"OK," I said. "So what do I do?"
Basically, I Was Creating Fake Brush Strokes To Fool Customers
"Your job," said Anna, "is to apply the glace. That makes it really look like it's been painted." The process, according to this art blog responding to queries about Everly Originals, produces something called a giclee print. I was given a bucket of clear gel stuff -- acrylic, said one former employee. I'd apply it to the print with a paintbrush. This would create brush strokes of a sort, though I didn't follow the strokes that Photoshop created; I just scribbled over the whole thing.
The idea was the customer would feel some kind of texture when they ran their fingers over the finished product, but if you knew anything about painting, it would look like a ridiculous fake. The only paint used on the paintings were some dots in the eyes. Presumably, if anyone ever took the company to task for false advertising, they could claim those oil irises meant the products were technically paintings.
Still, on the Home Shopping Network, Mr. William Everly would use real paint to do portraits on-camera, so you'd think that's how they were created. That's certainly what customers thought when they ordered them. Keep in mind, these "paintings" cost hundreds of dollars, depending on the add-ons. Extra people in the photo (even though that was no harder for us), a larger size, etc. all cost more.
Meanwhile the website had to carefully explain that this professional portrait artist could not add or change any details from the original photo.
"This is how we've always done it," said Anna, "as far as I can remember." It seemed that every single employee knew it was a scam, and most of them didn't care. It was a paycheck in a down economy. The owners never said anything about it being a scam, it wasn't openly talked about a lot, and they were rarely in the office anyway (including Mr. Everly, the one supposedly painting all the portraits).