Saturday, January 31, 2015


East and south of Escalante, 26 miles down the Hole in the Rock Road, are two slot canyons in close proximity -- Spooky and Peek-a-Boo. I had struck up an acquaintance at the gym named Jared Nixon, a friendly young man who happens to be a guide. Since it was off-season -- November -- he offered to take me and another woman named Marcie through these slot canyons. He brought his cousin, Darrell, as they often hike together. All I can say is WOW!!!  These two slot canyons live up to their names. Jared and Darrell were kind, generous and helpful to us as we attempted to "chimney up" one area, and descend 10-foot drops. Jared said 85 per cent of people he leads in Spooky don't make it, and I can see why. At one point I had to step into his cupped hands, then onto his back to get up the "chimney" area. Good thing he is so big and strong. I would highly recommend you contact Jared if you need a guide. He knows the area better than anyone else I've met, and he's a nice and fun guy to hang out with. You can catch him at or call 435-676-3121. 

Anyway, there was no way for me to make a piece of art that does justice to either slot canyon, so I messed around with drips of paint and came up with this small piece that captures it as well as anything.  Using a watery drip method to capture the essence of a slot canyon is appropriate, since water has carved them.

Pee-a-Boo Slot Canyon
4" x 12" Acrylic on wood panel

Friday, January 30, 2015


Today artist friend, Diana Pace, sent me the following inspiration:

"All the music I write is a search for myself." - Bruce Hornsby

"While writing my first book, I came upon a Buddhist text in which the author confessed, 'I have no pretension that I am writing this book for any purpose other than my own awakening.' His candor struck a chord deep within me as I realized that I, too, write primarily for the healing of my own mind and spirit. Since then, I have spoken to countless creative artists who agree that even if no one else ever read their books, saw their paintings, or listened to their music, all of their efforts would be worth the sheer joy of producing the work. Your right place is the one in which you are receiving the most edification. The fact that other people receive a benefit is the icing on the cake. Do what is healing to your spirit, and without effort you will offer the world healing in return. Direct me to the work that will feed my soul, that I may feed others. I do what I love, and the world loves what I do." - Alan Cohen

At this gloriously mature age, as I paint my life, reading such words feels like a group hug. I love my artist friends. Another artist, Reiser, who also lives, hikes and paints in Escalante, has a lavishly outfitted shop. He cut dozens of wood panels between 4" x 4" and 9" x 12" x 1/8" thick -- from a door skin that another local artist, Howard, had layin' around. Now I can mess with paint and not worry about wasting precious or expensive resources. 

The twigs you see on the confection below were collected and cut on Lopez Island, Washington. I found them while looking for something else (that's when I find most missing items). I glued them on an 8" x 8" panel weeks ago. And then just yesterday I painted this little aspen pic -- and matched up the two items for a pleasing piece of work. I have totally amazed myself!!! This is number 4 of #70Paintings70Years.

GROUP HUG, 8" X 8" Twig Frame, with
4.5" x 4.5" acrylic palette knife painting on wood panel.

Thursday, January 29, 2015


For a 4-H club project when I was a 12 or 13, I raised a sheep named Hoppy. At the time we had a goat with two kids, and the kids would stand on top of Hoppy. She didn’t mind. I really like sheep, so I intend to paint them often. In this particular painting, I make reference to a Monet work titled “The Turkeys at Montgeron, 1877,” which I saw a few years ago in a Paris art museum. I also love the Gravelly Range in Southwest Montana, where I had photographed a sheepherder’s wagon near Black Butte (the neck of an old volcano) in the 1980s. OK, so I decided to arrange sheep in the approximate location of Monet’s turkeys, and instead of a chateau at the top of the painting I placed the sheepherder’s wagon. The piece is 20” x 24” on a pre-used canvas, which provided interesting textures. I tried making the grasses the same color as Monet’s, but ended up using a palette knife to scumble lighter colors over the green-blue. And, of course, every band of sheep deserves a good guard dog, so I placed Sudsie in the scene. There’s an “accidental” quality to the piece. This is also the first painting of mine that I actually L-O-V-E.

Monet's painting is 5'8" x 5'8"

20" x 24" Mixed Media on Canvas
by Rae Ellen Lee

Work in progress. Too much green-blue.


As a hiker living in a town surrounded by the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, I’ve wandered for miles with friends on Spencer Flat east of Escalante, UT. The little painting below is from a sketch of the curious hoodoo that is strikingly evident as you drive the Old Sheffield Road (which most call the Spencer Flat Road). On an outing with Sudsie, I sketched the hoodoo from the north, where it appears to be watching the whole vast area. Most people view the feature from the road – a viewpoint that usually elicits comments about condoms. For texture, I adhered crumpled tissue to the rock formations with acrylic medium. After that dried, I wielded a small palette knife to brush on paint colors – striving for bursts of color harmony using complimentaries. By experimenting, maybe I’ll discover my painting voice. Now to work on the other 12 paintings I’ve started!

4.5" x 4.5" Acrylic on Wood Panel

Saturday, January 24, 2015


One way to tell if you’re an artist is to ask yourself this: Do you actually make art or do you just buy art materials and wait until you find your quote painting voice? Do you start paintings and never finishing them? For instance, with six unfinished canvases leaning on each other in the corner, I started a trip-tick and splashed gaudy-colors on each large canvas, having decided that was my new style. Anyway, the instructor had said, Just cover the canvas quick, so you can get over the Blank Canvas Syndrome. After that workshop I added those unfinished paintings to the pile because I had discovered a new style that struck me as quote the one for me. Which required that I buy several palette knives and a trowel, and not those cheap plastic ones, either, because you can’t make good art with inferior materials. That was six years and eight painting styles ago.
To regain some self-respect, I scanned my years of sketches on, only to later read a comment that said they were “tighty-assed,” if you can you believe that. So I started painting a giant ghost crab to show them, whoever it was, that I can too paint loose and fresh yet intriguing stuff, and there it sits in the corner -- the only readable thing being the creature’s eyestalks watching my back all the time as I sit at the computer studying the works of other artists and making lists of new materials to add to my collection of oil pastels, soft pastels, guoache, water colors, acrylics and every medium Golden promotes at those demonstrations, as well as glass for making monoprints on rice paper not to mention tools to carve images in linoleum to make one-of-a-kind linocuts in black and white, and new canvases of varying sizes, now that I own a new French easel. Then last fall my artist friend, Lorna Libert, suggested that I might like to paint with oil paints. So I showed up at one of her workshops in Bellingham, Washington, with a bag of oil paints and I’ll be darned if I didn’t complete three small paintings. Just like that. And I haven’t stopped painting since. No more excuses. 

To celebrate turning seventy, in 2015 I vow to paint seventy paintings of places I’ve been and things I’ve done. I will finally use up all those art materials. 

I'll be painting 70 images from the past 70 years (1945 - 2015), but they won't be done in
chronological order. My first posting is from a fave set of hoodoos out on the Grand Staircase-Escalante
National Monument, east of Escalante, UT, where I live. After loosely sketching the forms,
I used acrylic medium to adhere crumpled tissue to add texture.

The first colors were jarring and one of my artist friends suggested I tone things down a bit,
so I did that and added foreground interest.

The Doll Men, 18" x 24", Acrylic on Canvas

 In this photo of the finished project, the colors appear slightly duller than they actually are. My to-do list includes mastering the art of photographing my paintings.