Cedar Lee January 16th, 2017
When I first began painting as a serious discipline, completing my first “series,” although I didn’t even call it that at the time, I was 18 years old.
The series, which I called “square paintings” was inspired by the pixelation of low-quality digital photographs, the art of Chuck Close, and the images of plant cells under a microscope from some college biology class. I decided to do these portraits of people broken up into a grid, with variations of color in each cell of the grid. I called them “square paintings.”
It ended up being just a phase in my artistic journey, but doing those paintings taught me some skills (color mixing, composition, patience) and some new ways of looking at things.
The first painting in this series was simply titled “Square Girl.” I stole her face from a magazine ad for deodorant.
The only record I have of her is this terribly pixelated old photo, which I feel is somewhat appropriate.
Square Girl. 20″ x 16″, Acrylic on Canvas, © 1999 Cedar Lee
I painted her in cheap student-grade acrylics on a cheap student canvas board, but somehow I achieved a luminescent effect, and I still think she is the best out of all the square paintings. Some friends of my grandparents bought her for $200, which was a big deal for me at the time.
I can see in this painting how much I was struggling to teach myself color theory, how I was figuring out how the different pigments interacted through trial and error. I was still missing the subtlety of color choices that can only come from years of experience. There was no concept of limiting my palette intentionally. It was just white, black, red, yellow, blue.
Despite this, I think it is a stunning painting, and I will always feel affection for this piece.
Color is hard–something I still struggle with, but I just work out more advanced problems these days. I think the challenge of working with color is central to the practice of painting, especially anytime an artist steps outside of their tried-and-true formulas. Playing with color is also incredibly fun. The possibilities are infinite!
You can see some of the other paintings from this short-lived series paintings in this blog post from 2010, in which I also discuss my difficult decision to (gasp!) destroy one of them.
Back to 2017.
Cedar Lee working in art studio
For those of you who feel the stirrings of a desire to own an original painting: This year I’ll be planning an art sale for the spring (think tax return time) and likely another in the fall (think “Black Friday” time.)
My current art situation: I have several new large-scale Lotus paintings I’ve done since my last sale, and quite a few of the Tree of Life paintings I did last year. I now only have 4-5 of my Looking Up paintings left, but I have plans to paint more eventually–especially some fall trees.
I’m currently working on new Eclipse paintings for the solo show I’m having in August/September…New pieces to be revealed very soon! When I reach a point in that series that I have enough work for that show, I will switch to working on other themes.
Some of my most loyal collectors have given me feedback this week, telling me they love the Lotus series and want to see more of those from me this year. Right now I only have the few large-scale Lotus paintings, so I have an image in mind of creating some small-medium sizes–maybe a few in a 12″ x 36″ panorama format, a size/format I’ve been loving lately.
Every time I consider dropping some of these disparate pursuits to narrow my focus, I realize that as appealing as the idea of narrowing my focus truly is, I’m just not ready to put any of them aside quite yet. It will be interesting to see where my art takes me next!