Our dream analyst Lauri Loewenberg is living a double life: not only does she interpret your dreams here and all over the world, she now also creates custom pin-up portraits for people at her site, YouAsAPinUp.com. We recently asked her about how these two career paths emerged (and if they overlap), what the process is for ordering your very own pin-up, and why her latest business is booming:
E&L: What is the appeal of the pin-up?
Lauri: The appeal of the pin-up, quite frankly, is the beauty of the female body: S shapes and curves are very aesthetically pleasing (that’s why we also love curvy cars), and no matter her size, the female body has tons of them: the curves from the heel of her foot to her ankle to her calf, the breasts, the hips, the the waist, the arch of the back. It’s all very beautiful. Add to it what the female body is capable of, and you’ve got a very impressive machine.
The female body has been a favorite subject of artists since the beginning of time, but the “Pin Up girl” became popular in the 40’s because she represented the girl waiting for the soldier when he got home, the girl worth fighting for. During World War II they were painted on the noses of bombers (hence the term “bombshell”) and posters were pinned up in the barracks (hence the term Pin-Up) to boost morale and detract from the horrors of war. Again, another example of the power of the female form.
How did you go from dream analysis to pin-up painting?
I’ve always been an artist. I came out of the womb drawing! I was actually just starting my career as an artist, designing T shirts and painting murals in people’s homes, when I took a course in Dream Psychology back in ’96. I was so impressed with what I learned about the subconscious mind and the practical application of Dream Analysis that I put my art aside to build a career in dream work. The funny thing is, during all those years of working as a professional dream analyst, my dreams kept nagging me to go back to my art!
I would have recurring dreams of going back to my childhood bedroom and discovering several fish tanks of dead and dying fish that I had neglected for years. I would wake up as I was frantically trying to save what fish were still alive. I knew those fish represented my art, my ideas that used to thrive in my creative juices, the part of me that I had neglected… but I never did anything about. I was too busy with clients and writing books and doing radio and TV interviews.
But I would see some of my artist friends display their creations on Facebook, one old high school friend in particular – folk artist Kimberly Dawn Clayton – and I would get jealous! One night I had a lucid dream (a dream where you realize you are dreaming). In the dream I was again back in my childhood home and there was a short square-shaped woman standing there. Her facial features were nondescript, just indentions where here eyes, nose and mouth should be. Knowing this was a dream I did what I advise everyone to do while in a lucid dream… I asked her a question. “What do I need to know?” She answered (your lucid dreams will always give you an answer when you ask, btw) “You need to paint and I need to sew.”
I woke up immediately and knew exactly what my dream was telling me. I need to paint and that will “sow” the seeds for a productive future. So I did.
My first art piece after 18 years was a Marilyn Monroe painting. She had been my favorite thing to draw since I was 10 years old. And for having retired my paint brushes for so long, it actually wasn’t so bad… and it felt great! I began painting more celebrity portraits, Heisenberg from Breaking Bad, Katniss from Hunger Games. I then did a series of pin-up fairies. At this point, I was painting for me. I was enjoying reacquainting myself with my old friend. And I would post my creations on Facebook.
Within only a few months of painting again, a friend asked me to paint her as a pin-up girl for a wine label she and her husband made. It was my first commissioned piece. I was excited. I painted the hell out of her and shared it on Facebook. And so did she. Her friends saw it and I got more commissions… to the point I had a waiting list! So I started my new business, YouAsAPinUp.com. This was over two years ago and to this day I still have a waiting list of clients. Thank you subconscious!!
Do you find that your work as an artist and your work as a dream analyst overlap, especially when dealing with people’s fantasies?
You could say they do in that both help us to become what we wish to be. Our dreams guide us, every night, towards being who we are meant to be and a pin-up portrait gives us a fun visual of who we wish to be.
How does the process work? (Is it all done via emailed photos? Are you ever in person? Do they tell you the costume, theme, level of nudity, pose, etc that they want — or do you take some artistic liberties and they get what they get and they don’t get upset?)
All I need to work from is a couple good, high-res photos of your face and then I create the body for you. Before I begin, I will ask you what you have in mind. Most of my clients already have an idea of what they want, “I want you to put me in short shorts on top of my boyfriend’s favorite car,” for example. Some clients have no idea at all. So I help them come up with the perfect, customized pin-up portrait. I ask if they want a vintage look or modern. Do you want to be fun and flirty or sultry? How naughty do you want the pin-up? What body part do you want me to accentuate. Do you want the typical pin-up body or do you want me to celebrate your body as it is? What aspects of your personality do you want me to include?
Once we’ve got all the details nailed down, I draw up a sketch, which you can approve or make changes to. You get to keep the sketch, by the way. Once the sketch is approved, I begin. I email or Facebook you the progress so you get to watch your pin-up come to life! The whole process is a really fun experience and in the end, you have a great piece of art that you or your loved one will treasure always.
How much does it cost?
They start at just $150. That’s for an 8″ x 10″ black and white. Prices go up from there depending on size, if you want color pencil or oil, if you want something additional in your pin-up like a car or motorcycle.
How long is the turn around from someone ordering to the time it’s delivered? And how is it delivered?
Turn around time depends on the length of my waiting list. Once you put down the 50% deposit, which holds your place in line, the turn around can be anywhere from 2 weeks to 3 months. So if you want this for a Valentine’s gift we need to get you on the waiting list immediately. Once I begin, a pencil pin-up can be completed in 2 – 4 days and an oil pin-up can be completed in 4 – 8 days. I ship via USPS Priority. You receive a tracking number once your pin-up ships. Pencils come in a tube, oils come in a flat box.
Are they all cool with being featured on your site? Is that part of the deal, or can people get a pin-up without you showing it off (like if they really want to keep it private?)
Most of my clients are totally cool with being featured on my site as well as the process being shared on Facebook (that is how I get most of my business). I have had only three clients – so far – ask that I not share on Facebook or be displayed on my site and that is 100% okay with me. For some this can be a very personal, private thing.
How many have you done so far?
Just over a hundred.
How many liberties do you take with people’s bodies? Do you try to reflect reality or do some people want to be 50 pounds lighter, or have boobs they don’t have, in the painting?
Most of my clients allow me to take liberties with their bodies. They want the fantasy of the tiny waste and the long legs and fuller breasts. I’ve had a couple clients who love their larger size (or their wife’s larger size) and what me to capture that beauty. I am happy to give you whatever you want. It is all beautiful. It is the face, however, that most of my clients need me to get just right. They want to see themselves in this form so if I don’t get the nose just right or the jawline, etc. I will rework it until you see yourself.
Do you have a “typical” customer? Are your pictures usually for someone’s significant other, for themselves, or for something else? Basically, why are people interested in this?
Most of my clients are female and I would say, among my female clients, more of them are getting the pin-up done as a gift for their partner. But I have a lot of clients who get the pin-up as a gift for herself… to be a reminder to her self that she is a gorgeous creature, to empower herself. I had one client who told me her pin-up to herself empowered her to get out and date again after escaping an abusive relationship. I had another client who is 70 and she did it as a reminder to herself that beauty is ageless.
And then I have male clients who want to give this to their partners to let them know how sexy they think they are and to keep the flame alive. I just got a new male client last week who is having me create his deceased wife as a Playboy Bunny because he always wanted to do something to remind him of “how she stirred his heart.”
There is so much more to a custom pin-up portrait than tushies and ta tas.
Many of the pictures include nudity or show a lot of skin, but others are completely covered up. How do you make the decision on how much is revealed in the picture?
Whatever my client wants, my client gets. Whether they want something sexy but classy or naughty with nipples, your wish is my command.
We imagine many of your clients find their pin-up empowering. Why?
Basically, when you look good, you feel good. My clients know that the typical pin-up body is unattainable and it’s just art but it’s a lot of fun to see yourself that way. It’s the same reason so many adults love Halloween: escapism, pretend, fantasy… it’s fun. And they think to themselves, “I know I don’t really look like that but I sure feel like that!”
We also imagine some people could criticize it: It’s a total vanity project for clients OR it’s based on the retro objectification of women for the male gaze. How would you respond to those charges?
I get that some may think I am contributing to the objectification of women, but I’m not forcing this on you. If you don’t want a pin-up of yourself, don’t get one. For the women that do, that’s their right and their decision. Let’s remember, the whole “pin-up” genre of art and photography actually came about in the late 1800’s with The Gingham Girl, which was an escape from the oppressive restrictions put on women and how they were forced to cover up by a male dominated society. Women weren’t allowed to show ankles back then. In the 20’s the swimsuit police would stop women on public beaches and make sure their suits were not more than 6 inches above the knee! The female body is not to be shamed but celebrated. Free the nipple!
Best background or story about one of your clients?
There are so many. One of my first clients had a pin-up portrait done to remind herself of how she looked and felt before her legs were covered in scars from surgeries. She loved her pin-up so much that she is going to have another done WITH her scars. I love that!
What’s been the best reaction to one of your paintings so far?
Well, one that made me laugh until I almost peed myself was from a woman who received her pin-up portrait as a gift from her long time boyfriend. When he commissioned me, he wanted me to put her in this purple night shirt she wears because he loved how her nipples poked through it. He was very specific about her nipples! After she received the pin-up she emailed me and said, “Thank you so much for my pin-up, love it! Fun to hear Bryan talk about the process and how he described me. Nice to know after 23 years he still likes my nipples and knows which side I part my hair on. It’s beautiful, thank you!”
What’s been the worst?
One of my earlier clients had me paint her in a long emerald green evening dress sitting on a piano. It turned out absolutely beautiful and I was particularly proud of the way the gown cascaded down the piano like a waterfall. After I shipped it to her she messaged me and told me she was very disappointed because she thought the head was too small. OUCH! That hurt for a very long time. A few months later she messaged me and said she actually loves it now and couldn’t be happier. That made my day.
Out of all the portraits you’ve created, which one is your favorite and why?
Oh that’s a hard one. Aesthetically… I’d say the logo I did for Vintage South Productions, a TV casting company. I love that they stuck with the vintage pin-up look and I am very very please with the TV! I don’t enjoy painting or drawing inanimate objects like TVs or cars (even though they certainly add to the pin-up) but this vintage TV set turned out soooooo good!
What do you enjoy most about creating pin-up art?
As much as I love drawing and painting the female form, my favorite part of it is my interaction with my clients. I make them feel beautiful. I tell them they are beautiful or that their wife/girlfriend is beautiful. Because they ARE beautiful. I love to uplift my clients and make them have a smile on their face for the rest of the day because they feel good about themselves. We women can be so catty and jealous of each other. Let’s build each other up and celebrate ourselves. I love being a woman. It’s magical and I want other women to not feel angry about it but empowered by it.
Where do people hang them usually? Seems like the kind of thing that might be awkward hanging over the dinning room table at a dinner party!
The naughtier pin-ups are usually hung in the bedroom but most are proudly displayed in the living room or man cave. And some are used as business logos or on business cards and hung in the office. A pin-up portrait is actually a very versatile piece of art.