I’ve been following Lee Howard as an artist for a few years now. I love his diverse style, bouncing from amazingly dark portraits, to sweet little Playful Dead mini-figures, to his absolutely disturbing Quiet Room Bears. I was lucky enough to chat with him recently for ArtSexy. Enjoy!
When I was a little kid, I was super terrified of horror movies, like I remember Salem’s Lot. I remember seeing that and it scarred the shit out of me. With the little kid at the window, I’ll never forget that. And I just hated horror stuff but my older brother, Noel, was a huge horror fan. We were babysitting a nephew of mine, and I was like ten at the time, it was a Sunday afternoon. He said “We’re going to watch this VHS.” “What is it?” And he said Nightmare on Elm Street part 2. I was like “Uhhh, I don’t know, it might be too scary!” And his rationale was “It’s Sunday afternoon. Calm down! You’ll be fine!” And he put it on, and it flipped this switch in me and after that I loved horror, especially Freddy. I’m this big Freddy guy. But after that, I was just like MORE, MORE MORE!
It’s kinda what I’ve just become better at and it’s become what I enjoy doing more. I totally respect people that paint nature scenes, trees and stuff like that, but part of me says “I can look outside and see a tree!” But I can’t necessarily look outside and see Batman, or a zombie, or Walter White. I just love painting people’s faces. And the more interesting the face, the more fun and challenging it can be. Like with someone like Tom Waits, who has a craggly, crazy face, but is totally awesome, that’s more fun to paint. FYI, painting babies is the worst. They are cute, and babies are great, but with their big, round faces, there isn’t a lot of detail work. I’ve just always liked drawing people. I started drawing a lot of comic book characters because I’m a gigantic nerd, so that just morphed into painting portraits.
Nice! One of the things that originally drew me to your work was your Movie Icons series. Can we expect anything else from the Movie Icons portrait series?
There are SOOOO many more that I want to do. It’s bananas! God, a lot of people think that it’s just horror because I’ve done a lot of horror guys, but there are so many others I want to do. Like Indiana Jones would be an awesome one to do, Robocop would be a lot of fun to do. Like Ripley, from ALIENS, I feel like I haven’t painted enough ladies. I think I’ve only done two in the series so far even though Catwoman was the first one that I did. I really want to represent a lot more awesome women characters. But for my next one, I either really want to do Boba Fett or Darth Maul. Darth Maul would look awesome in the black and white. There are about 400 amazing options to choose from. I have this folder of names that I want to do on my computer. People are bugging me to do Leatherface too.
That all started awhile ago. I’ve been doing them for thirteen years or so. And that started because my brother, Bill, and his wife were having a Halloween party at their house. They were going to have this contest, and had this theme based around this store bought demon baby prop in a carriage, and they ended up not having the contest, but whatever. (Laughs.) The theme was Rosemary’s Baby Shower and it was supposed to be whomever brings the best gift for the baby would win a prize. And I thought that every baby needs a teddy bear! And if it was the Son of Satan, the teddy bear has to be something absolutely terrifying to look at! And so I made this really fucked up looking teddy bear and based on everyone’s response of it at the party, a lot of “OH MY GOD! WHAT THE HELL IS THAT!?!” I thought, well maybe I should make more of these. And at first I made only a couple more after that and sold them on eBay as “scary custom teddy bears.” Then I didn’t make any for a couple of years, and after awhile, I thought I should make more. They were a lot of fun to make. That was when I created the whole back story, and the name Quiet Room Bears.
Most of the bears I make don’t move or make sounds, they just look cool and sit there. But in this new series, I have three animatronic ones. The Halloween stores always put a lot of stuff out for sale the day after Halloween, so I just go crazy. I bought a couple of animatronic bears. And they are supposed to already be scary, but for my standards, they are pretty lame. but I know that I could REEEALLY mess that one up! I just posted a video of one of them on the Facebook page, it is putting a knife in and out of its stomach where I put a baby’s head. And that video went crazy, getting a billion shares, with twenty different people begging them to sell it to them. So, I might have to eBay that one and just let people fight over it! (Laughs.) Also, the movie inspired ones have a tendency to go over really well, and I have a SCREAM bear that I’m almost done with.
Yeah, I’ve always loved Halloween and costumes. I’m kind of a Halloween snob, where if I didn’t go through four hours of makeup I feel like I’m selling myself short. And then, my current girlfriend, Violet Love, we’ve been friends for about two years, she makes costumes and is a designer. And her stuff is incredible! So I’ve been lucky enough to use her as a resource. That’s where my Batman costume came from, she made that! And the more that we are getting into that, the more fun it is getting. And when convention season starts in March or so, and most of the cosplay stuff I’m planning is more superhero-y, but I have some cool stuff planned for Halloween. And I don’t know if we’ll get a chance to do this, but I want to do a super scary version of Beetlejuice. He’s a ghost, so it needs to be super horrifying. And Violet will go as Lydia, the cartoon version, with the red webbed dress. I’ve seen a lot of pretty good Beetlejuice costumes, but I’ve never seen one that’s like a zombie-faced, white-eyed, shit-your-pants version of Beetlejuice.
Where can fans find/buy your artwork?
I sell prints of most of my paintings, sketches, and the little Playful Dead mini-custom figurines on my Etsy site, http://etsy.com/shop/QuietRoomBears That is where I obviously sell the bears as well. I also do commission work all the time. People can message me through any of my Facebook pages. I don’t have an actual website at the time, but hopefully that will be up and running by the spring or so.
Be sure to check out Lee’s Facebook pages and check out a contest he’s running for people that purchase his artwork. https://www.facebook.com/artbyleehoward https://www.facebook.com/quietroombears and https://www.facebook.com/PlayfulDead
Spend $50 on any of his art (prints, sketches, Playful Dead Minis – and any combination of those!) and you will be entered to win an 8 FOOT LONG Dexter painting! (which will be removed from it’s wooden frame, rolled and sent to you) – Spend $150 or more and be entered TWICE to win it! 2nd and 3rd place prizes are both 8×10 paintings of whatever ya like! Contest ends on February 22nd.