We had the good fortune of connecting with Lee Nowell-Wilson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Lee, what do you attribute your success to?
I think the most important factor behind the success I have received so far is a mentality of sacrifice. I have a note on my studio wall that reads, “Look around. Are you willing to give all of this up for the relationships in your life.” For me, that mentality has kept my personal priorities in check. My family and my close inner circle always come before the work. It’s also important to me to keep my hands and mind open in regards to my studio practice — meaning, I don’t become possessive of it, I don’t identify my work as “who I am” — and oftentimes that has allowed me to step back and have a critical eye towards what step I need to take next.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I am an American figurative artist and am currently working most with charcoal and graphite on large-scale works-on-paper, though I am classically trained as a painter. I like to build autobiographical drawings that investigate the emotional and ambivalent undertones within birth, domestic labor and human relationship. That mostly comes from the shock of entering motherhood myself, and having it effect every way in which I saw the world. I even started seeing art and the structural form behind painting differently. When I became a mother, I wanted to start using a subject matter within my art that was extremely personal yet could speak universally, and I consider it a personal success every time another mother responds to my art with “oh my gosh. This is exactly how I feel today.” That type of direct connection takes a lot of hard-work, it is never “easy”, but I do think it is simple. It just takes vulnerability, and I mostly want people to see that within my work — vulnerability, honesty and transparency.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
First and foremost, I would host a small backyard bbq. My husbands, kids and I live in the best neighborhood (in my humble opinion) in Baltimore that’s tucked away in an unexpected spot. It has a lot of trees and we actually have a full back yard, which is shocking for the city! My husband loves to host, and our neighbors are very friendly. Then the next morning, I’d take them to Belvedere Square Market or Milk & Honey — two of the best places for coffee in my opinion — and then do an honest tour of the main neighborhoods of the city! Baltimore is known for the diversity in its neighborhoods — each one has a very distinct vibes! A tour of all of them, or trying to hit up as many as you can, is really the best way to spend a long weekend exploring what Charm City is all about.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
The first and foremost shoutout always goes to my husband. I would not be where I am within my art practice if it wasn’t for his continued support, sacrifices and dedication. He is critical when I ask him to be, and soft and encouraging when I need him to be. My children also have a big influence on my art practice, and my gratitude is deep towards them. Last, but every time, is to my best friend (and fellow artist) Jacqueline Oliver who gives amazing advice and to my parents.