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wall artist

October 6, 2015

Bethany photo

Bethany Travis never took an art class, but the Atlanta artist and owner of Penshaw Hill is well-known among designers for her hand-painted wallpaper, murals and popular wall panels.

Background: I grew up in northern rural Wisconsin, surrounded by nature. As a child, I drew a lot with my family and developed my own methods. I was told by others that despite any talent, you couldn’t really make a living as an artist. Because of that, I took various jobs, from ball room dance instructor to working at a rodeo in Colorado, before landing my first painting job in 1996. I moved to Atlanta in 2000.

First design job: My dad, who owned a painting company, referred me to a client with a lovely home on Lake Winnebago in Wisconsin. She wanted custom decorative painting on her son’s bed. She kept me painting for two years.

My company: My business was originally called Aqua Blue Studio until I found out there was a graphic design house called that. So I came up with Penshaw Hill in 2007. The story behind that name is Pen (which is obvious) and Shaw, an Old English term for a wooded area, where I would work outside as much as possible. I also used to live on a hill.

Where you have seen my work: Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles magazine; in many private residences in Atlanta; the Inspiration House for the Cathedral Antiques show; the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Associate’s Show House on four different occasions; the Capital City Club (where some painted panels hang); and Holland & Co., a showroom at the Atlanta Decorative Arts Center.

Big break: In 2013, I worked on two different projects, one with Barbara Heath, and another with Bryan Kirkland, for that year’s ASO’s decorators’ show house.

Inspiration: The colors and cultures of different places. I’ve visited England, France, Italy and Japan, and I’ve been to 45 of the 50 states.

Materials: Acrylics mostly, and gouache (an opaque water color paint).

Wallpaper is hot again. Why: I think it is due largely to technological advances combined with the ever-changing world of design. Photoshop, Illustrator and the printing capabilities now have taken paper to a new level.
Wallpaper vs. paint: Both have pros and cons. I like paper because I can create it off-site for anybody anywhere. Also, if you want to change the room, wallpaper can be removed and repurposed in other ways.

Best spaces for wallpaper: Anywhere! I think the old days of thinking of it in terms of only living rooms or dining rooms are past. Any space that needs some drama or interest is a great place for paper. I am waiting for someone who wants a big ceiling done. I think ceilings are underused from a decorative stand point.

Why wall panels: You can take panels with you, or use them elsewhere. You don’t need a continuous wall to use them, either.

Hard part of my job: I can’t delegate much of what I do, so the hours can get long.

Best part of my job: Seeing some of the most beautiful houses you can imagine, working with brilliantly creative minds, and the freedom of it.

Most challenging job: I was on a ladder spanning a stairwell, which put me out into space about 30 feet above a marble floor. It was terrifying.

Design pet peeve: The idea that murals must be “whimsical.” It is my mission to promote murals for the elegant and sophisticated element they can be.

New (or re-emerging) looks I like: Images, lines and patterns of Art Nouveau.

Looks (colors, patterns) I am glad to see go: The chevron pattern. Also, the mud brown color scheme.

Most unusual request: To paint three separate bedroom murals for triplets. They were four years old at the time, and the client said: “Can you paint what they’ll look like as adults?” I dubbed it, “The Forensic Sketch mural.” I would love to know how close I got.

Priceless possession: An oil painting by my mother. She passed away in 1998.

People might be surprised to know: I have no art on the walls, and for now, no wallpaper.

Latest project: A hand-painted mural on an antiqued silver background, inspired by Gracie wallpaper.

What’s new: A hand-painted scenic mural on paper for Melanie Turner Interiors’ office space in Peachtree Hills. Also a wallpaper job for Toronto-based Meredith Heron Design, to be installed in Rye, NY.

Find Bethany Travis and Penshaw Hill:
– Website:
– Facebook: Penshaw Hill Papers
– Pinterest: Penshaw Hill
– Instagram: Penshaw Hill

Heiser Residence

The hand-painted wallpaper by Penshaw Hill was commissioned by Atlanta-based Courtney Giles Interiors for a private home in Atlanta.



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