Tim Lee is a jack-of-all-trades

Tim Lee is a jack-of-all-trades and is gifted with many talents. Tim’s main business is “Legacy Studio” where all his services are offered under it’s umbrella. Take a look below and select the button that best serves your needs, or check out his latest podcast on his show “The Legacy Cast”

Tim’s Art/Tech/Travel Blog

Oil vs Acrylic

I will very quickly start this blog off by saying that I started my career in art first with watercolor and markers drawing caricatures as Disney with an amazing team of artists, and I spent ten years roughly in that world and very infrequently thought about the idea of doing oil painting. Once attending an art show I was quickly inspired by the traditional fine arts, except, the oil paint side still made me fearful. That is a story for another time though.

In time I found oils and they found their oily way into my soul as many artists find. But before that I began my fine art career in the world of acrylics. They were fast. Dried in minutes, and I was certain I could quickly make them look just as good as oils. Well, after some pier pressure, which I give into quite easily, I decided instead of faking oils, it would be better just to do them.

Well after being at Quinns Hotsprings and thankfully having a few people come up and ask me a bit about my art, I realized I was missing something rather important and simple. Signage. So as soon as I got home, I grabbed my plein air box, spun it around and painted my social medias on it.

I used oil, and in my excitement I forgot to mix in liquin to speed up my drying time. But I figured hey give it a little bit, and then cover it with a fixative. The following day I touched it and it remained just as creamy as the day before. So, I decided to do something dangerous. I grabbed my odorless paint thinner, a few paper towels, and scrubbed the ever-living snot of all the oil paint and reached in to my old tote of acrylics and began repainting from scratch.

Well it didn’t mix well… dried a bit too fast, but it took the colors deeper. It felt richer, far more than I had expected! I was able to dry brush some shadow beneath the logos and pop it back out with a fresh clean white. Not only that, within 10 minutes I had it outside and sealed it all in with some fixative. The results spoke for themselves, and once again prove that there are no rules to art, and the types of materials you may find as “cheap” can quickly show their value in a moment.


Plein air by the pool: Day 2

By day two at Quinns Hotsprings in Paradice Montana, I had already made myself accidently quite known to the tourists also staying there. The concerned eyes were far fewer and “So how’s it coming?!” became the words I enjoyed hearing. I found as I would swim the day before that people would sneak up to my easel to see what I was doing, so I saved them a few steps and purposefully pointed my painting towards the pool so everyone could get a glimpse. It was very affirming to see people go over to their friends, whisper in their ear, and point to my painting with smiles. As far as I could tell they seemed very affirming and not, “what a hack job!”

I walked in with a slight air of certainty on the second day that I was ok with continuing my painting beside the pool, but there were new attendants running around, and once again, new confused eyes peering at the large box and video tripod. Would day two be the end? Well one of the attendants walked up. Young, dark thick hair that made me beyond jealous considering my lack of follicles, and a large smile. He instructed me as I set up my tripod that the best place to get a picture was at a different angle of the pool, a place I would suggest most tourists would assume was “off limits” for staff only. I thanked him quickly and grabbed the plein air box to mount it on the tripod. He suddenly had a look of surprise. “OH! I see you prefer to shoot pictures the old way with a box camera!” I admit that made me chuckle inside as I looked down at the box and realized it certainly could be mistaken for that. I quickly opened it up and displayed the paints and brushes and thanked him for his advice and I would be sure to grab my phone and snap some pictures of the angle he suggested.

The angle suggested by the kind attendant at Quinns Hotsprings in Paradice Montana

With more certainty that everyone was on my side, and ready to change my target to a new canvas and scene. I moved us over to a fire pit as soon as it became available with my wife pleased with the proposition of staying into the evening and enjoying the fire together. On that side, my attention quickly became the main rock in the center of the pool and the lovely water feature behind it with cascading waterfalls falling down natural rock and into the pool below. The engineering of the feature was exquisite and truly felt as if it wasn’t designed but simply used from nature to supply the pools with its sulphur crystal clear blessings.

At that point I also decided not to shy away from the attention and instead welcome it by wearing my signature hat my wife and I bought at a local shop on the way in that I was certain would quickly set me apart from the rest of the tourists there. I found very quickly people walking up and talking to me even when I was away from the painting, most likely due to the obvious hat that did serve its purpose incredibly well of keeping the sun off my face. Magically no sunburns were the result of this trip. That I was very thankful of.

My wife also surprised me as I would walk back to the bar to grab us extra drinks and come back to her saying several folks had stopped by and she told them she was proud of me. She honestly has no idea how deeply that touches my heart. Earning that pride from her is easily one of my highest achievements. She also would jump into the pool to read a book on her phone in the comfort of the warm water and I would find random texts from her with pictures of me painting from different parts of the pool. Even asking me at one point “Did you get a picture of your painting from this end of the pool yet?” Then moments later another text with the need promptly met.

It isn’t hard to find targets to paint in this lovely area. I wish I had brought some even smaller canvases to capture even more and work on my overall speed which is my greatest frustration at this point in my journey. Second to that getting colors to properly show the beauty of a blinding sun and the cool of a resulting deep shadow.

Day two felt like a true success, painting into the dark of the night and even running back to the room to grab a light and several extra blank canvases in case I wanted to target something else. That still wasn’t the best part of this little painting journey. But, that is a story for another time. God bless!

Painting by the pool?

As my wife and I visited Quinns Hotsprings for a few days I had a very interesting plan that I truly wasn’t sure would play out in my favor. I think there are a lot of things you could bring by a hotel pool and not get odd unusual glances from folks. But a plein air box and a large video tripod are not one of those items.

Admittedly a large part of my heart was also concerned about how my wife would feel about me bringing all this equipment in behind her knowing that a lot of people would be looking our way and she is not someone who appreciates or prefers being the center of attention. But she was supportive and helped me carry the gear in.

I was certain at some point some of the pool attendants would come by and kindly put their hand on my shoulder and do that “Um… sir… You can’t do that here” but instead I saw small grins and quiet exclamations not only from the staff but also from other swimmers.

As the process began I was thankful to huddle myself in a shaded corner and stay fairly inconspicuous but I did slowly see some of  the more aware of the pool goers come up with a gentle but pointed question. “Was painting anyone in particular?” That was the question. I could see coming from miles away. Not a lot of individuals escaping from the real world to Paradice Montana wanted to be concerned about their privacy, let alone their self conscious swim suit bods. No one expected to go swimming and end up in a painting forever marking them in this moment. Thankfully once I mentioned I was more focused on the scene itself  instead of the people I saw the inquisitiveness quickly turn from protective to pleasure.

The area I placed myself was directly next to the locker rooms and my target was a thin area between two rocks showing a waterfall and the rising mountain wall directly behind the pool.  I decided not to be too picky with my subject considering I figured my time there would be cut short because someone would report the creepy guy constantly looking their way with a paint brush. So using my white charcoal pencil I did the quickest rough draft of the area I possibly could, and prepared to paint a much in as short a period as I could so if I had to I could pack up and run. I figured it would only take one person to mess up my goal.

Little did I know, this would be “day 1” of my painting by the pool. And the picture above was after two. But. That is not even my favorite part.

Stick around because this story continues!

Quinns Hotsprings Plein Air

Tim Lee and his wife Mandi at the Quinns Hotsprings
Let me just start by saying… Wow… What an amazing place. Easily Mandi’s and my home away from home in Paradice Montana about 4 hours from our home. We first visited here in 2021 and were stunned by the size of our room in the lodge, walking around all day in a robe anywhere you went, the delightful staff, and some new gorgeous hot springs/pools that make nature a key part of their design. They are a vibrant contrast in comparison to the older pools you can see off to the left as you head to the gift shop and bar buildings.
This room is truly as big as it looks and it feels very welcoming. Honestly, it makes you question if you want to leave it for the majority of your trip! Once you walk in you have to remind yourself of the amenities.
The opposite wall
Tim & Mandi’s room in the Lodge at Quinns Hotsprings
The Quinns hot springs pool deck in Paradise, Montana

I brought my plein air (yes that is how it is spelled) gear with me remembering being on the porch in the past taking pictures of this beautiful view. I overpacked as always and really got some good education on what I actually needed to bring vs what I brought. I dream of a day when I can fit everything I need just in my box and a separate tripod, but I still have a large bag to carry my paper towel and other little “just-in-case” gear and liquids in.

Tim Lee painting with his Meeden plein air box from the hotel porch

The view is just stunning, one step out our big sliding doors shows a river, bugs glinting from the morning sun as they fly around many of them being harmless little knats and stink bugs that I actually found quite beautiful being a bit of a bug enthusiast and constantly appreciating my macro lens on my Samsung S20+ when it comes to bugs.

Tim Lee painting from the porch of his room in the lodge.

My plein air box is a Meeden box. It’s really sturdy and has room for a bunch of stuff, two removable separators, and a wet box that can hold two 9×12 canvas panels back to back. I personally keep a paper pallet in my box and do most of my color mixing on a pallet knife. I don’t find myself using my pallet to store my mixed paints because I work with very small amounts of paint at a time and I find myself preferring to simply remix the color I need over checking my pallet. Don’t ask me why, I know it takes longer.

The work in progress oil painting by Tim Lee on a 9X12 canvas on board

I took plenty of pictures so I can keep working on this little plein air at home. I personally don’t think I will be making this a full size painting but I do anticipate that this 9×12 will be available for sale soon. If your curious about it or one of my other paintings feel free to email me at legacystudioproductions@gmail.com

By the way, yes that little jar does say Milk of Magnesia on it, and yes there is a story behind that. But… That is a story, for another time. God Bless!

See the Time Lapse of Tyrion Lannister!

That Time I captured the Milky Way

On one of our camping trips between 2020 and 2021, I decided to bring my camera gear (as I always do) with the goal of getting some nightscape shots. Within the last 3-4 years I learned some of the tricks to shooting generic starscapes and I always found myself enamored with getting clusters of stars to show up in my shots. I found it so exciting to open a raw photo that showed pitch blackness and bring up the levels and just watch millions of stars suddenly come into view in my editor. I became hooked on capturing the sky at night. But I never realized that I had the capability to capture the milky way. I found it by accident one night, and the experience literally made me gasp.

I set up my gear outside our camper like I had done many times before, but this night was different and I knew it. Mainly because there was no moon. The atmospheric light was at the lowest it could be, and being in the middle of the mountains of Montana would mean that the cities around us would not spread their light into the sky to bounce off the atmospheric haze. Also, the wind was in the perfect direction holding off the fire from the surrounding mountains. The smoke was being blown away from us leaving a perfect clear chance to get some more intense skyscapes.

I pointed my camera into the sky as I had always done, generically pointing it upward, trying to frame out the trees surrounding us to the best of my ability. My ears tingle at every sound of brush moving in the blackness as those tiny fears of bears and wild cats buzz around in the back of my head.  Put them off… This is the best chance I will get of getting some stars, hopefully, more than I had ever captured before.  I could physically see millions of stars overlapping each other. Reminding me of an experience from many years before, sitting on a missionary ship in the Caribean Ocean, only the pilot light pointing the way into the pitch blackness of the ocean, and above, an expanse of stars that you would be incapable of imagining. These stars were seen by travelers and explorers of decades and centuries past, something very few “City folk” gets to see in this day. A verse in the Bible I recalled kept singing out in my mind. A promise God made directly to Abraham in Genesis 26:4 ” I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring, all the nations on earth will be blessed. These stars were the ones God made that promise on. Imagine the awe Abraham would have felt, what sort of promise God was making to him.

I stood there looking up pressing the shutter button on my remote control and the camera’s shutter flicked open, capturing what little light that was shining off those stars. The camera memorized every little dot, making it brighter and brighter by the second as the image burned into the sensor, the long exposure of several seconds felt like forever in the cold of that night. I found myself holding my breath so the heat of my breath didn’t create little steam clouds in front of my lens. Finally, the shutter clicked shut, and the screen lit up the “Now Processing” text I hated seeing as the camera began making its way through all the data I wouldn’t even be able to see. I would usually see a few stars here or there in the image but mainly blackness that would need to be processed in my computer before I would get to see the true expanse of the image in front of me. The processing took longer than the long exposure itself and often felt like a waste of time from getting more shots.

The image went dark, I reached down and hit the playback button that pops up the last image taken. My eyes became wide as I clasped my hands over my mouth in a small yell of excitement. My cheeks flushed as I felt blood rush to my head as I could physically SEE the milky way on my screen without any processing. I felt like I had just won the lottery, or found buried treasure.

The window of the trailer slid open as my wife yelled out, “Are you ok baby?!”.  I quickly told her I was fine and tried to express to her how exciting this was. “Good heavens Baby I thought you got eaten by a bear or something!” The window closed and I looked back down at the image.  I had done it, I couldn’t even begin to imagine what I would see once I processed it on my computer. But now wasn’t the time to rush in and try to do that. I needed to get back to shooting as many shots as I could!

As I continued my rampage of pictures I found myself inspired and started taking pictures with the sky in the background and the schilloette of black trees in the foreground.  I then wondered. Could I grab one of my lights and light those trees? I remembered next to the trailer was a little brook and one tree I had noticed would be a great foreground object, so I grabbed one of my lights out of my bag, what if I shined it at this tree over here. Would my camera see it?

YES! Every new shutter click showed me something new and exciting. I had control of the light, and something as small as a flashlight could suddenly bring foreground trees and our trailer into view while the night sky continued to show me its beautiful milky way. I was beyond inspired and for the next hour with my ears in pain, and my nose sore and dripping from the cold, I kept shooting.


I had discovered something new, that I only thought was possible with sky tracking gear, specialty zoom lenses or telescopes, or expensive cameras with full frame sensors and sky filters. But here it was out of my Sony A6300 with my camera lenses that I used every day. It was amazing! Once my body just couldnt handle being in the cold any longer I went into the camper and snuck in next to my wife with my laptop and began processing the images, the stars were so bright and vibrant, and the milky way became even more apparent. Like a rip in the sky that God has scraped out with his finger. I hope if you get a chance to shoot night scapes, you find the milky way, and I hope it inspires you as much as it did me that night. Thanks so much for reading!

That Time I painted “En Plein Air” with Acrylics

My wife and I had planned to go camping for a while and were anxious to use our trailer at least once in 2021 before the winter hit. The problem we were facing were all of the fires that had started early that year that are often seen during the summer. During that trip, I had one specific goal and that was to try “En Plein Air” for the first time. That basically translates to “Painting in nature”, or Painting in real life”. I had invested quite a bit of money in my first plein air box, in a bunch of small canvases, paints, brushes, and I was ready for war. But I couldn’t make up my mind if I was going to try oil paints, or acrylics to try for the first time. One thing I quickly realized would be that we would be in the middle of the Montana mountains. Civilization is probably an hour or two away, which means limited supplies. So things like water, for instance, need to be rationed carefully, and also things like discarded oil paints and turps that let off quite a smell could attract animals like bears and mountain lions. In Montana that is a real hazard and needs to be carefully considered. When you go camping, you are in their territory, so you play by their rules. So the more I considered the more I found myself drawn to acrylics as my source of painting medium. It would be less invasive, easy to clean with small amounts of water, didn’t require any other mediums to work with, and would force me to learn the medium since that would be all I had with me.  So we packed up our bags and headed into the beautiful Montana wilderness to a controlled campground that at that time had only stage 1 fire restrictions, which would allow us to have a fire as long as it was within a controlled firepit.

Getting there for the first time we weren’t very impressed with the campground, and smoke filled the air from other areas around Montana dealing with the forest fires that were several hundred miles away in multiple directions. So our choices were very limited, and it was between staying there, or driving home to Covid infested Great Falls and feeling the pressures we were attempting to escape. So we found a spot that allowed our dog Zoe to run around freely without bothering any other campers and set up shop.

The views weren’t great where we were. Tucked into a ravine of multiple mountains around us, but directly outside the door of our camper was an expanse of open space surrounded by trees. You could see a natural path where either hikers or animals had warn away the ground and it opened to a small vista of two mountains showing gently out of the smoke and smog. It was obvious to me that this would be the painting I would end up doing. I wondered how long it would take me to complete it.

My first attempt of starting to paint of my small canvas didn’t turn out very well because it immediately started to rain. In all honesty, the rain was a small price to pay. We were facing a drought that continued to fan the fires. Any rain was a positive sight to see and offered the firefighters a little relief.  So I grabbed my gear and tucked everything away back into the trailer and enjoyed the sound of the rain on the metal roof of what we lovingly call “Dobby the Hobbit House”. It didn’t take long for the rain to die away and to get set back up, get the camera recording, and get back to work on what I hoped would be an hour, two hour long painting. I had no idea what I was in for, but I was enjoying every minute of it and the hours would quickly pass by as I found myself learning new techniques, getting slightly frustrated, painting over it, and just keep layering layer over layer. By the time the sun was going down I found myself annoyed, but also impressed with how little I had completed, but how much knowledge I had gained. I was determined on day two to put it all to work and get the painting to its finish. I found myself constantly defaulting to adding more blue to the skies and to hide the smoke on the horizon even though I really wanted to capture the smoke on the hills and try to capture that moment that Montana was experiencing in a whole. A fire in the lower 48 makes news… For Montana, this is yearly, so though its just as intense and makes people escape for their lives every year. It isn’t covered by the news. So my initial plan was to make a painting showing that smoke. But like I said, default kept kicking in and other things began to inspire in different directions.  I also learned how to kill bugs with an electric fly swatter. Highly suggest getting one if you are going to paint in the middle of the Montana mountains.  It was very humbling to have someone come up from another camp site and complement me on the painting so far, but I didn’t dare tell her I had been painting for a half a day already to get to that very slight bit of progress. 

That evening as the sun went down the skies filled with some beautiful clouds filled with the highlight of the sun. It immediately changed my opinion of what I wanted to create, not to mention painting all day, I was capturing the day as the sun moved and I watched my painting change with it every time the shadows moved. But as I saw those clouds I fearfully made the jump and painted them in with a pink hoping to top it with yellow and white to bring out the highlights. I admit it is still one of my favorite parts of this painting. 

On a side note, as I come back and watch these videos over again and remember these details it makes me want to try that palette knife technique again that I was doing. Just using the tip of the palette knife that I shaved down with a router. Makes me want to rush home and paint a bit more.

On day two I was itchy to get back to my painting. I felt I had built a solid background and it was time to move forward on the details in the mid ground. The sun was shining a lot brighter that morning and the shadows seemed a bit stronger causing one of the trees on the right to dip into deep greens and blacks. I found myself constantly saying, “too saturated” and trying to muddy up my colors so everything wasn’t as vibrant.  I have spent a lot of years painting in digital with extremely vibrant colors, rarely stepping into other tones and being truly oblivious of the true range and depth that is out there in the world. Painting with real paints in a real life scenario seems to force you to take note of those tones and saturations, which in the past always baffled me. I feel like I am just starting to understand the theory behind them now, and it makes me ready to dig in deeper with painting to help improve my digital work as well as my real work.

Day three, I never expected that a plein air study would take me days on location instead of hours. But what an awesome experience.  I struggled heavily with the path that was in front of me on this day. Making it show too clearly instead of it looking more like a warn path within the natural land scape. I found myself painting it over and over again. I also struggled to separate the mid ground from the background and found the brush and cover turning into a mash of colors and tried to offer some separation with some small blasts of natural purple flowers. I found even though I began to understand the tones and saturations a bit more, I still leaned too heavily into the saturations and time would be the only way to press myself away from it. But as I painted on this day, I found myself connecting more with the paint, and found the consistency that I liked working in, where painting with my brush didn’t feel like I was using washes, but solid blocks of color that could be gently blended in with the surrounding colors.  It reminded me as a kid working with cheap pancake watercolors and hating how it always stayed watery because I didnt understand how to use very little water and more pigment. In the same way I found myself connecting with the acrylic and realizing I had been over diluting the paint with water or slow dry medium. Once that clicked it really opened my eyes and sent me on the path to completing my piece. I often call those moments “Ah Hah” moments where God flips that switch in your brain and it suddenly all makes sense. Once that happened I was able to finish my painting and feel for my first attempt and three days of study and putting my theories to practice, I actually was able to achieve a worthy outcome. That painting hangs up in my office at work proudly now and I hope very soon to get out in the woods again and do another plein air painting. Hopefully within an afternoon instead of three days, because of the time invested in the techniques I learned. I hope you get to experience a moment like this in your life as well, and if not. Please feel free to live vicariously through my art and videos. Thanks so much for coming to my website and reading this account for yourself.

That Time I made a “Mural”

The biggest commission I have ever done was a “wrap” for a skating rink here in Great Falls MT.  Before moving here to Montana I had made stuff like this all the time as a graphic designer at Shadow Graphics in Orlando FL. But this was my first time doing it through my personal business. I have never had any experience painting murals so when I was requested to bid on this, I approached it like I was doing one of the designs at the old job.  I knew with how big this was, I would need to design it in vector. So I started my design just trying to figure out the rough sketch on my computer in my favorite drawing software. Then I inked it in that software and saved out the outlines. From there I took them over to Adobe Illustrator and converted them to vector and began coloring the art bit by bit in Illustrator. I admit I don’t know if I would want to do that again. I sent the design to Shadow Graphics in Orlando and had them print it up and ship it back for me.  I started the install around 5 PM Saturday night and worked all night with no sleep till about 10 am.  I was stunned at how sore I felt at the end of it and I just stood back and looked at it absolutely dumbfounded at how well it turned out.  The design truly was once of a kind and getting in the caricature of my client Janine Hieb was the cherry on top. We also designed the wall so she could put the TV and electronics right back where they were originally. So this is one of my big wins here in Great Falls. Though I admit, I am not sure when I would want to do this again. LOL! Totally worth it… But I am glad I didn’t realize how big a process it would actually be by myself instead of by a team of installers like we had in Orlando. I am pretty sure this took around 4-6 months to complete. Wow.

My First Oil Painting

Man, I still love this skull! This is my first time doing an oil painting and at that time I didn’t know many of the rules of oil painting. I personally think that helped me paint this because once I started doing research on how to paint “correctly” with oil painting I think I hurt myself.  After this painting I really began struggling with future paintings and found myself constantly frustrated with what I was doing. One of the reasons I prefer not knowing the rules and just digging in first.  Also since this painting I have defaulted to acrylic paints because washing brushes in water is so much easier than trying to clean brushes in odorless paint thinners and turps. I am sure I will try it again but my ADD brain likes the simplicity of working with acrylics and attempting to simulate acryilics to look like oil paints. One day I will just have to give in and try some more oil painting. But I have been buying nicer brushes and I would hate to mess them up because I would forget to clean them after… Plus, I have attempted to clean up after some oil paintings and it looks like I just committed suicide with the paint that gets all over the place as I am trying to clean up. Let’s say it wouldn’t make the wifey really happy if I got paint everywhere.

The One I Wish I Thought Of…

Every now and then I get to draw caricatures/illustrations that I wish I had thought of first. This is one of those illustrations. I did this for a client several years back and the request was simple. A monster quad/drone. Now don’t let that scare you, drones of this nature are made for one reason. Speed and racing. These are not “spy” drones and you would hear it coming from a mile away before it could spy on you. These little guys are so fun to fly and will give you an adrenalin rush every time you get under the goggles.  I don’t remember where I got the reference from for the mouth, but I know I designed it after my drone that I had at that time. Giving it to the client at the end I remember thinking, I’d almost be willing to buy it back from him. But he liked it as much as I did and paid a good penny for it. So, oh well… The one that got away. BUT, still one of my favorite designs I’ve done that has that “monster” feature.