From the Art By Cedar Archives: Reaching For the Sky

June 23rd, 2017

This painting would become, several months after its creation, the first I ever sold in a gallery show! “Reaching For the Sky.”

Reaching for the Sky. 24" x 16", Acrylic on Canvas, © 2005 Cedar Lee

Reaching for the Sky. 24″ x 16″, Acrylic on Canvas, © 2005 Cedar Lee

That year I spent a lot of time by myself in the woods on Goucher College’s campus, taking pictures and sketching images of the forest.

I was about to graduate with my art degree. I was starting to figure out how to stick with one subject for a while. The prospect of channeling my artistic focus into something bigger than just one art piece–the idea of creating, as they say, a cohesive body of work, was lighting a fire under me!

If you’re going to consciously dwell on a certain kind of imagery for many years, walking outside by yourself in the woods is not a bad place to start.

New Lotus Art: Passion Through Purpose

June 20th, 2017

Here is my newest Lotus painting, “Passion Through Purpose.”

Passion Through Purpose. 30" x 20", Oil on Canvas, © 2017 Cedar Lee

Passion Through Purpose. 30″ x 20″, Oil on Canvas, © 2017 Cedar Lee

Similar to my other recent paintings, “Rise Up,” (sold) “Imperfect Grace,” (sold) and “Courage Blooms,” this painting features three lotus flowers in a row, each in a different stage of blooming.

Cedar Lee Lotus art in office setting: Passion Through Purpose. 30" x 20", Oil on Canvas, © 2017 Cedar Lee

Cedar Lee Lotus art in office setting: Passion Through Purpose. 30″ x 20″, Oil on Canvas, © 2017 Cedar Lee

This repeated image is a metaphor for personal growth. The lotus growing bravely upwards out of the dark pond water towards the sunlight above can represent the journey of any human aspiration, goal-setting and reaching, self-reflection, self-realization.

Gallery-wrapped painted edges: Passion Through Purpose. 30" x 20", Oil on Canvas, © 2017 Cedar Lee

Gallery-wrapped painted edges: Passion Through Purpose. 30″ x 20″, Oil on Canvas, © 2017 Cedar Lee

Like all of my paintings, the painting continues around the deep edges of the canvas. The artwork can be framed if desired, but it has a complete, modern aesthetic all on its own.

Detail: Passion Through Purpose. 30" x 20", Oil on Canvas, © 2017 Cedar Lee

Detail: Passion Through Purpose. 30″ x 20″, Oil on Canvas, © 2017 Cedar Lee

The paint is thickly textured throughout. A fiery yellow-orange dominates the top of the canvas.

Detail: Passion Through Purpose. 30" x 20", Oil on Canvas, © 2017 Cedar Lee

Detail: Passion Through Purpose. 30″ x 20″, Oil on Canvas, © 2017 Cedar Lee

As the paint drips fluidly down the painting’s background, the orange turns to red and differentiates into many thin rivulets that contrast boldly against the inky darkness below.

Detail: Passion Through Purpose. 30" x 20", Oil on Canvas, © 2017 Cedar Lee

Detail: Passion Through Purpose. 30″ x 20″, Oil on Canvas, © 2017 Cedar Lee

The flower petals were initially painted thickly in white, with strokes of a palette knife. Thin glazes of colors were then brushed over this thick texture. The flowers stand out from the background, both in texture and in the many colors glowing within the white.

Detail: Passion Through Purpose. 30" x 20", Oil on Canvas, © 2017 Cedar Lee

Detail: Passion Through Purpose. 30″ x 20″, Oil on Canvas, © 2017 Cedar Lee

Are the three blooms the same flower at different stages in its own blooming?

Detail: Passion Through Purpose. 30" x 20", Oil on Canvas, © 2017 Cedar Lee

Detail: Passion Through Purpose. 30″ x 20″, Oil on Canvas, © 2017 Cedar Lee

Or are they three separate flowers, each doing their own thing alongside the others? This is left for the viewer to interpret.

The colors are vividly rich, liquid, sumptuous. They appear even more saturated when the painting is seen in full sunlight:

Detail under full sunlight: Passion Through Purpose. 30" x 20", Oil on Canvas, © 2017 Cedar Lee

Detail under full sunlight: Passion Through Purpose. 30″ x 20″, Oil on Canvas, © 2017 Cedar Lee

From the Art By Cedar Archives: Emerald Leaves

June 12th, 2017

“Emerald Leaves.” And here I was starting to dive into the challenge of painting trees from this perspective.

This painting was inspired by a photo I took during my trip to Italy that year–was it a public park in Venice?

Emerald Leaves. 30" x 20", Acrylic on Canvas, © 2005 Cedar Lee

Emerald Leaves. 30″ x 20″, Acrylic on Canvas, © 2005 Cedar Lee

The things I worked to capture, that still delight me to this day: Those vines creeping up the trunk. The little knots and notches in the tree’s bark. The sunlight and shadows playing in leaf-patterns. The way certain bunches of leaves overhead catch the sunlight and show up as a bright yellow-green flame. How the combination of sunlight and leafy plant life just fills our eyes with GREEN.

Emeralds. That chlorophyll hue that keeps life on Earth going.

From the Art By Cedar Archives: Tulips in the Morning

June 5th, 2017

“Tulips in the Morning.” Ah, at the time I created this, I was obsessed with silver linings on clouds, or in this case, gold linings. The image of sunlight just bursting out from behind the darkness! Light that cannot be contained.

The unique perspective of flowers from below makes them seem towering, larger than life. This is a hint of what was to come in my future work, my coming fascination with looking up into the tops of giant trees and trying to capture that perspective.

The rich red and gold of the tulips is one of my very favorite color schemes, still showing up today in my Lotus series.

Tulips in the Morning. 30" x 26", Acrylic on Canvas, © 2005 Cedar Lee

Tulips in the Morning. 30″ x 26″, Acrylic on Canvas, © 2005 Cedar Lee

The crepuscular rays coming down from above are reminiscent of religious imagery. My jokester husband told me a better title for this painting would have been “Jesus and the Flowers.” While not a religious person in any sense, I have indeed always felt an indescribable reverence and sense of wonder about nature. This image holds that feeling. It’s almost like the sound of glorious trumpets are coming down from the sky on those rays of light, the tulips lit from within by some divine power, swaying in rapture.

I think this feeling shows up in a lot of my art. When I can catch a glimmer of it, I feel I have tapped into something that is universal to the human experience, something that renders all our individual perceptions and dogma irrelevant.

From the Art By Cedar Archives: Miami Sunset

June 2nd, 2017

This style of painting stormy skies was a short-lived but intense phase for me in 2005. The colors of the clouds form abstract, interlocking jagged shapes. The palette is high-contrast, neon.

Miami Sunset. 32" x 40", Acrylic on Canvas, © 2005 Cedar Lee

Miami Sunset. 32″ x 40″, Acrylic on Canvas, © 2005 Cedar Lee

I spent the first years of my childhood in Miami, Florida. The tropics are woven into my identity.

I painted this, “Miami Sunset” from a photo taken near my grandparents’ house there, when I was visiting for my Papa’s funeral. My beloved Nana had died five years before. It was the end of an era. I had just walked out of their home full of family in their time of loss, sorting piles of belongings. My grief was raw, which I think shows in this magnificent but angry big sky.

I love the lightning striking in the distance.

My style has changed a lot since I created this, but I still aim for this kind of unfettered expression. It’s the kind of thing that you lose if you try too hard. A funny paradox. I think the secret is to just feel your feelings, and let go a little while working, allow yourself to loosen up, forget “the plan” and be playful with the paint. Then it emerges on its own.

Sun-Dappled Sequoias

May 29th, 2017

Here is “Sun-Dappled Sequoias.”

It is among the largest paintings I’ve done.

Cedar Lee painting: "Sun-Dappled Sequoias" large scale wall art

Cedar Lee painting: “Sun-Dappled Sequoias” large scale wall art

The colors include pops of bright turquoise, purple, magenta, yellow and tangerine orange. Aside from those artistic color choices, when you look at the image in its entirety, it appears as a realistic image of an ancient redwood forest–you are looking up into the treetops.

Sun-Dappled Sequoias. 48" x 48", Oil on Wood, © 2017 Cedar Lee

Sun-Dappled Sequoias. 48″ x 48″, Oil on Wood, © 2017 Cedar Lee

The light and heat from this sunny day are bouncing off of the thousands of evergreen needles far above your head, the sun filtering down and glimmering like countless little diamonds.

Detail: Sun-Dappled Sequoias. 48" x 48", Oil on Wood, © 2017 Cedar Lee

Detail: Sun-Dappled Sequoias. 48″ x 48″, Oil on Wood, © 2017 Cedar Lee

Upon closer examination, every part of the painting is full of interesting details. The negative spaces of the light sky between the overhead foliage appear as a multitude of colorful cells.

Detail: Sun-Dappled Sequoias. 48" x 48", Oil on Wood, © 2017 Cedar Lee

Detail: Sun-Dappled Sequoias. 48″ x 48″, Oil on Wood, © 2017 Cedar Lee

In  the bark of the giant tree on the left, and in the thick foliage, bits are illuminated by brilliant sunlight, intensely contrasted against the dark colors in the shadows.

Detail: Sun-Dappled Sequoias. 48" x 48", Oil on Wood, © 2017 Cedar Lee

Detail: Sun-Dappled Sequoias. 48″ x 48″, Oil on Wood, © 2017 Cedar Lee

Long curving branches overlap to create geometric patterns. Squiggly lines work alongside straight lines. Warm colors push up against cool.

Detail: Sun-Dappled Sequoias. 48" x 48", Oil on Wood, © 2017 Cedar Lee

Detail: Sun-Dappled Sequoias. 48″ x 48″, Oil on Wood, © 2017 Cedar Lee

There is movement in every corner of the painting, inviting the viewer to get lost in the details.

Cedar Lee forest painting work in progress

Cedar Lee forest painting work in progress

This painting has taken many hours to complete, over the course of the past month! Painting something so large but also so detailed has been a big challenge for me, and also a lot of fun.

Artist Cedar Lee working in studio. Painting: Sun-Dappled Sequoias. 48" x 48", Oil on Wood, © 2017 Cedar Lee

Artist Cedar Lee working in studio. Painting: Sun-Dappled Sequoias. 48″ x 48″, Oil on Wood, © 2017 Cedar Lee

My favorite part was seeing it all come together in the last few hours as I added the finishing touches.

Artist Cedar Lee working in studio. Painting: Sun-Dappled Sequoias. 48" x 48", Oil on Wood, © 2017 Cedar Lee

Artist Cedar Lee working in studio. Painting: Sun-Dappled Sequoias. 48″ x 48″, Oil on Wood, © 2017 Cedar Lee

All art is much better experienced in person, but this is especially so with large-scale art. It fills a whole wall of my studio!

Artist Cedar Lee in studio. Painting: Sun-Dappled Sequoias. 48" x 48", Oil on Wood, © 2017 Cedar Lee

Artist Cedar Lee in studio. Painting: Sun-Dappled Sequoias. 48″ x 48″, Oil on Wood, © 2017 Cedar Lee

Nothing can truly capture the awesome experience of physically being on the floor of giant redwood forest, but this painting evokes some of that feeling.

From the Art By Cedar Archives: The Big Sky

May 22nd, 2017

This is a perfect painting to share this time of year. Where I live, everything is starting to bloom and the spring gardens are planted!

The whole right side of the sky is dark and stormy, just like the stormy state of government affairs all around the world, and the many storms of infinite variety that people are going through in their personal lives at this very moment.

But this young tree perched on a rolling hillside is highlighted by the most gorgeous, warm glowing light. Birds are flocking to it, as if attracted to its abundance. Darling little flowers are popping in the lush grass of the foreground. In the big picture of life, I always look for this hope. It’s a miracle just to be here.

The Big Sky. 40" x 50", Acrylic on Canvas, © 2005 Cedar Lee

The Big Sky. 40″ x 50″, Acrylic on Canvas, © 2005 Cedar Lee

This painting is part of the fabric of my family’s story. I painted it as part of my independent study during my last semester at Goucher College in 2005. My Grandma (who through her life made the choice to cultivate her own joy and abundance) immediately loved the finished painting when she saw it. She bought it from me, making it my first painting sold after graduating with my art degree.

When she passed away 2 years ago, the painting moved to my parents’ house. I have a feeling this one might stay in the family for generations. Not something I ever considered at the time I created it!

Centering my life around creating art is a choice I’ve always made because, well, I just really want to create art!

However, it is also cool to think about the ripples that art makes down through families over time–how my art will continue to exist and change hands, maybe in unpredictable ways, long after I myself am gone. The digital documentation of artwork that happens these days further contributes to the immortality of art. Even if the original is destroyed, how long will its image bounce around in the cyber world?

From the Art By Cedar Archives: Intertwining Trees

May 15th, 2017

Before I became serious about creating an entire body of artwork centered around trees, I had already discovered that I loved painting them.

There is a famous pair of baobab trees in Madagascar that inspired the theme of this painting. They intertwine sort of like this. Do a Google image search for “Baobab of Love” to see pictures.

Intertwining Trees. 24" x 18", Acrylic on Canvas, © 2005 Cedar Lee

Intertwining Trees. 24″ x 18″, Acrylic on Canvas, © 2005 Cedar Lee

I do think this image of giant trees growing around each other is a great symbol for enduring love. Because of the rich symbolism in this painting, the image has been used a few times over the years in a symbolic context: on people’s wedding invitations, and I believe once as the image on one couple’s ketubah (Jewish marriage contract.)

Looking back on it 12 years after creating it, I still think it’s beautiful.

Happy Mother’s Day! Last Day of Spring Sale

May 13th, 2017

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day! Several of the paintings sold over the past week were a mother’s gift to herself or a gift selected for the honored mother in someone’s life, to commemorate this Mothers’ Day.

Sold artwork by Cedar Lee, being prepared for shipment

Sold artwork by Cedar Lee, being prepared for shipment

I love helping people to experience original, handmade art as the truly unique gift that it is. I hope the paintings’ new owners enjoy them for years to come.

The Art By Cedar Spring Sale ends tomorrow…Last chance to go check out what is still available!

From the Art By Cedar Archives: Bee

May 9th, 2017

I painted this bee in 2005 while I was at Goucher College. One of my painting instructors had given me the assignment to create an art piece inspired by “fragility and strength.”

Bee. 28" x 32", Acrylic on Canvas, © 2005 Cedar Lee

Bee. 28″ x 32″, Acrylic on Canvas, © 2005 Cedar Lee

The fragility can be seen in the insect’s paper-thin, semi-translucent wings. The strength is less obvious, but I feel it, not only in the bee’s exaggeratedly huge wings, but in the tenacity of its body, and the way it is presented: zoomed-in as the image is, the bee appears larger than life, taking up most of the canvas, becoming a mythical character.

The bee is hanging on to a blade of dried grass, as the wind moves in across the landscape. In the distance are dark purple rain clouds, a torrential downpour in progress. The impending storm adds an element of danger. But the bee is going to make it. It’s tough.

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