Northland's Very Own: Cheng-Khee Chee

By KBJR News 1

August 20, 2010 Updated Aug 20, 2010 at 8:03 AM CDT

Whether it was chalk, a color crayon, or a paint brush... as a child Cheng-Khee Chee almost always had one of these in his hand.

"Ever since I was a little kid I would draw things all over the place on the sidewalk and walls and that drove folks crazy," says Cheng-Khee.

Cheng-Khee was born in China and grew up in Malaysia.

As a young adult he decided to move to the United States and study library science.

He later got a job at UMD as a reference librarian... but never lost his passion for painting.

"When I started working in the library I painted at night, on the weekends, and holidays," says Cheng-Khee.

While working at UMD a professor noticed one of Cheng-Khee's paintings and was fascinated with his work.

This encouraged him to pursue his dream.

"That actually launched my career because before that nobody knew that I was a painter and I was an artist. Everybody just knew that I was a librarian," says Cheng-Khee.

Cheng-Khee's painting's started to win many awards... even from the prestigious American Watercolor Society.

And his illustrations for the children's book "Old Turtle"... helped turn him into a watercolor icon.

"It made me more determined to go into art and reassured me that I can survive as an artist," says Cheng-Khee.

In 1994 Cheng-Khee took an early retirement from UMD and began pursuing art full-time.

As he continues to receive recognition around the world... Cheng-Khee says he is still on a journey to create what he calls his perfect watercolor.

"I have never been satisfied with any painting that I have done so far but I am always happy when I paint knowing that this painting is taking me one step closer to my perfect watercolor," says Cheng-Khee.

Cheng-Khee Chee holds workshops across the country teaching others techniques of painting with watercolors.

For more information on these workshops or on Cheng-Khee's painting's you can log onto www.chengkheechee.com.