In between bites of saganaki and spanokotiropita, diners at Franklin’s Athens Restaurant can feast their eyes on the ruins of ancient Greece.
The Parthenon, with its Doric columns and crumbling marble facade, captures the attention. Small figures climb stairs and walk around the debris, accentuating the size of the structures.
All around it, the city spreads off into the horizon.
“This is the rock where everything started. They built the first fortress and shrine to worship gods. This is the most important point,” said artist Miso Zlovic, who painted the mural. “It’s history.”
Zlovic specializes in trompe l’oeil murals — artwork that creates an illusion of depth and essentially tricks the eye. His landscapes stretch out toward fading horizons, while mountains, trees, buildings and other features seem to jut out of the wall.
The southside artist has established himself as a master of large windows into another world.
“It allows me to show joy. I enjoy putting something on architectural elements. I like to work with columns, arches, stone, walls,” he said.
Zlovic’s paintings are in businesses and private homes all throughout central Indiana.
One mural turns the brick exterior of an Indianapolis building into a view through an arched passageway, showing a peaceful European countryside. Another mural gives the sense of staring out an open window at the French seashore below. A third takes people into a carefully manicured Italian garden.
“There’s the illusion that it’s 100 miles off in the distance. So this is the most important task, to create that illusion that you’re in space,” he said.
Zlovic was born in Yugoslavia and spent the start of his adult life in Germany. He came to the U.S. 15 years ago with family to work and achieve his goals as an artist.
In 2004, Zlovic started his own business, MZ Design, a company that specialized in murals, oil paintings and faux finishes for businesses and private homes.
His most recent work is the Greek scene done at Athens Restaurant and Steakhouse. Owner Tom Filis said he wanted to add something visually stunning to his longtime Franklin eatery.
Doing some research, Filis found Zlovic, whose résumé of work proved to be exactly what he was looking for.
Zlovic worked for three weeks on the mural. He started by cleaning and preparing the wall to ensure it was a suitable painting surface without any imperfections.
With such a large project, Zlovic has to be careful not to get overwhelmed by the amount of work to do. He starts with a sketch, mapping out where individual buildings, landscape features such as mountains and individual people would go.
“All of the time, I start from the farthest point, in the background. Then I move to the closest part,” he said.
Moving to acrylic paint, he begins to paint the details. Zlovic adds touches to the painting that make it seem more lifelike. A treetop poking out between homes, a tourist’s head tilted a certain way or a wispy cloud help add aspects to the mural that people might not notice at first but will eventually.
Shadows provide perspective to individual structures and the mountains around them.
“I wanted to have this one in late afternoon, before the sunset, so it gives me the right light, to it give drama,” Zlovic said.
He finished by touching up particular aspects of the painting. Once the painting was perfect, he sealed it to ensure the mural wouldn’t be damaged in the day-to-day business of the restaurant.
With all of his paintings, Zlovic said, he is satisfied with the finished work. He loves to come back to his murals months afterward, seeing how people react to them.
And knowing that his artwork will be in the public view for years to come is incredibly rewarding, he said.
“To know that you’ll leave something behind you, it’s almost the best reward for what you do,” Zlovic said. “Money comes and goes, but to know that someone would see my work 10 years from now, that’s touching.”