The Clearing

October 2nd, 2014

This painting is called “The Clearing.” It’s inspired by my hike around the Big Trees Trail in Sequoia National Park, which is a 1.2-mile loop that meanders around a gigantic open meadow. This easy hike was a unique experience during my visit to the Giant Forest, because it was the only place I visited where you could look across an open space from a distance and see an entire giant sequoia tree from the ground up.

The trails through the dense parts of the forest, in contrast, restrict your views as the giant trees surround you completely. You can only see the ones close to you, and only bits of the looming treetops of the ones further away. Think of it as seeing the Manhattan skyline from across the water as opposed to walking down the street in Manhattan.

The Clearing. 32" x 32", Oil on Canvas, © 2014 Cedar Lee

The Clearing. 32″ x 32″, Oil on Canvas, © 2014 Cedar Lee

I’m really pleased with the feeling of depth and the clarity in this painting. My recent experiments with very thick texture are paying off–the results are so juicy and expressive, and I get fun things happening like the texture in this sky:

Close-up detail of painting: The Clearing. 32" x 32", Oil on Canvas, © 2014 Cedar Lee

Close-up detail of: The Clearing. 32″ x 32″, Oil on Canvas, © 2014 Cedar Lee

My favorite part of this scene might be these feathery branches reaching in from the side of the foreground, lit up brightly in the sunlight to really bring out the deep jewel tones of the shadowy background forest.

Close-up detail of: The Clearing. 32" x 32", Oil on Canvas, © 2014 Cedar Lee

Close-up detail of: The Clearing. 32″ x 32″, Oil on Canvas, © 2014 Cedar Lee

 

Into The Sun

September 21st, 2014

This painting truly gives a feeling of the enormity of the giant sequoia trees. Looking at it, I can feel my neck craning and my jaw dropping in wonder as this giant tree simply towers above me!

This is my latest in the series I’m working on, with the help of photos I took recently while hiking in the Giant Forest in Sequoia National Park.

Into The Sun. 32" x 32", Oil on Canvas, © 2014 Cedar Lee

Into The Sun. 32″ x 32″, Oil on Canvas, © 2014 Cedar Lee

The part of this painting that is much better seen in person is the thick texture of the paint. I painted most of it with a palette knife, and only switched to using paintbrushes in the final layer of paint.

Close-Up Detail of: Into The Sun. 32" x 32", Oil on Canvas, © 2014 Cedar Lee

Close-Up Detail of: Into The Sun. 32″ x 32″, Oil on Canvas, © 2014 Cedar Lee

Here are a couple close-ups that really show the roughness of the texture created by the paint being spread onto the canvas freely–in places, rather than carefully mixing the paint, I simply slapped one color right next to another and smeared them together loosely.

Close-Up Detail of: Into The Sun. 32" x 32", Oil on Canvas, © 2014 Cedar Lee

Close-Up Detail of: Into The Sun. 32″ x 32″, Oil on Canvas, © 2014 Cedar Lee

Because of this loose technique, and the varying thickness of the paint, the effect is quite different when looking up close as opposed to backing up and seeing the big picture.

Close-Up Detail of: Into The Sun. 32" x 32", Oil on Canvas, © 2014 Cedar Lee

Close-Up Detail of: Into The Sun. 32″ x 32″, Oil on Canvas, © 2014 Cedar Lee

For scale, here is the painting over a king-size bed.

Into The Sun. 32" x 32", Oil on Canvas, © 2014 Cedar Lee, shown in artist's bedroom

Into The Sun. 32″ x 32″, Oil on Canvas, © 2014 Cedar Lee, shown in artist’s bedroom

Ancient Ruins

September 7th, 2014

My latest painting, which I’ve been working on for the past several weeks, is called “Ancient Ruins.”

Ancient Ruins. 32" x 32", Oil on Canvas, © 2014 Cedar Lee

Ancient Ruins. 32″ x 32″, Oil on Canvas, © 2014 Cedar Lee

When hiking through the Giant Sequoia forests in Northern California, you’ll occasionally come across trees like this–Beautiful and mysterious, (if you’ve never seen it in person you might wonder what it is) this is the charred remains of what used to be a gargantuan, living redwood tree. The victim of a devastating forest fire, its top half is missing.

What remains is a monument to the past–a sharp spear jutting into the sky. The interior is hollow and black, burned away, but the exterior, even with the dead bark peeling away in places, still shows the reddish gold tones of a living tree.

As this fire happened very long ago, you can see that new growth forest has come in all around it–many of the trees in the background, although they are already towering giants themselves, look spindly in comparison to the circumference of this ancient relic.

The painting is based on this reference photo I took in Sequoia National Forest. The sharp point of the gigantic dead tree disappearing directly into the bright sun was an irresistible image for me–both to photograph and to paint.

Cedar Lee's reference photo for her painting: Ancient Ruins. 32" x 32", Oil on Canvas, © 2014 Cedar Lee

Cedar Lee’s reference photo for her painting: Ancient Ruins. 32″ x 32″, Oil on Canvas, © 2014 Cedar Lee

I lost some of the height as I had to squash the image to fit it into the square format I wanted to work with. However, with my use of brilliant colors and strong light and shadow, the image has retained its excitement.

Ancient Ruins. 32" x 32", Oil on Canvas, © 2014 Cedar Lee

Ancient Ruins. 32″ x 32″, Oil on Canvas, © 2014 Cedar Lee

This feels like a sacred place, similar to some of the Aztec ruins I’ve visited in Mexico, and the extreme vertical angles of the trees, reminiscent of a grand Italian cathedral full of stained glass, adds to this feeling.

A huge burned-down tree that lived for many ages and whose remains will probably be here for many ages more beyond our human lifespan is a reminder of our own impermanence, and forces us to stop and honor the past. My hope is that this series of paintings will help create awareness for these majestic forests, one of the wonders of the Earth, which we should all feel honor-bound to protect.

The painting in the studio: As you can see, the image wraps around onto the edges of the canvas.

Painting in Studio of Artist Cedar Lee: Ancient Ruins. 32" x 32", Oil on Canvas, © 2014 Cedar Lee

Painting in Studio of Artist Cedar Lee: Ancient Ruins. 32″ x 32″, Oil on Canvas, © 2014 Cedar Lee

Here’s a quick peek into the rest of the studio today: The painting on the right, on the easel, is a work in progress, still in its earliest stages.

Paintings in Studio of Artist Cedar Lee: Left: Ancient Ruins. 32" x 32", Oil on Canvas, © 2014 Cedar Lee. Right: Work in Progress

Paintings in Studio of Artist Cedar Lee: Left: Ancient Ruins. 32″ x 32″, Oil on Canvas, © 2014 Cedar Lee. Right: Work in Progress

The glare in the photo below is from the light hitting the extremely wet paint at an angle–this one will take awhile to dry because the paint is so thick.

Wet Painting on Drying Rack in Studio of Artist Cedar Lee: Ancient Ruins. 32" x 32", Oil on Canvas, © 2014 Cedar Lee

Wet Painting on Drying Rack in Studio of Artist Cedar Lee: Ancient Ruins. 32″ x 32″, Oil on Canvas, © 2014 Cedar Lee

It looks different in different lighting. Here it is in somewhat more shadowed light, as this photo was taken standing in the bright light outside the doors of the studio.

Painting in Studio of Artist Cedar Lee: Ancient Ruins. 32" x 32", Oil on Canvas, © 2014 Cedar Lee

Painting in Studio of Artist Cedar Lee: Ancient Ruins. 32″ x 32″, Oil on Canvas, © 2014 Cedar Lee

I painted much of this with a palette knife. The paint is 1/4 thick in some places. The details up close are delectable.

Ancient Ruins detail1

You can kind of see the long straight marks from the knife worked into the thick blue paint of the sky here–but it’s better in person!

Ancient Ruins detail2

I find this little area in the top right corner deeply satisfying. I think it’s because of the colors: the purple foliage in the shadows right up against the deep red-orange of the tree in the foreground, alongside the gold and deep green of the tree branches.

Ancient Ruins detail3

Wrapping Up an Eventful August

August 31st, 2014

In the last 2 weeks, I took a 3-day trip to visit friends in Arizona, I attended a productive meeting of my artist’s critique group, I went to a really fun art opening–the juried show I’m in at San Diego’s Museum of the Living Artist, and I made progress on three large paintings.

One of the photos from my Arizona road trip:

Gorgeous sunset in the Mojave desert.

Gorgeous sunset in the Mojave desert.

An inspiring critique session with my artist’s group:

North County Painters Critique Group

North County Painters Critique Group, August 2014 meeting. Art by Daniel Ketelhut.

The art opening at the San Diego Museum of the Living Artist in Balboa Park:

The museum is an impressive, beautiful space!

Cedar Lee's work in juried show at San Diego Art Institute's Museum of the Living Artist in Balboa Park, August-September 2014

Even though I arrived late for the opening, the place was packed!

Cedar Lee's work in juried show at San Diego Art Institute's Museum of the Living Artist in Balboa Park, August-September 2014

I tried to get a close-up photo of myself with my painting, but I never got an opportunity because there was a constant stream of people stopping and looking at it. This is a good problem to have. :)

Cedar Lee's work in juried show at San Diego Art Institute's Museum of the Living Artist in Balboa Park, August-September 2014

Cedar Lee's work in juried show at San Diego Art Institute's Museum of the Living Artist in Balboa Park, August-September 2014

Cedar Lee's work in juried show at San Diego Art Institute's Museum of the Living Artist in Balboa Park, August-September 2014

This is the closest I could get.

Cedar Lee's work in juried show at San Diego Art Institute's Museum of the Living Artist in Balboa Park, August-September 2014

Me with my date. Isn’t he cute?

Cedar Lee's work in juried show at San Diego Art Institute's Museum of the Living Artist in Balboa Park, August-September 2014

I admired a lot of artwork and truly enjoyed the grandeur of the large, open museum floor.

Cedar Lee's work in juried show at San Diego Art Institute's Museum of the Living Artist in Balboa Park, August-September 2014

Here are some of the other walls of artwork in the current show. Clearly I am in good company!

Cedar Lee's work in juried show at San Diego Art Institute's Museum of the Living Artist in Balboa Park, August-September 2014

And, I have to say, San Diego’s Balboa Park in the evening is truly a magical experience.

Cedar Lee's work in juried show at San Diego Art Institute's Museum of the Living Artist in Balboa Park, August-September 2014

Cedar Lee's work in juried show at San Diego Art Institute's Museum of the Living Artist in Balboa Park, August-September 2014

Cedar Lee's work in juried show at San Diego Art Institute's Museum of the Living Artist in Balboa Park, August-September 2014

Cedar Lee's work in juried show at San Diego Art Institute's Museum of the Living Artist in Balboa Park, August-September 2014

The show is up until September 20th, and admission is only $3. If you’re local, check it out!

In the studio, I’m working on three 32″ square paintings simultaneously, and doing a lot of thick palette knife painting experimentation. Here’s a super-quick time-lapse of me working on one of the new pieces in the studio:

I hope to have something finished up and photographed in the next week.

It’s been an insanely busy month for me…and, on top of it all, I also experienced a massive hard drive failure!

Last week, my computer, where I keep all my business and personal files from the past 15 years, suddenly exhibited the Blue Screen of Death. It quickly became clear that the hard drive was a goner, and everything on it was lost forever.

I cannot even tell you how thankful I am that backups are something I take very seriously. I use CrashPlan–but at the time of this crash, only 70% of my files had been backed up on CrashPlan’s servers–see, I recently deleted all my backups there and started a fresh backup. The reason the hard drive blew up is it was a pretty new drive that I’d recently purchased and moved my files to. There hadn’t yet been enough time since starting over with my new drive for my enormous amount of data to be copied over to my CrashPlan backup. Turns out the new drive was defective and unstable from the start.

The thing that saved me from losing 30% of my data was that I back up my files in multiple locations. In addition to using CrashPlan, I also run an automatic backup to a local drive in my home. In the end, I lost only about a week’s worth of files, plus the cost of a new hard drive and motherboard. This is an inconvenience to be sure, but nothing at all compared to what it would have been like to lose all my files from 15 years, or even one year. I can’t even imagine the devastation I would have felt.

Let this be a lesson: Back up everything, then back up your backups, then have a backup backup plan. Whatever time and money it takes now to set up automatic backup systems will be worth it if this ever happens to you.

Two Reasons to Visit the Museum of the Living Artist

August 11th, 2014

One–I’ll have work on display there for the next month!

My painting “Summer Afternoon” was selected for inclusion in this month’s juried show at San Diego Art Institute’s Museum of the Living Artist.

And Two–This museum is a cultural hot spot you’ll want to check out if you haven’t been yet. From their website: It promotes San Diego as a living arts community that fully integrates visual arts into everyday life…featuring more than 3,000 works of painting, sculpture, prints, drawings, and mixed media per year, in addition to running arts education programs.

This painting is one of my newest images, inspired by hours of hiking in Sequoia National Park’s majestic forests:

Summer Afternoon. 30" x 24", Oil on Wood, © 2014 Cedar Lee

Summer Afternoon. 30″ x 24″, Oil on Wood, © 2014 Cedar Lee

The opening for this upcoming show is on Friday, August 22nd, from 6pm-8pm at 1439 El Prado in Balboa Park, San Diego. I plan to be there! 

The exhibition closes on September 21st. They received just over 300 entries, and 55 pieces (about 18%) were selected. The juror was Dave Kesting, founder of Fountain Art Fair and director of Leo Kesting Gallery and Kesting/Ray Gallery.

If you’re local to San Diego, I’d love to see you at the opening on August 22!

California Show at Art Tradition Gallery

August 9th, 2014

The art opening last night at Art Tradition Gallery in Escondido was a fun one! The theme of this season’s show is “California: Coast to Desert,” so my recent paintings of redwood trees fit in perfectly. You can see my 2 large forest pieces displayed among the other artwork here:

Artwork by Cedar Lee at Art Tradition Gallery, August 2014

Artwork by Cedar Lee at Art Tradition Gallery, August 2014

During this month’s Art Walk, there was also a “Pinup” theme. All the ladies were encouraged to dress up as pinup models, so I thought, “Why not?” Here’s me in a Bettie Page inspired dress borrowed from a fashionista friend of mine:

 

Artist Cedar Lee dressed in pinup attire

Artist Cedar Lee dressed in pinup attire

 

Me with the other artists currently exhibiting at Art Tradition Gallery. Left to right: Cedar Lee, Bradley Kaskin, Alexandra “Sasha” Babic, Darrel McPherson, and Kotinca “Kat” Kerbs.

Escondido, CA Artists: Cedar Lee, Bradley Kaskin, Alexandra "Sasha" Babic, Darrel McPherson, Kotinca "Kat" Kerbs

Escondido, CA Artists: Cedar Lee, Bradley Kaskin, Alexandra “Sasha” Babic, Darrel McPherson, Kotinca “Kat” Kerbs

 

Escondido’s Cruisin’ Grand took place during the Art Walk, in which classic car aficionados bring their beautiful restored cars to show off all up and down Grand Ave.

Cruisin' Grand Escondido, August 2014

Cruisin’ Grand Escondido, August 2014

 

And–clearly the silliest part of the evening–I took part in this lineup of ladies in their glamorous pinup attire out in front of Distinction Gallery. (I’m the one in black. To the left of me is my friend Elena: black and white polka dots, and to the right, my friend and fellow painter Kotinca: pink ruffles.) Fun!

Artist Cedar Lee with pinup models during Escondido's Cruisin' Grand, August 2014

Artist Cedar Lee with pinup models during Escondido’s Cruisin’ Grand, August 2014

Artist Cedar Lee with pinup models during Escondido's Cruisin' Grand, August 2014

Artist Cedar Lee with pinup models during Escondido’s Cruisin’ Grand, August 2014

 

Kids Summer Art Lessons, In Review

August 9th, 2014

The art lessons I’ve been teaching to children ages 4-11  for the past 5 weeks have come to a close.

The theme of the course was “Learning From the Masters,” and each lesson I led the class in creating their own version of a painting from art history. It was a fun experience for me to get to delve into some master paintings myself while using these images to teach art principles that the children will be able to build on in the future.

Lesson 1 was Poplars on the Banks of the River Epte by Claude Monet:

Poplars on the Banks of the River Epte Claude Monet

Poplars on the Banks of the River Epte by Claude Monet

Here are the finished results from the class. You can see I gave the students paper taped to a piece of cardboard with masking tape. This way, when I peeled away the masking tape their painting was given crisp edges framed by a border of unpainted white paper.

Artwork by Cedar Lee's art students

I had my own 4-year-old son (who was too young to participate in the class) help me work out the kinks in my lesson plans. Here is his version:

monet2

Next was Georgia O’Keefe.

Blue Morning Glories Georgia O'Keeffe

Blue Morning Glories by Georgia O’Keeffe

 

Some of the students’ finished work (beautiful, no?!):

Artwork by Cedar Lee's art students

Artwork by Cedar Lee's art students

 

And my 4-year-old’s version:

Artwork by Cedar Lee's art students

 

Then the iconic Starry Night:

Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh

Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh

Artwork by Cedar Lee's art students

Artwork by Cedar Lee's art students

 

 

My son’s version:

Artwork by Cedar Lee's art students

 

Then Tree of Life by Gustav Klimt:

Tree of Life by Gustav Klimt

Tree of Life by Gustav Klimt

Artwork by Cedar Lee's students

Artwork by Cedar Lee's students

Artwork by Cedar Lee's students

Artwork by Cedar Lee's students

Artwork by Cedar Lee's students

Artwork by Cedar Lee's students

Artwork by Cedar Lee's students

 

 

And finally, Paul Klee’s Cat and Bird:

Cat and Bird by Paul Klee

Cat and Bird by Paul Klee

By this point in the class, I could see their skills had improved. This class was probably my favorite in respect to the awesome results I saw from them!

Artwork by Cedar Lee's students

Artwork by Cedar Lee's students

Artwork by Cedar Lee's students

Artwork by Cedar Lee's students

Artwork by Cedar Lee's students

Artwork by Cedar Lee's students

Artwork by Cedar Lee's students

Artwork by Cedar Lee's students

Artwork by Cedar Lee's students

Three Giants From Sequoia National Forest

August 9th, 2014

This painting is called “Three Giants,” and is a continuation of my exploration of imagery I picked up in Sequoia National Forest. I aim to show not just a realistic representation of these trees, but also to infuse them with a mood–that thrumming vibration of life and growth that makes you feel a little thrill at being a part of this world.

I created dramatic lighting with highlights and shadows. The spiraling trunks and the way the branches curve and cross over each other create visual movement. I’ve chosen to keep the center space clear of messy branches, to allow the eye to zoom all the way to the tops of the tree trunks up in the sky.

Three Giants. 30" x 24", Oil on Wood, © 2014 Cedar Lee

Three Giants. 30″ x 24″, Oil on Wood, © 2014 Cedar Lee

Here is the reference photo that was the starting point for the painting. As you can see, I edited the trees a bit to make them more visually exciting, and I used a lot of artistic license to make the image stylistically my own, through executive choices about color, form, and mark-making.

Reference photo for Three Giants. 30" x 24", Oil on Wood, © 2014 Cedar Lee

Reference photo for Three Giants. 30″ x 24″, Oil on Wood, © 2014 Cedar Lee

Creating these paintings is so exciting to me as I find ways to make a hybridized image: realism combined with unfettered artistic expression.

How to Attach a Hanging Wire to a Painting

July 22nd, 2014

Every painter needs to be proficient at attaching hanging wires!

This is a simple task that I’ve done hundreds of times and is very easy to do–if you have the right tools and hardware, and you know how to do it properly. Here are a couple of instructional videos to remove the guesswork for anyone who’d like to learn how.

Be sure to watch both Part 1 and Part 2.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Sequoias in the Sun

July 21st, 2014

In this painting, Sequoias in the Sun, I chose a palette of turquoise, green, gold, earthy red and deep purple.

The air of the forest is soft and misty in the bright light from above.

Sequoias in the Sun. 30" x 24", Oil on Wood, © 2014 Cedar Lee

Sequoias in the Sun. 30″ x 24″, Oil on Wood, © 2014 Cedar Lee

My favorite part of this painting is the rays of the sun bursting from behind the top of the giant tree. You can see every color of the rainbow in this small area!

Detail from: Sequoias in the Sun. 30" x 24", Oil on Wood, © 2014 Cedar Lee

Detail from: Sequoias in the Sun. 30″ x 24″, Oil on Wood, © 2014 Cedar Lee

I also love the movement in the tree branches that makes it look like the trees are dancing, or blowing in a breeze.

Detail from: Sequoias in the Sun. 30" x 24", Oil on Wood, © 2014 Cedar Lee

Detail from: Sequoias in the Sun. 30″ x 24″, Oil on Wood, © 2014 Cedar Lee

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