Creative Family Put Mathis On Artistic Road



Janet Mathis grew up in a family where creativity flourished. Her mother is an oil painter, her father makes furniture as a hobby, and she has two sisters who are also artists.

In addition to creating an artistic environment, well-honed talents were a big part of her upbringing. The family motto was practically, "If you can't buy it, make it," she said.


Janet Mathis

It is no wonder Mathis has been an artist herself for more than 25 years. With paints, she can create the look of any wood, all kinds of marble, stonework, murals and more on walls, cabinet doors, and even the PVC pipes used for sewer lines.

Mathis is the owner and operator of Truly Magical, a decorating business in which she does faux finishes, painting and wallpapering.

"My customers kind of pushed me into the faux finishes," Mathis said. She has been doing that aspect of the work for about 10 years. It is becoming a popular wall decorating technique as more and more home improvement magazines do stories on "trompe l'oeil" -- a style of painting that creates the illusion of photographic reality.

Originally from Washington state, Mathis initially went into the paint and wallpapering business at the request of the contractor she and her husband, Gene, had doing the remodeling work on their second home. Mathis did her own painting wallpapering and the contractor was so impressed by her work, he asked her to start doing it for him on other jobs.

"I wanted to learn to do faux finishes and couldn't find anyone to teach me. Finally, my tole painting teacher put me in touch with a lady in Vancouver, British Columbia," Mathis said.

She studied with this woman and learned the skill, plus found out about the special products and tools needed. Mathis' mentor even organized a trip to a Italy for a two-week workshop on faux finishes. Mathis continues to study with the woman and will be returning for more classes later this year.

Another reason Mathis expanded her painting repertoire to included faux finishes was to support her horse. For a number of years, Mathis and her children showed quarter horses. In fact, they became so involved in the activity, Mathis won a national award for amateur all-around work with her horse.

She also does color consulting. "The hardest job to do is when people don't tell you what colors they want," she said. "They say just go in and paint. That doesn't happen very often. Most people will tell you what colors they don't like. People are easy to work with when they do that."

She said almost every job has its own sense of satisfaction. None are the same, so to see a project come together and walk away knowing she and her husband did the job is special.

However, some jobs are more challenging than others. Mathis said her most challenging project was for Elmer Bernstein, brother of the late Leonard Bernstein, and a well-known composer in his own right, mostly for his work in movies.

Mathis explained Bernstein has a boat and it has a lot of teak wood in it, but the doors were metal. He wanted the metal to look like teak, and not just any teak. They had to look like the rest of the teak on the boat.

So, Mathis was given a sample of the boat teak and then had to teach herself how to mimic it with paint on metal.

"There is nothing published on teak (using paint to make something look like teak)," she said. It took her about two weeks to create and master the appropriate technique.

But Mathis enjoys a challenge. "I'll never say no," she said.

And she had a tremendous amount of support from her husband, who is there with her on every project. Since his retirement, Gene Mathis has been Mathis' top assistant.

"Gene has watched me over the years and is the best helper I've ever had," Mathis said.

The couple is currently dividing time between Payson, working on a major job here, and Casa Grande. Their goal is to do their special work in a place where it will be showcased, such as a restaurant, someplace where the public will have a chance to see it.

Oh ... about that PVC pipe ... Mathis had a client who wanted marble columns in her home. That much marble was hard to come by and prohibitively expensive. So, using PVC pipe, paints and other supplies, plus some of those "Truly Magical" techniques, Mathis turned PVC pipes into what appear to be massive, black marble columns.

She said people should not be put off by the unique quality of her work. "There are finishes we can do for the price of wallpaper," Mathis said.

To reach Mathis, who is licensed and bonded, call (928) 970-1218 or e-mail her at She can also be contacted by telefax at (520) 876-6211.


Name: Janet Mathis

Occupation: Faux painting and custom, hand-painted walls.

Employer: Self, Truly Magical.

Age: 53

Birthplace: Sedro Woolley, Wash.

Family: husband, Gene; two daughters, Jodie and Jolene; and two grandsons, Dalton and Dillion.

Personal motto: If you can't do the job right, don't do it.

Inspiration: My mother, Lucille, an oil painter.

My favorite hobby or leisure activity is ... Riding my Harley.

The three words that describe me best are ... honest, talented, determined

I don't want to brag, but ... I worked for Elmer Bernstein.

The person in history I'd most like to meet is ... Billy Graham.

Luxury defined: Traveling in our RV.

Dream vacation spot: Alaska

Why Payson? Weather, small town, trees and opportunity for our business.

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