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.





trigovan5 tri6



Recently I had the privilege to attend an Artists Open Studio out on Block Island, Rhode Island and got to visit the home and summer studio of sculptor, Sean Hartnett. To say I was captivated is putting it mildly.  His home, shared with artist and wife,  Leslie Hartnett,  is stunning. I felt like I had just stepped into a Edward Hopper painting. I was taken with the views and then I slowly began to grasp the beauty and scope of his sculptures. They are so organic  and placed in this landscape, they really took my breath away. My friend and island host,  Claire Marshack, asked if we could take some photos and I was trying to appreciate the work and snap shots as the gorgeous island light was changing. Oh, why didn’t I touch every single piece? Why didn’t I look closer?! It was simply too much to take in because the moment was so perfect. Sean and his wife live in Italy part of the year where he buys his marble and stone and then in the summer they head out to Block Island, accessible only by ferry. Well, you know the Virgo in me simply got caught up in the logistics of getting these sculptures out there. How does that all happen? I went on to his website and found a  video (so worth the watch) on his entire process, how he takes something so heavy and hard and mold and shapes it into art that is so sensual and light. Really incredible.


That is Sean in the middle, his striking white hair matching his work, talking to his guests. Quiet the view, right?



seanhartnett1  A view of his barn/studio. I mean, what a setting!!   seanhartnett8


You can see some of Leslie’s work  hanging on this outdoor wall! She creates these amazing organic faces with sea life, food and vegetables all with intricate and colorful majolica glazes. Needless to say I was enchanted.



Here is the video on his process and his home in Italy, grab a cup of coffee and watch it. You will be inspired!


My girlfriend, Lisa Daria Kennedy, pointed me in the direction of Vera Iliatova’s paintings when she was trying to encourage me to take off some of my self imposed rules in my new painting practice. yes, I am actually painting! Lisa knows that I am drawn to figurative work (doesn’t that sound a bit more spectacular than, fashion illustration?) but she also knows that I had suddenly opened up my eyes and heart to landscape and still life all in a short period of time. She explained how Russian born Iliatova adds all these elements in her work. I read up on Vera’s work and needless to say my descriptions of what I see in her work don’t include “…heroines’ escape into the bosom of Mother Nature as a romantic protest…” although  I do agree with the use of the word heroine.

I feel rather parochial  when I say that her work makes me feel very Nancy Drew. Remember how she was just coming of age and she seemed to be quite a bit more responsible than the rest of us?  How did her parents let her have that much freedom to solve all those mysteries, anyway? Nancy didn’t have helicopter parents.

It is the sense of  mystery and nostalgia that appeals to me in Vera’s work.  It intrigues me and keeps me interested.

Vera Iliatova  said: My paintings start with purely visual ideas: a certain kind of light and a certain kind of space that I think would be interesting to paint at the moment.  The process begins as an abstraction and slowly the painting evolves into a composite of different pictorial elements.  I know that eventually the painting will be populated with figures but I don’t have a pre-determined narrative that I am consciously aware of.  As the painting develops, it begins to evoke certain experiences, either from my own life, or from things that I have seen in films or read about.