Lee Lawson’s paintings come from within, born of her intuition, 30 years of practicing meditation and dreams.
“I’ve been a student of my dreams all of my life,” she said. “A lot of my painting comes from internal images, internal sources.”
Some of these imaginative images are in an ongoing exhibit at Sweet Earth Chocolates.
Lawson said she wanted to display paintings that seldom got exhibited, such as her small and medium-sized works. The chocolate shop is a good fit, she believes. She plans to rotate some of them every few months.
Although she’s recently been painting landscapes, devoid of people, her work is mostly figurative, and, save for the male in “Morning Song,” the subjects are female.
While some viewers believe she portrays indigenous Southwestern women, Lawson stresses that is not the case.
“They don’t look like Native Americans if you look at the bone structure,” she said. Others have asked why she paints only Jewish or Asian women, or Pacific Islanders. “Everybody sees something different.”
When her husband, Martin, found a computer-generated composite image of a face that combined all ethnic groups, they realized the portrait resembled Lawson’s subjects. Lawson wasn’t surprised, as her creations come from her dreams and meditations, and represent archetypes, not any particular race. “You could say they are of my inner family.”
Clarissa Pintola Estes, author of “Women Who Run with the Wolves,” was so taken with the mystical nature of Lawson’s images that she used some with a series of magazine articles she wrote.
The large clay jugs and urns in many of Lawson’s paintings, with such titles as “The Potter’s Hands” and “Song of the Potter,” might explain the Southwestern association.
“I’ve been totally in love with clay and jars my whole life,” Lawson said. “It’s a very powerful symbol to me, the jar,” representing embodiment. “We are vessels, with the clay of our lives being formed and going through the fire” of life’s experiences, just as the clay is fired in a kiln and morphs from something malleable to something that will hold.
“The knowledge of clay in my hands is also a very strong part of my experience,” said Lawson, a potter as well as a painter.
She uses acrylic for her painstakingly drawn, visually textured and pointillistic work. “I just really have a strong affinity with water-based paints and love what I can do with a fast-drying acrylic.”
Born and raised in Atlanta, Ga., Lawson attended art school to earn a bachelors degree, but didn't finish. “I consider that most artists are self-taught anyway,” she said. The five years she spent in Europe provided a much better training in art, she believes.
She moved to California 25 years ago, and has been at her Toro Creek home, between Morro Bay and Atascadero, for half of that time.
There, on the edge of National Forest land, she’s experienced a mountain lion at her front door, errant horses in her yard, a pig on her porch. “It’s a wonderful, wonderful adventure to live here."