How do you work?
I often make small sketches, then depending on material, use woodworking or metalworking techniques to execute the piece. I have been introducing some stone carving for base components and am always looking at surface. I try to allow room for the spontaneous decision or happy accident, but control in developing the piece is important. Sometimes inherent properties or “defects” in a material will suggest a path.
How do you nurture your creative dreams?
Just keep making. I’m constantly sketching, doodling and making notes about artwork. Some of these ideas eventually become pieces or series. Having a group of trusted artist friends also helps with creative bounce, friendly competition, mutual encouragement and challenge.
What do you love about where you live?
I love the seasons in West Michigan, although I’m beginning to have mixed feelings about winter!
What might your perfect afternoon look like?
Finishing a series of sculpture at around 4:45, followed by a patron dropping by the studio and falling in love with the pieces. They purchase the entire series, and break out some cold Guinness they brought along. Ha! Now that would be a stellar afternoon.
When did you know you were an artist?
I knew I could draw early in life, and appreciated art fairly early. I went to Art School in the 70’s and worked in commercial art-illustration, graphic design and product design for most of my adult life. During that time I thought of myself as an illustrator or designer. For years I made sketches and notes regarding sculptural objects that I would like to make and tossed them in files, but it wasn’t until I began to seriously make sculpture in 2006 that I considered myself an artist.
What are your secrets for finding time for your art, or how do you manage your time?
Basically it’s my “full time” work, so if I’m not making sculpture, out promoting it or procuring materials, I feel unproductive. Shows and competition entry dates help drive certain pieces. Dividing time between these activities every day is about as managed as I get. I ran across a quote from an artist that relates to this, “Amateurs look for inspiration; the rest of us just get up and go to work.” Chuck Close
What is your preferred medium and why?
Sculpture- I like the 3 dimensional form and tactility. While I do some wall pieces with fairly high relief, I really like being able to look at work from all sides and angles. The physical aspect and process of making 3D work is very important to me.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Sandy Kennedy told me “Don’t put all your ideas in one piece”. I think this helps me keep forms more pure and less complicated and potentially overworked. It may leave more for the viewer to think about, rather than answering all questions in one viewing.
One of the hardest things for artists to do is to stand apart from everyone else. How long did it take you to come up with your own style and signature look?
Some of the shapes and forms that I am drawn to seem to do that naturally, conscious decisions play into it. I think sorting drawings and ideas I had worked on long before making a lot of 3D work helped clarify a path. Then each new piece moves forward, (OK sometimes a piece doesn’t work and you take a step back). Sometimes a different idea creates a fork in the path but these eventually flow in parallel streams.
What is your inspiration for your pieces? What keeps you motivated?
I feel more together when I’m making art. I draw inspiration from nature, abstract art, totemic works of indigenous people of Africa, Australia, South America, Paleolithic artifacts, sculptors like Brancusi, Nevelson, Noguchi, and from science, math and love of the materials.
How concerned are you about environmental issues? Does this affect your work?
I am concerned for the planet and our impact on it. In my work I use a lot of upcycled material, reclaimed wood, pruned twigs, old hardware, etc. I consider wood a sustainable material if responsibly harvested, and dumpster-diving a sport. Many of the shapes I employ are suggestive of water, waves, earth forms and phenomenon. My work isn’t narrative for the most part so there is no particular overt message intended.
Lee’s work can be seen and purchased at the Muskegon Museum of Art gift shop, the
Gallery Uptown and the River Street Gallery in Manistee. If you see something you like at his website, please contact him for purchasing information.