Community members who have visited The Fun Zone, a new party venue located in Cassville, probably noticed the colorful mural in the business's party room. The 280-square-foot painting is being completed by 18-year-old Sara Steward, of Cassville.
"I've always liked art a lot," said Steward. "I enjoy drawing and everything. When I was 10, I published a magazine of cartoons."
Steward focused her artistic talents on anime-style cartoons in her early teens. She also spent time learning to draw Japanese Manga art, which she is currently writing a book about.
"I just started painting four or five years ago," said Steward, who is the daughter of Charlie and Teresa Steward, of Cassville. "I've done a lot of portraits of the horses I used to own. I've also done landscapes and portraits of people."
Other than spending a short time studying oil painting under a private teacher in Shell Knob, Steward is entirely self taught.
"I've always been creative, and I'm always looking for something to do," said Steward. "I like to make things and see things happen."
Last year, Tonya Sanders, who owns The Fun Zone with her husband, Shane, asked Steward to complete a painting to honor her family and memorialize her sister, Tricia Vaught, who passed away in April of 2008.
"Tonya wanted this mural to show her family as children," said Steward. "She told me stories and suggested the types of images and colors she would like in the mural."
After completing several sketches to map out the scenes that would appear in the mural, Steward visited the business to begin drawing the images on the blank wall.
"I felt a little overwhelmed at first," said Steward. "I picked up my pencil and had no idea where to start. I just stood and looked at the wall for a few minutes. Once I got started, it moved pretty quickly though."
The mural captures the child-like images of Sanders' mother and father, Max and Yvonne Stumpff, her daughter, Remington, her nephews, Brant, Braiden and Brody Vaught, her brother-in-law, David, and her husband.
"There's me and my sister having a tea party," said Sanders. "Sara put a tree stump by my parents, and my husband is in an ice cream stand because an ice cream parlor was our first business.
"Everything represents a part of my family," said Sanders. "I wanted everyone to be young. It's our story book."
Steward painted the scenes in a whimsical style that matches the Mary Engelbreit artwork that Sanders collects.
"When I sat down and started drawing the scenes, it all just fit together," said Steward. "I added some things and erased some things as I went."
Ballet shoes were added in honor of Sanders' daughter and images of sports equipment were placed in the mural in honor of Sanders' nephews. The brand "TV" was added to a scene with horses in honor of Tricia.
"I love the tea party scene and the sun coming up over the fantasy valley," said Steward.
"The sun is another part of our family," said Sanders. "I didn't think about it before, but when she put that sun up and I looked at it, I thought that's Sunny (Stumpff)."
Steward has suggested Sanders add a scavenger hunt-style game at The Fun Zone that will ask youngsters to find different images in the mural.
"I hope that people like this mural, and I hope that it adds something to the room," said Steward. "I hope it makes people feel cheerful."
Although the whimsical images in the mural are not Steward's usual style, she hopes community members enjoy the painting. She said she would feel flattered if someone saw the mural and asked her to complete a work of art for them.
"I had a lot of fun doing this, but I would like to do all different styles of art," said Steward. "I would like to do some historical paintings. Anything new is interesting to me."
Steward, who will graduate from her home school program this year, plans to pursue a career as a piano teacher. She will also continue to draw and paint, and she would like to have the opportunity to complete a portrait using a live model.