Teaching Landscape painting at the GCA

In March I went back to New York City to teach at the Grand Central Atelier. It was so fun to re-connect with the amazing community of artists where I myself spent many years as a student, soaking up as much as I could learn.

For this class I focused on teaching master copies using color photocopies out of my art books. It sounds pretty basic, but I’ve been teaching landscape painting to beginners this way for three years now and I truly believe it is one of the most approachable ways to learn painting. It’s a great way to wrap your mind around all the elements of landscape painting in a controlled studio environment before going out into nature to paint “en plein air” So here are some photos from the workshop, with student work and my demo. Thanks for checking it out! – Emilie



in the skylit classroom at Grand Central Atelier


this is my demo for the class


student work my Patricia Scott


student work by Varin Charnyapornpong


catching up with my lady painter friends Savannah Cuff, Katie Whipple, and Liz Beard!

New Paintings from Japan

Kristo and I just got home after two weeks in Japan! We went to see for ourselves the legendary powder and it was such a thrill to ride untracked pow every day! We soaked in the natural hot springs, or onsens, tried new food, and hiked into the backcountry where we saw snow monkeys and kamoshikas! I made time for a few plein-air painting sessions when the sun came out and I took a rest day. The paintings are for sale in my store!

Reminder: I’m teaching in NYC March 16-17-18 at the Grand Central Atelier. sign up on their website! 


8″x7″ oil on panel, Mt Myoko, Japan


8″x5″ oil on linen panel, Hakuba Sunrise, Japan


8″x6″ oil on linen panel, Happo-One, Hakuba, Japan


8″x6″ oil on linen panel, Hakuba, Japan



Save the Date: Gallery Show Nov. 4th!

My collection of prairie paintings will be in an exhibit at Old Main Gallery in Bozeman, Montana alongside artwork by Monte Dolack and Carol Guzman. A portion of all proceeds will go to benefit the American Prairie Reserve. Opening reception is from 5-7 PM November 4th and will be on view for one month.


Over the past two years, I’ve made three different trips to study and paint on the American Prairie Reserve (APR) in Montana’s northern great plains region. I began this project in 2015 when I was living in New York City and looking for a meaningful story that combined my interests in wilderness conservation, outdoor adventure, and plein-air painting. Located south of Saskatchewan and north of the Missouri River, this zone of eastern Montana has seen very little human impact which makes it feel eerily removed from time. At nearly 3.5 million acres, it is one of only four large-scale intact prairie ecosystems in the world – ninety percent of the ground has never been plowed. The APR is a privately funded conservation organization that is purchasing privately owned land when it comes on the market and then merging it with with leased government parcels. The reserve is currently a patchwork of parcels totaling almost 400,000 acres, and each year it continues to grow.


When complete, the APR will be the largest protected landscape in the continental U.S. and home to all the native animals that once roamed the Great Plains. It will provide visitors an unparalleled opportunity to experience the history and heritage of this landscape in all it’s wild, hostile beauty, and it will be proof of nature’s inherent ability to  re-establish balance when given the chance. At a time when so many of our wild places are under threat, the story of the APR offers hope and inspiration for us to keep fighting for wilderness conservation.


Lee_Emilie_prairieprimrose1_oillinen_8x6_2015All of the paintings in my collection were made without the use of photographs, instead I relied on direct observation from life, or memory in the studio. These paintings represent two years of exploration and research, celebrating the beauty I found on the prairie, from the fleeting gumbo primrose to the infinite horizons.


Lately I’ve done a lot of writing to share my story and promote this show, so if you’re curious, below are all the links where I’ve written about this project and what it has meant to me!


November 2017, online: Essay for Patagonia’s Blog “The Cleanest Line”

September 2017, online: Interview with Wylder Goods

September 2017, online: New Wave Art Palettes Interview

September 2017, online: She Explores: Painting the American Prairie Reserve

May 26 2015:   Online Publication: National Geographic Explorer’s blog

May 15 2015:   Online Publication: Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation Landmark Blog

April 29 2015: Online Publication: Grand Central Atelier Blog

April 20 2015: Online Publication Telluride Mountainfilm Blog

April 16 2015:  Print Publication: RISD XYZ Alumni Magazine

My own blog posts from my first trip to the Prairie:

week#1 week#2 week#3 Week#4  week#5






Painting My Way Across America

Wow, it’s been a whole year since I updated my blog! I’ve found it so much easier to share my news on a daily basis through Instagram, but for this blog’s record here is my latest: I’ve just moved to California!  In April I sold and gave away almost all my belongings and moved into my Honda Element with my dog Honeycrisp fora  two month road trip, camping and painting my way across the country. I left Vermont on May 7th and began an adventure I’ve been dreaming of since my early 20’s. To say the least, this trip has felt like a momentous achievement for me! After almost eight years in New York City, I moved home to Vermont in 2015 where I spent a year and a half re-evaluating my life. It felt so good to be out of the city, but I was shell-shocked from the intensity of my experience there and it took some time for me get in touch with my intuition and allow myself to follow my heart again. During my year in Vermont I experimented with a lot of different ways to use my skills – teaching workshops, working as an adjunct professor at Champlain College, teaching weekly classes, painting commissions, and selling gallery work. I realized that what truly makes my heart sing is plein-air painting and spending time outside on long trail runs in the mountains, climbing, and practicing yoga. Once this became clear to me, I started making some changes in my life so I could spend more time doing the things I love. I moved to Santa Barbara, CA to be with my boyfriend Kristo and when I decided to make this move, I saw it as the perfect opportunity to indulge my fantasy of doing nothing but plein air painting, camping, and climbing for two months as I drove across the country. In the first month I made twenty seven paintings and posted them for sale in my online store. Within four hours, almost all of them sold! Now it’s been two months and I have another twenty paintings to sell, so if you are interested in being the first to know when my next sale begins, Sign up for my newsletter.

The success of my last sale was a huge affirmation that I am doing the right thing by following my heart and doing what I love. I’m feeling so grateful for all the things that bring me so much joy, and that I’ve found a way to fill my life with them! Now that I’m in Santa Barbara, I’m getting settled in, looking for a new studio space, and spending plenty of time painting at the beach and in the mountains. Life is good and I’m thrilled to keep up the momentum! Stay tuned (instagram or my newsletter are the best ways to stay in touch with me!) for future workshops, more paintings for sale, and stories from all the new places where I’ll be exploring and painting on the west coast!

Cross-Country Road Trip Painting Collection

Farm-to-Canvas Workshop Report

Last weekend’s inaugural farm-to-canvas plein air painting workshop at Golden Well Farm and Apiaries was a huge success! I had eight students, three who stayed in B&B rooms at the farmhouse (and one who opted for the $20/night camping option) these folks were treated to a beautiful farm-to-table breakfast each morning while the rest of us convened at 8 AM for a full morning of painting. While the weather was a little wet, we managed to work around the rain and get some good painting time in. For lunch we sat down to a three course meal made with ingredients picked that day on the farm or sourced from nearby dairy and meat producers. A special treat was the honey kombucha, and honey caramel sauce sourced from Golden Well’s own bees!

I am so grateful to our hosts Nicole and Ryan for their hospitality, generosity, great cooking, and for sharing their home with us. As I mentioned in an earlier post, this is the farm I grew up and it’s been the most wonderful turn of events for me to feel welcomed back to the farm by it’s current residents. While our group was quietly painting, we were able to witness the rhythm of life and work on the farm, which involves several employees, visiting interns, and  Miela, Nicole and Ryan’s 3-year old daughter who was a constant source of entertainment for all of us. We were also treated to an impromptu yoga class taught by Jennifer Parmelee after painting one day, and I am now convinced this will be an integral part of my next workshop. As any artist knows, the long hours focused in front of your work can leave you feeling stiff, emotionally drained, and tired. The yoga session was just what we needed to loosen up and re-set our energy with a positive vibe. After this I am excited to plan future painting workshops that intentionally combine yoga and mindfulness practices.

Our workshop also coincided with some fun local events – Friday night we went to Lincoln Peak Vineyards a mile down the road for picnic party with a live band and 300 people in attendance! Saturday night we strolled through downtown Middlebury and went out to dinner together, and Sunday night ended with a community pizza night on the farm with live music, brick-oven pizzas, rustic hay bale seating, and desserts made by neighboring farmer V Smiley Preserves. Currently we are looking at some dates in September for the next workshop/retreat at this location! Scroll through these pictures for more detailed account of our weekend on the farm. Thank you to all the wonderful students who took the time to travel up to Vermont and spend the weekend with us!


Just an Update!

Spring came and went and now it is summer. I have been busy painting, teaching, and thanking my lucky stars each day that I am living in Vermont. I’ll share a quick update on what I’ve been up to and get back to it! I have an open studio event tomorrow night from 5-8 if you want to come see the latest paintings in person.   – Emilie



Morning session: 9 -12, Afternoon session: 1-4

This weekend intensive will be an introduction to academic figure drawing methods, emphasizing an intuitive approach that combines expressive drawing and comparative measurements to achieve accurate proportions and anatomy while expressing the gesture and flow of the  pose. Some warm-up exercises from the 19th century Charles Bargue drawing course and lessons in anatomy will be included. The studio is furnished with a model stand and controlled lighting. There is only room for 5 students in this class, so you will be sure to get plenty of hands-on instruction! SIGNUPHERE



Three days of instructed landscape painting and drawing on a 100 acre historic Vermont farm. Instruction will emphasize a logical approach to planning and executing a successful piece while considering the unique challenges of working outside. This will be a supportive environment for beginners and experienced artists alike with plenty of one-on-one instruction tailored to your goals. Swimming on the property and chef catered farm-to-table lunch provided each day! (Lodging available on the farm at extra cost). New Haven, VT. MORE INFO HERE

*Paintings in group shows this month: FOFA Art’s Alive Show at 1 Main St. Landing, Burlington, VT  June 3-27, and SEABA 404 Pine Street, Burlington, VT

* ONGOING: paintings for sale at Edgewater Gallery in Middlebury VT

Now for some pics from all the fun things I’ve been up to:

MARCH: An energizing trip to the 4-corners region to work with an inspiring crew of artists while being filmed and interviewed for Convergence Film, a project by 3 Strings Productions. Film release to be announced, so stay tuned!

APRIL: It was still winter up here. So we did some skiing and worked in the studio:

MAY: SPRING!!!! Painting outside, lots of hiking, teaching plain-air class along the lake, loving life!


March & April Class Schedule

I started teaching at my new studio in Burlington’s South End Arts District two months ago and it’s been so much fun to feel the momentum pick up as more people join the classes. I love being able to share my space with other artists and I am excited to continue! Class size is limited to 5 students at one time, allowing me to work one-on-one with each student to meet their needs. In May I will start offering outdoor painting classes along Burlington’s waterfront where we have some incredible views across Lake Champlain. Stay tuned, spring is around the corner!


IMG_8519I believe that drawing and painting are skills that can be learned through a logical approach and consistent practice. The foundation of good painting is strong drawing, and in my teaching I emphasize observation from life to achieve accurate representation of form and structure. By limiting variables such as color, light, and movement in a controlled studio environment, students can develop confidence in their drawing skills before progressing to more complex subjects, materials, and working conditions. This approach is inspired by the academic curriculum followed by many of the western art tradition’s great masters. Class size is limited to five students to ensure plenty of time for individual instruction and instructor demonstrations.


Choose between Mondays & Thursdays 5:30-8:30 PM or Thursdays 9:00 AM – Noon. 


This is the traditional place to begin with your classical art education. New students will start with exercises from the late 19th century Bargue-Gerome drawing course and then progress to drawing from white plaster casts of Michelangelo’s David (eye, ear, nose, mouth.) We will practice the block-in method, comparative measuring, and form modeling while gaining an understanding of optical illusions and value structure. Because the casts are white, inanimate, and set under stable light conditions, we eliminate many of the dynamic challenges of live figure drawing. Working with the casts will strengthen your observational skills and give you the tools to improve your drawing and painting in all other applications.

New student trial offer: one class for $30, no commitment. To continue, I ask that you commit to at least 4 sessions.

COPYING THE MASTERS: INTRO TO LANDSCAPE PAINTING. SATURDAYS, 9:30 AM – 12:30 PM until May 1st, then we will be painting outside during this time slot! 

IMG_2016In this class, we will be copying master landscape paintings by artists such as Sanford Gifford, Frederick Church, and Ivan Shishkin. Master copies are a great way to learn what makes a successful painting – strong composition, organized value structure, color palette, and expressive brushwork can all be considered while working closely with the works of these iconic landscape painters. This class is good for inexperienced painters and experts alike. If you are a beginner, you will learn a method for developing a painting using an underpainting, palette organization, paint handling, and materials. We may also do some color and value mixing exercises as needed. Again, because of small class size, I am able to tailor this class to the needs of each student.

New student trial offer: first class for $30, no commitment. To continue, I ask that you commit to at least 4 sessions.


20x16In this one day workshop I will demonstrate some of the methods and materials I use to create supports for painting and drawing. Learn how to:

-Build your own archival painting panels out of Dibond or Birch, with raw linen, pre-primed linen, or no linen and just gesso.

– Make cradles for larger panels

– Stretch and prime a gallery-wrapped linen canvas

– Make your own toned paper for drawing and water based media using a variety of materials: graphite powder, shellac, PVA size, ink, and hand made watercolor

– Make your own toned paper for painting – a very economical option for painting supports!

Each student will go home with a 6″x9″ dibond panel and a piece of toned drawing paper to experiment with.

Cost: $45


IMG_4321In this class, a live model will hold the same pose for three sessions (that’s 9 hours!) We just finished the first three sessions of this class, and I am so impressed with how far these students were able to take their drawings given the extended pose. This is a rare opportunity since most life drawing classes focus on the quick gesture drawings or at most 20-30 minute poses. In this class you will learn how to develop a portrait drawing using the block-in method, comparative measurements, and form modeling. Anatomy, abstract shape-finding, optical illusions, and value structure will be discussed. Painting will also be introduced to those who feel ready. This class is fine for beginners too!

New student trial offer: one class for $30, no commitment. $250 for 6 week session.

To sign up for a class please email me: emlee7@gmail.com


New Classes in Vermont

In the end of October, I moved to Burlington Vermont, an hour north of my home town. I’ve spent the past seventeen years traveling and living all over the country, seven of them in New York City. In the end, there’s no place like home and I am thrilled that I finally feel ready to put roots down in the community where I grew up. I have a nice big studio in Burlington’s vibrant South End Arts District at the Brickworks space on Pine Street. Starting this Saturday, I’ll be teaching two new classes! I am excited to grow my teaching practice and offer some plein-air workshops in the warmer months, so stay tuned. Meanwhile, here are two good classes to get us through the cold winter:

Intro to Landscape Painting: COPYING THE MASTERS. Jan 2-20, Saturdays, 9:30AM-12:30PM $250



Example of a master copy (on the right) of an Ivan Shishkin Painting. 

In each session, artists will choose from a selection of master paintings to copy in grisaille, limited palette, or full color. This is an ideal workshop for those who have little or no experience painting outdoors. Without the added challenge of changing light conditions, inclement weather, and location access, we will be able to focus on developing a logical approach to landscape painting in a controlled environment that can later be applied to actual plein-air painting.

By copying existing paintings, we will learn how a successful painting has been composed and how to approach complex subjects such as foliage, moving water, forest interiors, and clouds. We will focus on identifying value hierarchy while looking for elements of design and composition. Besides being an extremely helpful way to prepare the artist to work outdoors, this exercise will train your eye to be more efficient at recognizing values independently from their color, and giving you more control and organization on your palette.  Think of this as “pre-season training” for landscape painting! When spring arrives, we will be ready to take what we’ve learned from the masters and apply it to the living landscape.

Artists will complete one copy in each studio session. Among the artists we will be focusing on are Ivan Shishkin, Frederick Church, Sanford Gifford, William Trost Richards, and Albert Bierstadt. Artists will be welcome to add to this list or bring in their own ideas for master copies.

EXTENDED POSE PORTRAIT DRAWING, Tues/Thurs 5:30-8:30 PM Jan 5 – 21 $230

During this six-session class, students will spend three sessions on each portrait drawing. Working from a live model, students will have generous time to develop their drawing from a loose block-in using a comparative measurement technique to a fully rendered portrait. Issues of proportion, anatomy, form, and structure will be addressed through individual critiques and instructor demonstrations. This class will be offered again in February with the option to paint in oils.

All classes are held at the Brickworks Art Studios, 266 Pine Street, across the street from Conant Lighting and behind New England Flooring and Tapna Yoga.


NO PLACE LIKE HOME! Here are some pics from my first two months up here: 

’tis the season for openings and parties

Please come celebrate the opening of Eleventh Street Arts — our new gallery in Long Island City — during our inaugural group show on December 5th. The show will feature over eighty works by fifty artists from the extended Water Street and Grand Central Atelier community. Adjacent to the gallery, in our individual studios, guests will be invited to explore even more artwork, both finished and in progress. Over the last few months I’ve been working on a new painting–one that is much larger than my usual landscapes and that combines my plein-air work from Rabbit Island with a life-sized self portrait. I’m looking forward to publishing photos online but will wait until after the show opens before doing so.

 December 5th, 6-10 PM at The Grand Central Atelier, 46-06 11th St, Long Island City, Queens. On view until January 23, 2015.

 gca show invite


I’m excited to share two portraits I made of iconic conservationists John Muir and Teddy Roosevelt. It’s great to have my work commissioned by the Best Made Company and included in their collection of classic and timeless products. And what a great era in American history to be celebrating! John Muir and Teddy Roosevelt were instrumental in launching America’s early conservation movement through literature and legislation while many of the landscape painters I admire were heading into the mountains and using their art to promote the same cause. Limited edition signed and framed prints available in the TriBeCa flagship store or online.

Screen Shot 2014-11-20 at 9.52.16 PM

Screen Shot 2014-11-20 at 9.52.34 PM


In preparation for the Grand Central Atelier’s open studio event on December 5th, I’ll be continuing to promote the smaller paintings I have for sale through social media. The response I’ve received from patrons has been wonderful and within the past month I’ve sold the following paintings to collectors who came to visit my studio in person or found something they liked online. I still have dozens of paintings like these for sale. Please see this album and don’t hesitate to contact me for my current price list if you are interested.


Four of my paintings are currently on exhibit in the group show Art in Nature at the Oyster Point Hotel in Red Bank, NJ. Proceeds from this show will benefit the Monmouth County Conservation Foundation–preserving open space and wildlife habitat in this unique area along the New Jersey Shoreline. These two paintings are still available at the show, which will be up until Jan 5th.


For eight Tuesdays in a row my students and I enjoyed perfect weather during my plein-air painting workshops in Long Island City. It was such a pleasant treat to spend afternoons along the New York City waterfront observing clouds, sailboats, the skyline, and basking in the sun. During each session we spent two hours working en plein-air studying nature, making quick paintings, taking notes, and sketching with the intention to later recreate these scenes from memory in the studio. Once in the studio our memories were tested as we worked from the gathered notes and sketches.  This is an important exercise to introduce techniques needed to execute studio paintings without the use of photography, a rare skill in our modern age.

Recently winter has been knocking on New York City’s door and soon will be here to stay. Thus we are taking a break from plein-air painting and will resume again in April. In January I will be leading a workshop in the Grand Central Atelier studio that introduces landscape painting through the practice of performing master copies. I will be teaching students how to approach the landscape by copying in gray scale, limited palette, and, ultimately, in full color. I am excited about this workshop as it is an ideal way for the beginner to learn landscape painting and a great way for experienced painters to hone their skills in time for the coming spring. Think of it as pre-season training for the summer. Read more and register online through the GCA. Here are some pictures of the recently concluded Plein-Air to Studio classes.


Summer: Episode I

Summer is upon us and I’m about to leave on more painting trips, so I thought it was about time to update the blog before another two months slip away.

In early June I went up to Vermont to begin making studies for a new commissioned project.  It’s a dream job and the perfect blast-off to a great summer: painting an incredible view across Lake Champlain of the Adirondack high peaks.  I began talking with the couple who own this property about a year ago.  They’ve been restoring an old summer lodge on the lake and wanted some custom made paintings that would fit the old-fashioned vibe of the place.  In April I made my first visit to see the land and talk about possibilities for the paintings.  We decided on two larger studio paintings as well as a series of smaller pieces to hang in the house.  Here are a few of the pieces I painted on location during the week I was up there.  I also made a series of careful drawings that will be useful in the studio painting process.  These loose color studies of the view across the lake help me remember what I was feeling and observing when I was there in the moment.  As I get further along with the studio paintings, I will share progress photos and talk about process on my blog.









Since I returned from Vermont, I’ve been working on composing the first studio painting for the commission.  There’s also been time to get out to enjoy some of the local beaches and escape the heat too!

NYHarbor from SandyHook

New York Harbor from Sandy Hook, 6″x10″ oil on canvas



Next up:  I’m looking forward to painting in Aspen, CO next week, then meeting up with the Hudson River Fellowship in Jackson NH before heading out to Michigan to paint at the Rabbit Island Artist Residency.