Made in Sarasota

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Gayl Ludvicek has been a muralist ever since her indulgent parents let the little girl paint on her bedroom walls. She earned her first paycheck at age 11 for painting a Mickey and Minnie Mouse mural in a family friend’s beach house.

"I remember thinking, ‘I’m on my way; I’m an artist now,’" Ludvicek says, laughing. Now, she easily commands $100 an hour, and clients fly her as far away as New York to paint murals in their homes. Locally, she’s particularly well known for the riotous group of monkeys she painted in the Monkey Bar mural at The Colony.

But despite her success, Ludvicek says, "I work seriously, but I don’t take myself seriously. It’s not rocket science."

Maybe that’s what makes her art so immensely likeable; viewers tend to smile in delight at the cheeky details she brings to startling life, like a monkey’s paw slipping through a cracked-open window to reach for a pear. Ludvicek’s art is richly detailed; in an African safari-themed L’Ambiance elevator, the cracked, leathery trunk of one elephant is so lovingly and thoroughly painted, it would hardly be surprising to see it turn its head and trumpet.

Ludvicek often starts with nothing more than a sketch on a Post-It note and improvises details as she goes along-that’s how she turned spilled drops of black paint at a Boca Grande house into a row of ants, realistic enough to horrify the maid. When an outdoor, underwater mural in a Siesta Key garden became streaked, Ludvicek adapted the streaks to infuse the undulating sunbeam-filtered water with motion.

Ludvicek particularly enjoys painting children’s bedrooms, imagining stories behind every character she paints. A cow jumps over a delighted moon in one child’s pastel-hued bedroom, in which Ludvicek illustrated the entire nursery rhyme, while in another nursery, ostriches and zebras march in pairs for a little boy named Noah.

"I just have a lot of fun," says the artist, who admits she’s a "bit of a workaholic. It’s hard for me to stop ’til I’m exhausted."

You can contact Ludvicek at 383-0199 or at Zebo Studios, 544- 0800.