Inquiry Focus

Chester Lees

Woman of Vision

Artist Statement

Here is some of Chester Lees' own art.


Chester Lees is a Woman of Vision and this is the story done by Linda Olsen who anchors Global News at 11 weeknights.

Chester Lees considers herself an artist in progress -- an inspired painter not yet in full bloom. Lees, 57, owns and operates Chester Arts, a downtown Calgary studio. She's had exhibits of her paintings and is an accomplished art teacher. Still, this bubbly, married mother of two says she's not quite there yet. "Being an artist isn't about just seeing what you paint, it's about producing work from your muse, from inside -- that's kind of baring your soul, if you like -- and I haven't got to that point." Lees has been working to get to that point most of her life.

As a young girl growing up in North Wales, she always dreamed of becoming a painter, but her plans were put on hold when her father died suddenly of heart failure when Lees was a teenager. With seven children in the family, there was no money for a college education. "It was impossible financially. So I just painted for myself and gave up any idea of becoming a commercial artist . . . and took various other jobs."

Over the years, Lees continued to paint on the side and learn as much as possible about the craft. She took courses when she could, including a session in oriental watercolour taught by a Chinese master. And she branched out into teaching. Just as her career as an artist was taking off, her son was diagnosed with autism. Once again, her dream was put on hold. "It was very difficult, very, very stressful." Lees took a break from painting to home-school her son. "You can not seriously paint when your mind is on something else. I'm pleased I took the time out to spend with him."

Through that experience, Lees developed programs for children with attention problems and courses for their parents, using art as therapy. "When you have children that are high needs or any sort of situation like that, you need some relaxation, you need a release. And to be able to release yourself through the paint is very powerful." Lees teaches therapeutic art workshops to those who are searching for their own inspiration and release. "Art is a huge healing force in all of us and I believe we're all born artists, and frustration comes when we're not allowed to express that art form." Working with emotionally disturbed children as well, Lees says it's rewarding to see the young artists open up. "It transports them to another world. And sometimes their home lives are so horrible, they need that moment to be transported into a fantasy world, where everything is wonderful."

After so many starts and stops in her career, Lees says what keeps her coming back to her dream is the joy of creating a story behind a work of art, and the connection she feels with someone who buys one of her paintings. To Lees, the idea that she can touch other people through her art is a dream worth pursuing. "I am now on the right road to achieving it, and believe me, if I can do it, anyone can."

Artist Statement

My work seeks to connect the observer’s spirit with the dramatic beauty of creation; to connect souls lost in an era of secular spirituality. My paintings show my deep emotional involvement with the starkness of the human condition and the connecting ephemeral mystique of nature.
This emphasis radiates from my Welsh Celtic core. Painting from within, it is for me a prayer and an offering to creation. By means of my work, I hope to inspire the onlooker to break through to the world of the sub-conscious spirit within and the endless awakening without. This is achieved by a dramatic contrast of light to create a deepening mood of possibilities.

I am influenced by such artists as Carravagio and Rembrandt, masters of the subtleties of atmosphere. My early training in graphics and Chinese painting, which gave me an appreciation of realism, form, and space, combined with the subsequent freedom that came from moving to the openness of the Canadian prairies, gives my work a depth and nuance that offers the onlooker a multifaceted experience.

Artist Biography
Chester was initially trained in graphic design in her native Wales. This work gave her an appreciation of realism without being a slave to it. Moving to Hong Kong in 1981, Chester trained for two years under the Chinese Master, Fung Da. This experience heightened her awareness of light, form, and space. Moving to Canada via Germany in 1988, the openness of the Prairies inspired her to explore images freed of earlier formalities.
More recently, Chester has been extensively involved in the recent movement to reintroduce into the education system the teaching of core curriculum subjects by means of fine arts. A member since 1997 of CAPES (Calgary Arts Partnership in Education Society), Chester continues to teach in over 25 schools in the Calgary public school system. She is currently engaged as an artist in residence in several Calgary schools and also runs a therapeutic art retreat for the Kings Fold Centre in Cochrane, Alberta.
Chester has held numerous exhibitions in Britain, Hong Kong, Germany and Canada including a solo show at the Medicine Hat Museum and Art Gallery and most recently has completed large murals at Grant McEwan, Glenbrook, Riverbend, and Hawkwood Elementary schools. Her work is included in the collections of many institutions including the Alberta Foundation for the Arts, the Canadian Defense Research Establishment, Suffield, and the Bank of America Hong Kong, and is also found in private collections around the world. From her new studio, Chester hopes to offer her teaching skills to a wider audience who will appreciate her ability to bring out the individual’s own style rather than imposing her own on the student.

#211, 100 7 Ave SW
Calgary AB T2P 0W4
T. 403. 870.9066
F. 403.547.2549


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