Tucked on a winding street in Huntington is an artist's studio with national reach.
It's the workplace of William Low, a longtime resident who has created a series of forever stamps, "Winter Flowers," for the U.S. Postal Service.
The stamps portray amaryllis, cyclamen, Christmas cactus, poinsettia and paperwhite, and began circulating nationwide in December and February. "The Postal Service art program is very prestigious; to be asked is a great honor," Low, 55, said.
Huntington Supervisor Frank Petrone called it a point of pride to have a town resident recognized on a such a scale. "How fitting as we stop to celebrate the nation's birthday that one of Huntington's own is being recognized for something all Americans can use and admire," he said.
Low is an urban cityscape painter, but his still life of a golf trophy that he posted online caught the eye of Ethel Kessler, an art director for the Postal Service. "I just saw that it was interior, and that it was warm and the colors were beautiful and his ability to capture light was really lovely," Kessler said.
When she was asked to develop the winter flowers set, she thought of Low.
The original plan had been to create a stamp with a theme of coming home for the holidays featuring a flower, Low said. But it proved to be a challenge given the small space.
"We realized an entire environment would not hold up well because of the scale, so they kept coming in closer . . . until finally it became just the winter flower itself," Low said.
Low grew the plants he would be painting and went through a process of drawings, pictures, sketches and finally painting on his computer using Photoshop to get the final product.
"I had never painted flowers," Low said. "Painting flowers was surprising and a challenge, but I had a great time."
A Bronx native, Low grew up loving art.
"Art was something you did to stay out of trouble," he said. "My brother and I used to draw comics, making copies of the comics, and one thing led to another. I really took to it; I really loved telling stories with art."
An excellent math student, he says he was unable to get into one of the city's academically-oriented high schools so he went to the High School of Art and Design, where his love of art flourished. "That's where I learned how to paint," he said. "My teachers were great. They introduced us to painting and the great masters. At that time, that's what I said I wanted to become: an illustrator."
He went on to Parsons School of Design and Syracuse University.
Although a traditional painter by training, Low has been working by computer for about 20 years for most of his commercial work, which includes a dozen children's books.
He described the forever stamps, which have no denomination printed on them but can be used indefinitely on first-class letters, as a career achievement. "In our business it's one of those dream jobs," he said.
Award-winning painter and illustrator William Low has created illustrations for a variety of venues:
LL Bean catalog
Two murals for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, installed in colored glass at the Bronx subway station near where he grew up.
Wrote and illustrated Old Penn Station (2007), a children's picture book on the history of the building.