by Julie Gyselinck
Bonnie Lee on Living Life to the Fullest and Loving Art with All of Her Heart
Bonnie Lee projects confidence, a smiling woman secure in her wisdom and fulfilled by her passions. She describes her childhood self as being obsessed with art and says, “I really overdid it with the drawing thing!” She laughs and points to the callus on the inside of her middle finger by her nail. “This happened when I was six years old after drawing turkey after turkey for a Thanksgiving art project. It’s from holding the pencil.”
Bonnie Lee grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, and attended West Tech High school in the 1950s. Hallmark Cards’ and American Greeting Cards’ headquarters were located in Cleveland at the time, making it a hub for graphic artists. “Everything for ad work, advertisements and greeting cards was drawn or painted by hand. This was before computers.”
“Art was not a class you took just to fill your time. Our schools were creating artists to fill the job market. You didn’t play in those art classes!” She shows her only remaining art from her high school days. It’s a large 24 x 36 pen-and-ink piece depicting Louis XIV. The font used at the head and foot are reflective of the 1950s style. The detail and precision of each ink mark is indeed professional.
Bonnie took the usual path for women of her generation after school; she married and raised a family, but her passion for art was always there. It was a void needing to be filled.
Moving to Edisto in 1986, she soon found herself surrounded by others with a passion for art, and she began drawing the beautiful island scenery around her. She and Jenny Gowin and a few others wanted to help others find their way into the Edisto artist community, so they founded the Edisto Art Guild. In addition to her work with the Edisto Art Guild, Bonnie was also involved with the Edisto Island Historic Preservation Society. She created the artwork featured on the Edisto and Beyond Tour of Homes’ first two posters.
Soon Bonnie developed an interest in watercolors, as well as other new and exciting mediums to try, and continued to surround herself with artistic people whom she found inspiration in. She began taking her “Yearly Adventures,” combining travel and art to learn new methods to improve her skills or to try an entirely new medium. One of her favorite adventures was learning the ancient method of creating pottery like the Native Americans, which involved gathering dirt and clay from the earth and using fire to cure it.
The walls of her home are heavily adorned with beautifully framed artwork: some of it gifts from other artists and much of it her own work, showcasing a variety of methods, including soothing watercolors depicting sunny marsh scenes or foggy beach views, vibrant three-color monoprints of shrimp, clay sculptures, pencil drawings of horses and her latest passion, pastels. The rich, dense colors smudge together, depicting a stunning South Carolina sky in multiple hues, fading sunlight reflecting off the marsh grasses. The small details of the scenery are breathtaking, even though Bonnie Lee laments over her frustrations at developing her skills with pastels.
Her passion for her new endeavor is evident, pastels laid out by color and hue in an array of pottery trays, an easel turned slightly toward the window to capture the sunlight. Bonnie sits down and studies her next approach to her latest piece. Improving her art one stroke at a time and achieving her goal of living her best life every day.
Her most famous piece is a three-color monoprint of sea turtles, and she is well known for her reverse collage glassware. To view or purchase Bonnie Lee’s works of art, head to With These Hands Gallery or the Edisto Island Museum.