Studio View

Most nights now I sleep so well, but I still have occasional bouts with insomnia (once or twice a week) like tonight. I usually just lay in bed for and hour, two or sometimes three until I eventually fall asleep, knowing that at least I am resting. I won’t allow myself sleeping pills very often, or allow myself to get up and wander into the computer to write or read as then I know I will be up and awake even longer. But tonight I woke up early, it is only 1 AM and I decided that I would get up and write a long over-due journal entry. If need be, I will take a nap (probably in church) later today.


If you have been reading Joe’s journal, you know that we have been extremely busy lately with the sale of our old home, moving to the “new” one and now that that is done, me working like crazy in my studio every day but Sunday to paint for a show that will open at David Ericson Fine Art, SLC on March 28. Joe has been to MO and back to attend to his father and mother and witness his father’s passing and funeral. I decided to stay here and paint. We had a wonderful visit with Joe’s parents and siblings this last July at a Bennion reunion in OK that none of our girls were able to attend, so we put our finances and efforts in getting all three of them to the funeral.



My time in the studio has been wonderful. My first batch of 7 paintings are near completion and I am already casting my eyes at the next set of prepared, empty canvas. I hope to get another batch of 8 or so done during the month I have left to paint for the show. I need to reserve most of March for carving and painting the frames. I think the paintings are good, and I am hopeful about them. The most important thing is that painting hasn’t felt this good in years. I passed my 3-year anniversary for my pituitary surgery for Cushing’s disease in December 2007 and am amazed that I am still making progress in recovery. The improvements this year are subtler. I have lost a few more pounds, but the biggest improvement is my stamina, physically, mentally and emotionally.


I remember my Endocrinologist telling me that it would take me as long to get over Cushing’s as it had for me to get sick. Since I didn’t really know how long I had been sick this didn’t mean much to me then, but it does now. I can look back at photos of myself back as far as 2000 and see hints of a Cushinoid face then. I know I was already having other symptoms, but just chalked them all up to being pre-menopausal and trudged on.


Lee  day before surgery 2004


Lee 2007 

The first year after surgery was very hard, but by the time it had been a full year, I felt so much better that I figured I was “all better”. I had lost 30 pounds, and did venture out to my studio some at about that time and I did complete a few pieces. It did go better than it had for a few years, but ultimately, it was still a lot harder and frustrating that I could take and I continued to avoid the studio most of that year (2006). That was also the year that my Mom’s mental health started to seriously decline, and 2006 was one of the hardest years of my life. Way too much stress. I cried so much I should have drowned. I was far enough in my recovery to manage it, but just barely. There was nothing left to give to my studio after family. I felt physically better, but had little endurance either mentally or physically and I often felt like I was dangling from a short rope over a deep abyss.


2007 was a lot better. My Mom is not really happy except in the moment, but she has stabilized somewhat and she is safe and well cared for. I am adjusting to that. I see her often, and am still very affected by her condition, but have started to feel an itch to paint during this last year. In September I participated in the Spring City Arts organization Plein-air painting competition, something I have never done before. I wanted to support the group’s efforts and thought why not try. I was surprised at how much fun I had and how well it went for me painting all day for three days in a row.  


When Dave Ericson approached me in early November 2007 about having this show in March 2008, it didn’t take me too long to decided that yes, the time had come that I could work that hard and that long in my studio and produce a new body of work. It has been since June 2004 that I have been in any kind of show where I had a chunk of paintings. That was a group show or invitational of some kind at the UVSC Woodbury Gallery. I had to borrow a few pieces from collectors to round out my portion of the exhibit. I just couldn’t finish enough new work. Painting was so hard then. I would go out to my studio and just sit and stare and sometimes cry for hours. I felt so stupid and unproductive. My brain felt like half set cement. I remember as I drove the show up to the gallery thinking that was the last time I would ever have a show, that I was done for as a painter. It was just too hard and I had lost what ever it was I had.


Shortly after the show opened I got a diagnosis of Cushing’s and at least I knew that there was a reason for me not being able to paint without monumental frustration and effort. That was a relief of some kind, but still, I didn’t know if I would be back in the art arena again or not. I just focused with what diminished brainpower I had on understanding my disease and on getting well.


In April 2006 The Salt Lake Tribune did a nice piece about me, my struggle with Cushing’s and return to my studio. The writer did a great job of raising awareness for Cushing’s, which is what I had hoped for. I scrambled to do some work the month or so before she came down for the interview, and it did go better than before my surgery, but it was still harder than I cared to admit. That summer is when things got really tough with my Mom. My forays to the studio after that were brief and usually to get something done that I and promised to do, and I intentionally kept that list  very short.


Of course a week after I accepted Dave’s challenge and invitation to have a show (He said that I should consider having a show this year before people forget who I am), we got the offer on our home and I lost 6 weeks of my painting time to “the move”. My typical day since we closed on the sale of our home is I get up between 6 and 7 AM, get a fire going in the stove here, do a little yoga and house work, get dressed in my winter chore duds, and head over to the old place to feed the horses and cats and start a fire in my studio. I then come home and do some more chores here and pack a lunch so I don’t have to break to come home and get back to the studio, with three dogs in tow between 9:30 and 10:30 AM. I feed the horses again around 5 PM and most days I stay and paint until 6:30 PM when I can let Tiki out of his separate feeding pen and head home.






Joe came over to my studio today and took these photos of paintings in progress. They are almost done, but not quite.


I have been turning down all invitations for lunch or attending meetings of any kind in the day. I haven’t been on the back of a horse since late November. It’s been too cold and the footing is poor for riding anyway. I did take time today (I mean yesterday - Saturday) to trim all three horses hooves. The temperature got up to 40+ degrees!  After the first horse was done, I was working in a tee shirt!


I haven’t been able to go up and spend a weekday with my Mom since I started painting for this show. I did keep that up during “the move”, but I just can’t right now. Zina usually covers for me by spending a half-day with her during the week. I go up on Saturday evenings after painting all day and spend the night with her and then stay most of Sunday. This week I am not going up until Sunday afternoon as Mom has a PET brain scan at the Huntsman center in SLC Monday morning, so I will spend the night with her and get her to that appointment Monday. I need to stop by an art supply store and pick up a few items that I need on the way home.


So this is the background for this latest venture in my studio and why I say that for me the most important thing about it is that I am enjoying painting again! Yes, it is still work and I come home tired, but I feel like I can do it, and most of the time its pretty fun! I don’t feel like I have hit a brick wall with in an hour after arriving at the studio. I am actually happy to go to work each day.  I didn’t know if I would ever feel this way again, and I am so grateful.



11 Responses to “Studio View”

  1. anne cullimore decker Says:

    It’s wonderful catching up with you again. Your new paintings look fabulous. I shall so look forward to the show at Dave Erickson’s in the Spring. Hopefully, I’d get a chance to see you at that time.

  2. Pat Larkin Says:

    Thanks for including me in this update. As always I am delighted to hear what has been happening in your life, and inspired by your tenacity. I am deeply touched by your new work. I expect that your show will be a big hit.

  3. Jenny Says:

    Dear Lee,
    It’s so wonderful to see your new paintings! We would love to know the date and time of the opening. Moira asks about you and Big Joe quite often. I’m so happy you are feeling much better and are able to enjoy painting again Lee.
    Love, Jenny

  4. Lila Abersold Says:

    Lee - It is wonderful to see your new pieces. I sense a renewed vitality in your painting. The show at Dave’s will be a knock out!
    It is also wonderful to know that your health is getting better all the time - you are important to all of us and we celebrate with you in all the good things.

  5. Sharon Alderman Says:

    Dear Lee,
    Thanks for letting me know about the new posting. I hope that your new paintings have completely put to rest your old fears about having “lost it”. No question: you are doing just fine!
    I am trying to visualize where you and Joe live now and failing. I gather that when you sold your house you kept the studio. I am glad about that because I thought it was a perfect place for you.
    Good luck with the rest of your work and with your mom.

  6. Jennifer Coy Says:

    Hi Lee,

    It is SO great to hear from you!!! It’s hard to believe that it’s been
    9 months since I had my surgery. My body continues to change, which is
    a good thing as far as the weight is concerned. I can only gage my
    weight from when I was pregnant as I didn’t know I had the Cushings
    then. So….since I have had my baby (November 2006) I have lost 42
    pounds. I only gained 13 in the pregnancy - goes to show how much
    weight Cushings put on me. I hope to lose another 60 in the coming
    year, however we may start trying for baby#2 in the summer. For the
    most part I feel pretty darn great. There are a few things that I think
    I may have for life, or at least a few more years. I must say it was
    very comforting to read your latest blog and see that even after 3 years
    you continue to get better each day. One of the things that’s been hard
    for me with all of this is that the recovery doesn’t happen the day you
    have the tumor removed, it’s quite a process!

    Anyway, I continue to stay busy with working full-time and being a
    mommy. My beautiful daughter is 15 months old and is growing like a
    weed. I think about what a miracle she is to us because the Cushings
    should have never allowed me to first off get pregnant, and secondly to
    sustain the pregnancy. She’s truly a blessing!

    Keep in touch and I will do the same. You’re looking absolutely
    stunning! I’m so happy to see the flip-side of this trecherous disease.


  7. Liesa Card Says:

    Lee, how wonderful to see so much of you… and back in the saddle again. Your work is wonderful, thoughtful, bright, and dear! I hope you’re feeling settled in the new/old home. I relate to your loving concerns for your mother. My mother just fell a week ago and snapped both wrists. All of my siblings took turns staying with her in the hospital so that she was never alone. Now she’s spending a few days in a care facility so we’re all visiting her there. It’s the first time in 15 months that she hasn’t been at my home or my sister’s and it’s very strange to not have her here with us. She’s seems okay, and even happy, but we can’t help worrying about her all the time. You understand.
    Thankfully, I completed my book and mailed it to a publisher exactly one week before her accident. Now, I’m only taking time to write on a family sunday book club blog. We’re reading the Joseph Smith book, even Lizzie, and sharing our thoughts and feelings each week. It’s been a great way to learn from my daughters and really suck up the goodness of this book that took the Church ten years to prepare.
    Rosie is enjoying Dixie and getting excellent grades. She admits that it’s not too difficult but enjoys the success and sunshine. You can see her latest modeling shots if you visit the Elite Model web site. She’s listed under New York and New Faces.
    Please give my love to your family and a huge hug to Zina! We still miss her.
    Get us the details on the show and we’ll tell friends.
    Love you,

  8. Dayna Says:

    Thank you so much for notifying me of your new posting. I’ve always told you how unbelievable I think you and Joe truly are. Today is more proof that you never stop amazing me! And I’m so thankful that you still mention your continued improvement in your recovery. It gives me, in my first year of recovery, hope for a normal future. Please keep us updated on how your show turns out.


  9. Annie King Says:

    Hi sweetie, I’m so glad to see this new work and happy that you feel like an artist again. I look at the photo of you the day before your surgery and I just can’t believe how bad it had become. You look so great now. I can hear how difficult it remains with your Mom. Take care of yourself. Good to hear from you.

  10. Lynn Farrar Says:

    Hi Lee,

    Monte and I thought about walking by your place tonight but didn’t make it that far. Maybe another day. Joe told me last night about the new posts on your website and I’m so glad to see your new paintings! They’re —you!
    I love them.
    Sounds as though you’re hard at it - I can see the good energy in the paintings. I’m so glad for you and for the rest of us who love your work and you.
    Looking forward to seeing the rest of them and you, maybe, around town.
    Love, Lynnie

  11. Louise A. Seiler Says:

    Hola Lee,
    I am an artist/gallery owner, and long time admirer of your work. Spring City
    at one time long ago was my go to. I knew the Paulsens, M’lisa and Craig.

    Our lives do have some common themes: art, horses, family, and all the poignant stuff. Your portraits are endearing and piercing. I wish you and yours all the best always. If one day we should meet it would be a fullfilled
    Enjoy a super summer,

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