Friar Art Showcased on the Web

HNP Communications Friar News

The websites of four friar artists are now linked on the Province’s website. The “Artisans and Authors” page of was added recently under the “Our Work” section, making it easy to find artwork created by friars, as well as a list of friar authors.

Photographer Octavio Duran, OFM, painter David Haack, OFM, iconographer Robert Lentz, OFM, and sandal-maker Sebastian Tobin, OFM, each have websites that display and sell their artwork. The friars consider their craft a ministry, and not a commercial endeavor; nevertheless, the websites were necessary as online galleries for their designs and to allow the public to make purchases.

“Frequently, I think of the website as a form of preaching and hope the images inspire others to honor the saints,” said David, associate professor of art history and studio art in the visual and performing arts department at St. Bonaventure University in Allegany, N.Y. He owns the URL

Robert couldn’t agree more about his iconography. “It’s a ministry that just happens to run as a business,” said the world-renowned artist and teacher who works out of his studio at Holy Name College in Silver Spring, Md.

David’s site, hosted by Artspan and manually updated, includes a biography, gallery of artwork, news releases, and purchase information. He began the website in 2009 and adds new works on occasion.

The gallery includes categories for photographs, Franciscan paintings, recent work and secular art. “Most attention is given to the Franciscan paintings gallery in which I try to make accessible contemporary images of St. Francis and Franciscans in paintings based often on interpretations of the historical documents of the Franciscan Order.”

Those interested in purchasing are asked to contact David.

Relying on Others
While David controls his own website, Robert takes a different approach. More than 150 of his icons can be found on a website hosted by Trinity Stores.

Robert said he was happy to find that Trinity had a ministry to sell religious artwork, because that meant he didn’t have to worry about the business end and can focus on painting.

“An artist is a visionary. Visionaries are notoriously impractical,” he said with a smile. Thomas Conway, OFM, an accountant who is guardian of Holy Name College, helps Robert as his business manager.

Robert, who admitted to looking at the website only roughly “10 times in my life,” takes comfort in knowing that he is in good hands with Tom and John O’Brien, owner and manager of Trinity Stores.

O’Brien, whose website showcases 800 pieces of art from eight artists, including several Franciscans and Jesuits, has been the exclusive distributor of Robert’s icons for the past 12 years.

A small, Colorado family-run business, O’Brien said that Trinity also works hard to balance the ministry and business aspects of selling religious artwork. Customers, he said, are from both religious and secular backgrounds.

Robert’s work, he added, represents 80 percent of the inquiries. He also added that it was a pleasure to work with Holy Name Province, which is supportive of Robert’s work. O’Brien’s plans include making videos to showcase the artists at work.

Online Shopping
Sebastian, whose leather shop is also in Silver Spring, has the website

The website of the venerable craftsman of custom leather shoes, sandals and bags prominently shows a video explaining how Sebastian was called to the Order and a little about his craft. The site allows shoppers to glimpse the shop, learn more about Sebastian, and see the products, although for now, photos of several sandals are the only ones available.

The counter on the website has clocked in approximately 40,000 visitors since it was launched, but Sebastian said the site isn’t a particularly effective marketing tool.

Although the site appears to get good traffic, Sebastian says he only benefits from one or two customer inquiries a month. Most people, he said, unrealistically assume that his custom products should be priced comparably to mass-made store merchandise and are discouraged from buying.

The website was built by Octavio, who is also the webmaster. Octavio maintains a website for his photography called Through the Franciscan Lens.

— Wendy Healy, a Connecticut-based freelance writer, is a frequent contributor to HNP Today.