Racheal Jackson’s house in Vancouver, Washington, looks like a modern art installation.
There’s a painted yellow arch in her entryway, a pink loop in her living room, and stripes running through her basement and down the side of her house. Bright and happy colors that shout, “Look at me!”
Jackson is a self-taught muralist with more than 73,000 followers on Instagram (instagram.com/banyanbridges). Under her business name, Banyan Bridges, she paints custom murals that epitomize her slogan: “Be bold, make magic.”
It’s hard to imagine that Jackson’s house was once made up of gray walls, white tile and a completely white kitchen. She tried doing the “grown-up” thing, she says, until one day, she realized that Revere Pewter wasn’t her style at all.
“I decided then and there I would make our walls reflect us,” Jackson says.
Funky. Bold. Too much (in a good way).
Wallpaper was too expensive, so Jackson turned to paint as a budget-friendly way to personalize her space. She took some leftover black paint and painted a mural, transferring one of her husband’s drawings onto the wall. That first mural, painted three years ago, is still in her kitchen.
“I just continued painting and redesigned our home. It felt so fun,” Jackson says. “We’ve just been letting the weird out. There’s just something very liberating, very affirming about decorating my home in my style. It makes me happy every day.”
An injection of color
Even choosing white paint can be an ordeal, with about a million hues to pick from (and a million ways you can feel like you could go wrong). Swiss coffee? Oyster white? Powdered snow? Self-doubt can loom with every paint chip. A lot of people suffer from paralysis when it comes to picking paint color.
“I do feel like that is my superpower, picking colors,” she said. “I think it definitely is an intuitive thing to me. It feels really natural.”
She starts by standing in the paint store and scanning the wall of color swatches for one intense color that seems really interesting. When a color hits her, she takes it out, and pulls more color swatches, adding and subtracting until she’s built out a palette of six to eight colors that look good together.
“I want the colors to challenge me a little bit, so I’ll mess with them until they flow and there’s a color in there that feels a little bit wrong,” Jackson said. “I make the colors dance for me.”
There might be orange and blue, and then she’ll throw in a pink.
Her favorite color?
“It really does change all the time,” Jackson said. “Different tones of orange are my go-to. Tomato orange, a deeper orange, the mood of the orange will shift. But it is usually orange.”
Using DIY projects to feel empowered
Jackson never set out to be an artist — her degree is in biology and chemistry, and she’d planned to go to medical school. Instead, she became a stay-at-home mom to her three kids, now 9, 8 and 4.
Her oldest was just 16 months old when her second baby was born with Down syndrome. She was a medically complex baby, and had to stay in a neonatal intensive care unit an hour away for two months.
“I was a stay-at-home parent with the two babies, and I had a really hard time,” Jackson said. “I had postpartum depression and I was sad and I didn’t get the mental help I needed. I didn’t go to therapy. I didn’t talk to a doctor about it.”
She started tackling DIY projects around the house whenever her husband was out of town. She tiled a fireplace she hated, even though she’d never tiled before. She removed a builder-grade mirror. She started painting.
“I realized I needed something else to fuel me creatively,” Jackson said. “Being a stay-at-home mom was not as fulfilling as it was made out to be. So I started expressing myself around the house. Now I’m a much happier mom and a much happier person.”
Painting was a fun hobby that snowballed into a full-time job with sponsorships on Instagram, an online shop and a custom mural business. The couple both work from home, and Jackson hired her sister to tutor the kids through virtual school.
“We just have a good little community we made ourselves,” Jackson said. “I feel like I’ve made myself a priority. Working and expressing myself creatively has helped my mental health flourish.”
A growing fan base
A year after Jackson started sharing her work on Instagram, she flew to the Chicago area for her first commissioned work. Natalie Papier, an interior designer and owner of Home Ec., was living in Oak Park, Illinois, and wanted a mural for her daughter’s room.
“I was ridiculously flattered,” Jackson said. “I was never actually nervous about the work I was doing. I was nervous I was going to have to make small talk and appear cool.”
Jackson and Papier went to Sherwin Williams together, and Jackson mocked up a few designs to choose from. Through the creative process, they went from mutual Instagram fans to real-life friends.
“I just let her do her thing while providing her with an array of snacks. She ate a lot of Rolos,” Papier said. “She was really fun. She’s one of the most amazing and talented individuals.”
Papier and her family moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, in January, and she’s already picked out a wall in her new house for a mural.
Jackson’s custom work has spread by word-of-mouth. In the past two years she’s completed about 30 projects for client homes and businesses. One thing she’s looking forward to this year is getting vaccinated, so she can travel to projects again.
Philosophy on self-expression
Jacksons’ parents instilled in her a can-do attitude. Her mom is a self-taught general contractor, while her dad picked up DIY skills on his own. “I feel like if you have the attitude that you can fix anything, it gives you the courage to tackle anything,” Jackson said.
Like painting the entire exterior of her house. Jackson bought a $400 sprayer from Home Depot and taught herself how to use it. In two days, she painted the house white, then added stripes. The hardest part was the prep work: pressure washing the whole house and taping off all the windows.
“I feel like paint is so easy,” she said. “It’s just paint. If you mess up, you just paint over it.”
When being interviewed, Jackson was wearing a shirt printed with her design, “The Best Kind of Weird.” That pretty much sums up her philosophy about paint and colors and life. You’re much more interesting than greige — validate the weird part of yourself.
“You’re just saying to yourself, ‘It’s OK to be me exactly as I am,’ ” Jackson said. “If you embrace bold design and bold choices in your life, magic just can’t help but hang out with you.”
Jackson’s mural tips
• Use paint appropriate for the surface you’re painting. If the mural is on an exterior wall, be sure to use exterior paint.
• Choose a matte or flat finish. Anything with a sheen will create a reflection and distract from your image.
• Spring for higher-quality paint. The paint goes on better, and you’ll save time because you won’t need as many coats.
• Most murals can be done with sample pots of paint. You will only need quarts or gallons of paint for large, full-wall installations. Save any extra paint for future touch-ups.
• A 10-pack of small, flat brushes is a great starter kit for a small mural. Having multiple brushes is helpful so you don’t have to wash and reuse the same brush for each color. For detail work, pick up a 20-pack of small brushes in a variety of sizes and shapes.
• Painter’s tape is the secret to clean lines on smooth surfaces. 3M ScotchBlue and FrogTape both stick well to walls. Use the delicate-surface version of these brands if the paint hasn’t had 24 hours to dry.
• Visit banyanbridges.com for design and color ideas and more tips.