November 2020 "From Wolf to Best Friend: Dog Loving Artists of the World Celebrate the Canine" Mural Mosaic
Lee Mitchelson painting displayed in the collection of Rasmus Stoklund Holm-Nielsen, Danish Parliament, Denmark
August 2020 "BoldBrush"
Artists and Biologists United for Nature (ABUN) events pending scheduling
I get lost in a painting that is going well. Like I am "in there" getting a closer look, but invisible and non-intrusive.
I always hope that my paintings make other people feel that way, too.
When collectors ask me how it is that I capture the spirit in my work, whether of animals or an especially evocative scene in nature that affects the viewer greatly, I am a bit reluctant to explain my own way of it, not wanting to foist my prayerful metaphysics at people. But, here goes.
When I have taken a painting as far into my creative soul as I can, I am usually sure that it is very nearly finished. There are few touches remaining to be done. A few strands of a horse's mane, the wispy hairs of a dog's ruff, a feather ruffled, the catch-lights in their eyes. One last careful stroke of my brush, and "it" happens. A sensation that I feel across my shoulders. Then, like a thousand other times by now, a shimmer passes over my painting, very quick, like a ripple in a mirror you might sense out of the corner of your eye as you walk past. I have to be paying attention! If I glance away and I've missed it, the moment is gone. They are profound experiences for me, and never taken for granted. They feel like a gift to show me I am doing my part to honor a divine agreement. That's why my life's passion is animal art.
I am a member of Oil Painters of America and ABUN (Artists and Biologists United for Nature) and was one of the original charter members of the National Museum of Women In the Arts in Washington D.C.
I am a full-time oil painter, with a studio home in Northern Arizona. Animals, both domestic and wild, have been a focus for me in both my life experiences and in my art. I am a wild horse protection advocate, and champion of needy old dogs. I have an animal sanctuary at home, with a small herd of horses and lots of other animals.
I began my professional career while living in Southern California. While there, I enjoyed having an occasional painting companion in plein air Impressionist, Karl Albert, who had been Edgar Payne's painting buddy, and I treasure the memories of painting with Karl. I also worked in watercolor, inspired by memories of my uncle, T. C. Westall, a very fine watercolor and oil painter who taught at Herron Art Institute, and from Nita Engle workshops.
I have always received many commission requests for animal art, and it rather locked me into the lifestyle of being a commissioned portrait painter. I rarely had time to do paintings to set aside for exhibiting, and only sporadically participated in galleries but did exhibit at Peppertree-Calabasas, Esther Wells Collection in Laguna Beach, and Files Gallery in Big Bear Lake. It was while dining at a gallery artists event at Files Gallery that the late great Neil Boyle told me about " The Artists Ride " in South Dakota. Attending my first one led me to move across the country to The Black Hills, where I lived a few years along Spring Creek.
I divide my painting time, now, between painting for the gallery that represents my larger horse paintings, readying art for exhibit opportunities, and commission animal art portraits. Painting people's animals is always dear to my heart.
I try to use my animal art to fund raise for animal rescue and protection as much as I can, donating gift certificates for custom portraits which are auctioned at fund raising events, three or four times each year. And, my work supports our Star View Lifetime Sanctuary.
Whether commissioned animal art or gallery paintings, the way of starting them will depend on the individual piece and how I envision the end result. Sometimes I will do a monochromatic under-painting. Other times, washes that are the complimentary of what I expect areas of my painting to eventually be. And I love texture exposing interesting under-layers. Once I have my prep work done, I switch to my finishing style of what I call, at least in my own mind, "push and pull."
It is a gradual process of a thousand decisions until I have it looking the way I want it to. Scumbling, glazing, and palette knife here and there. Others might call it a tedious method, but I call it instinctive. They say a flight from L.A. to New York has had a thousand small adjustments also, to arrive at it's precise destination. Flexibility is required in life and in art. I have adapted my way of creating art to the changes that occurred in my visual processing of information, after a serious head injury. It has only been interesting, not at all burdensome.
As I work, I keep in mind whatever concept I have for a painting. When artists work, we must not lose sight of the incredibly important reason why we were attracted to a subject in the first place. A few bad decisions can obliterate it so easily. A well-known quote among painters is, "Don't fall in love with a hot lick." An awesome passage of paint that doesn't support a concept. I do a lot of stepping way back to take a look at a painting in progress.
My materials of choice now are several preferred oil brands that have high quality primitive pigments, among them Dan Smith's Primatek and Varsari, and I like the high pigment load of Gamblin paints, but I also do a lot of thin glazes, and my favorite paints for that are the transparent Rembrandts. I have been using M. Graham walnut oil mediums. I can't use mediums that create fumes anymore. For brushes I am enamored with filberts, both long and short, and rounds of course, and I paint with a palette knife if called for. I use a variety of surfaces depending upon how I want the finished painting to look, so, mounted archival paper, Raymar mounted canvas or linen panels, Ampersands, and Belgian Linen or canvas, which I stretch myself or have custom made. From many years of commissioned animal art work, I have developed a preference for smooth surfaces in most cases.