Born a Californian, Jake Lee began painting the fishing docks and boats of his native Monterey. He studied art at San Jose State College, and then worked as a commercial artist for a San Francisco newspaper. He was a good friend of Dong Kingman, a fellow artist, and together they painted on location throughout San Francisco. Jake credits Dong as being an influential instructor and an artistic inspiration for him.
Jake painted a renowned set of watercolor scenes of Chinese American life which were commissioned by Johnny Kan of Kan's Chinese Restaurant. These paintings have recently been acquired by the Chinese Historical Society of San Francisco and are on exhibit there through September 16th, 2001. Click the Finding Jake Lee banner below for more information.
By 1944 when he was 29 years old, he was living in Los Angeles and exhibiting with the CWS (California Watercolor Society.) He worked as an illustrator for children's books, designed product advertisements, and as a commercial illustrator designing magazine covers. Even with the time demands of his commercial art, he managed to find time to teach art at the Brandes Art Institute and to paint and exhibit his watercolors.
Sources: “California Watercolors 1850-1970” By Gordon T. McClelland and Jay T. Last; Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940".