Congratulations to Lee Alban!!!
With his accomplishment of winning the Allied Artists of America Gold Medal of Honor, Lee was awarded a $3,000 and beautifully struct Gold Medal that was jointly designed by George Lober and Ulric Ellerhusen back in 1926.
Words of wisdom from Lee Alban....
Artists are frequently the recipients of advice. I have been told to follow popular trends. If people are buying still life, paint still life. Or paint landscapes when they are selling well. Paint in an impressionistic style or mimic the techniques of a well known artist.
The first important advice I received was from a gallery owner in Santa Fe. He praised my work and my talent but remarked that I needed to produce paintings that were different from all the other artists. I found out that you couldn't just think of something different to create, but you could recognize it when it came along. The first time this happened to me was when I was asked to be part of a show called "Traveling The West." I was chosen to participate because I had done paintings of trains and diners. But I wanted to add western landscapes with Native Americans and, although I had taken landscape photos, I had no Native American models. Vintage photographs didn't seem to fit just right and, out of frustration, I decided to paint a trompe l'oeil of a vintage photo on the surface of a traditional landscape so that it would look like someone had taped it to the painting. This led to a successful series that I called the "Spirits of the American West," which symbolically returns Native Americans to their ancestral lands.
A second piece of advice was to "Paint the way you were meant to paint." I was trained in the techniques and materials of the "Old Masters," but I gravitated toward contemporary subject matter and a style that approached photographic or "hyper" realism (except for landscape elements). I painted all types of subject matter and eventually took inspiration from railroad photo charters. One of these charters included women who worked on steam train engines. I began painting figures and portraits of women railroad workers and I called it, "Silk and Steel" It was the second event that would set my work apart from that of other artists.
The series not only attracted the attention of major collectors, but also a group of women who call themselves, "Ladies of Steam." This group includes women who work on steam trains, but mostly it includes women who build, maintain, and operate vintage steam tractors and other farm equipment. The heart of the organization is located in rural Minnesota where there is an annual Labor Day weekend event that began in 1940, the Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion (WMSTR). I first began painting these ladies using source material from an internet friend, but in 2019 I travelled to Rollag, Minnesota in order to meet and photograph the ladies and their tractors. My painting of Stephanie is my favorite candid photograph among the many that I took. She is 19 years old and in this painting she is adjusting her steam driven tractor in preparation for the twice a day parade of vehicles past the throngs of admiring fans.
I didn't set out to become a trompe l'oeil artist paying homage to Native American heritage, nor a figurative realist celebrating the accomplishments of women. I recognized these opportunities as they came along they brought out passions that I didn't know I had.
See More images of Lee and his inspiring art below