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'Being an Artist, You Are Gambling With Everything You've Got'

Fang Ling Lee has painted a window mural at Thyme restaurant in Yorktown, just in time for the spring season.

Anything can inspire Fang Ling Lee when she paints – people around her, events in her life, even the weather. And everything she does and portrays in her artwork has meaning. 

The painting of a girl, with the butterflies coming out of her hair, symbolizes Lee manifesting her own wishes and dreams. The girl with the vulture symbolizes patience, similar to how Lee looks at life. 

"You have to be patient through your whole life that something good will happen," said the self-described struggling artist who is looking to make it big.  

Lee, a Queens native, has traveled around the country to various shows displaying her art and recently made her way to Putnam Valley after living in Chattanooga, TN. She said she has sold hundreds of paintings, including some in Europe and Africa, and many of her clients keep coming back for more paintings.

"My goal is that every painting makes me happy and other people happy," she said. 

Lee, who uses Fang as her artist name, comes from a family of artists – her parents are both clay sculptors. But it wasn't until she turned 18 that she did her first painting – a self-portrait. Without a doubt, she has a natural talent. And she knows it. 

"I know I'm good, but you have to bring it back a little," the 29-year-old woman said. "There is always room for improvement, respect people's admiration toward your work because it's only because of them you can do what you do."

Art, she said, is a form of self-expression. Yet, it affects so many people because they can interpret it differently based on their own life experiences, she said. Her goal is to be able to stir emotion in everyone who sees her art – whatever that emotion might be – love or hate.

When she paints, Lee said she "gets lost" in the act of creating. Hours can go by without realizing it. 

"As an artist, you live in your head," she said. "It's all a work of progress. You know you're done [with your painting] when literally you can't paint anymore."

Surrounded by large paintings, brushes and a piano in her art studio, located in the upstairs of her home she shares with her husband and dog, Lee said she often trades paintings with some of her fellow artists, who are also her friends. That way they all have something original and unique from each other. 

She dreams of opening her own studio one day and is currently working on a collaborative project for a children's book. Lee describes herself as an adventurous and spontaneous person, who is not afraid to take risks.

"Whenever I do something, I do it all the way and make sure it's perfect," she said. 

The artist has traveled to art shows and conventions in New York, Chicago, South Beach and Philadelphia to name a few, and has run out of money and gas along the way. Sometimes she has made enough money to come home, other times she'd do "incredibly" well. Either way, Lee said, it has made her stronger as a person.

Recently, Lee was commissioned to create a window mural at in Yorktown. She said the owners have been "incredibly" supportive and have trusted her to create that beautiful mural.

"A lot of the elements I used in the mural, I used to express their fresh quality foods and the creativity that goes into their food and restaurant," Lee said.

Besides painting, she enjoys cooking and spending time with family and friends. 

Lee specializes in portraiture, figures, as well as murals for storefronts and children's rooms for commission. She describes her style as contemporary and abstract. 

"A lot of my life is taking big chances," Lee said. "Being an artist, you're gambling with everything you've got. Coming out stronger and successful is the best feeling ever."

To see more of Fang Ling Lee's work, check out her website. To get in touch with her, you can email her at fleeart@gmail.com.

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