The state of Florida is filled with artists of all kinds, some focusing on paintings and drawings while others on exotic jewelry pieces. But what about those who incorporate Florida’s natural beauty into every single piece made, no matter what the medium may be? Meet Cheryl Lee, a talented local artist (and pirate in a past life) who uses Florida as her inspiration. From beautiful sea life paintings to driftwood sculptures to durable, wearable pieces of art, Cheryl Lee creates unique, one of a kind art works that capture a little bit of Florida to showcase in your home or to wear on your journeys.
What first got you into art?
Since I was very young, art has been my passion. Luckily, I was blessed to be born into a family of artistic qualities. My grandmother has always been a very talented woman who, like me, has talent in many different mediums of art. Whether it was clay, paint, drawing, or stained glass, my grandmother could do it all. My mother has also passed her talents on to me, with talents like my grandmother; she started doing creative activities with me when I was very small. My passion for art developed from there. My hands were always in some form of clay, twigs, leaves and rocks- whether it was under my grandmother’s guidance or outside, building sand sculptures and mud animals.
I knew art would be my calling. I have learned much about myself throughout the years spent learning and creating a vast variety of different art forms. The ocean has always held a special place in my life. It is my second home, and I feel a sense of tranquility and peace when I am submerged below the waves. In reflection of the ocean, I see life. My inspirations fill me with an excitement to create not only what is in my mind, but what is also in my heart and the deepest part of my soul.
What would you say is your favorite thing to design?
I would say my favorite things to design are my driftwood sculptures. Finding a natural piece of wood and being able to envision a figure or animal that fits perfectly in a crevice of the wood, or bend perfectly with the flow of a branch. That sight is just magical to me. Anything that involves using natural objects generally gets me very excited.
As well as my artistic skills, I also had many different favorite items I would collect as a child, and I still collect those same items today. I was never much into snow globes or figurines as collections, I fancied rocks, arrow heads, shells, roots and wood. I am so pleased to say these items have been something that has stuck with me throughout my years. Every time I go on a trip, even if it is just a short trip to our local beaches, I take at least one thing back with me. The things I collect hold a memory- a memory of that particular place and time spent. While my artistic process of creation is what I enjoy most, people enjoy the final product created. It’s a symbiotic relationship.
Now that you know my art of choice, I will tell you the hardest part for me is waiting for the driftwood to cure. The wood has to go through a curing process of water, sun, and heat to make sure all those little bugs and any residual parasites living inside are gone. I can’t be selling infested wood art now can I!? It can be rough to do depending on what time of the year it is because of Florida’s humidity and frequent rain schedules.
But while I patiently wait, I have taken on a new little side job. As much as I love shells and stones, I make smaller trinkets and wearable pieces of art that house these natural objects. As the adventurous type, my travels lead me on crazy adventures swimming through water, hiking trails and mountains, being in the rain and hot sun often…most jewelry does not hold up well in these types of situations. That is where a uniqueness of my work comes in. Not only are my pieces hand sculpted, but they are made from a very durable, waterproof clay that can tolerate these conditions.
It’s a perfect match for a down to earth person who has a love of jewelry and love for nature and adventure. I have opened a store named ElementalUrchin online through a site called Etsy. This is a wonderful site for artists like myself to share their work with the world and receive ratings and likes that help their store grow and prosper.
How does Florida help to shape your pieces?
Florida’s oceans and wood located along the coast lines have a lot in common with myself and my artwork. For me metaphorically, life is like the ocean and humanity is like driftwood. Waves constantly beat against the grains of the wood, washing away the roughness and making the grain smooth. Just as the waves of life wash over me, revealing more every day of who I really am, shaping me into who I will become. Life isn’t always easy…it has its ups and downs. I may struggle to fight past the waves that try to push me back to where I started, but once I break past the waves, the entire ocean is mine.
When life throws its waves at me, something new is uncovered. My soul, heart and mind are changing into who I am truly becoming, not only as a person, but as an artist. I am learning more about myself every day. I want to imprint the spirit that resides within me into each piece I create, using the sea as my inspiration and life as my guide. This exhibition consists of a constellation of sculptures that emulate the growth of finding myself through life experiences
If you could only choose one Florida beach to visit for the rest of your life, which would it be?
The one beach I feel most at home in is Casperson Beach located in Venice, Florida. The beach is the epitome of beauty, with mint green waves that crash against black sand creating an amazing contrast. It has rock jetties that shoot out into the ocean that provide a great little sanctuary for small fish like snapper and grunts. It’s a great little area to snorkel around to see lots of crabs, shells, and Casperson’s most common attraction- shark teeth. The Venice area is rich in fossils and with its black sand; it’s perfect sediment for fossilized shark teeth. People often even find Megaladon (a prehistoric great white shark) teeth out in the deeper waters.
Another plus about this beach is it is normally not very crowded at all! And it’s a great place for a family adventure, especially if you have children interested in bones, fossils, and other sorts of live beach creatures. Fossils, shells, and sea fans are best found after large storms. The beach also has a small hiking/biking trail that runs parallel to the shore line. It’s raised on sand dunes and has plant life like mangroves, palm trees, and cactus. It is my forever home beach and no matter where in the world I am, I will always travel back to submerge myself in its waters and let the tranquility that place has flow over me.