Room Raiders Leaving No Wall Unpainted, No Imagination Unspurred
You’ll often hear about someone who’s decided to move from the States to Europe to become an artist, but it’s not often that someone moves from London to a farm in rural Stokesdale, NC to become an artist. But that’s just what Tracey Marshall did. OK, maybe she didn’t have much choice. She moved there with her parents at a young age; her father was originally from Stokesdale. She grew up taking art classes at Northwest Guilford High School and later went on to study art at Savannah College of Art and Design, UNCG and Greensboro College.
Now the 31-year-old self-starter and entrepreneur is the founder and co-owner of The Marshall Gallery on Eugene Street downtown, a venture she started five years ago to give herself a place to do her artwork and to help other artists show their work.
She now has over 300 artists whose work appears at the gallery throughout the year and holds regular rotating themed showings open to local artists.
Soon after opening the gallery artist Mary Lester joined her, regularly showing and selling her work through the establishment. Lester, a former schoolteacher, has painted portraits professionally, done illustrations for children’s magazines and owned a ceramics business. Though she still illustrates for several magazines her claim to fame is her creation of the character ‘Meeva,’ a saucy red-head whose features are sagging a little due to her age but remains a ‘woman of power.’ Lester created Meeva as someone she could identify with; and apparently so can a lot of other women as Meeva is now a nationally known celebrity whose image is on cards, mugs, ornaments and handbags at countless card and gift shops.
Over the years Marshall and Lester have grown close to one another, sharing the same interests and work ethic. And each has been asked to custom paint rooms for friends and clients over the years, either in a themed style or faux finish. When one needed assistance she would call on the other, whether it be in design, painting or gathering resources for the job. Finally, they decided why not work together? So they formed Room Raiders, a specialized service that will come to your office or home, listen to your idea, and help design something unique just for your walls.
‘“[It’s] faux and mural outside the box.’” Marshall says, describing the style of the duo’s work. Downstairs at the Law Center on Elm a large, paneled painting of a group of hip-looking, faceless party girls with dainty wine glasses, designed by Marshall, brings a contemporary look to an otherwise drab space. ‘“It’s not your common art,’” she continues.
Marshall says she likes to do ‘“funky, creative’” type work while Lester takes on a more realistic approach, called ‘trompe l’oeil,’ that can fool you into thinking a painted hall or set of stairs on a wall is really there. Lester once painted a scene of two dogs looking out a window that she entitled ‘“Waiting for Dad.’” The painting is framed with an old, white window pane and shutters and is so realistic that, in a snapshot she shows me, a real dog looks into the painting as if hoping the other two will jump out the window to play.
Between the two of them, Marshall and Lester have the resources and contacts to create anything that one might imagine. They can use headboards, fences, old windowpanes, or other objects to create three-dimensional elements in their work and their connection to other community artists give clients an unlimited amount of imaginative freedom. If they can’t create it then they certainly know who can.
There’s no way to put an exact price on what they do. Each job is different, but the team will come to your location for free the first time to hear your ideas and help design something right for you. After that, they try to base the price as accurately as possible based on time it will take and materials used so there is no surprise fee at the end of the job.
In the end it’s just a couple of girls doing what they love to do: painting, creating, and leaving a lasting impression that’ll leave you smiling every time you see it.
To comment on this story, e-mail Lee Adams at firstname.lastname@example.org.