From the Art By Cedar Archives: Glorious Sunset

August 14th, 2017

“Glorious Sunset” from 2005.

This sky is a war of raucous forms butting up against each other.  There is some kind of wild movement going on, a movement of clouds and a movement of light as the sun bursts from behind those sharp magenta/violet shapes.

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

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

I was painting that year with a lot of quinacridone pigments to get these intensely saturated, almost neon colors. Again I’m back to the theme of light, bright, (neon!) up against the deepest, moodiest darks.

Compared to the intensity in the sky, the deep shadowed hills of the land, with their hints of swaying grasses and green trees, is serene, sleeping. The big silhouetted tree on the right looks a lot like some of the trees in my, at this time, yet-to-be-imagined Tree of Life series. I love to see how certain stylistic choices I made so long ago have come back into my work again and again since, while others were temporary, serving their purpose to help me express what I needed to at that time.

I did this painting on a poorly stretched canvas, and ended up removing the canvas from the stretchers with the intent on re-stretching it later. That never happened, so I gifted the painting, un-stretched, to a friend during the purge of a move. She hung it like a wall tapestry. Maybe it got a new home at some point.

From the Art By Cedar Archives: Alice & Pat On Their Wedding Day

August 7th, 2017

This 2005 painting, done as a commission from a photo, was a fun and challenging portrait for me to do.

Alice & Pat on Their Wedding Day. 20" x 25", Acrylic on Canvas, © 2005 Cedar Lee

Alice & Pat on Their Wedding Day. 20″ x 25″, Acrylic on Canvas, © 2005 Cedar Lee

The styles are so very 70’s! I love their smiles and the looks on both their faces. I can see why the client wanted this image captured forever as a painting.

Although I’m not a regular portrait painter anymore, having since been compelled more strongly in other artistic directions, I’m thankful for all the past experiences I’ve had painting people.

From the Art By Cedar Archives: Fireflies

July 31st, 2017

“Fireflies” from 2005.

This is a painting of a soft purple night. A warm, insect-buzzing, summer night out in the country.

The original sold long ago, this poor-quality photograph is the only image I have of it. But still I can feel the mood.

Fireflies. 36" x 24" , Acrylic on Canvas, © 2005 Cedar Lee

Fireflies. 36″ x 24″ , Acrylic on Canvas, © 2005 Cedar Lee

It’s a painting about a feeling more than about a specific location. The fireflies rise up out of the grassy field and twinkle in the trees, while the stars twinkle in the sky above.

At the time I painted it, I remember loving that light blue glow at the horizon, the very last hint of light from the already-set sun, and the negative spaces in the sweet little fence in the distance. I could feel the warmth rising quickly in waves off of the earth, cooling rapidly in the absence of the sun, with the little white moon rising up into the cold sky.

From the Art By Cedar Archives: Mountain Storm

July 24th, 2017

Here is “Mountain Storm” from 2005. This may be one of the most intense paintings I’ve done.

Boom! Thunder crashes; a lightning flash fills the dark sky. The thick clouds are roiling violently.

Mountain Storm. 37" x 28", Acrylic on Canvas, © 2005 Cedar Lee

Mountain Storm. 37″ x 28″, Acrylic on Canvas, © 2005 Cedar Lee

The trees are black, bending, whipping around harshly in the night wind. I chose a vantage point from which hills rise dramatically into the sky right in front of us. In the lightning’s flash of light, the grass is eerily illuminated in fiery shades of gold and orange.

One of my painting professors that year told me my work was reminiscent of Charles Burchfield‘s work. I can definitely see that in this painting. It was later chosen to be on the cover of a literary journal.

Again with this moody painting, I was most fascinated with the battle between light and dark. As always, when I was painting, I was teaching myself new things about painting. By creating images of high contrast like this one, I would learn how to intentionally use contrast as a tool in my future work.

From the Art By Cedar Archives: Dawn Unfolding

July 17th, 2017

Here is “Dawn Unfolding,” painted in 2005. This painting is one of the ones that sold from my very first gallery show in 2006.

While I was working on forest paintings that were to be the jumping-off point of my “Looking Up” series, you could say that this painting was a jumping-off point for what would become my “Cosmic Dance” series.

Dawn Unfolding. 40" x 42", Acrylic on Canvas, © 2005 Cedar Lee

Dawn Unfolding. 40″ x 42″, Acrylic on Canvas, © 2005 Cedar Lee

At this point in my exploration of these themes, I was focused mostly on light-vs.-darkness in my work. The light of the sun is reaching out like fingers, pushing the darkness back. The darkness is heavy, stubborn, pushing back, but eventually making its reluctant retreat.

The landscape is dotted with bits of glowing gold light. This glow faintly outlines the trees in the foreground, which are lined up like an audience witnessing the drama in the sky behind the smooth rolling mountains.

The colors are rich, unexpected–in the darkness you see purple and rust. In the light you see pastel pink, lemon yellow, and silver-blue.

As I was to paint this theme of the sun spreading its light out into a dark sky over the coming years, in later paintings I incorporated the moon too. After that, I went into outer space, creating many images of fantasy nebulae before moving on to the theme of the solar eclipse–a theme which I’ve painted again 13 times in the past year!

From the Art By Cedar Archives: Towering Trunk

July 10th, 2017

This painting from 2005 is called “Towering Trunk.” It’s an exciting painting to me because it shows that at this point, I was fully into the genesis of my “Looking Up” series.

It was the first time I painted the thick bark of a tree in such sharp contrast.

Towering Trunk. 24" x 16", Acrylic on Canvas, © 2005 Cedar Lee

The treetops in the aqua blue sky appear blurred, as if everything is underwater. The yellow sun covers everything in warm, buttery light. There’s a slight fish eye lens perspective. There’s a bit of an otherworldly quality to the image.

I can see here how I was exploring not only the theme of the forest, but all the myriad ways to depict a forest while also playing with the paint, playing with the color and the contrast of an image.

From the Art By Cedar Archives: Verbania Trail

June 26th, 2017

This sweet little painting, “Verbania Trail” is of the woods near my aunt and uncles’s home. They live in Verbania, Italy, a semi-rural town on Lago Maggiore, north of Milan and near the Switzerland border.

This trail goes up into the woods and hidden in those same words is a tiny chapel, a little secret surprise that you come across on this walk.

Verbania Trail. 30" x 20", Acrylic on Canvas, © 2005 Cedar Lee

Verbania Trail. 30″ x 20″, Acrylic on Canvas, © 2005 Cedar Lee

Seeking to capture the interplay of sky and foliage, the negative space of light popping through bunches of leaves, is an endlessly interesting challenge for me as a painter. In my paintings of the forest that year, I approached this challenge by blurring many dabs of paint together, the effect like a looser, sloppier version of pointillism showing up in the treetops.

My trees then were a monochromatic green-on-green-on-green. These days, I put all kinds of wild colors into my forests.

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.

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