BY JUDY CARMACK BROSS
“Creativity, as is life, is an exercise in reinvention. One strives to adapt to the moment, making that moment the finest it can be.” —Lee W. Glazer
Vibrant artist Lee Glazer showed us around Dusk, Northworks architect Bill Bickford’s office, gallery, and event space off North Avenue, where her portraits and landscapes bring beauty to the bright industrial space. A female in Kyoto, Japan, engrossed by her cell phone; a single Chicago mom helping her 8-year-old with homework; Fatima, a woman she met in the Atlas Mountains in Morocco: her subjects are not only taken from ordinary and extraordinary moments alike captured on her travels but from the pages of Chicago newspapers. Though rendered in colored pencil, her works have the richness of lush oil paintings and a multitude of layers.
When looking for inspiration, Glazer pulls out a large folder of newspaper clippings showing people whose faces and stories fascinate her: “I am always looking for the average Joes to portray—people you meet on the road.” One of the most moving works is “Bert and Frida,” depicting a man who fought for a year to get Medicare to cover his wife’s medical tests. The subtle shades used to create the fur of the subject’s beloved dog, Frida, make it look so real and so soft that you could reach out and pet it.
She has found fascinating subjects for her paintings all around the world, saying, “Humanity is such a collective thing. All of us are on this planet to love.”
Glazer sometimes personalizes her work with images from her own childhood, sometimes using memories from her grandfather’s day: “My mom’s dad was an architect with Daniel Burnham and he decided to take his family on a world tour in 1929. Little things from that trip appear in a frame on a wall in a portrait of a person I found searching through my newspaper clippings.”
Clearly one of her favorite subjects is Fatima, whom she met through her Moroccan tour guide. “She cooked over an open fire in her home, which was nestled into the mountain,” Glazer recalls. “Her son had given her a stove, but she used it only to store her pots and pans. She preferred the old way. I hope I have captured how welcoming she was.”
She has been making pictures since childhood, going on to attend the School of the Art Institute and Barat College, where she was a student of the late, great Ed Paschke (she was also his student at Anderson Ranch, a marvelous artist colony, in Snowmass, Colorado): “He was such a great influence, always so ready to share, always so encouraging. We had a 35-year friendship.”
But it was Glazer’s mother that first inspired her to explore her sense of creativity and artistic curiosity. “She was an incredible seamstress and completed in a national competition. As part of the promotion, the contestants sat with their sewing machines in the windows at B Altman, and fans would come by to see what they were creating. She made something that was so incredible—black lace over denim—and this was 1956,” she remembers.
When she was tiny, Glazer would be drawing as she sat at her mother’s feet while she worked away on her sewing machine. “I can remember listening with her to the Republican National Convention when Eisenhower was nominated. I quit sewing myself when I discovered you had to put in zippers. But my mother told me that I was going to be an artist.”
Glazer works with a color wheel, and uses hundreds and hundreds of pencils, separating them in jars by color. “I am always looking for new colors,” she admits. “When I am working on a portrait, I have one tray for all the colors it takes to do the face, and then for the clothing. I can’t tell you how many I needed once just to do some torn blue jeans.” Thankfully her colored pencils can last for up to 20 years.
There is a thought-out method to her process and approach to color: “I start out with complimentary colors. If you see a red, then there is dark green beneath. It is much like mixing oil painting,” she explains. “Colors can bring you in or push you out. It’s about movement and mood.”
And her mood is a joyful one—she considers her time at the easel her playtime, not work.
On her medium of choice, Glazer says that colored pencils are more portable and now seem more forgiving than in past years when you need to make changes, but she advises artists to begin with oil or acrylics: “You need to get a feel for color and getting a color wheel is essential. You need to know how colors interact.”
Glazer also loves to use color in her own home, a favorite is the living room resplendent in mustard with accents of blue and green, shades we see often in her renderings of Mojave Desert landscapes. We salute her colorful canvases—and colorful approach to life!
To learn more, visit leewglazer.com.