Cover Art for Book: An Inkling Hope

April 2nd, 2014

My painting, Grounded, is featured as the cover art for a recently published book, An Inkling Hope. It’s a collection of poems by Erin A. Thomas. Mr. Thomas himself just sent me an autographed copy, which I was delighted to receive yesterday. It looks beautiful!

An Inkling Hope by Erin A. Thomas, featuring cover art by Cedar Lee: Grounded. 16″ x 16″, Oil on Wood, © Cedar Lee 2013

An Inkling Hope by Erin A. Thomas, featuring cover art by Cedar Lee: Grounded. 16″ x 16″, Oil on Wood, © Cedar Lee 2013

A little detail I particularly like is there is a little thumbnail of the complete painting on the book’s spine:

An Inkling Hope by Erin A. Thomas, featuring cover art by Cedar Lee: Grounded. 16″ x 16″, Oil on Wood, © Cedar Lee 2013

An Inkling Hope by Erin A. Thomas, featuring cover art by Cedar Lee: Grounded. 16″ x 16″, Oil on Wood, © Cedar Lee 2013

The back cover reads:

An inkling hope is an engaging collection of poems inspired by everything from stargazing and backpacking to contemplations existential and interpersonal. Rich in imagery, imagination and metaphor, these poems punctuate defining moments from a 12-year exploration of language, perception and life. Scattered throughout these pages are the markers and milestones of a long, emotional journey, expressed in ways sometimes abstract, sometimes symbolic, sometimes concrete—but always visual. Not merely emotional, but spiritual—in the animistic sense—for Erin sees all things as possessed of spirit, be it insect or mammal, rock or tree, ocean or wave, city or plain, planet or star, even emotions and principles themselves. These poems vary in mood, tone, voice and form, but this underlying spiritual perspective—this animism—is woven amongst them all.

An Inkling Hope by Erin A. Thomas, featuring cover art by Cedar Lee: Grounded. 16″ x 16″, Oil on Wood, © Cedar Lee 2013

An Inkling Hope by Erin A. Thomas, featuring cover art by Cedar Lee: Grounded. 16″ x 16″, Oil on Wood, © Cedar Lee 2013

I think my artwork is a great complement to the imagery and themes in this beautiful book!

Bright Woods

April 2nd, 2014

Here is Bright Woods, 3′ wide by 4′ tall–about 122 x 99 cm, for those who read in metric.

I determined the basic composition for this large-scale painting in an earlier small study (at the bottom of this post)–while the composition of the large painting is similar to that of the study, the colors ended up quite different. I chose to make the red of the tree trunks brighter and redder, the greens more saturated, the sky lighter, and the shadows darker. The result is more saturated color and higher contrast.

Bright Woods. 48" x 36", Oil on Wood, © 2014 Cedar Lee

Bright Woods. 48″ x 36″, Oil on Wood, © 2014 Cedar Lee

When painting the large one, I really focused on the fact that I wanted these woods to be “bright,” and to create a feeling of everything being sharp and clear, so when you “step into” this painting, so to speak, you can feel the bright sunlight all around you, warming your skin, you can smell the sharp earthy scents of the forest floor, and you get the feeling of clean air filling your lungs. The colors and movement are intended to highlight the life force of the trees as they reach, growing and twisting towards the sky.

Some of my favorite details in this painting are the few spots I intentionally added more clearly detailed foliage against a background of foliage that’s blurred by the atmosphere of the background:

Detail from Bright Woods. 48" x 36", Oil on Wood, © 2014 Cedar Lee

Detail from Bright Woods. 48″ x 36″, Oil on Wood, © 2014 Cedar Lee

Detail from Bright Woods. 48" x 36", Oil on Wood, © 2014 Cedar Lee

Detail from Bright Woods. 48″ x 36″, Oil on Wood, © 2014 Cedar Lee

I also love the nuances in this gradation of color in the top left corner–from dark green-black to bright ultramarine blue to cerulean/cobalt teal, into gray-green and white.

Detail from Bright Woods. 48" x 36", Oil on Wood, © 2014 Cedar Lee

Detail from Bright Woods. 48″ x 36″, Oil on Wood, © 2014 Cedar Lee

Here is the small study I created first:

Study of Bright Woods. 10″ x 8″, Oil on Wood, © Cedar Lee 2014

Study of Bright Woods. 10″ x 8″, Oil on Wood, © Cedar Lee 2014

I’m finding that working out my design and thought process with a small study before doing a large piece gives me a lot of clarity about what I really want, allowing me to execute my intentions more quickly and effectively when I tackle the large-scale version.

Lots of Painting Goin’ On

March 30th, 2014

This weekend I finished up ten small studies that had been in progress for awhile.

I am almost finished with a 48″ x 36″, and I started a new 30″ x 24″. When those are done, I have plans ready for three more 30″ x 24″s and two 12″ x 12″s. After that, I have ten 8″ x 10″s primed and waiting, with vague ideas about what’s going on them, but no specific sketches yet. And then, I have three 32″ x 32″ canvases I just finished stretching, that still need to be primed. If you weren’t counting, that’s 20 paintings in the works!

Here is a work-in-progress this week–one of my large-scale oil paintings on a birch panel.

Work in Progress in art studio of Cedar Lee

Work in Progress in art studio of Cedar Lee

And here is a peek at several small acrylic studies on paper, almost finished, with many more in progress. As you can see, I’ve added cherry trees in full bloom to the studies of autumn trees I posted last week.

Works in Progress in art studio of Cedar Lee

Works in Progress in art studio of Cedar Lee

So what’s up? My 33rd birthday is approaching, and to celebrate, I’ll be throwing a sale this summer! This is not only to celebrate nearly a third of a century of life, and to show gratitude to so many people who support my work–although it is those things. In deciding to throw a sale, I also intended to light a fire under myself, as the concrete deadline forces me ramp up my studio production. This is a sort of experiment to see just how much I can do in a short time.

I am under a self-imposed deadline, that I fear I won’t be able to meet,  to paint a LOT of pieces! This is how I feel when I look at my constantly-expanding to-do list:

Artist Cedar Lee stressed out about busy schedule

But at the same time, I’m really excited about all this new work! Some of the pieces I’m working on are to be kept secret, to be revealed on the sale’s opening day in June. I am terrible at keeping secrets about my art, so we’ll see how that goes.

Besides painting my heart out day and night, I’m currently attempting to keep my website and Facebook page updated, running my artist’s critique group which meets monthly, communicating with my galleries, writing a book for emerging artists that I hope to finish within the year, lesson planning for the children’s art classes I’ll be teaching this summer, and so on. I am somehow doing these things while caring for a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old solo for more than 40 hours a week. What?

But how can I complain? This is what your 30s are all about, right? Work hard, play hard, and live fully. I have my health and still have so many more paintings in me. :)

But, I promise a vacation is coming up soon!

Small Works on Paper: Autumn Trees

March 17th, 2014

I’ve been working on painting lots of small, quick studies on paper. These won’t be available to purchase until the sale I have coming up in June/July, and I’m not yet sure how they’ll be priced, but they will be affordable.

Right now I’m focusing on fall trees with lots of bright color. I was working on all four of these simultaneously and just finished them a few moments ago. They don’t have titles yet–just wanted to share these fun little art pieces with you!

Small works on paper by Cedar Lee: Autumn trees

Small works on paper by Cedar Lee: Autumn trees

Top left is an oak, bottom right is a Japanese maple, and the others are birches.

Trees in the Morning

March 8th, 2014

Here’s another huge oil painting of the redwood forest–Trees in the Morning, 48″ x 36″.

I’ve been skirting the line between realism and impressionism/fantasy–making choices about whether to paint the trees as they look in real life, or to use wild colors and elements of abstraction to create mood and evoke emotion. In my recent painting Forest Light, I chose to swing more towards realism. In Red Trunks, I went more towards the colorful fantasy.

This painting, I think, is somewhere in the middle.

Trees In The Morning. 48" x 36", Oil on Wood, © 2014 Cedar Lee

Trees In The Morning. 48″ x 36″, Oil on Wood, © 2014 Cedar Lee

One of my favorite parts of this painting is this section of hazy turquoise and gray-gold foliage in the center.

Detail from: Trees In The Morning. 48" x 36", Oil on Wood, © 2014 Cedar Lee

Detail from: Trees In The Morning. 48″ x 36″, Oil on Wood, © 2014 Cedar Lee

I also love the twisting bark of the tree trunks.

Detail from: Trees In The Morning. 48" x 36", Oil on Wood, © 2014 Cedar Lee

Detail from: Trees In The Morning. 48″ x 36″, Oil on Wood, © 2014 Cedar Lee

You can see the scale of this painting here:

Artist Cedar Lee with her painting, Trees In The Morning. 48" x 36", Oil on Wood, © 2014 Cedar Lee

Peaceful Forest

March 1st, 2014

Here is Peaceful Forest. The light of the low sun permeates this redwood forest. Unlike a lot of my forest paintings, which are from the vantage point of below, looking up, this one is looking straight ahead through the trees. Because of that, I think it gives more of a feeling of being a part of the forest, and gives a hint of that feeling I strive to evoke so much in my work: peace, and a sense of wholeness at the realization you are one with everything, a child of the universe.

Peaceful Forest. 16" x 16", Oil on Wood, © Cedar Lee 2014

Peaceful Forest. 16″ x 16″, Oil on Wood, © Cedar Lee 2014

This is one of 8 paintings now on their way to RiverView Gallery in Havre de Grace, MD:

Recent oil paintings by artist Cedar Lee

Recent oil paintings by artist Cedar Lee

How Far I’ve Come!

February 24th, 2014

Every now and again, you’ll find me waxing nostalgic and/or marveling at the course of past events in my life that have led me to the current moment. Please humor me in these moments, as I am truly blown away by the trajectory my life has taken, and I feel I’ll burst if I don’t share the feeling. I have built something real, as a result of continually, passionately committing myself to my art–something so simple, yet so difficult and often fraught with challenges and doubt.

While searching for an obscure file in my business records, I just happened across the archives of old newsletters sent out to friends and family during the first, floundering months after I made the terrifying decision to pursue an art career full-time.

Remembering back to that time, the fear was palpable. I felt utterly clueless, yet stubbornly determined to find my way. At the time, I sent out a sporadic email newsletter to only a handful of about 40 people–family, friends and acquaintances.

Keep in mind, this was in the years before everyone was online–Facebook had only just been invented and nobody had heard of it yet. Twitter was still 2 years away from being a thing. Most people didn’t use the Internet for much more than email, and a lot of older people didn’t yet have computers! This was in the tail end of the era of artists having to promote their work mostly via slides–remember those things? Yes, hundreds of dollars of my tiny marketing budget at that time went towards ordering photo slides, to be sent to galleries and other institutions!

I’d like to share one of my newsletters with you. I wrote this when I was 24 years old, about 5 months out of college. I was painting in a tiny spare room in my suburban home. I had sold paintings before, but certainly not as a source of regular income.

Artist Cedar Lee at age 24

Artist Cedar Lee at age 24

Reading it, I am stricken by my young earnestness and my extreme work ethic. I didn’t know what exactly what I was supposed to do, but man, was I hellbent on DOING. If I read something similar to this written by a beginning artist today, I would think to myself, “This young woman is going places. There is absolutely no question.” And today, with hundreds of paintings now sold, thousands of people following my work, other artists coming to me for advice, and a myriad of experiences under my belt–exhibiting my art, marketing, working with galleries, all the ins-an-outs of creating an art business, I have indeed gone places.

And I’m still going! I have current developments in the works for the coming years that fill my stomach with butterflies and have my gears turning day and night.

Professional artists are required to have a tough skin, a high level of self-discipline, and an irrational spirit of persistence and optimism. It’s hard. The flip side of that is that we get to watch our lives transform in magical ways before our eyes. I am overcome with gratitude for the journeys I’ve been on in such a relatively short time, the lessons I’ve learned, and all the beautiful people who have made unimaginable things possible.

Without further ado, the newsletter, from November 2005:

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My last update was exactly 2 months ago. Since then an interesting thing has happened: I have spent so much energy trying to make my name bigger that it actually has begun to grow on its own.

Last month I looked around my home and my studio and realized that I literally had stacks of paintings sitting around in random corners never being looked at! Some of them were things I wouldn’t necessarily want anyone to look at (as any artist knows, there tend to be a lot of—let’s say bi-products—along the journey of creating new art) but a few of them were actually not bad. So I gave myself a new rule: I was to have 5 paintings, at the very minimum, displayed in some public place at all times henceforth. After all, the purpose of art, without getting into some big abstract debate, is to be experienced by viewers, so without viewers, I can’t truly be an artist.

Glorious Sunset. 40" x 46", Acrylic on Canvas, © 2005 Cedar Le

Glorious Sunset. 40″ x 46″, Acrylic on Canvas, © 2005 Cedar Le

I promptly made a list of my top 10 choices for where I’d like to display a painting. Some of the places I already knew, but most were gleaned from a “Best of Baltimore” list I found online. (Think “Best Bagel in Baltimore,” “Best Chai Latte in Baltimore,” etc.) I was thinking casual hangout spots that get a lot of traffic, especially people who might tend to appreciate art. I figured coffee shops and small downtown cafés can sometimes be cultural hot-spots, so with my list in hand, I drove downtown to scope out some places in person.

On that day I went to 3 places: 2 cafés and a coffee shop. One of the cafés was frankly kind of snooty and didn’t seem interested. I gave them my card, paid for my tiny $6 bowl of puréed soup, and left. The coffee shop guy informed me that the woman in charge of artwork wasn’t in, but he told me when I could call and speak with her. When I spoke with her, she sounded interested but so far nothing has come of it. Anyway—the third place I went to, the Blue Moon Café in Fells Point, (“Best Breakfast in Baltimore”) was such a roaring success that I still have not bothered to go to the other 7 places on my list.

By a stroke of luck, the owner, Sarah, just happened to be in, and I just happened to show up right at closing time when they had no customers and were free to talk to me. I showed Sarah a few photographs as examples of my work and asked if she might be interested in displaying a painting or two. She responded with such enthusiasm that it caught me off guard. She said “Why don’t you just have a whole show here and fill up all the wall space? Come by anytime to hang your work!”

Moonlit Daisies. 20" x 16", Acrylic on Canvas, © 2005 Cedar Lee

Moonlit Daisies. 20″ x 16″, Acrylic on Canvas, © 2005 Cedar Lee. One of the paintings that piqued the cafe owner’s interest.

So I hung 13 paintings in the Blue Moon Café. After 3 days, I got the news that one of my paintings had sold…I will collect payment from the buyer when the show comes down! Considering I didn’t really expect to sell anything at a café show, this was a happy surprise. A couple days after that I was informed that a painting I had displayed in a juried exhibition at Strathmore Mansion in Bethesda also sold! Yesss! Two paintings sold to complete strangers in one week.

Meanwhile, I decided to try printing some brochures as a marketing ploy. (You’ve probably received one in the mail if you’re on my mailing list…if you haven’t gotten one and you want one let me know!) The design I came up with has some examples of my work, a short bio and artist’s statement, and contact info for my studio.

Art By Cedar brochures from 2005-06

Art By Cedar brochures from 2005-06

I had 500 copies printed, but in retrospect, I should have gotten 1,000, which didn’t cost much more, but I had no idea how quickly they would go. The first hundred or so went out in the mail immediately to family and friends. I have been keeping a bundle of them in my purse everywhere I go and another stack in the glove box of my car so I’m always prepared. I have been giving them to just about everybody. I am amazed at what a response these brochures are getting. If I pull one out and offer it to someone, other people nearby say “oh, can I have one?” and in this manner I’ve gotten rid of all but a small stack of them. But before I started giving them out so liberally, I did my first real mass mailing: I sent my brochure to about 50 galleries, a lot of them local.

I have heard that for every 50 galleries an artist contacts, there might be one response. That seems accurate to me because so far only one has responded. I got a phone call from Hands of Time Art Gallery in Savage, MD from the director’s assistant. She said they got my brochure and then visited my website, and that the director liked my work and wanted to see some paintings in person. So I made an appointment and brought a few paintings to show them. They think they can sell my work, and they are giving me a solo show which will be at the end of January and beginning of February. They haven’t yet decided on exact dates, but the show will be up for 4 weeks. Cool, huh?

Artist Cedar Lee with painting Birds at Sunrise

At the opening for Hands of Time Gallery solo show, early 2006, with painting Birds at Sunrise

So now I am in the position of not having enough artwork, when just recently I had so much artwork I wasn’t sure what to do with it. I have to produce a few more paintings in the next couple weeks that will go into my gallery show, as well as putting better braces on some of my larger canvas frames and adding hanging wires, etc. so everything is ready to sell! I feel about the same way I did when I had the same amount of time to put together my senior thesis gallery show. Aaahhh!

Anyway, it is the good kind of stress. This show has the potential to be very profitable for me, and even if it’s not, it’s great exposure. I am thinking I’m going to need to find some kind of truck or large vehicle pretty soon. Transporting large paintings is becoming more and more of a hassle because my tiny sports car can only carry 2 or 3 large paintings at a time, and can’t fit the largest of them at all!

Along with all this excitement came the re-design of my online art gallery at www.ArtByCedar.com …Instead of all my paintings jumbled randomly onto a very long and chaotic page, the gallery is now divided into separate smaller galleries by theme, and is now much more pleasing to view. To make this big improvement, I enlisted the help of my talented brother Micah in exchange for a custom piece of artwork I am going to make for him. When the new gallery was up and running, I shared it with my online artists’ communities at WetCanvas.com and ArtScuttleButt.com and within a couple hours had more than 70 new visitors to my site that had never been there before!

Embarrassing screenshot of what the Art By Cedar website looked like in March 2005!

Embarrassing screenshot of what the Art By Cedar website looked like in March 2005!

My Google ranking continues to climb. (Do a Google search for “Cedar Lee” and “art” or “paintings” and see if you can find me!) I seem to be competing with the Cedar Lee Theater in Cleveland, OH for Google ranking. I contacted the owner of the theater with a conniving proposal that was my dad’s idea, and it turns out he may be interested in giving me a direct link from the theater’s main web page in exchange for a small piece of original artwork. ;-)

On top of all this, I have done a few small commissions here and there that have come to me from random directions. Today I am working on a beautiful wedding portrait.

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Back to 2014. If you’re curious, go to Google right now and do a search for “Cedar Lee artist” or “Cedar Lee art” and see what comes up today. What you’ll see is the powerful result of actions set into motion about a decade ago.

This is fun, and it’s also a powerful and joyous reminder for myself: when in doubt, take action!

My cup runneth over. Sincerely, thank you to everyone who purchases my artwork, everyone who reads my updates with interest, everyone who takes the time to write to me, whether I’ve had time to respond or not, and everyone who shares my work with others who might like it! Thank you to all the people who have shown my work in your galleries and other exhibition spaces, to the fellow artists who have inspired me and taught me, to all the friends and strangers over the years who have told me I inspired them or they love my work.

And thank you if you’ve read this far into my gushy, rambling spewing of amazement and gratitude. :)

Powerful Redwoods

February 22nd, 2014

Here is “Powerful Redwoods,” one of five small redwood forest paintings I’ll be shipping out from my studio in California as soon as they’re fully dry. They’re on their way to RiverView Gallery in Havre de Grace, MD, where you’ll be able to see them in person a couple weeks from now, if you’re in that area.

“Whoa! I almost fell out of my chair with vertigo when I saw that!” was a friend’s reaction to this painting.  The trees look like powerful individual entities–you can see the solid strength in the trees.

This painting skirts the line between representational and abstract. I go from looking at the composition of lines, shape, and color, to seeing it as trees, and back again. Someone in my artist’s critique group said the huge tree trunk at the bottom looks too much like a flat plank, and I should make it slightly rounder-looking by adding strategic highlights and shadows.

After I thought about it, I decided to keep it as-is. I sort of like the idea of the viewer’s eyes being drawn up that plank into the heavens. And as much as I’ve used artistic license here, it does capture some of the reality of standing under a giant redwood and looking up the trunk: it’s such a staggering visual experience that it does look more “abstract” than representational, even in real life.

Powerful Redwoods. 16" x 16", Oil on Wood, © Cedar Lee 2014

Powerful Redwoods. 16″ x 16″, Oil on Wood, © Cedar Lee 2014

Here are a couple photos I posted recently on my Facebook page. Here’s what my studio looks like at the moment. These paintings lined up on my drying rack and propped everywhere are making the studio feel like a real forest!

Redwood forest paintings on the drying rack in art studio of Cedar Lee

Redwood forest paintings on the drying rack in art studio of Cedar Lee

I couldn’t resist actually lying down on the studio floor to get the full experience. I feel like I’m inside this world I’ve created, especially with some of the larger-scale pieces. Fun!

Artist Cedar Lee in her studio, beneath redwood forest painting Red Trunks. 48″ x 36″, Oil on Wood, © Cedar Lee 2014

Artist Cedar Lee in her studio, beneath redwood forest painting Red Trunks. 48″ x 36″, Oil on Wood, © Cedar Lee 2014

 

Study of Her Majesty

February 16th, 2014

As I was painting this, I kept coming back to the thought that this beautiful redwood tree standing alone in the bright sky with its branches splayed out elegantly all around it, haloed by light, reminded me of a figure of royalty: A tall, proud queen decked out in brilliant robes and jewels. I just had to name this tree “Her Majesty.”

There is something about these giants that is noble and proud, isn’t there? They seem to be rejoicing in their own beauty!

Study of Her Majesty. 10" x 10", Oil on Wood, © Cedar Lee 2014

Study of Her Majesty. 10″ x 10″, Oil on Wood, © Cedar Lee 2014

You can see here that the painting continues onto the 1.5″ deep edges of the wood panel.

Study of Her Majesty. 10" x 10", Oil on Wood, © Cedar Lee 2014

Study of Her Majesty. 10″ x 10″, Oil on Wood, © Cedar Lee 2014

 

2 Oil Studies of Redwood Trees

February 6th, 2014

Two small studies completed today–both of these are potentially to be used as the basis for future larger paintings. It can help to work out all the problems and decisions of a painting in a small study first, then when I go to paint the larger one I have a clear plan of action that helps the painting process go more smoothly and quickly.

I called this one “Study of Walk Under Redwoods” because it really feels like I’m there and in motion, walking past and through the details of this forest, gazing up and around me at the majestic trees.

Study of Walk Under Redwoods. 10" x 10", Oil on Wood, © Cedar Lee 2014

Study of Walk Under Redwoods. 10″ x 10″, Oil on Wood, © Cedar Lee 2014

I’m having fun creating the rough texture of the redwood bark using colorful streaks of very thick paint, as you can see especially in the giant tree trunk in the foreground:

Close-Up Detail from: Study of Walk Under Redwoods. 10" x 10", Oil on Wood, © Cedar Lee 2014

Close-Up Detail from: Study of Walk Under Redwoods. 10″ x 10″, Oil on Wood, © Cedar Lee 2014

This one is “Study of Redwoods in the Sun.” It is all about light and color, the warm glorious sunshine bathing everything. Notice in this painting you can see every color of the rainbow!

Study of Redwoods in the Sun. 10" x 10", Oil on Wood, © Cedar Lee 2014

Study of Redwoods in the Sun. 10″ x 10″, Oil on Wood, © Cedar Lee 2014

Both of these wood panels are 1.5″ deep.  I often forget to photograph my finished paintings from an angle to show you the details of the edges, and I need to get better about that–the painted edges are such a huge part of their impact in person. You can see here no framing is required, and if you were to frame these you actually would lose part of the painting.

Left: Study of Redwoods in the Sun. Right: Study of Walk Under Redwoods. Both 10" x 10", Oil on Wood, © Cedar Lee 2014

Left: Study of Redwoods in the Sun. Right: Study of Walk Under Redwoods. Both 10″ x 10″, Oil on Wood, © Cedar Lee 2014

 

 

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