Seven-year-old Sasha Glenn and her mother, Ida, were in a lock-step stride for the front door of Little Giggles, a children’s resale shop on south Cooper, when Sasha stopped dead in her tracks. Mom nudged her to keep moving. Sasha held firm.
She pointed to the store window, giggled, then broke into a flat-out laugh.
“I think it was the picture of the snowman being smacked in the head with a snowball by another snowman,” mom would say while the two were leaving the store.
“Yeah,” she added, glancing back at the window, “I guess it is kinda funny when you think about it.”
Sheri Johnson-Lopez thinks about it. A lot. She’s the artist who painted the mural covering the entire front window of the store where, yep, a couple of snowmen in wool caps and scarves are duking it out. (Others are happily sledding or frolicking in the snow).
The winter scene is starkly distinctive from the window mural Johnson-Lopez painted for La Bella Nail Salon just south of the resale shop (pumpkins, leaves, a scarecrow) or the interior mural for First Watch Café (a red barn promoting fresh foods) that’s just north of the shop, or the mural she did for Unitea Bubble Tea on west Park Row, a 12 by 5-footer with angel wings and wall quotes like, “Your wings already exist.”
“It’s all about the audience – what do the people who come to that particular store want to see?” Lopez said recently.
Most times Johnson-Lopez, who herself is smiley and bubbly – we’ll explain more of that later – is given expansive directives, like “something wintry or summery” or back-to-schoolish, and she unleashes her ingenuity. Other times clients are more specific: the new R’HANN Thai Cuisine restaurant, for instance, wanted a modernized Buddha taking up 45-feet long, 13 -feet high wall space.
“That one,” said Johnson-Lopez, who incorporated the Thailand culture with a trendy vibe, “definitely brings the ‘wow factor to the restaurant.”
Johnson-Lopez, a single mother, has been crazy busy; just a few years ago she was wondering how she could do something outside of her love and still manage bills.
Hers is a lesson in fortitude and belief.
Johnson-Lopez was born in Minnesota but settled in Azle, where her family still resides. Art was her first love. She was actually a nursing home administrator and remodeled homes before she came to her senses, or better yet, her senses came to her, particularly when her son, now nine, was born.
“I said, you know what, if I am going to make my son proud and be a good role model for him, that I am going for my dreams and will do art full-time.”
One day a friend who saw her mural work on Facebook asked if she could paint windows. Sure, she said, even though she hadn’t done a thing since college.
“I was looking for jobs in between my murals when I first moved back,” Johnson-Lopez said. “I did one of the windows for an insurance agent.”
Bingo. The next season she was fully booked. This year there’s a waiting list.
Misty Powell, who has owned Little Giggles for a dozen years, loves Johnson-Lopez’s work so much she books her, in advance, for every season. Smart woman.
“Most of the people I have had in the past would do a smiley face or something,” Powell said. “She does art. And anything that can make someone smile or make a kid’s day, that’s a good thing.”
That’s Johnson-Lopez, even without the artwork. Her ear-to-ear smile seems perpetual, as if simply plastered to her face. That’s inner joy bubbling over – and it does, in her art, even when the subject is a little heavy, such as an interior wall mural for an Amazon site that honored military heroes.
“The workers there call themselves ants because their work can be so repetitive,” Johnson-Lopez said. “So they are coming around the corner and seeing me paint this. They look at it and stare and just want to thank me for doing this.”
That’s her why.
“I have the opportunity to put something special in their hearts, to make them smile,” she said, smiling, of course.