On a cold, snowy day before Thanksgiving, Gina Trujillo showed up to a house in Harvey Park with a hoodie, jeans, a pair of tights under her jeans and a game plan.
She grabs a ladder out the back seat and heads to the trunk that’s filled with a subwoofer and every paint color imaginable.
Bougie snowwoman, Jessica Rabbit in a Scream mask, Chucky and Tiffany locked hand in hand, and a Cheech & Chong Christmas.
Those are just some of the few images Trujillo has painted on house windows, doors and business storefronts throughout the Denver metro area for the past three years.
Trujillo is a local artist sharing her gift one window, face or canvas at a time, and the holiday season is really her time to shine.
“I’ve always done creative things and I’ve always had little side hustles around art,” Trujillo said. “I’ll try it if it’s in my interest but now I have a good niche of about five things I love doing artistically. One thing I’ve always heard is that your gift is the one thing you can do effortlessly and I do this effortlessly…It’s love, dedication and discipline.”
One of those side hustles began about 10 years ago when Trujillo was a preschool teacher. She let her creative side run loose decorating the classroom for each season but at the end of most weeks, things got really fun.
As a treat, Trujillo would paint the kids’ faces and parents started to notice.
“I used to do it with the kids as a prize and then parents started asking to hire me for parties,” Trujillo said. “It became a little side gig that’s been going really steady and helping me be part of people’s family events for the past 10 years.”
Trujillo said folks would initially ask her for a portfolio of what she could do, but that’s not how Trujillo works. She said, whatever the kids want is whatever the kids get.
“There’s always a challenge,” Trujillo laughed. “They’ll say, ‘I want a caticorn’ and it’s like what’s a caticorn? Oh, a cat and a unicorn? You got it, kid. Throwing ideas at me is the fun part.”
The window painting spawned from the pandemic. A friend reached out to Trujillo and asked if she could paint their window for Halloween.
Trujillo agreed and later posted the photo on Facebook. Similar to her face painting debut, the post blew up and people started reaching out, wanting their own designs.
Trujillo paints the outside of the window so her interactions with clients can be very limited and she uses acrylic paint, which can be easily washed or scrapped off without leaving any damage.
It became the perfect side hustle during a time when people were looking for anything to break up the sadness and monotony during the pandemic.
“The good thing about window painting at the time was I’d be outside and not indoors so people could feel safe, but what I got out of it was people telling me how much I brought out the Christmas spirit,” Trujillo said “A lot of people were depressed and they couldn’t go places. So, to come home or look outside and see the art on their windows, would bring joy to their families and other neighbors.”
Three years later and the window painting is still going strong. Trujillo said folks reach out throughout the year, especially small businesses looking to spruce up their storefronts and entertain their customers for the seasons. Her busiest times are Halloween and the December holidays, mainly Christmas-themed or winteresque landscapes.
Don’t ask her what her favorite holiday is though.
“That’s an unfair question,” Trujillo laughed.
Trujillo said her window murals cost between $100 t0 $200 depending on the size. It averages about $50 an hour and most murals take about two hours.
“I get told all the time that I need to charge more but I accept tips,” Trujillo said. “One of the motivating parts for me is knowing how much I make on a weekend, just doing what I love, is more than my last job where I was busting my butt for 40 hours. Everyone has a budget. I’m content with the prices and they help me stay consistent. I do what I do because I enjoy it and I’m glad people enjoy it with me.”
Besides the face painting and window murals, Trujillo also customizes sneakers and clothing. Her other lucrative side hustle is hosting paint and sips at clients’ homes.
One of her goals is to open a shop and studio, a place where she can sell some paintings and host those paint and sip classes. But for now, the window murals are satisfying her creative needs.
On this day, she trudges through the snow toward her canvas, and is greeted by barking dogs at the window.
Trujillo googles her reference image, grabs white paint and gets to work. No grid, no real outline, just quick glances at the image on her phone.
As she glides the globs of paint across the window, with the dogs following her every move, shapes start to form. A head, ears, hat, a fluffy tree.
“Should I add Frosty to this window? Yeah, I think I’m going to add it,” Trujillo says to herself.
In about 20 minutes, you know what she’s painting even though they’re just shapes in white paint. Soon, she’ll add her black lines, more details and in about two hours the mural will be complete.
On the once clear window lies swirls of snow, classic Rudolph, Hermey, Frosty and a snow-covered tree. On the other side of the glass is a happy customer.
“I just enjoy sharing my gift,” Trujillo said. “I was blessed with this, so I’m just thankful I get to share it with other people and they continue to keep me a part of their families.”