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Posted June 27, 2009 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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Art in the air: New studio specializes in portraits

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Sarah Gallahan takes a moment to pet her dog, Toby, while working on a commission outside Sleepy House Studio on the Loudoun Street Pedestrian Mall in Winchester. Dennis Grundman/Daily

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Gallahan sits in front of some of her work at her new studio. Dennis Grundman/Daily


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Sleepy House Studio

Sleepy House Studio is located at 4 S. Loudoun St. on the Loudoun Street Pedestrian Mall in Winchester. Studio hours are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

By J.R. Williams - jrwilliams@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER -- It's not the most elaborate storefront on Loudoun Street, but Sarah Gallahan, 22, knows how to squeeze a lot of color into a small space.

Last month, the young artist opened Sleepy House Studio, the newest establishment on the Pedestrian Mall -- a one-room art gallery wedged between Old Towne Cafe & Catering and Swirl's Sandwich Shoppe.

"I just decided to go for it," she said on a recent warm afternoon. "I'm really glad I came here."

Curious passersby come inside and look around. The unique art on the walls -- some painted two weeks ago, some a while back -- is all for sale. But Gallahan does most of her work on commission, painting extraordinary portraits in oil. And now that it's gotten warmer, she's frequently working on them on the street outside her shop.

More often than not, she's got company. A friend usually plays guitar nearby. Her dog, Toby, clamors for attention.

Then there are the regulars.

"Most of the time it's the right crowd," she said. "There are just five or six guys that come and hang out for a few hours, and then wander off. Sometimes I barely get any work done."

Two teenage girls walked into Sleepy House recently and looked up at the art on the walls. One put her hands to her cheeks and gasped.

"Oh, my gosh," the girl said. "That's so cute. I can't stop looking at it.

"I wish I could paint."

Gallahan had a second-floor studio earlier this year at Creekside Station, but it didn't work out, she said.

"It was a business park," she said. "Nobody knew I was there."

She almost moved back into her basement, she said, but decided the storefront at Loudoun and Boscowen would fit. The atmosphere is much better, she said.

"At first I was concerned about the space," she said. "But the music, and being able to talk to people all day is great. It puts me in the right mood so I can focus. And I'm surrounded by food."

She specializes in portraits, and charges a flat rate for common sizes. An 8-by-10 runs $150. A large 30-by-40 costs $575.

Customers can order work in acrylic, watercolor, mosaics in glass, collages -- Gallahan said there's no limit to the size or medium of her work, but customers might want to come with patience. Portraits are booked up to September. One of the eight or nine projects she's working on right now might take three months to complete.

"I always tell people it's very bright, very full of texture," she said, pointing to a huge, fish-eyed depiction of a man playing a serious game of chess.

"He's got a story to tell," she said.

Recent projects have included office-wall murals for area physicians, including Dr. Eston Caldwell at Winchester Medical Center and Dr. Shyama Rosenfeld at Winchester Family Practice.

Gallahan said she'll be painting faces on Loudoun Street for at least the next year.
"In the winter, I might think differently when I'm all cooped up in here," she said. But right now, "It's been so great."

Gallahan lives with her husband, Justin, and her son, Loki, 15 months, in Winchester.

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