One of Deseret Book’s newest artists, Kate Lee, captures stories from the scriptures and depictions of Christ using a minimalistic style that lets raw, unfiltered emotion seep through. You can’t help but feel moved when looking at her rendition of Christ praying in Gethsemane, the woman who was healed after touching the hem of the Savior’s clothing, or Christ magnifying the light of one of His children.
Developing a Style
Kate has loved drawing for as long as she can remember. She even got in trouble in kindergarten for drawing too much. In high school, she started using watercolors. Although initially intimidated by them, she loved the way they brought her work to life.
Kate’s simple and minimalist style conveys so much meaning and speaks to many who see her work, but she didn’t develop this style until about three years ago. After hearing the song “As Sisters in Zion,” Kate said that an image just popped into her head that she couldn’t wait to get out on paper. After drawing it out, she knew that she had something special.
“After I had drawn and painted it, I was hooked,” Kate said. “I wanted to draw everything, paint everything this way. It spoke so loudly to me. I felt like I could express what I was feeling inside better with this particular style.”
Inspiration comes to Kate through her own experiences, the stories of others, lessons in church, and scriptures.
“Sometimes even just one word can inspire an entire painting,” Kate said. “I always try and have my sketchbook with me because you never know when an idea will come.”
Struggling with Self-Doubt
After seeing Kate’s stunning pieces, you might never know that the artist behind them didn’t always have confidence in her own abilities and talents. As a young girl, Kate often felt insecure about herself. She relays her feelings of insecurities as a teen, even saying that she wouldn’t believe those who complimented her. She felt that those compliments must not be true.
Drawing and painting were some of the ways she gained confidence in herself.
“It has helped me find who I am,” Kate said. “It has given me confidence in a way I don’t think would have come any other way. It has brought me closer to my Heavenly Father; I have learned to trust Him more. I have seen how Christ’s life can be more a part of my life. I have been able to heal through painting.”
Her advice to others who may struggle to see their own value is to stop comparing, stop expecting perfection, and start accepting yourself for exactly who you are.
“Not one of us is perfect, or expected to be perfect in this life,” Kate said. “This life is for learning, and growing, and changing.”
Journey to Deseret Book
In June 2016, Kate showcased her work at her first big art show. Then, a little while later in January of 2018, she opened her online art shop. Kate received orders for her artwork from all over America; she loved the experience of meeting and talking to people from so many different places.
A few months later, in April of 2018, Kate participated in an art show called “Life of Christ.” A friend who attended the show and saw her work suggested submitting it to Deseret Book. Kate’s initial reaction: a definite no. She didn’t think she could handle the possible rejection. But the thought wouldn’t leave her alone.
“On May 14th, while I was cleaning my house, that thought came rushing back and I had a very strong impression that I should submit today,” Kate said. “I fought it for a bit, but knew I had nothing to lose and that if I didn’t, I could be missing out on a really great opportunity.”
Deseret Book’s Reaction
Kate submitted her work through an online form on Deseret Book’s website. Because of the competitive nature of the submissions process and the varying needs of the company at different times, less than 5% of artwork submitted actually ends up in stores.
When Dallan Wright, a fine art product manager for Deseret Book, first saw Kate’s work, he was initially struck by the simplicity of her style that conveyed so much emotion of the scenes she painted. After taking it back to his team and seeing the reactions of his coworkers, he knew there was something noteworthy about her work. Not only that, but after getting to know Kate herself and her story, Dallan and the rest of the team knew she would be a perfect addition to Deseret Book’s lineup of artists.
“We'd been looking for an artist that we felt matched with Deseret Book in an overall sense,” Dallan said. “It's not just like, what's this finished art look like? It's also, what is it like working with this artist? What is their attitude? Is this someone that we feel . . . is a reflection of what Desert Book is trying to do? And Kate definitely was.”
“I just think that the world is going to be a better place knowing someone like Kate and her story of trying and working hard to overcome her own [negative] perception of herself,” Dallan said.
Sharing the Message
After working through her own experiences with insecurities and self-doubt, Kate hopes to share her message of hope and faith through her artwork. Each art piece carries a special meaning or message she wants to share with others.
“My goal from the very beginning has been to help others feel the love that the Savior has for them.” Kate shares on her Instagram account @Kate_Lee_Art.
Kate shares through her social media accounts how her relationship with her Savior has been such an important part of her own journey. Her faith and gratitude for the gospel have played a significant role and inspired many of her creations.
“I am so grateful for Christ and the life He lived and lives for us. For the sacrifice He made, for the endless love, compassion, service, patience, and guidance He gives. That He loves us so deeply He laid down his life for us . . . each one of us,” Kate posted on her account @Kate_Lee_For_Real.
“We can be unstoppable when we allow ourselves to see and seek the good in us,” she adds in another post. “And push away those negative thoughts that threaten to keep us from moving forward and fulfilling our purpose here.”
Kate also reminds us that in the midst of trials, it is important not to give up.
“Best advice I ever got [was], ‘Choose to ACT and not be acted upon.’ No matter the circumstances, choose to move forward. Don’t let your past mistakes, or others’ mistakes, old or new hurt feelings, grudges, fears, or anything else keep you from accomplishing your dreams and from being happy. Who you are and what you do absolutely makes a difference.”
Kate’s story is a testament to this attitude. Her uplifting optimism and humble appreciation for her Savior shines through each creation.
Thank you, Kate, for sharing your story, your talents, and your faith with us.
Interested in submitting your work to Deseret Book?
Any artist, photographer, or author who wishes to have his or her work selected and sold or book published through Deseret Book can submit a piece through an online submissions form for review. From here, product developers will look at each submission that comes through and start taking it through a process to determine whether or not they can move forward with the piece in question.
“I love getting submissions,” Dallan said. “I never want to turn that off, because you never know when the next Kate Lee is going to decide that they're going to take that very difficult step and put themselves out there to be judged. Thank of it. Who wants to submit their artwork and be told no? That is a huge hurdle to climb over. So I'm very appreciative to all those artists who take that chance and submit it.”