Local artist attracts attention of publishers, judges

Donna Lee has had a varied career as an artist.

She ran a photography studio in Sweet Home for several years in the 1990s, and she has enjoyed woodburning for years. Recently, she has been finding new audiences in colored pencil art over the past year, turning some heads.

She met one of her goals when she a magazine, Colored Pencil magazine, asked for permission to publish her work.

She has published three pieces in Colored Pencil magazine, two in Ann Kullberg’s Colored Pencil magazine, and she had one drawing picked in a contest by the worldwide Colored Pencil Society of America in 2013. That piece, “The Last Roundup,” was completed with graphite, colored pencil and burning. That contest features thousands of entries.

This year, she submitted “Showgirls,” a piece depicting all of her show ponies, another passion and a hobby she enjoyed for several years.

“It’s an online show, and just to get accepted is amazing,” Lee said.

She also received honorable mention in the Keizer Art Contest, the Emerald Art Contest and the Mayor’s Art Show in Springfield.

The Keizer Arts Center will use a piece depicting a beaver in a tree for its Christmas card this year, Lee said.

“I’ve been using colored pencils for about six years,” Lee said. She has been woodburning for more than 20.

“I started drawing back with graphite. I picked up a pencil and started sketching.”

She got into color while hanging out at Marks Ridge Winery, she said. Someone asked her if she ever did anything in color.

Since closing her photography studio in the late 1990s, she spent about seven years showing horses, and she has spent every possible moment sketching and woodburning.

“I color 24-7,” Lee said. She’ll color, eat supper and then color some more – when she isn’t woodburning. Isabella’s Garden in Brownsville sells her woodburned cribbage boards, and Lee uses her woodburning to make Christmas ornaments.

She also may be found at crafts fairs and bazaars selling greeting card prints of her colored pencil art. She plans to be at the Fir Lawn Lutheran Church bazaar this month, in Polk County following Thanksgiving and then the County Christmas Bazaar in Albany.

She drew more than 100 pieces last year, and she has completed 58 so far this year.

She calls her drawing style “soft realism.” She doesn’t want it to look photo-realistic, but the style is realistic.

Lee has been showing her art since 1976, she said, including photography, wood burning and water colors. She had early aspirations of working as an illustrator, and that led her into art. She has been interested in art since she started scribbling as a little girl in Lorain, Ohio, where she grew up.

“I was a very young child when my mother took me to my first charcoal drawing class,” she said. She attended art school in Cleveland.

Her husband, John Lee, is an eighth-generation Oregonian. After his grandfather died, about 20 years ago, the couple moved to the Holley area. His aunt and uncle lived in Lebanon.

In addition to her art, Lee has worked in photo print labs. And she cared for lab animals at Oregon State University for four years. She showed her horses for about seven years, winning Northwest Regional titles three times in a row with Silverado’s Fancy.

Lee does art for her own self-satisfaction, she said.

“I very rarely sell one,” although she does sell a lot of her cards. “I’m just having fun. One of my goals with my art career was to have someone ask me to publish my work, not me asking them.”