By Midge Pierce

Self-taught Eastside artist Laurel McSpadden takes no short-cuts crafting a personal approach to her customized paintings. “I want my painting to feel like receiving a handwritten letter through the mail.”

Her small-form woodblock carvings and traditional watercolors have expanded to wall murals for grown-ups and kids alike. In her artistic imagery that comes from a “rich utopia where sadness and joy co-mingle,” personalization is paramount.

Before starting a project, she sits down with each client, grown-up, child or merely childlike to meticulously review colors, shapes, concepts. The result transfuses magic, fantasy and allegory into something that might be described as transmagorical or, as McSpadden says, a “marriage of feminine dreamscapes, folk, abstract and psychedelic illustration.”

McSpadden, who is just as likely to be found in the stacks of Powell’s Books as an art museum, draws inspiration from street art, light that filters through windows or the curtains of favorite cafés like the Screen Door.

She is especially drawn to children’s illustrations from the likes of Dr. Seuss, Richard Scarry or Maurice Sendak, although her distinctive mix of colors, especially gold that transforms into feathery plumage or fairy wings, is anything but derivative.

McSpadden’s proudest accomplishment was taking the leap to cover the walls of a baby’s room in a Kerns condo with fanciful forest-like shapes.

“I wasn’t sure I could translate small paintings into mural form. The challenge opened up a whole new perspective for me. Working on a large scale was absolute joy!”

Since then, she has done more children’s rooms, murals for clients such as the Palace store on Burnside St.

She is currently working on the backdrop for October’s   three-day Superwoman Summit downtown. This is the second year McSpadden has used her trademark bright, bold colors to provide visual support for the forum that empowers strong women leaders.

The sparkle in her eye is an indication that wall art is something she loves. On her website she writes, “I have spent years experimenting blindly, transforming mistakes into methods and new perspectives; learning slowly but inexorably how to better express my ever-present longing for love and connection.” Her website is laurelmcspadden.com.