POWELL, Wyo. — Laurie Lee of Powell is the honored artist at the annual Art Show and Sale at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West.

Lee said she was approached by Kathy Thompson, art show director at the center, back in February 2015 about being the featured artist for this year’s show.

“I got pretty choked up, because I was amazed,” she said. “It’s just a really nice honor to be singled out as an artist in that show; it’s mind-boggling.”

Lee has entered paintings in the Buffalo Bill art show for 30 years of the show’s 35-year history, reported the Powell Tribune (http://bit.ly/2cpwjpk).

The early notice gave Lee a year and a half to work up three paintings for the show. As honored artist, she also will give a lecture at 2 p.m. Friday, Sept. 23, at the Center of the West.

“I will talk about the arts and my life,” she said.

In Lee’s case, that’s more than just painting. She also plays the violin and sings. In fact, she majored in both music and art in college, and she taught music for a couple of years before she married her husband, Bryan.

“After getting married, I wanted to focus on art,” she said.

During her lecture, Lee will sing a song and show some of her paintings in a slide presentation.

While other artists are limited to one work of art for the Buffalo Bill Art Show and Sale, as honored artist, Lee was allowed to enter three. Each showcases a different aspect of the Western art she loves.

“Cooling Off,” a 24-by-30-inch painting, shows a grizzly bear walking out of a river at the base of a waterfall that is flowing over the edge of a tree-lined rocky cliff. “Cooling Off” also was made into a poster for the show.

“Gentle Touch” features a young Indian girl in traditional dress, riding a horse and gently patting the horse’s neck. The painting measures 24 inches by 20 inches.

“Headin’ Into Camp,” 20 inches by 16 inches, shows a cowboy leading two horses and two pack mules over a trail past a tree, lit by a full moon in a starry sky over a scenic mountain backdrop.

“They are three varied subjects — that’s just the way I am,” Lee said. “They kind of represent what I do. I don’t just paint one thing.”

Lee can’t remember a time when she didn’t love to draw and paint.

“Art has been a part of my life since I was old enough to hold a pencil,” she said.

Lee grew up in Powell, the daughter of Kenneth and Ann Vontz, and her mother was an artist as well. When she was about 6, her mother entered a drawing by Lee into an art contest, and she won a prize of a gallon of ice cream — any flavor she wanted.

“I thought I’d died and gone to heaven,” she said.

In elementary school, a teacher allowed Lee to stay inside during recess while she was sick. To entertain herself, she drew on the chalkboard.

“I drew a picture of my teacher,” she said, and she won praise for her talents from her teacher.

A junior high teacher who recognized Lee’s love of drawing put her in an eighth-grade art class as a younger student. Soon, she was drawing portraits and selling them for $5 each.

She started doing paintings in water color, and her reputation as an artist began to grow.

About seven years ago, Lee made the switch to oil paints.

“In my experience, oils are a more respected medium,” she said.

Because Lee used a water-color method that concentrated the color of the paint, she found that the transition to oil painting was fairly seamless, though “there was a learning curve, that’s for sure.”

Over the years, Lee’s artwork has been accepted into the Cheyenne Frontier Days Art Show and Sale, Bradford Brinton Memorial Museum Show in Sheridan and the art show at the National Wildlife Museum in Jackson, along with other shows around the country. Her paintings also have been featured in several galleries nationwide.

Lee was selected for the quick draw portion of the art show at the National Wildlife Museum. Since she’s heard that quick-draw artists have painted in 32 degree weather there in the past, Lee said she’s trying to figure out how to keep her oil paints warm. She’s considering using hand warmers underneath her paint tray, she said.

While her reputation as an artist is largely built on her Western artwork, Lee said she also loves to do ocean scenes.

“I even did a French Quarter scene in New Orleans,” she said. “I have done some figurative work too, with women on a homestead or in a cabin, or in an elegant dress standing by a window. They have a romantic feel about them.”


Information from: Powell (Wyo.) Tribune, http://www.powelltribune.com