Book Illustration On the Horizon

September 14th, 2018

I just signed as the illustrator for a book by award-winning children’s author Liz Rusch!

I will be creating artwork for the book over the next year, and it is scheduled to be printed in spring of 2020.

Past work: "Sapphire Eclipse." 3 panels, 20" x 60", © Cedar Lee. SOLD

Past work: “Sapphire Eclipse.” 3 panels, 20″ x 60″, © Cedar Lee. SOLD

The theme of the book is the aurora borealis.

Past work: "Moon Watcher." 12" x 36", © Cedar Lee.  SOLD

Past work: “Moon Watcher.” 12″ x 36″, © Cedar Lee.  SOLD

Some of the previous themes I’ve worked with–images of big colorful skies and the cosmos, and of little people experiencing the grandeur of the big world, have prepared me to paint such a theme.

Past work: "Wind in Your Hair." 12" x 16", © Cedar Lee.  SOLD

Past work: “Wind in Your Hair.” 12″ x 16″, © Cedar Lee.  SOLD

I’m looking forward to this project! More news to come.

Artful Summer

July 14th, 2017

What my art inventory will look like later in this year is unpredictable!

I’m thrilled about the current direction of my Looking Up series, which is leading me into these glorious large-scale paintings which take me 3-4 weeks to complete each one–labors of love. They transport the viewer straight into the forest.

Artist Cedar Lee in the studio with painting: Kaleidoscopic Forest. 48" x 48", Oil on Wood, © 2017 Cedar Lee

Artist Cedar Lee in the studio with painting: Kaleidoscopic Forest. 48″ x 48″, Oil on Wood, © 2017 Cedar Lee

Cedar Lee Art: Sun-Dappled Sequoias. 48" x 48", Oil on Wood, © 2017 Cedar Lee

Cedar Lee Art: Sun-Dappled Sequoias. 48″ x 48″, Oil on Wood, © 2017 Cedar Lee

I’m equally involved in expanding my Lotus series, paintings with deep red-orange paint dripping unpredictably in rivulets down the canvas, and lotus petals constructed out of rough, thick strokes of the palette knife.

Cedar Lee Lotus paintings: "Stand Tall," "Free Spirit," "Easy Growth"

Cedar Lee Lotus paintings: “Stand Tall,” “Free Spirit,” “Easy Growth”

Rise Up. 30″ x 30″, Oil on Canvas, © 2017 Cedar Lee

Rise Up. 30″ x 30″, Oil on Canvas, © 2017 Cedar Lee

Meanwhile, my Tree of Life series is dear to my heart but currently on pause in the studio. At this time, I only have a few lingering pieces left in this series.

Deep Roots and Milky Way. 16″ x 12″, Oil on Canvas, © 2016 Cedar Lee

Deep Roots and Milky Way. 16″ x 12″, Oil on Canvas, © 2016 Cedar Lee

The entirety of the pieces I have left of my Eclipse series has shipped from my studio to Kentucky this week and will be for sale there starting August 1st. Whatever comes back to me after the total eclipse in August and my coinciding Eclipse show won’t be available again directly from my studio until October. Production of new pieces in this series is also, for now, on pause.

"Eclipse" series of original oil paintings by Cedar Lee, in the studio

“Eclipse” series of original oil paintings by Cedar Lee, in the studio

New artwork is promised to galleries, and I’ve begun leasing my high-end artwork out to local businesses. If I have another sale later this year, I will plan to again offer free shipping on artwork. Things are in flux, so I’m not yet making any promises!

I’m looking forward to spending the rest of my summer flinging paint, putting my muscles to work in the garden, and spending time with family. I love how life speeds up this time of year.

Spring Sale in 2 Weeks

April 24th, 2017

May 8 is fast approaching!

With the exception of any last-minute additions I’m able to make to my available artwork before the Spring Sale, you can now see what original paintings will be available, along with their sizes and prices, here.

Available paintings from Art By Cedar studio, spring 2017

Available paintings from Art By Cedar studio, spring 2017

Here’s the studio after a major cleanup, the calm before the next storm of paint-flinging.

Art studio of Cedar Lee

Art studio of Cedar Lee

As you can see, there are many paintings both finished, on the walls, and in various stages of progress, on the drying rack and easels.

The work currently in the studio is mostly from my Eclipse and Lotus series, but my sale will include pieces from the Tree of Life and Looking Up series as well!

Preparations for Art By Cedar Spring Sale

April 17th, 2017

The Art By Cedar Spring Sale is fast approaching!

The dates are May 8-14.

For weeks now I’ve been working on multiple works in progress all at once–starting new paintings and letting them dry before their next stages, then moving on to work on others.

Works in progress in Cedar Lee art studio

Works in progress in Cedar Lee art studio

I will be completing as many of these beautiful Lotus paintings as I can, right up until the day the sale opens to the public!

I love how events like this give me the extra boost of motivation to put more hours in and tap deep into my creativity. I’m in art-studio-flow-mode. We will see how many I get done! Can’t wait to show you. Stay tuned…

Coming Up: Art By Cedar Spring Sale

April 3rd, 2017

As you know, much of my 2017 so far has been consumed by these paintings depicting solar eclipse fantasy landscapes, most of them including anonymous human spectators.

Eclipse paintings in Cedar Lee art studio

Eclipse paintings in Cedar Lee art studio

I’m loving this artwork! As they are mostly large paintings, they have been somewhat time-consuming to create.

I may be adding a few more pieces to this series before my summer Eclipse-themed show.

Eclipse paintings in Cedar Lee art studio

Eclipse paintings in Cedar Lee art studio

This month I’ve shifted my focus to my new Lotus paintings: medium/large-scale pieces with abstract drippy paint backgrounds, as well as some smaller pieces I’m finishing with resin. I’m having fun experimenting and playing with materials to create interesting textures and effects.

Cedar Lee with painting: "Rise Up"

Cedar Lee with painting: “Rise Up”

All of my new work in the Eclipse and Lotus series, in addition to some pieces in my Looking Up and Tree of Life series, will be available in my upcoming Spring Sale. I have set the dates for May 8-14.

All shipping within the U.S. will be free, even for the largest paintings, which can be very expensive to pack and ship. This will mean big savings for anyone who’s not local to me!

Payment plans will be an option for anyone who needs one. And there will be a small gift given with every purchase–a beautiful 10-pack of assorted note cards.

So, if you’re expecting a tax return this year, consider adding an inspiring original art piece to your home while supporting a living artist! Mark your calendars for May 8.

Against All Odds. 24" x 36", Oil on Canvas, © 2017 Cedar Lee

Against All Odds. 24″ x 36″, Oil on Canvas, © 2017 Cedar Lee

Ways to ensure you get updates and reminders: Subscribe to the Art by Cedar Painting of the Month email. And/or follow me on Facebook.

From the Art By Cedar Archives: Square Girl

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

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

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!

New Year’s Art Projects

January 6th, 2017

I’m back to work after visiting with family for two weeks over the holidays. Happy New Year!

In the studio on this sunny but frigidly cold first week of January, I have my five most recent Eclipse paintings laid out on the drying rack, all awaiting their final coat of varnish.

Eclipse paintings in Cedar Lee art studio

Eclipse paintings in Cedar Lee art studio

In 2016, I created 53 paintings–not bad! This is an average of slightly more than one painting per week, especially considering there were 5 weeks out of last year when I did not work in the studio due to various travels. So, 53 is my goal to beat for 2017! There are never enough hours in the day. I’m sure I’m not alone in this feeling.

I’m already working on my first painting of the new year, but it’s a fairly large one (30″ x 40″) and therefore a bit time-consuming, so it probably won’t be finished until next week. I like to start out a new year with something ambitious before moving on to the many smaller things I want to do.

I don’t want to show the new work in progress in entirety, but here is a close-up of a little piece of it.

Cedar Lee close-up of work in progress

Also in the studio today, I’ve just finished painting this belly cast for a friend. She requested a Tree of Life as the main theme, with the cycles of the moon across the chest.

Belly cast painted by Cedar Lee

Here are the colors currently on my palette after working on both my large work-in-progress and the belly cast. I always like to look at messy paint palettes–sometimes they can stand on their own as inadvertently beautiful abstract paintings.


Artist Interview

December 12th, 2016

Today I was sent some questions by a college student requesting an interview. Scroll down to read my answers.

Earlier this week, I also took some new head shots in the studio to use on my website and social media accounts. The paintings in the background are “Oxygen,” and “A Dream of Joy and Sorrow.”

Artist Cedar Lee

Artist Cedar Lee

Artist Cedar Lee

Artist Cedar Lee

Artist Cedar Lee

Artist Cedar Lee

Right now in the studio: I’m hoping to finish one last large Eclipse painting before the year ends. I’m working again with silhouetted people in this next one! Coming soon…

Interview with Cedar Lee:

Your artwork seems to have a common theme; how would you describe your art?

I currently have four different series of paintings I’m still adding to, and I skip around from one to another: “Looking Up”— tree canopies and giant sequoia forests, “Lotus”—stylized lotus flowers, “Eclipse”—exploring the moment of a total solar eclipse, and “Tree of Life”—different images of the Tree of Life, often showing the roots underground, and some including small human figures.

These themes are pretty varied but are all obviously nature-inspired, and they all include a bold use of color. My work is a combination of realistic imagery and things pulled from my imagination.

Who and what are your inspirations in your work and as a professional artist?

I take a lot of photographs and I’m always collecting mental images that find their way into my paintings. I’m heavily influenced by my travels and many different places I’ve lived—this is most evident in my paintings inspired directly by nature hikes through forests, but in my more whimsical images as well—there is often a spirit of wonder and adventure to be found in the image, and sometimes there is even a human adventurer pictured.

In the studio, I like the challenge of mastering the materials. My inspiration is often found in the act itself of creating artwork, as things I discover while experimenting or solving a problem will lead into the next piece.

How did college prepare you for your career as an artist?

I have a BA in studio art from Goucher College in Baltimore. They have an excellent art department. Beyond the obvious benefits of taking art classes—introduction to different art mediums and techniques, and art history, during my time there I learned how to think about and talk about art with my fellow art students. My senior year was most valuable to me as a painter, when I did a semester of independent study, which was my first experience creating a cohesive series of paintings for my senior thesis show. This was my first time seeing a long-term creative project through to the end. Persistence towards bigger goals than just whatever current art piece you’re working on is such an indispensable part of artistic success.

Notably lacking from my college curriculum was any focus on art business—something that I had to figure out afterwards on my own. I think that college art programs should all include courses on entrepreneurship, marketing, and small business strategy. Most don’t, and this is a great disservice to many students who are serious about pursuing careers as artists, but aren’t being given the tools they need.

What do you consider to be your most important accomplishment to this date?

I have just recently created my 500th painting! (Not including any artwork created in my childhood and teens before I started cataloging my artwork.) The work is always my biggest accomplishment. Selling artwork is exciting, exhibiting is exciting, but without the paintings themselves, none of that could happen.

Please note: arguably much more important than this, I am also raising two beautiful children.

What advice would you give to an aspiring artist today?

Never stop. To be a professional artist, you have to want it more than anything. You have to have a certain kind of stubborn personality that won’t ever let you quit, and you have to have just the right balance of ego and humbleness. You have to understand that you suck while also believing in your work enough to keep striving to be great. You have to commit to figuring out your blind spots and teaching yourself everything you need to learn.

Figure out early on how to create a professional image and how to present your work well to the public. A website is a must. Create a consistent body of work, photograph it well and keep your files organized. Use the best quality art materials you can afford. Value your own time and expertise, and refuse to work for free.

Read about art business, make strategic plans, and work your plans. Subscribe to Professional Artist magazine, the email newsletters from Alyson Stanfield aka “Art Biz Coach” and Jason Horejs’ “Reddotblog.” Read “The War of Art,” “Steal Like an Artist,” “Art and Fear,” and all the other books you can that help you gain perspective.

If you must work an unrelated job to keep your finances afloat, or you have family responsibilities that limit your time, that is okay. Just keep the thread of your art alive throughout the years, and you’ll be glad you are prepared when opportunities present. Take the long view. Being an artist is a lifetime endeavor.

Seek out and surround yourself with artists that inspire you. When in doubt, look at lots of great art to re-ignite your passion and commitment to your own work. Just as they say, “write the book you want to read,” it’s important to paint the painting you want to hang on your own wall. Create the thing that you need to exist in the world, and if all else fails, you’ll still have experienced one of the best parts of being human.

Salem Art Festival & Portland Open Studios

July 17th, 2016

On Friday, I worked a booth at the Salem Art Festival, spreading the word about Portland Open Studios!

Portland Open Studios is a group of just over 100 artists in the Portland, OR metro area, myself included, who will be opening their studios up to the public during the 2nd and 3rd weekends in October.

If you are local to Portland, put it on your calendar! You will be astonished to see where and how different artists work. The variety of techniques and mediums we all use is truly impressive. It is a great way for any art lover to meet a lot of artists and pick our brains. And, if you feel compelled to seek some new pieces of art for your home, this will be a perfect opportunity to do so.

I will be at my studio greeting visitors during the whole event in October. Otherwise, I would take the tour myself!

Cedar Lee at Salem Art Festival, 2016

Cedar Lee at Salem Art Festival, 2016

If you will be taking the tour, you have to buy a tour guide & map. A tour guide is $15 and covers 2 adults. Kids under 18 are free! This comes with a mobile app as well. You also have the option of buying the mobile app alone, which still gets you admission and a map, but does not include as much info about the artists, for only $4.99. You can purchase your tour guide here, anytime between now and October!

So, in between explaining this exciting upcoming event to people at the PDXOS booth in Salem, I worked a little bit on this Lotus painting in progress, working with a palette knife and cold wax medium, as well as with oil and brushes, to show some of my techniques.

Cedar Lee at Salem Art Festival, 2016

Cedar Lee at Salem Art Festival, 2016

I got a lot of curious visitors. Some of my favorite people to talk to were younger aspiring artists and little kids!

Cedar Lee at Salem Art Festival, 2016

Cedar Lee at Salem Art Festival, 2016

This month I am working on several of these large Lotus paintings so they’ll be ready to deliver to this handcrafted furniture store/new Portland gallery next month, Eco Art PDX–their focus until now has been beautiful handmade wooden furniture, but now they are expanding to include an art gallery. I’ll be among the first artists showing there. Pretty cool!

The Lotus paintings will be taking a lot of my time for the coming weeks, but I have other projects in the works, ready to start when this group of paintings is done–lots of blank canvases are awaiting new images!

Preparations for Next Year’s Art Sale

September 30th, 2015

I want to create as much new beautiful artwork as I can over the coming months. But instead of exhibiting the work and putting it up for sale immediately, as I normally do, I want to hold off until I have an art inventory I can be proud of. I have once again found myself in the position of having lots of big dreams but not enough art! This seems to be a continual theme as the years go by, and I’ve come to the conclusion that the single biggest challenge facing most artists today, more so than any business challenge, is the difficulty of consistently producing a prolific creative output.

Art Studio of Cedar Lee

Art Studio of Cedar Lee

Ideas for new work can fill your mind in an instant, but it would be impossible to come up with the time and resources it would take to make every idea a reality! So, we must choose which direction we find the most valuable–which single thing upon which to focus our precious energy.

Art Studio of Cedar Lee

Art Studio of Cedar Lee

So I can’t help but be excited about my latest paintings, which are the result of so many rejected possibilities in favor of the one thing I must say right now!

I seem to work in seasons–alternating production with marketing. This is going to be a season of production.

Art Studio of Cedar Lee

Art Studio of Cedar Lee

So, as always, you may email me if you’re interested in a specific piece or a commissioned work of art–otherwise, please follow along as I release new paintings, and make note of your favorites for when they become “officially” available about 6 months from now!

I have a lot of plans for new paintings already in motion–But, now is a good time to comment or email to tell me what you would love to see more of in my future work! I will take all requests into consideration. 🙂

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