One could say the art of Lee Hendrickson is one of a kind and be on-point. In fact, no one creates art in the same way, and each of Lee’s subjects and photographs cannot be duplicated. If you haven’t guessed, the subjects of the art are microscopic crystals.
The variety in shapes and composition will surprise many art lovers, truly defying a singular categorization. Some look like a Monet landscape, others possess the sharpness of a Picasso or the chaos of a Jackson Pollock abstract, and still others look like a realistic representation of foliage, mountains, and shadows.
“I have to be able to find the crystalline pattern in the crystal array and that could be a pinhead size field in the pattern,” Lee explains. “And I have to capture it with the photograph with enough resolution, fidelity and still have the quality of the image. All these three things have to come together… it’s still an experiment in progress.”
So how did a research scientist working in pharmaceutical development become a fine artist? That’s a one-of-a-kind story, too.
The Microscopic Beauty in Nature
Lee spent 20+ years as a research scientist including work in pharmaceutical development. Because many drugs are crystalline in form, he was exposed to the crystalline world as part of his work.
Realizing that many crystals could be very beautiful when viewed through the microscope, the idea of photographing crystals as an art form was born. The crystals themselves behave like microscopic prisms, refracting the transmitted white light to create an endless array of color. “I wasn’t able to drop out as a research scientist, so I put the idea on the back burner and continued to hone my skills as a photographer, including obtaining a degree in biomedical photography.”
He began sharing some of his art with his fellow scientists in 2005, who were enthusiastic about Lee’s “hobby”. He started entering to exhibit in local art shows and was surprised that the people who really liked his work didn’t have to be scientists.
“People connect to organic fractal nature of the art. My patrons are into high-end art, corporate clients, and people who are intrigued by the unique look and story behind the art.”
Finally, in 2006 after another corporate lay-off and increasingly positive responses to his art, Lee left research science for life as an artist without a backward glance.
Experimentation is the New Creativity
You may think that Lee has an unlimited supply of photographic subjects, and you’d be right, but finding the right image is a tad more challenging. Unlike other fine art photographers, it’s not a matter of lighting or traveling geographically.
“Methods of growing crystals? They’re still an unknown,” he says. “It’s good to have the scientific experience behind me. When it doesn’t work and I’m not able to find a field to photograph, no big deal. That’s why they call it “re”-“search” – you have to do it over and over.”
Pinpointing the Artistic Process with Lee Henrickson
Lee grows his crystals by evaporation of a solution containing the dissolved substance on a glass microscope slide. By using a variety of solvents in various concentrations, different crystalline patterns are created, affected by the solvent, temperature and even humidity in the room.
When he drops the solution on a slide and the crystals begin to form he has moments to search for a compelling composition. During his search, the substance dries and the crystals continuously change. When he captures an image, it can never be recaptured because the crystal on the slide disappears, often within seconds.
He adds, “The subject matter is infinite, and what a wonderful thing for an artist to discover. That’s one of the reasons why I love what I do and chose this, it’s an endless process of exploration and discovery and a perfect fit for my particular skills.“
Inspiration Hits at Any Time
When asked where he finds inspiration, he’s enthusiastic, “All around – I’m constantly looking for ideas on what crystals to grow.”
Lee might find ideas for crystalline subjects on the shelves of a grocery store or in a magazine article– any place could have worthy candidate. He just has to be inspired and the substance must be something he can bring home and grow crystals on.
A Unique Gift of Wine and Chocolate
A question Lee is often asked is which substance he was most surprised about. His answer – “Most surprising – I was experimenting with organic compounds found in chocolate, theobromine, didn’t work, but phenylethylamine did. It crystallizes and gives you lots of colors, unique patterns, and shapes to photograph.”
To see one-of-a-kind gift ideas of chocolate or wine crystals, simply go to the Photography of Crystals Store, choose the search tool at the top of the page, and look for “wine” and “chocolate” to come up with some of their crystal representations.
Print Quality Matters
Accuracy in reproduction is very important to Lee, as well as the ultimate quality of a print. Because he lives in the Phoenix area, he searched for a local commercial, large-format printer that embraces quality as he does.
After speaking with us and putting us through ardent tests, ArtisanHD became his printer of choice. “I will compare a physical print with their work… I make sure it’s reproduced with the exact color match.”
Because ArtisanHD’s quality process begins the moment that we receive a print and ends after a print is displayed at its final destination, we’ve been able to ensure Lee’s customers receive quality artwork.
The Future is Bright for Lee Hendrickson
Over the past years, Lee’s business continues to grow, as well as his accolades. Lee was named Phoenix Magazine’s Best of the Valley – Best Artist for 2020 and is a finalist again in this year’s competition. With a full slate of Art Shows and lots of business activity, Lee took a moment to share a bit of advice to inspire up-and-coming artists:
“I think a lot about creativity, I think about where good ideas come from – and they can come from everywhere. I draw analogies from different fields and put them together in new ways. In the sciences, you fail if you don’t find something new. You have to be out on the edges where no one else has been before. Being a life-long learner allows you to find creativity.”
To enjoy more of Lee’s work, visit Photography of Crystals.com.
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