Cedar Lee sold an oil painting for the first time at age 12, to one of her schoolteachers for $40. That teacher was the first of many to purchase Cedar’s work. Today a large, diverse group of people owns her paintings, which are scattered throughout at least 17 U.S. states, and around the world as near as Canada and as far as Sweden and Luxembourg.
During her junior year in high school, she took a college course in large-scale painting. That summer she had her first solo showing of her artwork in the public library in Asheville, NC. Cedar graduated high school as valedictorian.
Throughout her undergrad years in Baltimore, MD, Cedar sold her paintings and worked part-time designing and assembling jewelry, a job she had been doing since age 15. Later, she worked as an art instructor at Anne Arundel Community College.
In 2000, she procured a solo show in the National Security Agency’s main headquarters, although she was not allowed to hang the show herself or even go inside to see it because she didn’t have a security clearance. In 2002, Cedar completed an internship at Baltimore’s American Visionary Art Museum, working on the team that installed intricate mirror and tile mosaics on the entire exterior of the building.
In 2005, she received her BA from Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland, graduating at the top of her class with honors in the field of studio art. Her senior thesis show was entitled “Roots and Wings,” a series of large-scale portraits of her nuclear family—her roots—displayed alongside paintings of flocks of birds flying raucously into large colorful skies—her wings. This is when she began her career in earnest with the genesis of her business, Art By Cedar.
She showed her work in solo and group exhibitions in galleries, arts centers, and alternative venues, and several art galleries on the East Coast began to represent her.
She had her first solo show in a gallery in 2006, resulting in $4,000 in sales on its opening evening, cementing her commitment to pursuing a career in art. Later that year, one of her paintings was selected by juror John W. Smith, Director of the Smithsonian Archives of American Art, to be displayed in an exhibit at The Saville Gallery in Cumberland, MD.
She was active in the Baltimore-area art scene for seven years, represented by galleries in several U.S. states and building a loyal collector base during that time.
In 2008-09, she worked as an art exhibit installer for the Howard County Center for the Arts in Ellicott City, MD.
In 2011, Cedar relocated from Maryland to Escondido, California, where she took on leadership roles in her local community, teaching art lessons to children and founding the North County Painters Critique Group. The group of professional painters met regularly to give and receive feedback on their artwork. In 2014, Cedar’s work was selected to be exhibited in the San Diego Institute Museum of the Living Artist.
She relocated with her family to Portland, Oregon in 2015, attracted to the bustling city lifestyle within the flowering and forested terrain.
Cedar participated in the 2016 Portland Open Studios Tour, an annual juried event in which artists open their studios to the public. To celebrate the total solar eclipse that was visible across the U.S. in summer of 2017, Cedar created and shipped an entire solo exhibit to be displayed for two months at the Princeton Art Guild in Princeton, KY. The Guild purchased a painting for their permanent collection. In 2018, Cedar studied under renowned Portland, Oregon muralist Hector Hernandez. She is now available to work on murals in the Portland area, and is listed in the muralist roster of Portland’s Regional Arts & Culture Council.
A thirst for adventure and beautiful locales has shaped Cedar’s life. She has traveled around the U.S. and internationally, always taking photographs and storing mental imagery. “It all makes it into my work in one form or another,” she says, “even if it’s just a visual element, like the choice of color and use of light. I try to recreate the feeling I got standing on top of a mountain, or at the ocean.”
Practically all of her hundreds of works have been sold to private collectors, including her current focus, the “Looking Up” series—paintings of tree canopies and forests, the symbolically rich “Tree of Life” series, the “Eclipse” series—colorful images of solar eclipses and the cosmos, the elegantly stylized red-toned “Lotus” series featuring lotus flowers, as well as a series featuring sunflowers, many portraits, animal portraits, and various landscapes.
Cedar paints in a small studio in her back yard and works on the business side of things in her home office. Her paintings fill every wall of her home. “I’m lucky,” she laughs, “that I’ve never had to think about decorating, because the walls of my home are like an art gallery!”
Today, new collectors of Cedar’s work often discover her through her presence on the Internet. Through her blog and social media, including Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube, Cedar shares each new piece of art as she creates it. Cedar’s original pieces are valued in the range of $300 to $5,000. For fans of Cedar’s work not currently in the market for an original, affordable prints are available for a selection of Cedar’s most popular paintings through Fine Art America, with new images added each year.
Cedar’s interests include spending time with her family and dog, reading fiction and non-fiction, endless home improvement projects, scouring real estate listings for fun, tending her vegetable and flower garden, contra dancing, and volunteering at the Oregon Food Bank.
When not working in the studio, she packs and ships her paintings to galleries and buyers, markets her work, runs her business, and participates in exhibits and events.
Cedar has made a commitment to use eco-friendly materials whenever possible to create her work. In addition to her paintings on canvas, she paints on wood panels crafted by hand in the USA from sustainably sourced wood.