Country girl comes home to painting murals

Her name is Annie Reavey. She was a textile designer in London, England, and now she paints murals.

The Walker resident walked into Wasabi's Asian Bistro on Feb. 21, and opened her portfolio containing pictures of Elton John wearing some of her creations.

"I met Elton John and we just hit it off," said Reavey. "I had purple hair, he had green hair. I had rhinestones, he had diamonds."

"Once I started Elton John's clothes, I did 12 outfits."

These days, Reavey is focusing on designing murals. She recently painted the Japanese carp that are on the overhead lighting fixture at Wasabi's.

"I can tackle any subject," said Reavey, turning the plastic coated pages revealing pictures of living rooms, bedrooms, bathrooms, childrens rooms and front lobbies of hotels, lodges and businesses. She has photos of walls in a rock and blues club, a dental office and a Holiday Inn. She has painted everything from whimsical to boys' construction zones, from desert landscapes to wooded forests. And most of them are personalized with little additions, at the customer's request.

"I can do local landscapes, animals, people dancing, singing, playing and just being. Give me a wall and I'm ready to paint it."

Her photos show rooms that are transformed after murals have been added. Mirrors can double the width of a mural, she said.

"In murals, I take the light from the darkest corner of the room," said Reavey. "I can put windows in places that don't have windows.

"I can do faux wood and backgrounds and even a wooden door. In essence, some people think murals close you in. Murals really open it up and give depth."

She is also looking into painting portable murals on canvas that can be moved.

But, this is a long way from how Reavey first made her living.

"I've been painting and drawing since I was 5 years old," said Reavey. "My grandfather was an artist. I exhibited since I was 9 or 10 in England."

Reavey attended art college, taking her first year of classes at Oxford University and obtaining her bachelor of arts degree at Leicester University. At that time she chose to specialize in textile design.

"It was a toss up between interior design or fashion," said Reavey.

After graduation, she returned to Oxford University to teach, finding that artists often wondered why they had to learn fashion. But Reavey felt it was a good place to start.

"To me, textiles is a surface. The whole world is a surface," said Reavey.

Reavey began doing freelance work in London with the "current designers of the day" through a recommendation by an editor at "Vogue" magazine. She worked in textile design, experimental design, shoes, colorwork and fashion. She also sent "fashion forecast" reports around the world through the American Merchandising Corp.

During this time she met Steve Brown, who put Elton John and Bernie Taupin together. When John, Taupin and several others opened their Rocket Record offices, Brown invited her to paint murals and a piano, and so she met John. At that time "he was still a hippie," said Reavey.

John commissioned Reavey to design and produce 12 stage outfits for his 1972 tour. She became, as quoted in the "Elton John Sothebys Art Auction Catalogue," "the first professional stage costumer" for him.

"Many a zany outfit was produced over the next 2 1/2 years," said Reavey. "We became more and more humorous and outrageous over the years as Elton and I spent many late night sessions laughing and pushing the envelope toward shoes and glasses, as well as clothes.

"His home was one of my most favorite art galleries."

In 1975, Reavey came to Los Angeles from England. She continued to work within the music industry, designing custom clothing for Kiki Dee, Jeff "Skunk" Baxter of the Doobie Brothers and sports clothing. She also did interior design art for industries.

In 1977, due to parental responsibilities, Reavey decided to slow down and move to Palm Springs, Calif., where she designed and produced custom clothing for Barbara Sinatra and Alice Faye, among others. She relocated to Idyllwild, Calif., designing clothing for high-class boutiques and creating a new hand-decorated clothing line "Annie Reavey Originals," which was carried in about a dozen stores. At the same time she taught at Isomata, a high school-summer school for music and the arts.

Eighteen years ago Reavey moved to Mammoth Lakes, and continued to work in theater, designing backdrops for sets in local and high school theater. She also continued her clothing business. After a while, she transferred her attention to painting signs and murals.

"I know from my sign painting experience and set painting experience that things have to look equal from a distance and up close," she said.

She took jobs doing window painting, during which she discovered that the wet weather in Mammoth was not conducive to paint. So she learned to paint backwards on the inside of the windows.

Four years ago, Reavey moved to Walker, Calif., where she continues to pursue a career as a muralist, and has painted murals in Wasabi's and Bella Vita, both in Minden Village.

"I grew up in the country, now I'm in Walker," said Reavey.

So what brought about the change from high fashion designer to small town muralist? Reavey said she was tired of the rock 'n' roll life and needed something simpler.

"I just finally came down to 'I really like doing murals,'" said Reavey, giggling.

-- Jo Rafferty can be reached at or 782-5121, ext. 210.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment