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Art from Architecture

Introducing Bernadette Lee

Local artist Bernadette Lee creates lasting memories with her paintings of Kansas City landmarks and custom works featuring businesses and homes with her company, Art from Architecture. 

“I was a fine wine sales professional for 30 years until I tore my shoulder and was unable to lift cases of wine, but I was still able to lift a pen and paintbrush,” Bernadette says. “My associate degree in commercial art is my only academic training. Back then, cut and paste meant cutting with an X-Acto knife and spreading rubber cement on the back to paste it to the paper.”

Unlike other watercolor artists, Bernadette uses lots of detail in her drawings and paintings. 

“I begin with a pencil sketch, add pen, and then watercolor,” she says. “My style is ‘old school’ without the use of Photoshop. In the past couple of years, I developed a ‘new style’ by drawing on my cell phone with my fingertip—it just happened organically. While on a shopping trip with my 90-year-old aunt in Galena, Illinois, she said that her back hurt, and to keep shopping. I told her that I would just sit with her and draw on my phone instead. After an hour, I showed my drawing of Main Street to one of the shop owners and he said, ‘I'll buy them, but you can't sell them anywhere else on Main Street.’”

Bernadette says she was stunned and got her first order for cellphone art.

“My cellphone art takes one to three hours, and my detailed watercolors of iconic Kansas City landmarks, stadiums and some homes can take up to 30 hours.”

Her preferred medium is watercolor, but she also loves creating her new style of cellphone art.

“Using the Notes App that came preloaded on my Samsung phone, I begin with a blank screen. Where you might write a note to yourself like, ‘don't forget to buy bread,’ I draw instead, changing the colors and nib sizes to create my drawings. Everyone asks me why I don't use an iPad and stylus to make it easier, but I like the challenge of seeing where the color will land using the pad of my fingertip on a 2.5” x 3.5" screen. With this method, I always have a blank canvas in my pocket whenever I am out and about and get inspired.”

For aspiring artists wanting to turn their hobby into a career, Bernadette says to stay true to your style and surround yourself with other artists. 

“Don't let anyone try to change your process. It is great to paint with Urban Sketchers in group settings because I learn so much by seeing other styles. I've also taken a few workshops from other artists to expand my techniques, hues and color mixing.”

During the pandemic, Bernadette has been following the Kansas City Symphony's Mobile Music Box around the city to their outdoor concerts. 

“I love classical music and painting in time to their music. I only have 45 minutes to begin and finish a painting. One of the musicians told me I was sort of a Symphony groupie—I told her that I was proud to be one. I’m hoping to have a show to hang all of my Mobile Music Box paintings and have a percentage of the sales benefiting the Kansas City Symphony Alliance someday." 

Buildings, nature, emotional events and beautiful homes all inspire the creation of Bernadette’s artwork.

“I draw homes as closing gifts for realtors as well as individuals, and many recipients cry when they receive them. This is a very important part of my business and what keeps me busy on a daily basis when I am not participating in shows or filling retail orders. The holidays are always my busiest time of year with lots of shows, online orders and commissions. I take orders for custom home portraits during this time, and it keeps me busy throughout the year. Once spring and summer arrive, I will have booths at The Strawberry Swing events and Mission Market.”

You can purchase Bernadette’s works of art at various local stores, including Naomi’s Hallmark, Made In Kansas City stores, Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts gift shop, Browne's Irish Marketplace and Cellar Rat Wine Merchants. For more information and quotes on commissions, visit