I discovered Lew Lehrman's Haunted Studio soon after Halloween Addict was born and have been meaning to do a lengthy post and interview to give this master his due.
That time is now.
Lew Lehrman runs HauntedStudio.com a digital shrine to his paintings of haunted houses, ghosts, witches and Halloween which has earned him the moniker "Painter of Dark."
His original works would look fantastic as the cover of a Spooky Stories compendium, an album cover for a Halloween sound-scape compilation or framed on your wall.
Lew's "specialty" is making a custom painting of YOUR OWN HOUSE complete with jack o' lanterns, ghosts, witches... and maybe even... Spider-Man...?
More on that after the jump...
LEW LEHRMAN: If you mean painting, I've been doing it since I was a little kid, maybe eight or nine years old.
If you mean painting night scenes (which is how the Halloween/haunted thing began) I trace that back to 1944. I was 11 years old that summer, and my aunt and uncle had asked my parents to let me visit them for three weeks. They were living on a farm in Battle Creek, Michigan, where my uncle was temporarily assigned. I was a city kid, living in the Bronx, New York. I'd never even seen a farm. My parents put me in the care of a Pullman porter on an overnight sleeper train, alone, for the journey.
If you mean painting Halloween-spooky scenes, they were a natural extension of painting night scenes. I can't really say when I did the first one, though it was probably during the years we owned our art gallery, the late '80's. I quickly realized that they were very popular, and invariably sold.
HA: How did you get the HauntedStudio.com up and running and turn your art into your business?
One of my buyers suggested that I could sell more of these to Halloween fans (Who knew?) and recommended that I contact Halloween-L.com, a Halloween-centered clearinghouse kind of website.
I emailed to its webmaster, with a sample image of this painting and a couple of others I had done. He agreed that these were sell-able, and followed by suggesting that I should have a website, which he offered to host in exchange for prints of future paintings. I sensed an opportunity here, but replied that I didn’t have a clue as to how to set up a website. He then recommended someone who he thought might create and manage my website in exchange for prints. All three of us were pleased with the arrangement.
|Lew's haunted old Colonial.|
LL: I painted the 200 year old Colonial house we owned (in New England) several times [see the line drawing above]. It was haunted, but I never painted it as such. Our house here [in Arizona]? No.
HA: HAUNTED?! Any great true ghost stories or weird happenings you can share from the house?
LL: One weekend we were hosting a cocktail reception for a concert pianist friend of ours, and one of his invited guests turned out to be Alex Tannous, a noted psychic (you can Google him.) During the evening he took me aside, asked if I'd be upset if he told me something about our house. Then informed me that our house was haunted by three spirits: A young boy with red hair, and a middle-aged couple in 19th Century dress. He said he could see them.
LL: We only had one rather ambiguous "spooky" experience, which could have been attributable to the boy. It had to do with some helium-filled party balloons that migrated along the ceiling, under door frames and arches, finally disappearing up the stairwell. There were no drafts or breezes in the house that could have accounted for this. Both my wife and I saw it
HA: Talk about artistic inspiration! So what's the strangest request you've received to include in a painting?
LL: Someone asked that I put Spider-Man on the roof. So Spider-Man made an appearance on the roof! Fact of the matter is that when I'm painting peoples' homes as haunted, every request is a little strange. Strange is what I do best. Strange is more fun to do.
HA: In a perfect world, barring any delays, how long from start to finish does one painting take?
LL: In that rare perfect world, I may complete a commission in about a month. I promise "60 to 90 days," which is more realistic. I try not to work to a deadline, since having been a commercial artist/illustrator meant constant (and tight) deadlines. Nevertheless, I'll work to a deadline for someone who would like their painting completed as, say, a wedding gift. That has to be honored, if possible.
HA: Do you have a "busy time of year" for house haunt paintings?
LL: I've been constantly busy the last few years. But [October's] sort of a peak for inquiries, as peoples' minds are focused on Halloween. Most leads come from ads I run in three magazines that appeal to lovers of the Victorian house. Somehow or other, the volume of commissions that I usually have in my studio are sufficient to keep me busy, yet provide me enough free time to classify myself as "retired."
LL: I reserve pricing discussions for genuine prospects who have made an inquiry. Needless to say, I put in a great deal of time on each commission, and my clients understand (and can afford) this. However, every client knows precisely what it will cost beforehand. More important: should a client be anything less than enthusiastic about the study painting images I submit, and if I cannot add whatever they might feel is lacking, I guarantee to refund every penny of their advance payment. I must say, however, that after more than 100 commissions, this guarantee has never been exercised.
HA: Do you decorate your own house for Halloween? If so, do you get a lot of trick or treaters and do anything special for them?
LL: Regrettably, we live in an adult community, and in our 17 years here, we have never had a single trick-or-treater ring our doorbell. However, we've sat in on many Halloweens with our children's families, watching our grandchildren venturing out (and all the incoming doorbell ringers arriving).
HA: Are haunted paintings your main outlet or do you work in other mediums/subjects?
LL: These days, The Haunted Studio occupies most of my time. However, my wife and I still love to travel, and I'll often carry a blank journal book and some compact watercolor equipment with me, and I'll thoroughly enjoy creating a journal of the trip. I've completed 18 of these journals over the years, and for the last 15 years teach local classes and traveling workshops in "Artistic Travel Journaling." I've taken groups to Tuscany and Vietnam (you can see some of my journal pages (and some of my non-haunted art as well) at LewisBLehrman.com.
LL: For several years I had a working arrangement with a nice fellow who made boards. He licensed a couple of my images, Thirteen Spooks, Maybe More, and Tilted Angel.
I would take orders and he would drop ship for me. Unfortunately, he went out of business about 3 years ago, and that was the end of that. But I kept getting inquiries, so eventually decided to see whether I could produce and market my own boards.
The Thirteen Spooks board is offered in a signed, numbered, limited edition that will be closed out when 150 are sold. I am producing them in small runs, and have just sold out the second run at Number 40 in the series. I'll offer a third series sometime next year.
HA: Have you ever had families contact you to "haunt" their house a 2nd time after a move?
LL: Yes. Just recently I completed a second painting for a couple whose first house I had "haunted" about 4 years ago. They had recently moved to a new and larger home, and wanted an updated painting, to include their new son and two dogs.
HA: Ever have someone request a house haunted painting that they didn't live in?
Maybe for apartment dwellers or just fans of "that spooky house on the hill" in their old neighborhood?
LL: Yes, quite a few. One person wished she had lived in the house she asked me to paint. One, "Cat Manor" which is also available as a print, described the scene she and her husband wanted, and the kind of house that would go with it. I painted it just as they requested, and they've allowed me to sell prints of it.
The McPike Mansion, another painting you can find at my website, will be an inn, if the family ever finishes restoring it. The place was a disaster of a vandalized wreck when I did the commission some five years ago. Very haunted, too.
|The Last Witness|
HA: Do you have a personal favorite from all the paintings you've done?
LL: My personal favorite is invariably the one I've just completed. Having said that, I've been privileged to create many extraordinary paintings over the years. In a way, each one is unique. One that comes to mind was for a man in Maryland, owner of a large horse barn with leased stalls. Every Halloween, he hosts a "Halloween of the Horses" party to which each horse must come attired in actual costume. (Think ghost horse... witch horse... headless horseman's horse), I worked from his photos. I even included a witch, in silhouette, flying across the moon riding -- not a broom -- but a horse. Of course.
HA: Lastly, why do you have such an affection for the Halloween season?
LL: Halloween is a lot different from other holidays. It's a holiday that's fun from every viewpoint. It appeals to children of every age. No gifts required. Every one of my commissions begins with memories... of their own childhoods, or their children's... the traditional spooky/fun rituals like dressing up, trick-or-treating, scaring each other in a safe and fun way... lots of squealing and laughter... passing on the traditions to their own children and grandchildren. Every painting I create begins with stories. I've found that I can tap into those memories, and deliver a visual version of those memories and emotions, and that gives me pleasure too.
I couldn't have said it better myself.
Thanks to Mr. Lehrman for granting me his time for an interview that I've loooong wanted to do for HalloweenAddict.com. If you'd like to see a 3 minute presentation on how Lew works his magic, check out THIS LINK to a video by a local Phoenix news station who did a profile on Lew and his process.
His work speaks for itself and if you know a Halloween Addict who has it all, having Lew haunt his/her abode is a gift that they'll relish and talk about for years. Should you contact Lew at HauntedStudio.com for your own Haunted Painting, be sure to say you read about him on HalloweenAddict.com.
Also: join the inner sanctum and subscribe to Lew's free news E-Magazine "The Halloweenist" which gives updates on his latest paintings, prints for sale, real ghost stories, brain teasers, exclusive offers for members and more!
Images are © Copyright by Lewis Barrett Lehrman for The Haunted Studio. Reproduced here with permission.