing, they are soooo helpful and a great learning tool! Thanks again, you are amazing 🙂

  14. IT’S FAB-U-LUS !! My goodness… your talent just shows up all over the place. That mural is just so beautiful!! Thanks so much for sharing it with your readers.

  15. Thank you for sharing the beginnings of your painting journey! It is so kind of you to provide so much encouragement and guidance to your readers.

    I don’t mind ads at all, as I understand that they help to pay the bills that make it possible for us to enjoy your wonderful blog, tutorials, photos and more! (Rogue/noisy/persistently content-covering ones excepted 🙂

  16. I got one of the early barn paintings and love it. I wanted it for you as I had confidence you would get there and wanted that for you to have later. Just like I have #1 of a hundred meadows and # 100 so you would have that to see your growth. So proud of you. Love my snowman you painted for me too. Mom

  17. What a fantastic post! Thank you for sharing your journey – it’s such great encouragement for all of us!

  18. You are so amazingly talented. I love the simplicity of all your work from furniture to coasters to platters and pitchers. You make my mind a happy place.

  19. I have taken the scissors to some paintings I have done, because I didn’t like how they turned out. For some reason, people think that they have to KEEP anything that was painted, but I have cut them up, donated them to thrift shops, sold them at garage sales, whatever, just to have them GONE from my own sight. If someone else likes them, then great! They can have them. But I keep all my favorites for ME. It is good to have a photographic record to see things that you no longer want, or want to have to store, be they paintings or otherwise.

  20. I love that you share your progression as a creative. It’s easy to look at your beautiful work and think everything came out like that the very first try. While my work will never be as beautiful as yours, it’s good to see that practice does play an element in creative efforts. Thank you.

  21. Thank you, Marian. I tell my kids all the time that if you want to be good at anything, you must be humble enough to be a beginner. The art that inspires us is almost always above our skills, but if we will humbly start where we are, learn and practice, we will get better and be free to create that which we are proud of. I have creative urges in me that always exceed my abilities, but I’m a willing beginner. I taught myself to crochet from the Internet. I saw beautiful lace garments that I wanted to make for my daughters, but I had to start with lowly scarves made with acrylic yarn because that was all I could afford. Eventually my skills improved so that I felt I could justify the splurge on high quality yarn for beautiful projects. I am in the same process now, learning watercolor painting. I save all my work so I can look back at my humble beginnings and recognize the progress I have made.

  22. Marian, I do believe you have achieved what you set out to do with this post. You have just made it ok and maybe even a little cool to be a beginner in the passion of our choice, I love that you have given us the “go-ahead” to try something…not be happy with the result…but to keep on trying. I will refer back to this post from time to time for a little reminder and confidence boost.

  23. I look at your pieces sometimes and think “ugh, wish I could do that”, then I remind myself that this is literally your job and not something you have to squeeze in, and that you painted every day for a year, on top of all the painting you do now. That, like this post, encourages me to have a go even if the outcome isn’t like yours. I’m a perfectionist and also have some childhood hang ups about art, so I have to keep reminding myself to just do what feels good.

    So thank you for sharing this, and it’s brave to show the world your early work. Also your mom is so thoughtful! When we moved my mum a few years ago I gave her permission to throw out some of my art that I didn’t like and didn’t fit her aesthetic. But she kept other pieces and everyone loves the cushions I’ve made her.

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