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Ross Lee

Ross is one of New Zealand's leading landscape and investment artists who has been painting well over 35 years. He has been an Art Teacher, Public Lecturer and Workshop Co-ordinator. Ross received honours for his Bachelor of Fine Arts, and also received honours in his Diploma of Health Science. See Exhibition and Awards history by clicking button above.

Ross Lee
Ross Lee - Artist

Ross Lee

January 16, 2021

By Marjorie Cook, Wanaka Fine Art Gallery art consultant

Adventurer, nurse, hairdresser, soldier – when it comes to careers, Nelson artist Ross Lee, 75, has many colours on his palette.

Lee recently returned Nelson to live after many years living in the North Island, and has been exhibiting at Wanaka Fine Art Gallery for 18 months.

He is known for his large-scale, realistic, detailed landscapes.

Raised in Palmerston North, Lee revealed a passion for drawing early and studied art at high school.

His mother Joyce was also an artist, but Lee never knew that until after she died and he found a painting she had completed of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

“She died when I was young, about 12 or 13. I didn’t talk to her about art. She died before I could do that. I never saw her paint . . . After she had died, I was looking at the painting and was told by my father she had painted it,” Lee said.

Lee began painting seriously in his mid-30s and just one year into his new passion, met the late Tim Wilson, who was also raised in Palmerston North and spent his later years in Queenstown.

“I originally met him before he became famous, with the International Art Centre [in Auckland]. I showed him one of my paintings. I knew people in a framing shop, where Tim had a space to paint. They suggested I do it. He suggested I come up and watch him, so I did.

“Then he took me through a couple of paintings together. I picked it up really fast. He was quite astounded . . . I learned by watching, without asking too many questions,” Lee said.

Lee eventually spent about a month with Wilson, taking private lessons and absorbing as much as he could from his mentor.

Lee and Wilson went on to exhibit at the Downtown Hilton Gallery in Auckland, where Lee made his first international sale to a customer in Japan. He followed that up with a big exhibition at Lopdell House on the North Shore.

From then on, Lee focused on getting his work into as many galleries as he could. Solo exhibitions included Fishers Gallery and the Bryce Gallery, both in Christchurch.

Lee served in the New Zealand Army in Vietnam. During his time in the army, he was chosen to carry out the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace in London. After leaving the army, he travelled the world for four to five years, going to 40 countries.

He has explored Africa in a Land Rover and climbed Mt Kilimanjaro, spent at least 20 years surfing with professional surfers in big surf spots around the world, travelled through Afghanistan, India and Greece, made his way through the USA and Guatemala, and spent 14 years working as a qualified nurse in hospitals and rest homes.

“I have had an eventful life. I have never been to places as a tourist carrying a camera. Only as a traveller, adventurer,” he said.

Lee lived for six years in the Bay of Plenty and Tauranga before returning to his present location, high above the sea in Tahunanui, Nelson, where he works full time from his studio.

“I have not retired. No artist ever retires until they can’t paint anymore,” he said.



Winner:                         1988 Manukau City Art Awards

Winner:                         Waitakere Licensing Trust Art Awards

Winner:                         1996 Mairangi Art Awards

Merit:                             Auckland Easter Show

Highly Commended:   Auckland Easter Show

Selected:                       NZ Academy Fine Arts Awards, Wellington

Selected:                       James Wren and Rotary Arts Awards, Dunedin

Finalist:                         Molly Morpeth Arts Awards, 2007,2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 Whakatane

Winner:                         National Art Awards, Napier 2010



Lopdell House, Titarangi, Auckland 1988

!st Class Lounge, Ansett Airlines Auckland

Downtown Hilton Gallery, Auckland

Rutherford Gallery, Nelson

David Johnson Gallery, Blenheim

The Marlborough Centre, Blenheim

Fishers Gallery, Christchurch

Roslyn Gallery, Dunedin

Si Salon Gallery, Wellington

WOW, Nelson

Heritage Gallery, Wellington

Escape Gallery, Richmond

Bryce Gallery- Contemporary Fine Arts, Christchurch

Art For Arts Sake Gallery, Ohope

Quay Gallery, Napier

National Art Exhibition, Napier, Yearly Invitation

Harrisons Fine Art Gallery, Tauranga

International Home Show, Wellington

Red Peach Gallery, Napier

ANZ Bank, Palmerston North

ANZ Bank Wanganui

Queenstown Art Centre, Queenstown

NZ Academy of Fine Arts Wellington

The Artists Room, Dunein

Home Show Nelson

Queenstown Gallery of Fine Arts

BNZ Bank Blenheim

Flying Fish Gallery, Paihia, Bay of Islands

Palette Gallery, Auckland,

Harrisons Gallery, Whangamata,

Matakana Gallery, Matakana

Molly Morpeth Art Awards, Yearly Acceptance



Japan, England, Australia, Canada, USA, Scotland



Pictorial Publications Calendars

Paintings bought by Minister for Tourism, hung in Parliament Buildings

Paintings chosen by TVNZ for Drama Series Background

Articles and Photos in Ansett Airlines in-flight Magazines

Florida Art Collectors, USA

Atlanta Art Collectors, USA

Television Exposure, Mainland TV

National Art Awards Napier

Molly Morpeth Awards, Whakatane





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