HI! Welcome to a mini series called “Artists and Mentors.” Today on the podcast I am interviewing Grace Bonney from Design Sponge. She recently wrote a fabulously inspiring book called, In the Company of Women. With a focus on diversity, she highlights talented women and asks them about their businesses, how they find balance and even what they have learned from their  mistakes. I have heard Grace speak a couple of times and she is always eloquent and full of wisdom so I know you will enjoy our chat. As for me, I felt a bit rusty when I am interviewing her, what?!  After some time  traveling I had to find my gift of gab again! Stay tuned as I reveal who is next up on this mini series!

Oh! I so wish I could have been able to make it to one of Grace’s book panels!





I created this painting several weeks ago. As I worked on it, it disturbed me. For the first time as an artist, I just let it be disturbing. It was personal.  Uncomfortable.  I knew there was more to this painting and more to this story. The original title was “You Just Stand There and Look Pretty ” over the past couple of weeks, I have expanded the title to “Unwanted Kisses.”

I am not a fan of controversy and am the type of person that would rather watch how things play out, but at this juncture I am showing you what came out of me, an artist, working on finding the balance of voice and beauty.

Over the years I have, like so many women, have been stunned, shocked, bullied and humiliated by the actions and words of  men like Donald Trump. Men that make a stealth habit of taking advantage of women when the see their guard let down. Men that actively look for ways to put women in vulnerable positions. They know EXACTLY what they are doing. They are practiced.

It is not ok, it is not meant to be swept away in other news commentary. It is not locker room talk and cannot be dismissed  by calling women liars or not ATTRACTIVE enough to be heard and believed. IT IS NOT OK. IT NEVER HAS BEEN AND IT NEVER WILL BE. Should I type that twice so you believe me when I say it? Simply condemning this behavior is not enough in my book.

With two sons and a wonderful husband, I live in a house of men that I cherish. I have never taken the time or been brave enough to tell them my stories.  It’s disturbing and uncomfortable. . As we can see, there is a  real fear that you might not be believed, heard, or respected simply because of what someone else premeditated and did to you. But I love the men  in my life enough to take a stand and to make them uncomfortable and let them know, it has happened to me and it stuck with me. It took pieces out of my spirit, out of who I am and who I am meant to become.

If you have a sister, a daughter, even a mother, you need to take a stand with with them and say it is NOT OK. No matter how big, how powerful or how rich you happen to be, it is NEVER OK.

Witnessing people who are most likely decent men and women rally around an abuser is the most disheartening thing I have witnessed in my years on the planet. It is  especially surprising  and hurtful, coming from  other women.  I want to shout to them, not at them.  I want to let them see the pain in our eyes up close,  so they will be woken from slumber.

We have to stop it.  We cannot let this conversation be over, too much is at stake. I do not what my sons to see someone rewarded for humiliating women repeatedly, first in offense then in words.  As educated, decent, compassionate men and women we must say, ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. 

“Yeah, I’m going to go after you. Believe me, she would not be my first choice, that I can tell you … That would not be my first choice.” -Donald Trump

Your first choice for WHAT exactly, Mr. Trump?

We stand up together and say STOP.  STOP using words that belittle us, STOP touching when you are not in relationship with us, STOP denigrating us based on how we look. Most of all,  STOP ASSAULTING US.

Saying, “I’m with her”  means that you are linking together with your daughter, your granddaughter, your sister, your mother, your wife so they won’t be next. Just “condemning” ANYONE doing these things is simply not enough, it’s personal. 

You are welcome to share my personal uncomfortable piece of art but please share these words I have written with it.

18 Real Things Donald Trump Has Actually Said About Women

Natasha Stoynoff



Wow! I haven’t logged in in sometime, yikes! I have felt some guilt about my lack of posting, even though I have been unearthing so many fabulous artists that I adore on Pinterest. Check out these boards titled  Bright Art and Artists, Romantic Art  and Narrative Art.  I have also been up to painting, painting, painting when I am not traveling, traveling, traveling. Earlier this summer I sold my remaining handbag inventory to TJMax. That move and putting the podcast on sabbatical  has freed me up enormously. (Although, I have a bit of  Artist and Mentors series planned…stay tuned.) This summer I have  completely indulged in jumping offline into real life and frankly, it has been fabulous!

I imagine that I am not alone when I say had a bad case of  online burnout. Sometimes there is just too much information is coming at us from all different directions. I needed to go out and experience life  without being glued to the studio or to my computer. Granted my phone was often still in my hand, still tempting me to check out social media, still asking me why I hadn’t posted this or that. What?!  Your phone doesn’t ask this of you? Lucky you. I eventually got to the point where I felt  an “unhook” from needing to check in and check up and it made me feel so carefree.

All of that has led me into something that I have not really experienced sometime, the  sheer pleasure in the act of creating, not creating to post or garner a response. While I understand there is a time to get your creations out there, I have come to embrace this “quiet time.”  I started having dreams (the kind you get when you sleep) on how to problem solve paintings that I am working on. I am working rather large, big step for me and it is quite new and freeing for me. Then something else sort of strange happened… and to preface this, I will say my beliefs around creativity are quite practical. I have always been a “commercial” artist and have thought that you can easily be creative in half hour segments at a time or in a set time frame like 9 to 5, sort of like dialing a phone. Need to be creative? Just sit down and dial in. Kind of unromantic, I know. This is a little different than Elizabeth Gilbert’s “muse” theory from her book, Big Magic, which is quite romantic where capturing moments of magical creativity as it swoops towards you. The caveat seems to be, if your reflexes are not swift enough, the magic will move to someone else. Yikes! My ideas around sound a bit generic and her’s make me feel behind the curve already. Neither one was sitting well with me.

I have been spending some time question both theories and then I had another dream.  I was with my deceased grandmother, who was a painter, and she said that “creativity is a state of being.” A state of being? As soon as she said it, it made sense …somewhat. Am I sounding woo-woo enough for you?  Frankly, I don’t have a complete idea of what that means BUT I do have some ideas about living in a constant state of being, opening all your senses and having all your actions translate into creative acts. What do you think? Do you have any thoughts about how you access or live in a “state of being” with your creativity?

I know I am getting a bit deep but I have some ways that I am going to play around with this idea as I head to Europe for 2 weeks, if you want to see pics, follow me on Instagram at @xo_monicalee. I am so so excited!

I have been completely absorbed the most gorgeous summer I have experienced in years! I managed to visit Block Island RI, Newport RI, California, Nantucket, New Hampshire and then to end the summer on a high note, Paris! One the water, near the water and over the water, heaven for me! Below are some of my very favorite shots for you. I listened, I smelled, I watched and I let these beautiful locations sink in to my soul fueling my creativity. It was lovely!

Now I am headed to London, Berlin, Prague, and Vienna. Ok, that may be the ultimate high note. It is a big birthday for Tom and we a doing a bit of a grand tour! London, Berlin, Prague, Vienna and Frankfurt.





Ocean Mysteries 18 x 24 Monica Lee









Hydrangea 24 x24 Monica Lee




I have recently become enamored with the work  and story of Mary Abbott. Mary was born is 1921 to a family with a rich  American history. She is a descendant of  President John Adams and General Robert E. Lee. She was a debutante, model for Vogue and in my opinion, a game changer. There are not many women who have been reported to have had influence over men’s art styles but Mary Abbott was one of them. As young as the age of 12 she was studying at the Art Students League of New York. She went on to travel in circles with David Hare, Barnet Newman, Robert Motherwell, Mark Rothko, and most interestingly, Willem de Kooning. She began a professional and personal relationship with de Kooning in the 1940’s. Asher Edelman has written about a very interesting experience while unearthing some of Mary’s work mistaking it for de Koonings and the ensuing time line that led him to conclude that Mary indeed had profound influence on de Kooning’s art. F-a-s-c-i-n-a-t-i-n-g!  Mary, my new unsung hero.  Her modest outlook (not taking the credit she deserves for having an original spirit) seem to be a compelling reflection of the era and social stature she was raised in and yet her vibrant art seems to reflect a such a rich interior life. I love it all and I am smitten with the diversity of her work, stroke and palette. You can read a bit more about Mary  here and Edelman’s article  here. 


Titled Bill’s Painting, 1951







I ran across the photography  of Tria Giovan via a magazine spread  featuring her photography showcasing gorgeous interior design. Somehow beyond the styling and interior design, I liked the photography enough to search  out the photographer.  In the process, I fell in love Giovan’s personal work, especially her work from time spent in Cuba in the 90’s.  The work was chronicled in her book, Cuba: The Elusive Island . She chronicled the sagging structures, worn households items and people looking… I am struggling with the right word to use for what struck me the most from these photos. The young ones seem just a tad more hopeful than the older ones. In some shots, the people look as fatigued as the buildings. They are obviously living their lives, with clothes and goods that are from another era,  items that where not designed to last this many years. You can see women still being women, holding up the community with their ingenuity and strength. There is grace but not jubilance in what Tria captured.

I think I was particularly struck by the honesty of her work especially since I had recently seen the spectacle that was the Chanel Resort 2017 Runway Show in the streets of Cuba.  When I saw the media coverage of this show I remember thinking, “What must the locals have thought of the decadence that comes with a couture runway show?” After looking at Giovan’s work, I thought of all the Cuban immigrants who have  for years spoken up for their loved ones isolated under Castro’s regime and was uncomfortable. Many of us, along photographers and film makers want to romanticize a place that is so clearly in a time capsule. Tria takes out the romantics but still captures beauty and decay in a state of commingling.  You can read an interview about her time in Cuba here and see all of Tria’s  personal work here.





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