I met Lester B. Lee on my first day of art class in 8th grade. Fresh out of graduate school and already an amazing artist, he took my art education to an entirely new level. "Mr. Lee" was (and still is) a natural teacher - motivating, great at constructive criticism, and he never made you feel that you weren't good enough or talented enough to learn the fundamentals of art - even though I'm sure our 14-year-old art skills were seriously lacking! He used a systematic approach to teach art basics to his students for the first half of the year. Then, after having introduced a variety of mediums and techniques, he allowed the students to write a contract with him to complete a certain number of assignments of their choice for the remainder of the year. Some of those projects were required to be drawings, but the rest were entirely up to the student. This was an unheard of amount of freedom for an 8th grader! It allowed each student to pursue the type of art that interested him or her most. This teaching method has left a lasting impression on me even into adulthood: Know the basics, but use them to create what you love to create.
About this same time in my life, I was coming to an artistic crossroads. I had studied ballet for the past 10 years but realized that I did not have the body type or drive to be a dancer. It was Mr. Lee who encouraged me in visual arts, and convinced me that I did, in fact, have a natural visual arts talent that I should continue to develop. He was an incredible positive influence on me as an artist at a critical time, because, let's face it, Jr. High is an experiment in terror for even the most balanced and confident of individuals!
I credit Mr. Lee (then and now) with giving me to confidence to continue pursuing art through high school - which ultimately earned me an art scholarship in college that I successfully maintained throughout my 4 1/2 years in school. It is because of him that I am unafraid to stand up and call myself "Artist" among my peers. I'm sure many students who have studied with Mr. Lee over the years of Jr. High and High School have felt the same. He is a natural mentor.
|Lester B. Lee painting hanging on the wall in my Mother's home. |
This painting occupied a position over our fireplace throughout my years
living at home from age 14 until I moved out.
Fifteen years later...
I had finished graduate work and recently purchased my first house. Finally getting out of rental properties, I was able to set up a studio space in my home where I could create at will. I started enrolling in workshops and art classes for enjoyment and to further my skills, which had been dormant for my graduate years.
It is at that time that I reconnected with Lester Lee as an instructor, and at that time that we also developed a special artist friendship. Now, instead of "Mr. Lee," he is just "Lester" to me and my family. I have taken several workshops with Lester and my husband and I are collectors of his beautiful work, and lucky recipients of many gifted pieces of art from this generous man! We also discovered that we each had a personal connection to Parkinson's Disease over the past decade that increased our bond (as my husband was diagnosed and one of Lester's family suffered with the same), and I am so lucky and honored to be one of the people that Lester now calls "friend." His guidance and feedback in the beginning and throughout my adult art career have been invaluable.
Lester can render anything he sees with a pencil and paintbrush in amazing realism. He creates perfect proportion and composition with masterful ease. He draws, paints, illustrates, designs theater sets, and sculpts. He gives of his time and talent freely, whether it be hosting a troop of Boy Scouts to giving away his demonstration paintings to lucky students in his workshops. Incredibly talented, amazingly humble, generous, and one of the most gentle and soft-spoken persons you will meet...Lester Bird Lee is truly one-of-a-kind!
|Lester creating the sculpture for the |
Panaca Sesquicentennial Founder's Monument - ultimately cast in bronze
|Lester hosting a Boy Scout Troop at his studio|
|Painting of Christ that Lester generously created for a |
church youth activity and then donated to the group.
So, of course, when I reached out to Lester about being a featured artist on my blog, he was happy to answer my questions, along with a very sweet email reply. :)
Here are Lester's responses to my interview questions:
Q: What are your favorite materials and tools...the ones you just can't live without?
A: My favorite tool is the pencil. To me, the lines made by an artist with a pencil are the most expressive marks that can be made by artist. Next, of course, is watercolor. But, I could not live without my pencil.
|Wonder by Lester B Lee|
Q: Who are your artistic influences?
A: Locally, my biggest influence was Richard Bird from Rexburg ID, and L'Deane Trublood from St. George, UT. From art history, N. C. Wyeth, Andrew Wyeth, Edward Hopper, and Winslow Homer.
Q: What is/are your favorite subject matter and why?
A: My favorite subject matter is anything nostalgic under bright light and shadow. I mostly paint odd farmland outbuildings and implements. As to why, I don't know. I just get turned on by the simple shapes that light and shadow can make...and I love to portray lonely places. Old buildings often make better friends and have more personality than people.
|There was a Crooked Man by Lester B Lee|
Q: What advice would you give to emerging artists?
A: My advice to beginning artists...Learn To Draw, and draw well, and shade well. Become a master of documentation and composition. Stay simple. Edgar Payne said, "Beginning artists often chose subject matter that would tax even the most experienced artists."
|Irish Whiskey by Lester B Lee|
Q: What would you most like to be remembered for in life?
A: I want to be remembered as a kind generous person...who wouldn't? Of my artwork, I want people to people to say that "He was old school."
|Seanmhathair Leigh by Lester B Lee|
This is one of several of Lester's paintings currently hanging in our home
Lester Bird Lee is originally from Mesquite, NV. He is one of nine children and was encouraged by his father at an early age to pursue art. Lester taught art classes on a Jr. High and High school level for many years. You will see his illustrations in the book series The Work And The Glory by Gerald Lund, among others. He recently won the People's Choice Award at the prestigious CNS Art & Soup event this Spring (2015).
You can find Lester and his work on Facebook. He took an early retirement a few years ago to build a studio-cabin and house in Clarkston, UT, where he now resides with his wife and children. But, teaching remains in his blood! In addition to private workshops that he teaches from his studio-cabin in Clarkston, Lester will be the new art teacher at Sky View High School in the Fall of 2015! Lucky students of Sky View - you are about to get "Old Schooled!"
As always, thanks for stopping by my blog!
I hope you enjoyed this Featured Artist post. Please leave a comment with your thoughts and feedback. I would love to hear from you!