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Studio Tour

Studio Tour: Sharon Lee

by Sabrina Smelko

Although she was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA, fine artist and designer derives deep inspiration from her family’s Korean heritage. Her grandfather was an artist in Korea and her mother is an accredited Korean Folk Painter, so as Sharon says, “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”

Having trained in fine arts from a young age, Sharon’s work is punctuated by her continued desire to learn and grow. After attending UCLA Art School, she received her Masters of Interior Architecture and worked as an interior designer at the offices of Michael S. Smith, but ultimately, her passion for painting led her to Korea where she trained in traditional Minhwa (a form of folk painting). Being surrounded by hand-carved block printing, gold and silver leaf, as well as lacquer and resin work was eye-opening for Sharon, and in 2012, she launched , a line of hand-printed wallpaper and soon fabric.

After working her way up in the Los Angeles art scene, Sharon met her husband, Max, and last July after they wed, the couple settled into this 1930s Spanish-style home in the heart of Santa Monica, CA with their rescue Pomeranian Terrier Mix, Basil. In need of a major renovation, Sharon and Max saw the space as a beautiful blank canvas with endless potential, saying, “we fell in love with the Spanish architecture!” After spending a year overhauling the place, Sharon was excited to unleash her inner interior designer and create rooms that were functional and inspiring, a goal which also extended to her home studio.

Boasting tons of natural light and a patio door which leads outside to their herb garden and lemon trees, “it’s [the] perfect [spot] for my morning coffee and sketching routine and some plein air painting whenever the mood strikes.” Despite the rest of the home being covered in her own wallpapers, Sharon’s studio walls are fairly neutral, allowing her to “think clearly and work without color confusion,” — however, she couldn’t resist accenting one wall in her Painted Wave wallpaper in French Grey to give some “texture, depth and a reference for scale.” The room may not be large, but the challenge of minimalism is something Sharon enjoys: “I am not your stereotypical messy painter,” she explains, “I am quite neat and organized, putting things away and cleaning as I go, so for me, the small space turned out to be a gift.” Every square inch is an active zone, so the room is a very accurate snapshot of what it looks like inside of her colorful, creative mind.

Photography by Benjamin Hoffman

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This is the entrance to Sharon's studio. On the hallway wall, covered in Sharon's own Herringbone in Navy on Silver wallpaper, are letterpress maps created by Max. "I love the way the dark wallpaper and the white art creates a dramatic entryway," Sharon says.
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Sharon in her studio. "This painting is inspired by the California landscape - bright poppies against the blue chip sky," she explains.
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This is one of the original block-prints used to create one of Krane's newest wallpaper patterns, Royal Pineapple. "Top left is an original strike-off of the actual wallpaper in pink and bright gold."
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A large 8' gouache painting on paper that will inspire an upcoming Krane fabric line piece.
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The main wall in the studio is wallpapered in Krane's Painted Wave in French Grey, which was one of the first patterns Sharon created using her signature water-inspired brushstroke. "The neutral but textured grey is the perfect backdrop for whatever palette I am into," Sharon says. "Right now it's California sky blue with juicy cadmium reddish orange!" The block-printed works on paper and color boards are for the Spring 2016 Krane wallpaper and fabric collections.
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"I like to use a combination of traditional brushes from Korea and brushes from the local art store," Sharon explains.
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For every painting Sharon creates, she keeps her arsenal of color studies and roughs. "They make great gifts for friends, and one year I made them into Christmas ornaments with twine."
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Despite the small footprint of her studio, there's still ample storage space along and up the walls. These tall white bookshelves disappear into the walls while keeping everything organized and close at hand.
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Above a convertible secretary desk is a gallery wall filled with pieces that are inspiring to Sharon. Among her favorites are a watercolor of a cheetah painted by her grandfather the year she was born, art given to her by fellow artists over the years, and a George Stoll drawing. The hummingbird diptych was a piece Sharon painted when she and Max first started dating.
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A close-up of a mood board created by Sharon with inspiring color palettes and ink paintings. "I'm always using cuttings from the backyard and bringing them inside," Sharon says. "I love the chartreuse color of baby lemons."
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Cut-off pieces of fabric from custom orders as well as some peeks at the future Krane fabric line launching Spring 2016.
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"An important part of my process is sketching onto rubber sheeting and carving out the fine lines to create a block-print used on the paintings and for the wallpaper and fabric designs," Sharon says. Her sister's mother-in-law is an Ornithologist, and after a recent family birding trip over Christmas spent spotting oodles of these Yellow Rumped Warblers, she came home and was inspired to etch and draw them. "These little guys are going to be visiting this painting of poppies very soon!"
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A close-up of a block-print test.
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Sharon's most loyal studio-mate, her lovely pup Basil, in her bed, "AKA her command center," Sharon laughs.
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"My studio opens up to a side yard with an herb garden and citrus trees. I'm so grateful to have this indoor/ outdoor space that gets magical light in the morning and late afternoon."
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Sharon's palette, inspired by the great outdoors!

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