Art Inspiration

Becoming a master of light

In my current work, my biggest inspiration is the challenge of capturing a certain quality of glowing light and color. I want my paintings to appear as though they are lit from within, themselves a source of light as they hang on the wall.

So, regardless of what subject I’m painting, I’m always asking myself, “What will make this painting glow?” I capture this elusive effect through the use of dramatic light and shadow, and through vibrancy of color.

Portland Sunset painting by Cedar Lee
Portland Sunset. 10″ x 10″, Acrylic on Canvas, © 2024 Cedar Lee

Painting Pacific Northwest forests and the California redwoods

Overall, I’m best known for my paintings of the forest and trees. I began painting trees during my college years, when I attended Goucher College in Baltimore, MD. The campus is in the middle of about 300 wooded acres. I spent my time between classes hiking alone on the trails in those woods. That inspired me to try to paint how that felt.

Then, years later, I moved to the west coast. I finally got to see the California redwoods in person in 2014. That incredible experience really made me fall in love with painting the forest all over again.

Inspiration behind Cedar Lee's art
Artist with painting: Wind Swirl. 36″ Diameter, Acrylic on Canvas, © 2020 Cedar Lee

Many of my paintings are filled with sparkling light, rainbow prisms, bursting crepuscular rays and lens flares. These colorful light effects are fun to paint, in the context of the peaceful shelter of a forest. As a result, my forest paintings are joyful, energizing images that give my viewers a peaceful feeling of wonder. I want to help people celebrate their own experiences of Earth’s beautiful forests.

Painting inspiration: the challenges of painting light shining through the trees
Artist with painting: Sun Through Fog. 36″ x 60″, Acrylic on Canvas, © 2022 Cedar Lee

Inspiration from the garden

Nature, ecology and the connectedness of life on Earth have always been prominent themes in my work. Living in the beautiful Pacific Northwest has influenced my work in recent years. Here, I am surrounded by my own veggie and flower gardens as well as the glorious wilderness: trees, rivers and mountains.

In 2020 I painted the “Plant Mama” series, which continued my exploration of brilliant sunlight and vibrant colors. In this series, as the Covid-19 pandemic hit, I decided to paint the plants in my garden and around my neighborhood, and the potted house plants throughout my home. Plants have been a source of joy and endless fascination for me throughout my entire adult life. I began exploring my own relationship to plants, and all the emotions they inspire in me. Consequently, I incorporated the plant life around me into self-portraits.

Finding art inspiration in the spring flowers
Gratitude. 18″ x 36″, Acrylic on Canvas, © 2022 Cedar Lee

Animal symbolism

Working with these themes led me into animal symbolism art. My 2023 body of work entitled the Archetype Collection illustrates character archetypes using the symbolism of animals and flowers from various world cultures.

My art encourages self-reflection and intentionality of life purpose. Much of the symbolism in my work has addressed the immense challenge of trying to be my best self. I want to help others feel empowered to take on the same challenge in a way that allows them to experience beauty through the ups and downs of life.

Cedar Lee's paintings inspired by animal symbolism
Artist Cedar Lee with paintings from her Archetype Collection

Finding peace through our shared connection to nature

Like most artists, I find inspiration everywhere I look!

My body of past work is quite diverse. I have paintings depicting tree canopies and forests, flora and fauna, the sun and the sky. Additionally, I have a series of colorful images of solar eclipses and the cosmos. Earlier work includes the symbolically rich Tree of Life. I have done various portraits and landscapes. I have illustrated a book about the aurora borealis.

The common thread throughout all of my work is a celebration of humanity’s connection to the natural world.

My hope is that when people see my paintings, they will dwell upon how much they love this world, and that they’re not separate from it, but a part of it. Nature imagery has always helped me to zoom out and feel connected to the whole universe, to look at the big picture of my own life as well as all life on Earth.

Painting by Cedar Lee: Cosmic Dance 3

My work celebrates the endless beauty of this world, inspires environmentalist values, and evokes the calm, grounded feeling that humans have when they connect deeply with nature.  

My art has a peaceful and healing effect on viewers. I love creating things that make people happy.

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