Stories Told in Realism

Artist of the Month: Sandy Lee

With a command over the canvas like no other, local artist Sandy Lee is certainly a master of his craft. Equally adept at producing still life, portraits, human figures and landscapes, his work presents to viewers stories told in oil, charcoal, pastel, and pencil – even watercolor. Watercolor is said to be one of the most difficult mediums to master, even more so for the contemporary realist. This is why pieces such as “Denim Jacket” and many other works in his eclectic portfolio are a true testament to Lee’s talent.

After studying drawing and painting at North Texas State University and the University of Texas at Arlington, Lee worked for Boeing Airplane and LearJet as a senior designer to support his family. Now able to focus on personal art projects full-time, he creates inspired paintings and drawings that look deep into realism. He even puts his unique skill-set to use by offering commissioned “Pet Portraits,” where he captures the essence of beloved family pets in pastels drawings, oil, watercolor, or pencil.

We asked the artist a few questions about his work:

How did you get your start as an artist?
When I was a kid I would love to doodle, always drawing goofy faces in school… I got in trouble for doodling all the time. I didn’t even think about being an artist. Then I started entering local art shows in junior high and high school. As a kid, to enter an art show and win is definitely an ego boost. Ultimately, I got into graphic design and worked in the aerospace industry to make a living.

How do you choose the subject of your pieces?
I wait until something grabs me. Sometimes I just feel like putting an object on a table and doing a watercolor from real life. Although my photos are often required, I love to work from life rather than pictures; all the different kinds of light – morning, evening, artificial – it gives the painting life. I enjoy using oil, but watercolor moves faster, that’s what I
like. You can do cross hatch movements to build up layers and it dries almost instantly so you’re able to move around the painting.

Do you have an idea of what projects you’d like to explore in the future?
I’m leaving it up to whatever comes my way that inspires me. I’m retired now, so the last thing I’d want to do is restrict myself like in a regular job. I prefer the freedom to bounce
around, because inspiration is evident in the painting. If you’re only painting things you think people want, it shows.

What draws you to realism and how does that influence your work?
It’s always been an interest of mine. I love the realistic look, which does require a lot of detail and can get tedious at times. It doesn’t feel tedious if I’m inspired, however. I get
excited about adding the detailing and layers and seeing where it takes me.

What do you believe is a key element in creating a good watercolor?
Telling a story. I think that’s the most important element no matter what medium you’re using. Paintings tell a story to the viewer. Any skilled artist can create something good, but it needs to influence people on a deeper level. It’s always great to see people react to your painting because it speaks to them, though it’s not always the same story for everyone.

To see more of Sandy Lee’s work, visit
For commissions and inquiries, send an email to

This artist currently has two pieces on consignment at Eclipse at Blue Moon:
203 Racine Dr #101
Wilmington, NC 28403
(910) 799-9883





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