With Mike & Mickie Cooper


Editor's Note: Mike & Mickie Cooper own Murals & More LLC in Franklin, Tenn., 20 minutes south of Nashville. Mike has been painting murals professionally for more than 25 years, with hundreds of exterior and interior murals under his belt. Both Mike and his wife, Mickie, have been teaching mural classes all over the country as well as in their studio in Franklin. They make a unique team in that they are right- and left-brained. (We will let you figure out which one is which.) In this column for Focus on Faux, they are providing lively commentary and also hope to dispel any myths about the illustrious world of mural painting. Mike and Mickie invite you to send questions about the industry and try your best to stump them! Send your questions to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and put "Fresh Perspective" in the subject line.




So, Do You Find Pricing a Project Perplexing?

How do you price your projects? I feel it’s only fair to ask this question to you, dear reader, since I get it asked of me all of the time! So, how does it make you feel? A little perplexed? At a loss for words? See, we do so many things as decorative artists that it’s incredibly difficult to give a straight answer to what should be a relatively simple question.

How hard could it be? Are we pricing painted floorcloths? Hand-painted furniture? A glazed wall? Faux marble? Venetian plaster? Custom-matched wood grain? Or maybe a mural? Real simple, right? Wait a minute: Air-brushed mural? Cartoon? Caricature? Trompe l’oeil architecture? Portraits or landscape? Canvas or on-site? In-town? Out-of-town? Interior or exterior? How many stories high? Photo-realistic or a ghost wall? On drywall, concrete block, brick or corrugated aluminum?

Wow. Now my OWN head is swimming!

It has always fascinated me when artists give a square-footage price for their work. How is that even possible?

I had a fabulous meeting with a potential client just the other day, and they wanted me to look at three interior walls on which they were thinking of having some custom murals painted. Good-sized walls, each about 50 feet across. We talked briefly about subject matter, but relatively quickly they asked the inevitable: How much would it cost to paint these walls?

Now, keep in mind, we had not discussed style, amount of detail required, time frame, etc. How is it even remotely possible to give an estimate? Well, sometimes you just have to come up with a number that would allow you to paint something nicely detailed, but not ridiculous. Which is what I did. But I always qualify my estimate, saying that it could be more, or it could be less, depending upon the final design. Or, better yet, they could simply give me a not-to-exceed budget, and I could develop a design based on that parameter. That’s usually the best way. There are no surprises and no sticker shock, since they know the cost going in. If they give me a budget that’s not realistic, I’ll tell them immediately, saving us all a lot of time and heartache.

Decorative finishes are easier to price—you can actually do a square-footage estimate, excluding any extraordinary needs, such as ceiling work, lifts, etc.

So, what’s the take-away? Don’t be in too much of a hurry to give the client a budget price, because you might both end up feeling animosity towards the other but for different reasons. Take your time, talk, and most importantly, listen! By asking the right questions, you can easily narrow down the parameters so they you can, in the end, present a preliminary budget that should please everyone...

...Including whoever it is that handles your accounts receivable. Like Mickie. (And I so like to keep Mickie pleased.)