Malinda Jo Lytle might not be famous around Washington, but her paintings probably have been seen by more people than all of the artworks in Dupont Circle's tony galleries combined. That huge cow on the wall in Adams-Morgan above the Ben & Jerry's ice cream store? That's Lytle's. Those giant painted pizza boxes and Noid characters on the walls of 50 area Domino's Pizza franchises? Again, Lytle's. And about those multicolored parrots and murals at your local Chi-Chi's Mexican restaurant ...

Yes, all those and much more came from the brush strokes of Lytle and her partner, Regui Florr, restaurant logo painters on the East Coast. Lytle, 33, estimates that her Frederick-based company, Florr-Lytle Studios, has painted commercially designed logos, pizza boxes and Noids for more than 2,000 Domino's shops, including locations in Amsterdam and Paris. Her work for Chi-Chi's, which besides the aforementioned parrots includes decorative graphics, will soon be seen in two overseas franchises in West Germany.

Lytle, a native of Orlando, Fla., was already thinking of big canvases when she finished art school at the University of Oregon several years ago. "Actually I thought it would be neat to change the billboard system in the world," she said Saturday from a Ben & Jerry's in Alexandria where she was finishing up an interior mural. "I thought I could do a good job cleaning them up, making them more aesthetic."

Now she, Florr and her nine-person crew of artists and apprentices travel approximately 36 weeks a year to paint murals, slogans and graphics, and solicit business. "We know exactly what we want," she said. "We split the United States into three sections: the South, New England and the Midwest. We just call them and let them know we're coming."

Her nightmare job so far? That would be a particularly troublesome Domino's Noid in Boston. "That's the graphic from hell," she said, laughing at the memory. "A blizzard came up and we had to paint outside. It was on one of those {corrugated} metal doors that stores put down over their windows for security, so there wasn't a flat surface. And there was a pigeon's nest above the door and they kept pooping on us."

Her favorite? The big cow in Adams-Morgan. "That was great. We did that at a strange time of year, in January of last year. The cow's head was as big as I am. We got to see a lot of things up there on our scaffolding. It was really nice. We got a lot of compliments on that. The whole building looks like Roger Rabbit lives there."

Someday she would like to put up some of her own artistic creations, which she describes as "rather surreal, detailed lithography," on a large-scale mural for the public to see. And what kind of establishment might use her own designs? "A funky kind of restaurant or bar. Or I don't know, a lot of banks seem to put out money to have murals on their walls."

Tricking the Eye

And then there's G. Byron Peck.

His murals -- not seen in as many locations as Lytle's -- are meant to challenge the eye. "Trompe l'oeil is using architectural motifs or structures so that you've painted an illusion of something that doesn't exist," he says, describing the large pieces he has done for the lobbies of International Place in Rosslyn and the Marriott Hotel in Bethesda. "You're structurally changing what the wall represents."

He has Peck'd a piece of the restaurant market too: He's just wrapped up a series of four interior murals at the American Cafe on Capitol Hill and is beginning another at the restaurant's new downtown location. He is contracted to do two more American Cafes -- in Columbia and Towson, Md. -- and will soon begin paintings at Cities in Adams-Morgan. His mural on the front of the City Cafe on M Street NW is his largest outdoor work and also one of his favorites because "the client over there let me do what I wanted. That's the best kind of client for an artist to have -- 'Here's cash, do what you want.' "

Peck, 36, often gets the feeling that other artists, the ones who do gallery shows (which Peck also does), turn noses upward at public and/or commercial murals. "Your peers have a tendency to downplay it as commercial crap," he says matter-of-factly without a trace of defensiveness in his voice. "There's an implication that it's not art because there is so much compromising going on."

But there are some advantages, he says. "You get the work outside to the public without the politics of a gallery. And it's not up there for a month and then pulled down."