I wanted to take a moment to share the work of my good friend Lewis Barrett Lehrman . Lew was so kind to share his insights with me on how he developed his web site when HauntedPortraits was just getting off the ground. Take a moment to visit his site HauntedStudio and delight in Lew's unique paintings that touch a special place in anyone that loves Halloween.
Lew how did you get started doing this series?
The Haunted Studio was my first and (until last year) my only web site. It got started because of a little Halloween painting (one of a number I then did from time to time) I had done for the bricks-and-mortar (actually frame and weathered planks) art gallery that my wife, Lola, and I operated in a converted barn beside our 1795 home in the Berkshires. This must have been in the early '90s.
Color Xeroxing had just become available. I made some color prints of this painting, and sold them along with a number of other prints we exhibited at our gallery. Moving to Arizona in '93, the unsold prints were packed, forgotten, then rediscovered six years later when I brought everything home from the studio I'd been renting to the one we'd just added to our house. At that time, I was just beginning to sell on eBay, and so I listed the print. It was snapped up at a better price than I'd hoped for. The same happened with a second, then a third copy.
One of my buyers pointed out something I'd never suspected: that there were a great number of people out there who love Halloween, and love it all year around! She suggested that I could sell more of these and recommended that I get in touch with a Halloween-centered clearinghouse web site she knew of. I emailed to its webmaster, attaching sample images of this painting and another I had done, and he confirmed that I should have a web site, and offered to host it in exchange for prints of future paintings.
The name, "The Haunted Studio" just came to me. It was a natural. When I went to apply for a URL, I was really happy it hadn't been taken. A good omen!
How many are in the collection now.
There are 35 paintings in The Haunted Studio "Gallery" right now, with a new one being added whenever I complete it -- about one every second month. A new one will be going up at the end of August.
I know for myself I have been amazed by the response people have to my work. Have you been surprised at how much of a demand there is for this sort of art?
I continue to be both amazed and delighted at the response to my work, and to the continuing -- make that increasing -- demand for my art, in the form of prints, original paintings, and commissions.
I think my work taps into a feeling about Halloween that's hard to put into words, but which resonates with the huge number of people for whom the holiday holds very special emotional content. Perhaps their own parents provided and nurtured that feeling, which they then pass on to their children, who pass it on to theirs. I can't tell you how many people have emailed me with their own special reminiscences of Halloween from parental or kid viewpoints, and their confirmation of how poignantly I have tuned in on them. What a kick!
Where do your ideas come from?
Lots of ideas come from my own slightly warped imagination. Many come from FOTHS's -- Friends Of The Haunted Studio. Prime examples have been I Dream The Midnight Midway, suggested by a fan of old amusement parks, and Things That Go Bump In The Basement, which was supplied by a FOTH who wrote to tell me that the scariest place in his own childhood was his basement. I mentioned this to my own (grown) children, and to my surprise, they both confirmed that our basement was the scariest place in their own childhoods! Who would have guessed?
I know for myself I have more ideas than I have time to create and I seriously doubt I will ever get tired of creating my portraits, do you get bored working in the same theme?
Not yet. Probably not ever. The challenge is never ending, and I always have a half-dozen or more ideas clamoring to get out of my head and onto my easel. I used to worry about running out of ideas. No more. Run out of years, probably, but ideas? Never.
I know you hide things in your paintings which are so much fun to try and find, have you always done this in your works?
For me, the real fun comes with pushing your buttons.. planting spooky surprises -- those unexpected ghosts and shadowy figures I love to conceal and reveal throughout the painting. Nearly every Haunted Studio painting has some. Some have many. One (Phantoms) has over 100. You'll live with one of my prints for a long time, and one day, unexpectedly, you may notice something that you've never noticed before, half-hidden behind a tree, or lurking deep in the shadows.
And with a little shiver somewhere up the back of your neck, you'll think, "Hmmmm. Was that always there?" Gotcha!
I know you actually do custom painting of people's homes, do you find it difficult to do these?
I take great pleasure in this feature of The Haunted Studio. I have completed around 35 of these in the last five years, and have six in work right now. They're a special sort of challenge, and not always easy. But the comments I receive when my clients open the crate and get their first look at their actual painting -- make these moments among the most rewarding in my life as an artist. I've never failed at one, either.
Lew what can your fans expect to see coming from you next?
I don't like to tip my hand early, but I'm beginning to develop a painting, into the print of which which the purchaser can have his or her own (or anyone's) likeness inserted as a disembodied spirit. Other than that, I always try to come up with fun surprises. The best way to be among the first to learn about them is to visit my web site, www.hauntedstudio.com, and sign up to receive my free monthly newsletter.
It dawned on me the other day that my site is officially one year old in August. The site actually existed before then but no one knew it was there. I had been working in the shadows for a year trying to figure out how to make lenticulars do their magic and to come up with enough characters for the gallery. Well those pesky internet spiders found me and one of the members of Halloween Forum leaked the news. I happened to be reading through the forum and bamm there it was. I scrambled at that point and patched the site together well enough to work. The gallery opened with a mere seven Portraits and only available in 11x14 size. I honestly never thought it would take off like it did and I surely never thought that sales would continue after Halloween but they did. There have been a lot of changes to my site, my gallery and the number of visitors that stop by my little corner of cyberspace. I've had the special pleasure of meeting, chatting and e-mailing with many of the people that have bought my works, so to all of you I sincerely say thanks
Smoke & Mirrors
My newest work The Knight was inspired by the singing headless knight at Disney's Haunted Mansion.
The work began with the photo below that I took while on vacation this summer
The first obvious problem was the background, not exactly very conducive to my vision.
So I stripped out the background and flipped the image.
Next I inserted a photo to become the new background. Now the problem is that when you place an image in front of another image, it looks like you placed an image in front of another image. The reason why it doesn't work is that there are no shadows or reflections between the two images. Even with flat lighting objects create reflections and shadows on the objects they are near.
You might have also noticed that I didn't like the way his arm was, so I took it apart and bent it and added a sword. (Note, no actual knights were harmed in the making of this Portrait)
That's about it for the first stage. In the next issue of my newsletter I'll show you the work on the second stage, and how I removed his head, colored and cropped the work to create the final Portrait.
If you've visited my site recently you might have noticed we've made some upgrades. We've added a new, and if I might say so "Very Cool", new menu system. I've also upgraded the checkout system. You can now make your purchase without having to register with PayPal. We still gladly accept PayPal, all major credit cards and even checks through our eCheck system.
No Questions Guarantee
From the day my site went live I've had a no questions asked guarantee. I want you to be completely thrilled with your purchase. I believe in my product so much that if for any reason you're not thrilled, let me know within 7 days and I will refund your money and I'll even cover the return postage. I do what ever it takes to keep my customers happy.