oland Lee has become nationally known for his transparent watercolors of the southwest landscape, the pioneer west, and rural European scenes. A signature member of the National Watercolor Society, he devotes full-time to painting from his studio in the historic district of St. George, Utah.
“I’m often asked if I’m afraid I’ll run out of things to paint. That could never happen…My biggest fear is not having enough time in my life to paint all the things that interest me.” — Roland Lee
Since 1979 Roland has concentrated on the medium of transparent watercolor using no white, black, or opaque paints. A graduate of Brigham Young University, he has exhibited and won awards in over 100 invitational juried shows including The National Watercolor Society, Watercolor West, the Transparent Watercolor Society of America,The Utah Watercolor Society, and Arts for the Parks Top 100. In 2014 he was awarded the Governor’s Mansion Medal from Utah Governor Gary Herbert for his contributions to the Arts in Utah.
Roland’s original paintings can be found in over 1700 public and private collections throughout the United States and in several foreign countries. His paintings are in the permanent collections of Dixie State University, Springville Museum of Art, St. George Art Museum, Southern Utah Museum of Art and several National Parks.
Roland’s paintings have been featured in “American Watercolor Weekly”, “Plein Air Magazine,” “Western Art Collector Magazine”, “Southwest Art”, “The Artist’s Magazine,” “Western Art and Architecture Magazine”, and “Art West” magazine. His paintings have appeared on the cover the LDS “Ensign” magazine.
He is featured in the books, “The River Flows – Watercolors of the American West,” “Discovering Zion, A Pictorial Guide to Zion National Park”, “Art of the National Parks,” “Splash 11, Best of Watercolor” from Northlight Books, “Century of Sanctuary: Art of Zion National Park”, “Painting in Watercolor, the indispensable guide” from Quarto Press, “Contemporary Western Artists” by Peggy and Harold Samuels, “Painters of Utah’s Canyons and Deserts”by Donna Poulton and Vern Swanson, “Artists of Utah”, by Swanson, and “McKittrick’s Guide to Fine Art.”
Above: Conte portrait painting of Roland Lee by Del Parson
“Art is something I need to do, not want to do. Earning a living from creating art is a wonderful blessing, and I thank the Lord each day for being able to live in a place I love, with people I care about, doing what means so much to me. No one could ask for more.
Being a representational painter, I have to succeed on two levels. The viewer must first respond to my painting intuitively or emotionally based on the foundation of good composition and design, and second they must respond intellectually based on recognition or familiarity with the subject matter. Always, the fact that my subject is recognizable from nature is second in importance to the overall design impact of the painting. But if either one fails it makes the entire painting unsuccessful. Bad art fails in one of those two areas.
I live in southern Utah because I love the landscape around me. Initially that is what brought me here, and it is still the driving force behind my work.
Beyond that, I try to capture the viewer through the use of drama. Ill alter the light source to create exciting light and shadow patterns. I’ll manipulate aerial perspective to create depth. I’ll change the local colors to create a mood. I’ll be selective with the elements I include to direct the viewers attention. I’ll do whatever I need to do to create an image that emotionally involves the viewer. As an artist that is my job.
I live in southern Utah because I love the landscape around me. Initially that is what brought me here, and it is still the driving force behind my work. Zion National Park is a special subject of mine. The first time I saw the place I had an affinity for it. The jagged cliffs and varied colors seemed to change at every turn, like a chameleon. It’s almost as if God decided to have fun with this part of the planet, giving vent to His own artistic expression.
We have a family cabin on the east rim of Zion, and I am always at peace there. But I also have a deep interest in historical themes. My ancestors were among the original pioneer settlers of Utah, and I’m proud of that heritage. I have done a number of paintings which re-create early pioneer life, and I love the texture and colors of the crumbling adobe homes and weathered barns and fences. Recently that interest in history has taken me on numerous painting trips to England and other European countries where I have fallen in love with the rich antiquities found everywhere. I have walked where my ancestors walked before coming to America and feel a strong sense of connecting there. Recent trips over the past few years have taken me to Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Italy, France, England, Ireland, and Scotland where I enjoyed painting and sketching on location.
I keep extensive pencil sketchbooks as I travel which I use for reference in completing larger paintings later in the studio. I’m often asked if I’m afraid I’ll run out of things to paint. That could never happen. I’ve never had a single day of “artist block” in my life. My biggest fear is not having enough time in my life to paint all the things that interest me. The world is a fantastic place — especially when viewed through the eyes of an artist.”
READ INTERVIEW WITH ROLAND LEE