Ernest M. Lee was born August 1st, 1962, in Zebulon, North Carolina. Ernest grew up in North Carolina, where he learned to love painting as a youth through an art class in high school. Exploring different paints and techniques he fell in love with painting country houses with oils.
His work caught the eye of his art teacher, Mr. Cherry, who spent time nurturing Ernest’s natural abilities. He believed in Ernest and encouraged him to study art in college. Mr. Cherry told Dr. Burchette, the head of the Art Department at St. Augustine’s College, Raleigh, NC about Ernest. They along with Grandma Alice helped Ernest enroll as an art major in 1980.
Ernest studied under Dr. Burchette for two years, until the program was discontinued, and Ernest took a job in the electrical field, with a large lighting company.
Ernest’s love for art never subsided. While in an art store, he learned about the story of the Highwaymen, Ernest sought out a friendship with the artist S.M Wells and showed Mr. Wells a painting that he did when he was 15 years old. Mr. Wells encouraged Ernest to start painting again.
Soon after meeting Mr. Wells Ernest began to paint again. He participated in art shows and has artwork in many galleries throughout the United States. Ernest has won numerous awards since 2012, with the most recent being The Judges Choice Award at the 2021 Downtown Gainesville Art Festival. He has been on CBS, PBS, and Cable TV. Ernest also volunteered in local public schools to share his techniques and artwork with students as well as teaching art at Santa Fe College.
Ernest is known as a folk artist and is often called Florida’s Van Gogh, because of his robust impasto style with rich and vibrant colors. He really enjoyed painting country scenes from his youth and was considered an art whisperer for people, as he helped them recapture their childhood memories through painting.
Not only did Ernest volunteer, but he gave of himself in so many ways, while his faith in God and art was Ernest’s FIRST LOVE, family, friends, neighbors, and strangers alike know of his community involvement. Anything that was asked of him, he and his loving wife Gloria would gladly provide.
Ernest met Gloria as a neighbor, they were married for seven years, every time Ernest saw Gloria there was a sparkle in his eye. Gloria was his TRUE LOVE! They loved to travel, attend art shows and meet people. Most recently Gloria surprised Ernest with a trip to the Van Gogh Exhibit in Atlanta.
Ernest’s famous last words were “The Best is yet to Come”.
Ernest is survived by his loving wife Gloria Lee; stepson Terry Sams; stepdaughter Kimberly Sams and her three children; Kamiyah, Woodrow and Trevan; brothers Donald Crutchfield (Ebony) and Renzo Lee (Stella); sister Carla Williamson; numerous nieces and nephews; Uncle Horace Daniels; and Aunt Elizabeth Scarborough and cousin Tevis High.
Funeral services for Ernest will be held Saturday, December 4, 2021, at 10:30am at Northwest Baptist Church, 5514 NW 23rd Ave. in Gainesville. His family will receive friends from 9:30 until time of service. Committal will be held immediately following the church service at Forest Meadow Central. Arrangements are under the care of MILAM FUNERAL AND CREMATION SERVICES, 311 S. Main St. Gainesville, FL 32601. 352-472-5361
Donations may also be made to the Star Center Theatre, 11 NE 23 Ave, Gainesville FL 32609 Please Note: Ernest M. Lee – Scholarship Fund