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You’ve seen it all—bats and skulls and monsters (oh my!)—plastered across dark backgrounds, each line familiar, each depicted situation meant to scare you rather than delight. What if there were a way to combine these frights with the the playful? What if you could see the monsters that terrified you as a child in new pastel pinks and washed out blues? Would your love for these creatures survive?  Can they exist without the horror they once evoked deep down in your very soul?

“Serpent” by Gretchen Lewis

Enter Gretchen Lewis, a San Francisco based artist whose bubble-gum oil paintings feature characters both spooky and fun. Dripping in pastel colors, Gretchen’s work is more light-hearted than our usual art features here at Dear Darkling. Her paintings feel as though they are made of candy and depict what we now relate to Halloween with: black cats, pumpkins, bats, and skulls. The carnival aesthetic brings the child out of all of us. It reinvigorates the innocence of dressing up and knocking on doors for candy and makes our insides roar with familiar laughter.

“After All” by Gretchen Lewis

The child-like subjects of Gretchen Lewis are almost warped, fluid in shape, nearly dripping from the wood they’ve been painted on. The essence of the characters—based on Gretchen’s vintage toy collection—fills the pieces so fully that her creatures almost spill from their scenes. They are so full of life and joy, much like the source materials. It is the nostalgia of Gretchen’s characters that gives them new life.

“The Fool” by Gretchen Lewis
“Fragile” by Gretchen Lewis

Though it’s inspired heavily by a familiar subject matter, Gretchen’s work is like nothing we’ve seen before. Her black cats are often two or three headed, the eyes in her artwork curved liked bubbling water. They look like mutations in television worlds, as though they could leap and skip from the page singing songs from 1930’s cartoons. The languid nature of the characters’ limbs gives them action in a very Betty Boop fashion. Recently, Gretchen has begun painting her characters on found objects from the past, keeping up with her charming old-fashion imagery.

Gretchen herself cites nature, biology, and Silly Symphony cartoons as inspirations for her aesthetic.

“Amor Fati” by Gretchen Lewis

Fall into Gretchen’s delightful vintage halloween world here.

Liah Paterson

Liah Paterson

Liah Paterson is a Queens-based freelance illustrator. She spends her days polishing up her knowledge of occult objects, destroying canvases, and trying to coax her cats into liking her. Her apartment is filled with piles of books, sculptures, and paintings of disembodied hands, and a partner who plays scary video games for her so she can watch them like movies. Find her on Instagram (@atenderwitch) or on her website (liahpaterson.com).

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