Painting before an audience

In 2006 Lee Zimmerman painted silk as part of a Silk Painters International Festival in Santa Fe

Duluth artist Lee Zimmerman paints on silk. But he didn’t always:

I was an oil painter. Oil Painting is like painting with tooth paste – it stays where you put it and is opaque. I thought I wouldn’t like silk painting because I was a poor watercolorist, but when I tried the media – something about it meshed with me. I love the intense colors and the way the dyes move through the fibers, and the sensuous way thet silk shimmers in the light.

Watching a painting being made is usually a long, arduous process. But not so with silk painting, says Zimmerman.

When ever I did paintings of people, they loved the fact that they see what I was doing. I already knew that the dyed paintings looked like stained glass with light coming through it. My technique in silk painting was different than most silk painters. I use what might be termed a wet on wet technique in watercolor. I was doing a lot of figure painting and painting onsite (Plein Air) and this pushed me to be very fast.

Zimmerman decided to take his act on the road, as it were. He now will paint at events, sometimes to musical accompaniment. Tonight in Duluth, he’ll paint as Kathy McTavish improvises on her cello, creating a sort of music/paint dialogue.

Can’t make it to Duluth on such short notice? Not to worry, the performance is going to be streamed live at his website(currently you’ll see the above video as a place holder – check back in a few hours).

Zimmerman says he really enjoys bringing the magic of creation to an audience:

I can’t see the audience but I can hear – I love the moment when I start, and then they start to notice what’s going on, and all of a sudden they get really quiet, and you can feel their eyes.

On February 18, Zimmerman’s artwork will take a more theatrical turn in the Duluth Playhouse production of “The Secret Garden.” In it, Zimmerman plays the garden.

There will be five 8′ x 5′ silk panels distributed across the stage. I will begin painting right when the music starts in the overture to establish my presence with the audience so they can forget about me as the real action starts. The first half of the show all the panels will be done in black and white. There will be specific images that will appear at the right time to tie into the action of the play. After intermission I will begin to hit all the panels with color. A little while into the second act, the actors sing a magnificent song about how the garden isn’t dead, it is just waiting for Spring. When this happens I will begin to fill the panels with green. Leaves will start popping all over the place. This will accelerate until the finale when the Garden will be filled with the explosive colors of the flowers everywhere.

Zimmerman has a personal tie to the show; his 12-year-old daughter plays the part of Mary.

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