In this painting, dark rain clouds are rolling in from the left. The sky is full of water–clouds of mist as well as heavy rain spatters. The trees below are soft and muted shapes, made vague by the moisture in the atmosphere as well as distance, with the trees closer to the foreground a bit more defined.
As I live in Portland, Oregon, and we are currently in the rainy season typical of winters here, this painting is my way of embracing the wet weather. The chill and the gray skies have their own austere beauty. While we are induced into feelings of hibernation, the water outside is giving green life to the lush forests for the whole year to come.
I happened to catch the painting in the studio illuminated by the bright rays of sun streaming in from above: A fitting image to celebrate this winter solstice, the gradual return of the sun, and the window of possibility that is 2018.
On the left, the face of a young woman, semi-translucent to show her mind is completely immersed in the setting, is superimposed on the blue-green landscape, her eyes gazing dreamily upward. She is soaking in the fresh, cleansing rain-scented air.
One of my goals is to create an image detailed enough to achieve realism, but still loose and playful enough to convey artistic creativity within the medium. I want to create not just a beautiful image of the forest, but also an image full of interesting colors, a variety of rough and smooth textures, both vague and sharp distinctions between forms.
This painting shows the experience of craning your neck to look straight up above your head.
At the crown of the giant sequoia tree, the branches are splayed out–close up, this makes a beautiful abstract pattern of shapes and colors. When you back up and look at the entire image, it says, “tree.”
The painting continues around the deep edges of the heavy wooden panel. In person, the quality of the materials and the texture of the painting add to its beauty. I’ve loved getting back into more large-scale pieces this year! The time put into it becomes worth it when I see the completed painting.
The far-away tree tops high in the sky are represented by thousands of tiny shapes, dots of light and color strewn together. It gives a sense of movement, and the twinkling of light as it filters through the many tiny shapes.
I’ve been working on these four paintings for the past month! Here I was, back in July, working on the backgrounds.
In my new Lotus paintings, I create the backgrounds by dripping layers of thinned oil colors over other colors.
Artist Cedar Lee working in the studio, July 2017
While I let this stage of the paintings become completely dry, I went on a road trip with my family to see the Grand Canyon and other wonders of the West. When I arrived back to the studio, I spent the first week of August painting lotus flowers into the foregrounds.
After waiting for them to completely dry again, my final step was to coat them in resin. Here, you can see a quick video of that process. The result is the paintings have rich, hyper-saturated color, and their surfaces are smooth, glassy, and reflective.
This one is called “Acceptance.” I placed the flower with its open petals towards the bottom of the canvas, positioned to soak up all the golden light flowing down from the top.
It is a positive, almost basking sort of acceptance: accepting the bountiful gifts that life brings, which we sometimes can’t see unless our minds are open to accept them. However, it could also mean acceptance of whatever comes–the peace that comes with detachment from desire. The flower is saying, “Yes. Bring it on.”
You can see how mirror-like the surface can be in certain lighting–here, the painting is on the wall of my studio, and it’s picking up a clear reflection of a bottle of oil medium sitting in a patch of sunlight near the window.
The paintings can be displayed individually, but I love them as a set as well. I chose to show them to you all at once in one blog post, because I created them all alongside each other. Four separate individual paintings, but also one cohesive art endeavor.
They could be displayed all in a row, or in a grid of four, like this:
Lotus paintings by Cedar Lee
Lotus paintings by Cedar Lee
These paintings will be on display along with my other most recent Lotus paintings at the Portland, OR art gallery Eco PDX, in September.
In the yellow sunlight glowing through the overhead foliage, some of the patterns look like plant cells or stained glass, amorphous shapes outlined. Parts of the image have a fluid quality reminiscent of a reflection in water.
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.
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.