Born Sylvester Lee Lester III, in Flagler, Colorado. Lee grew up roaming the pristine prairies of Southeastern Colorado where the abundant wildlife, the silence, and the vast vistas provided him the opportunity and time to carefully observe and sketch the fauna and flora that became the finely executed subjects of his future oils, watercolors, and bronzes. Studying at the Rocky Mountain School of Art in Denver helped polish and develop his natural artistic skills. Lee designed, owned, and operated his own foundry from 1976 to 1985, owned a variety of galleries and, for a time, instructed students in pastel and watercolor.
Lee's artistic studies were enhanced in the fires and forges of his own Oklahoma foundry. Surrounded by white-hot heat and flying embers, midst fire and flame, Lester mastered the melding of waxen sculpture and molten metal that must combine in an almost mystical way to tear art from the very heart of fire in the lost wax method.
His eye for anatomy, proportion, movement, detail, and precision of habitat give a special power, an almost incandescent light, to each of his pieces. When you look, for example, at his Medicine Man praying over the skulls of buffalo, you can see and feel the connection to the Indian tradition and the ghostly herds of disappearing buffalo. The wings of bird in flight seem to cast a breeze over your face and you can virtually feel the water spray from leaping fish.
His ability to capture the reality and essence of his subjects are unsurpassed and, whether on canvas, paper, or bronze, each captured subject breathes the life of a perfectly true moment in time.
Lee's ability to instill reality, whether in impressionistic, stylized, or realistic pieces, serves to magnify the truth of the subject in such a way that the trees in his paintings march quietly, steadily, and eternally over the horizon; or the worn leather gear of his cowboys seem imbued with the living sweat, hard riding, and abundant humor of their era.
Almost four decades of hard work, limitless exposure in hundreds of exhibitions and one-man shows across the nation, along with ten thousand starry nights on the rivers, in the forests, and on the plains of the American continent, in the mountains of Canada, and on the expansive veldts of Africa have resulted in a variety of awards, print recognition, and a well-earned reputation as Colorado's Master Artist.
Over decades Lee studied many classical and modern artists, drawing something from each, but he attributes his main inspiration to Carl Rungius, one of America's finest wildlife artists. Lester feels that he owes much of his sense of composition to the legendary Rungius.
Recognition of his artistic achievement is never far away from Lee Lester but, as he notes, he is usually too busy planning an expedition to guide hunters or fisherman around the Rockies or up in Canada, or perhaps even Africa, to pay much attention to awards. After all, there is a lot of wildlife to see, fish to catch, and hunting to do… and then it all must be painted or sculpted.
Lee has a stack of newspaper clippings higher than his boot tops with articles showing him at various dedications, unveilings, and historic venues. One such article shows Lee unveiling a bronze of a cowboy that was dedicated to the settlers of the Oklahoma Panhandle.
Lester was selected as Master of the Western Bronze of the Year in 2001 at a Taos, New Mexico event sponsored by HMS/Fields Galleries.
Lester has accepted a wide variety of commissions such as a huge mural for Jack Chrysler of the Chrysler Corporation. The Chrysler commission was twenty feet tall, fifteen feet wide and required a month to execute. It can be seen on the main thoroughfare in Norwood, Colorado.
He roams the world as a professional guide and expedition commander as a way of being in communion with wildlife around the world and, as he says, "… as a way of not getting too stale behind the easel."