Drawn by the Landscape

A former figurative painter, Catherine J. Lee began to enjoy her art even more after she began depicting landscapes. “When you’re painting or drawing figures, you’re almost always inside,” she says. “I really enjoy being outside, so landscape painting lets me paint—and be outside.”     

Lee was born in Puerto Rico, but grew up mostly in California. Always interested in drawing, she went to the University of California at Davis, where she majored in art. She worked in the telecom industry until she could support herself as an artist. After living in Sacramento, Calif. for a while, she decided to move to a more rural place and took several road trips exploring the Pacific Northwest. “I was thinking of moving to Washington state until I took a detour through Eastern Oregon and found Condon,” she says. “It’s less developed here. There’s more emphasis on the landscape. You can really see it.”

The landscape painter works out of a studio in her home. She paints with oil in an alkyd medium on wooden panels, which are specially prepared with a grisaille underpainting that she gives a stippled texture to evoke the surface of the terrain she is painting. “When I paint, I use an oil glazing technique,” she says. “The alkyd medium makes the paints more translucent, and I make layers, which creates subtlety and helps with the shadows. One of my paintings can have 20 to 30 layers of paint, and I have to wait for each layer to dry before applying another, so it can take two to three months to complete just one painting.”

Landscapes such as Canyon Shadows (pictured) show real sites near her home. “I go to a site and make a sketch,” she says. “Before I start the painting, I make a charcoal drawing to determine the scale. Although I also paint from photographs, I always make sure to visit the landscape while I’m painting it.” Canyon Shadows, which measures 24 by 48 inches, costs $2,800.

Contact landscape painter Catherine J. Lee via her Web site, Her work can also be seen at the Columbia Center for the Arts (215 Cascade St., 541-387-8877) in Hood River, Ore.