Words of a Light Bearer
Stephanie Lee is one of my absolute favorite artists. Her art and spirit have truly inspired me to grow and experiment, especially in my very first years on the creative path. Stephanie works with plaster, wax, metal... She also has the most beautiful way with words and I know she'll inspire you!
Laly: Your art has such a unique, soothing quality. To me your paintings seem to radiate a soft, warm, natural light. Can you tell me a little bit about your process, in particular how you infuse light into your work with plaster and wax?
Stephanie: Almost all of my paintings begin with a layer of plaster. Sometimes the layer is thick, sometimes it’s a paper thin layer coating the surface of the substrate. The meditative process of refining the texture of the plaster very intentionally or honing it to a smooth surface immediately calms any sense of concern that I don’t know where to take the painting next. No color exists in the piece yet but still there feels like a sense of place, an invitation to respond with what impulse comes next. The natural minerals in the plaster receive and reflect the light in a subtle, soft way that is so different from equally white paper or gessoed canvas.
As the layers of paint are added and removed, papers attached and scraped back, marks gouged into the plaster as thin, delicate lines or as deep crevices, the surface is then ready for the last layers of encaustic medium. Sometimes I will use bits of opaque encaustic paint to serve as a sturdy space holder but most often I cover most or all of the painting with a layer of clear encaustic medium. The luminosity that the encaustic medium gives it is like no other product I’ve found. Over time, the waxy surface takes on a very matte sheen which prevents too much ambient light from bouncing around on the surface of the encaustic medium. I prefer this matte-to-flat finish even though many encaustic artists buff their wax out to a high gloss sheen. The matte finish allows the light to penetrate deep into the surface of the painting allowing all the luminous layers to shine through in their own subtle and synergistic way.
Laly: How does nature, and your surroundings, inspire you? What do you love about working with natural materials?
Stephanie: I love a well worn river stone or felled wood that has been beat on by rain and winds for season after season. I am inspired to bring that sense of history and wear into my paintings through the use of plaster and using my tools in such a way that somewhat replicates the wearing down of things that happens in nature.
Plaster, as a natural material, has inherent in it a simplicity that allows for so many other types of things to join with it. Like the layers of duff on the forest floor, layers of mediums are added to my paintings - some remaining in plain view, others completely immersed to only offer an energy of presence that can only be felt and not seen.
I know of no where else than in nature where the buried, invisible layers actually create more richness to the surface and I experience that same feeling when building up layers in my paintings.
Laly: Do you have a favorite kind of light? Maybe a favorite season or favorite hour of the day when light resonates with you the most? What does it tell you about yourself? In what ways does it echo your own inner light?...
Stephanie: My favorite kind of light is the one I’m experiencing and fully aware of in any given moment. :) I am particularly fond of that cool blue-black dawn light that appears before the golden hue of the sun takes over. And then the light at dusk - the low, long shadows that turn everything warm and golden.
I must say that my favorite light - the light that captures my attention the most - is that unique glowing light that gets trapped under the thick and low light of a drenching summer rainstorm. It often has a reddish glow to it and is reflected on every smooth surface in sight and somehow makes gray seem like the most inviting light in the world.
I’ve long since known that my favorite kind of light (or weather, for that matter) is the one that is changing into another. When I can walk outside and see irrefutable evidence that spring is giving way to summer and night is giving way to day. The changing of the light is what captivates me the most. It is true for my own inner light as well. To feel myself changing and growing into the next version of myself and how I want to experience and share my light in the world. I am often a mystery to myself as I don’t always know what the light inside me is changing into and so i have learned to observe, remain open, and to be willing to listen very closely for how I am supposed to share that light with others.
Laly: Through your art and through teaching, you shine a light for other artists to find and express their own spark. If you could speak to the wild, shiny creative child who lives inside each of us, what would you say?
Stephanie: I would say that it’s okay to not see the whole path before you. All you need is enough light for the next step and when it feels like there isn’t enough for even that, feel your way through. The light is not just from within or just from outside you. It is both. It is a dynamic pulse between you and all of creation and you are invited to join in the dance of creation being continued.
On days when it feels like your light is all but snuffed out, take what little you have and light another's light with it. You’ll notice that in the meeting of your two flames, there is a flash of light even brighter than your light was before. This is the light telling you “Yes! Look at who I am when shared! Wild and bright and bold!” Light changes and morphs and shifts with the seasons of your life as well and so trust that the light that lives in you is more than enough to keep seeing deeper into your own being.
But don’t keep it all to yourself. Let it shine and burn through the old stories and lay a path for new, kinder ways of being.
Hi. I’m Stephanie Lee. I am the “workaround warrior”. I write, paint, and push around all sorts of materials to create real-life art from the pictures in my head. I don’t waste energy breaking the rules just for the sake of rebelling. I also don’t waste time trying to know and follow all the rules. Instead, I find the workaround. My curiosity is too directed in finding a way around the rules/the schedule/the challenges than to get caught up in limitations.
I examine the dead ends and break-throughs of my own artist + hero’s journey to help others find their own creative sweet spot and workaround flow.
As an artist and instructor, I travel the world to teach in person and also plant flags on the internet to teach art online to daring creatives. The alchemy of this collaboration ignites the bright light of desire in the hearts of the participants to connect more deeply with their own unique, inherent creativity.
I mentor privately with women who want to live up to their divine potential, connect with creative clarity, and master the navigation of their busy lives to feel deep satisfaction with how they honor their time and life energy.
You can read about my life and messy art-cultivating on my blog. On my less-messy days, I speak to audiences about how to harness the empowering fire of the workaround warrior way to live the creative and vibrant life they imagine for themselves.
Here are links to me:
Images and words © Stephanie Lee