Lee lived in Los Angeles where he directed TV commercials for cars, soaps, toys, and various junk-foods. In 1992 he moved to Puerto Vallarta to fulfill his dream of being a full-time artist. His work has been strongly influenced by the people, color, music and folklore of Mexico. This “folklorico” style is signed Lencho, his Mexican “apodo” or nickname. His more realistic style is signed with his “gringo” name, Lee Chapman. His images have been licensed and reproduced as prints, calendars, greeting-cards, and decorative items sold in stores such as Pier1, Aaron Bros. , JC Penny, Kohl’s and Ross. He has illustrated many children’s picture books for publishers in the USA, some co-written with his wife Nancy. Over the years his whimsical paintings have been shown in Puerto Vallarta galleries and other cities throughout Mexico. His work is represented in many private collections in Latin America and the United States.
“I was painting in Los Angeles before I moved to Mexico but mostly images I had seen on prior trips to Mexico, marketplaces, musicians, Yelapa scenes, etc. plus some landscapes and impressions of Laurel Canyon where I lived. At that time I was “borrowing” from Paul Gauguin and Diego Rivera. Some interesting work but I didn’t yet “own” my style. I put off painting in a true Latin folkloric style because I was a “gringo”. Finally, my Mexican friends pushed me in that direction and gave me my Mexican apodo of Lencho. After that, the images came pouring in.”
-Lee Chapman, a.k.a LENCHO
Q: If there was a favorite work of art you could hang or display in your home, which would it be?
LC: “Baile en Tehuantepec” by Diego Rivera. He has done several versions and I love the spirit and movement. I can hear the marimbas.
BAILE EN TEHUANTEPEC. Diego Rivera. Oil on canvas 79 × 65 inches, 1923
Phillips Auction House says that the painting that has sold privately for $15,7 million dollars sets a world record price for any work of Latin American art.”Dance in Tehuantepec” depicts a group of dancers performing the folk dance “zandunga” under a banana tree. It is one of the largest canvases the acclaimed Mexican muralist painted during his lifetime.
Q: If there was one dead artist that you could hang out with for a day, who would that be? Why?
LC: Paul Gauguin. He was a businessman who became an artist and followed his heart to Tahiti. My fantasy was to “pull a Gauguin” and move to a tropical paradise to paint. 23 years ago I moved to Puerto Vallarta and am still living my fantasy.
Paul Gaugin, detail from “Self-Portrait with Portrait of Émile Bernard”
“Beautiful colors exist, though we do not realize it, and are glimpsed behind the veil that modesty has drawn over them.”
“All the joys-animal and human of a free life are mine. I have escaped everything that is artificial, conventional, customary. I am entering into the truth, into nature.”
– Paul Gaugin, French artist (7 June 1848 – 8 May 1903)
French post-Impressionist artist Paul Gauguin was an important figure in the Symbolist art movement of the early 1900s. His use of bold colors, exaggerated body proportions and stark contrasts in his paintings set him apart from his contemporaries, helping to pave the way for the Primitivism art movement. Gauguin often sought exotic environments and spent time living and painting in Tahiti. -https://www.biography.com/people/paul-gauguin-9307741
MUCHOS MARIACHIS. Lee Chapman. oil on canvas 40 x 48 inches
Q: If there was a magic power you could use in your art making, what would it be?
LC: My images are all in my head. I’d love to magically go directly from my head to my canvas….while sitting down.
CENA. Lencho. oil on canvas 48 x 60 inches
Q: What quality in others makes you want to slap them?
LC: Art patrons who want a painting to match the color of their couch!
LADRON DEL AMOR. Lencho. oil on canvas 48 x 60 inches
Q: Art is so subjective, what kind of art is unappealing to you?
LC: Never been a big fan of non-objective.
MASCARAS Y MANOS. Lencho. oil on canvas 48 x 60 inches
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given as far as your art, inspiration or career?
LC: Try to see with the eyes of a child. Forget technique and paint from your heart.
CAMPESINOS. Lencho. oil on canvas 40 x 48 inches
LEE WITH SOME OF HIS WORK.
Q: If your work was edible, what would it taste like?
LC: Guacamole con salsa.
LEE WITH HIS WIFE NANCY.
Q: What is the one thing you need in your studio to work, other than your art supplies?
LC: Music (and my dogs).
SHOTS FROM LEE’S STUDIO & HOME. And his studio sidekicks, Rudy (left) and Pinta (right).
Lee and his wife Nancy have a passion for Mexican folk art & artisan pieces and have their collection displayed along with Lee’s work all over their home. For a great article and more photos of Lee’s home and studio please check out this great blog below. Many of the photos included in this e-blast were courtesy of this blog by artist Paula O’Brien.
Q: What is your most favorite piece of your artwork on display in Galeria de Ida Victoria now, and why?
LC: “The Storyteller.” It captures something of the soul of Mexico.
THE STORYTELLER. Lencho. oil on canvas. 48 x 60 inches
Q: In the era of the internet, why do you choose to continue to work with galleries?
LC: There is nothing like seeing an original painting on a wall. Websites can’t do this no matter how big a screen.
LA BODA. Lencho. oil on canvas 30 x 40 inches
Q: Now the best part, tell us a joke.
LC: Will I Live to see 80?
I recently picked a new primary care doctor. After two visits and exhaustive lab tests, she said I was doing fairly well for my age. (I am well past seventy).
A little concerned about that comment, I couldn’t resist asking her, ‘Do you think I’ll live to be 80?’
She asked, ‘Do you smoke tobacco, or drink beer, wine or hard liquor?’
‘Oh no,’ I replied. ‘I’m not doing drugs, either!’
Then she asked, ‘Do you eat rib-eye steaks and barbecued ribs?’
I said, ‘Not much… My former doctor said that all red meat is very unhealthy!’
‘Do you spend a lot of time in the sun, like playing golf, boating, sailing, hiking, or bicycling?’
‘No, I don’t,’ I said.
She asked, ‘Do you gamble, drive fast cars, or have a lot of sex?’
‘No,’ I said…
She looked at me and said, ‘Then, why do you even give a shit?
It is obvious from Lee’s work, that he has a true love for Mexico- his color, whimsical characters and humor tell a story of Mexico through the eyes of a Gringo. With his love of folk art and understanding of the nuances of Mexican culture he tells fantastical stories that are bold but so endearing!! I love that visitors to the gallery stand in front of his paintings and chuckle, these works make people happy. There is so much to see in each painting, and his palette of “right out of the tube” strong color reinforces his love of his chosen country, because life in Mexico is colorful, literally and figuratively.
My favorite Lencho piece in the gallery is also Lee’s favorite. The Storyteller is a very special piece, but my second favorite is ADELANTE! It’s just so fun and whimsical and I just love all of the characters. It’s so playful “Mexico!”
ADELANTE! Lencho. oil on canvas 48 x 60 inches