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.

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.

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.

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.

From the Art By Cedar Archives: Late Afternoon Sunlight

April 10th, 2017

This painting, “Late Afternoon Sunlight” continued the theme of silhouetted birds and expressive trees that I was focused on that year.

It was painted in acrylics, but the soft washes of color in the sky look like watercolors. The whole painting has an inviting glow.

Late Afternoon Sunlight. 30" x 36", Acrylic on Canvas, © 2005 Cedar Lee

Late Afternoon Sunlight. 30″ x 36″, Acrylic on Canvas, © 2005 Cedar Lee

The eye travels straight back between the trees to the sky. The birds are active in the treetops, chattering and flitting around. The trees are exaggeratedly wide at their bases, some of them leaning a bit to one side, giving them personality.

I think this painting simultaneously shows movement and stillness. When showing this painting to people, they often told me it stirred an emotional response in them because it reminded them of some place in their memories, often from childhood.

From the Art By Cedar Archives: Approaching Storm

April 7th, 2017

I made this painting as part of my senior thesis show at Goucher College. The show was called “Roots and Wings.”

Approaching Storm. 30" x 46", Acrylic on Canvas, © 2005 Cedar Lee

Approaching Storm. 30″ x 46″, Acrylic on Canvas, © 2005 Cedar Lee

A raucous flock of birds flaps into the bright sky, fleeing the eerie blue light that’s overtaking the scene. The trees are whipping in gusts of wind. Everything is standing on edge with electricity.

Cedar Lee with her painting: Approaching Storm. 30" x 46", Acrylic on Canvas, © 2005 Cedar Lee

Cedar Lee with her painting: Approaching Storm. 30″ x 46″, Acrylic on Canvas, © 2005 Cedar Lee

I love the drama and excitement of this painting.

Cedar Lee with her paintings. Left: Approaching Storm. © 2005 Right. Birds at Sunrise. © 2005

Cedar Lee with her paintings. Left: Approaching Storm. © 2005 Right. Birds at Sunrise. © 2005

“Approaching Storm” was one of several paintings to be exhibited in my first-ever solo show in an art gallery, in 2006.

Cedar Lee artwork at first solo gallery show, March 2006

Cedar Lee artwork at first solo gallery show, March 2006

From the Art By Cedar Archives: Birds at Sunrise

March 27th, 2017

This was the year I started painting flocks of mysterious birds in silhouette, some sitting still and others in raucous motion. My inspiration was not only the movement of the flocks as a whole, but the sound of the birds singing.

Birds at Sunrise. 42" x 36", Acrylic on Canvas, © 2005 Cedar Lee

Birds at Sunrise. 42″ x 36″, Acrylic on Canvas, © 2005 Cedar Lee

I love the high contrast and the color palette of blue, lavender, black and gray with just the smallest hints of light pink and yellow. It gives me the feeling of the damp cold of dawn, as if I’m outside at that time of day and happen to look up into the trees and see all these birds–crows, maybe–chattering to each other and flapping their wings.

I didn’t know when I painted this, but many more paintings featuring birds in this way were to follow over the coming years…birds are a meaningful theme for me. They continue to make their way back into my artwork time and again.

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