Bernie Lee

Monday, May 1 to Monday, August 21, 2017

What comes first – the medium or the message? Tell me a little about the work that will be on view.

            The message always comes before the medium for me. As I am surrounded by incredible architecture, I spot details that I know I would like to capture in a drawing or painting at some point in the future. Several years ago after my daughter was matched with her sorority, I requested a sorority greeting card to accompany the bouquet I ordered from the florist. The florist said there was no such card available. That changed after I became a professional artist in 2015 and drew every sorority at K-State. The florists are now able to offer sorority specific greeting cards that can be framed as a remembrance of the home shared by all of their sisters.

All of my works represent an evolution from the initial visualization, to old style sketching with pencil, ruler and eraser, to adding pen and ink, and then to finishing the piece in vibrant watercolors, without the use of Photoshop. I realize that watercolor is usually applied as a translucent medium, but I like to make a building pop against a bright blue sky or bold sunset. I am self-taught and continually learn new things each time I draw and paint. My watercolor, pen and ink paintings take on average from five days to two weeks to complete due to the numerous minute details that I incorporate. Many books say not to focus on all of the details, but my work is contrary to that theory. I will actually count the dentil molding, and spindles on a railing for precise accuracy. To be able to produce a piece more quickly, I just began working with acrylic in 2017. It has been quite liberating to be freer with the paintbrush but still create a beautiful painting.


What do you feel is your role as an artist?

            As an artist, I feel that my role is to create lasting memories with my paintings and drawings. Most people purchase my prints because they evoke a special memory. Perhaps they were became engaged by the J.C. Nichols fountain, on the stone bench next to the KU Campanile or in front of the Kauffman Center. Hundreds of people have pointed to “Royal Rally” with thousands of others in royal blue shirts and exclaimed, “I was right there!” No matter which fan base you represent, or which Kansas City landmark is your favorite, my work will put a smile on your face.


What influences your practice/works?

Each of my drawings or paintings is the result of some occurrence in my life, whether it is a random idea as I walk by an historic building or landmark, or an inspiration I receive from viewing another incredible photo taken by my son Jon of a beautiful sunset, one of the local colleges, or the Royals winning the World Series.

From the first time I walked into the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts five years ago, I knew I would be painting it someday. The way that the shadows danced on the curved white staircase and the spectacular view of downtown through the tension rods, were inspirational. All of my work begins in this way.


Who are the other artists you look to for inspiration? And what about their works do you like?  

            Currently, John Stoeckley inspires me with his style. His attention to detail is precisely my aim as well. Recently I discovered the photo realistic watercolors of Kansas native Marlin Rotach. Every time I show one of his paintings to someone they all ask the same question, “That’s not a photo?” From the old masters, I would have to say Michelangelo was the greatest artist of all time. To think about him lying on his back in pain for years to paint the glorious Sistine Chapel, and his sculpting of the statue of David and the Pieta with such emotion in the faces of his subjects –his work represents art at its finest.


What other writings do you recommend reading to have a better understanding of your artworks and your art practice/process?


Discover Your World in Pen, Ink & Watercolor, by Claudia Nice,_ink_amp_watercolor


Painting Country Gardens in Watercolor, Pen & Ink, by Claudia Nice,_pen_amp_ink


The Watercolourist’s Guide to Painting Buildings, by Richard Taylor


Painting in Acrylics - The Indispensable Guide, by Lorena Kloosterboer