Cedar Lee was born in 1981 in St. Louis, Missouri. She spent her childhood in Florida, Oregon, and North Carolina. At age 9, she wrote an essay outlining her plans to grow up, develop her art skills, and sell her paintings. Her grandparents were art collectors, and she spent many happy days in their beautiful home, surrounded by original artwork. This early start catapulted her into a creative life.
At age 12, Cedar began painting with oils and sold a painting for the first time, to one of her schoolteachers for $40. That teacher was the first of many friends, family members, and strangers to purchase Cedar’s work. Today a large, diverse group of people owns her paintings, which are scattered throughout at least 17 U.S. states, and around the world as far as Canada, Sweden and Italy.
During her junior year in high school, she took a college course in large-scale painting. That summer she had her first solo showing of her artwork in the public library in Asheville, NC. Cedar applied herself wholeheartedly to academics, graduating high school first in her class before starting college in Baltimore, Maryland.
Throughout her undergrad years Cedar sold her paintings and worked part-time designing and assembling jewelry, a job she had been doing since age 15. Later, she worked as an art instructor at Anne Arundel Community College.
In 2000, she procured a solo show in the National Security Agency’s main headquarters, although she was not allowed to hang the show herself or even go inside to see it because she didn’t have a security clearance.
In 2005, she received her BA from Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland, graduating at the top of her class with honors in the field of studio art and a minor in writing. Her senior thesis show was entitled “Roots and Wings,” a series of large-scale portraits of her nuclear family—her roots—displayed alongside paintings of flocks of birds flying raucously into large colorful skies—her wings. This is when she began her career in earnest with the genesis of her business, Art By Cedar.
She started a website, showed her work in solo and group exhibitions in galleries, arts centers, and alternative venues, and several art galleries in the Baltimore area began to represent her.
She had her first solo show in a gallery in 2006, resulting in $4,000 in sales on its opening evening, cementing her commitment to pursuing a career in art. She was active in the Baltimore-area art scene for seven years, represented by galleries in several U.S. states and building a loyal collector base during that time.
In late 2011, Cedar relocated from Maryland to Escondido, California. There, Cedar took on leadership roles in her local community, teaching art lessons to children and founding the North County Painters Critique Group, a group of professional painters still active today, now under new leadership, to give and receive feedback on their artwork. In early 2015, Cedar relocated to Portland, Oregon, attracted to the bustling city lifestyle within the flowering and forested terrain.
A thirst for adventure and beautiful locales has shaped Cedar’s life. She has traveled around the U.S. and internationally, always taking photographs and storing mental imagery. “It all makes it into my work in one form or another,” she says, “even if it’s just a visual element, like the choice of color and use of light. I try to recreate the feeling I got standing on top of a mountain, or at the ocean.”
Practically all of her hundreds of works have been sold to private collectors, including her current focus, the “Looking Up” series—paintings of tree canopies and forests, the symbolically rich “Tree of Life” series, the “Eclipse” series—colorful images of solar eclipses and the cosmos, the elegantly stylized red-toned “Lotus” series featuring lotus flowers, as well as a series featuring sunflowers, many portraits, animal portraits, and various landscapes.
Cedar paints in a small studio in her back yard and works on the business side of things in her home office. Her paintings fill every wall of her home. “I’m lucky,” she laughs, “that I’ve never had to think about decorating, because the walls of my home are like an art gallery!”
Today, new collectors of Cedar’s work often discover her through her presence on the Internet. Through her blog and social media, including Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube, Cedar provides advice to aspiring artists, and she has a large and growing Internet following. Cedar’s original pieces are valued in the range of $300 to $5,000. For fans of Cedar’s work not currently in the market for an original, affordable prints are available for a selection of Cedar’s most popular paintings through Fine Art America, with new images added each year.
Cedar’s interests include spending time with her family and dog, devouring huge quantities of literature, tending her vegetable and flower garden, contra dancing, and volunteering in her community.
When not working in the studio, she packs and ships her paintings to galleries and buyers, markets her work, runs her business, and participates in exhibits and events.
Cedar has made a commitment to use eco-friendly materials whenever possible to create her work. In addition to her paintings on canvas, she paints on wood panels crafted by hand in the USA from sustainably sourced wood.