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Enkaustikos Proudly Spotlights Our Featured Artist:

Christine Sajecki

Meet Christine Sajecki
Although as a kid she may have had the occasional thought of becoming a NYC detective and vegetarian restaurateur, deep down Connecticut native, Christine Sajecki always knew she would become professional artist.  In 2001, she completed her Bachelor in Fine Arts with a focus on painting and a minor in poetry at the Savannah College of Art and Design.  After college, Christine moved to Baltimore where she was a resident at the Creative Alliance.  She participated in the inner workings of the organization and frequently collaborated with other residents.  When she got married, Christine moved back to Savannah with her husband and has now become an active member in the Creative Forces Artist Collective.   

Despite never hearing of encaustic during her formal education, Christine works in a range of media from encaustic to animation to even drawing.   It was just six years ago when Christine discovered encaustic paints for the first time.  Hesitantly, she decided to give them a try and although enduring the usual trial and error when beginning a new medium, she quickly became infatuated with the possibilities of encaustic. She learned how to work best with the paints and has since shown her artwork in many solo and juried exhibitions throughout the U.S, Portugal, Italy, and France.  Christine aims at doing at least one solo exhibit a year and is currently in a few group shows.  As of September 2010, she has scattered her pieces here and there in various galleries include a piece in Lecce, Italy’s Gaia: Celestial Fragments show and one in the Ossabaw Island Foundation Fundraiser Auction. 

Right now, Christine  is looking forward to taking a little break from showing so that she can work on new, larger scale works.  Not to mention, spending a little less time in the gallery also means she can spend even more time on developing what she hopes to say in her pieces.   Already spending a good 35-45 hours a week in the studio, Christine varies her subject matter from portraits to landscapes to collages to simply different human scenarios like card playing or telephone answering.  Her dreamlike pieces draw you in with their whimsical blending of colors, intriguing shapes, and most of all, story-telling nature.  Often drawing her inspiration from stories, visions, and of course, life, Christine has created some very unique encaustic pieces.  Christine's artwork truly showcases just how versatile encaustic paints can be.  We were excited to interview her for our Featured Artist section because she is one encaustic artist you are going to love learning about.

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"My paintings are three stories.  One is the story of people and our quirks, our hard work, our loves and sudden losses, our frivolous and fragile enterprises. I frequently use myself as a model, sometimes standing in roles of common scenes I see played out around me, sometimes describing my own affairs, and occasionally impersonating inanimate objects. I aim to feel the impact of each subject, and tell each story from the first person.  Another is the story of paint: how colors change each other by proximity, without touching or blending; how shapes impact their environment; how the holler of a fast, emotional stroke contrasts with the low pop of a little dot. I paint in encaustic, with my panel flat on the bench, scraping and heating and carving and spinning it until it's old. The last is yours."

Our Interview With Christine Sajecki...

Q: How did you first learn about encaustic painting and how long have you been working with encaustic paints?
A: I was a painting major in college, but there was actually no mention of encaustic painting while I was in school, except through some friends of mine in the Fibers department. I tried mixing oil paint with wax back then with them, and then forgot about it. It wasn’t until a few years later when I was looking for something to add to oil paint that would give it more body. I tried several kinds of oils and additives and then stumbled again upon wax. I just had a few clues in a couple of artist materials handbooks or how to get started, and then there was a LOT of trial and error. It took me a long time to find the whole community out there, Joanne Mattera, Enkaustikos and other supply houses, and the encaustic conference at Montserrat… I thought what I was doing was so strange and old that I didn’t even bother googling it. I was terrified to read the Art Of Encaustic by Mattera once I got it, afraid that I would find that I was doing everything completely wrong and my paintings would implode, but fortunately, I found, it’s a very forgiving and flexible medium.
Anyway, it’s been about 6 years now.  

Q: I noticed in a Baltimore Press Interview you explained that a painter is not just born and rather it’s the work, time, and effort that is needed to make an idea into material form.  Do you find that you picked up on encaustic painting fairly quickly or did you take your time to develop your techniques and skills?
A: I feel like I picked it up pretty quickly, but by doing it constantly and fiercely until I understood its behavior and strengths. I had a handle on it within a relatively short amount of time, but only because I’m stubborn and tenacious, and because I fell in love with it immediately,  not because it came easily. The more you observe it, listen to it, co-operate with it, the faster you can learn. After 6 years though, I’m still learning more about it all the time,and there will always be more and more to learn, further to push.

Q: What do you enjoy most about this medium? 
A: The physical, bodily, living qualities of it, and the depth, like putting your hands in a shallow pool of rich light and space. I love the warmth and softness, contrasting with the rigorous actions of the body while working with it. I love that you can collide and blend colors into each other into a form as delicate as an eye, or a collarbone, or a soft sky.  When I have a big panel on the table in front of me, I feel like I’m tending to a horse or some magnificent living creature, coaxing the story , the friendship, out from it’s body. It changes with the seasons, its so much a part of the world. All of the senses, all of the body, your whole entire eye is engaged in a painting.

Q:  What do you like least about this medium?
A: I suppose the fact that it takes so much electricity. I feel like I might as well be driving a tricked-out hummer by painting with it.  Someday, my dream is to convert my studio to solar power, and then there will be nothing I dislike about the medium.

Q: How would you describe your encaustic artwork?
A: Lately I employ a combination of photocopy transfers and painted imagery. I enjoy the false credibility of the transfers- making an environment with them and having the opportunity to rearrange location, time, and history, according to my thesis, and allowing people believe in it for a moment because it’s photographic.   I only use transfers in black and white, because though my scenarios are unreliably narrated and naturally biased, I don’t want to trick people looking at my paintings, it is important to me to have trust with a viewer that everything in color will be painted. I like to tell stories, but I like to leave space and room for people to be in for a moment, with their eyes and their thoughts; we need that in this world, just open spaces we can trust, rest.  The surfaces are smooth, but worked, pocked, storied, and the paintings themselves are like palimpsests, pools of things and time I have invented and erased and redone.

Q: Where do your ideas come from for your pieces?  Do you have a vision before you start painting or does it develop as you work? 
A little of both- the genesis is a vision, or a walk, or a story, based on the stimuli in my life, but then it’s sort of a collaboration with the medium. I bring my idea, and the paint itself might direct me to what will be important in the composition, what else I will add or what’s extraneous, or it will provide the mood, a new story in the making and the unmaking and the layering of the painting itself.  If I have no ideas, which happens, I start with a self portrait, and let the story of doing the painting tell itself.

Q: Is there one specific tool or brush that you use in encaustic that you think is a must-have for all encaustic artists?
A: If I must pick just one, I would say razor blades. The kind one scrapes windows with, just plain rectangular single-edge razor blades, I couldn’t paint without them.  Scraping my work down is extremely important in to the image, finding that place of luster under the surface where colors meet each other. I like a very smooth surface in my paintings, so they are important in flattening and letting the light hit everywhere evenly, but they are also a big part of the making of the image, I scrape everything down that I paint, every shape and line and form. I know that my obsession with scraping is a little uncommon among encaustic painters, but I would beg of any artist to take a painting they are working on, if they’ve never done this, and remove the very top of it, a 32nd of an inch or a little more, and see what is beneath it.

Q: Do you have a favorite encaustic technique that you find yourself doing often in your pieces?
A: Scraping! No, no, enough about scraping. I suppose carving is the crucial first part to scraping. Most of the details you see in my paintings are carved out and filled back in. I like the hard edges that makes, the control you have, and the clean, jewel quality of the shape or line left in the shape once the excess is scraped off. The tools I use for carving in are woodcarving tools, especially a slanted tip wooden handled one, beeswax carving tools made for sculptors, and a pocket knife with a sharp tip and a curved edge. I like the control of line quality with these tools; you can have a hard straight edge or  a soft gradient or anywhere in between.

Q:  What do you want people to walk away with when they see your artwork?
A:  I’m afraid this might sound boring, but I want to get across the idea that something you may not have considered to be special is, actually, special. Or if you already feel that to be so, then my paintings are partly an attempt to support that belief in you. I wish I could think of a better word than “special” that might evoke something stronger, but very ordinary things around us are so unique to right now, the way we dress, the gestures we make, the slick and the crumbling surrounding us- it’s all important. Importance, maybe, is a better way of saying it. This is a difficult question, this is the first time I’ve really set about answering that.

Q:  Are there any historical or contemporary artists that you specifically admire or that may have influenced you in some way as an artist?
A:  Millions! All of them. All of you. Avigdor Arikha, Frida Kahlo, John Stienbeck, David Lynch, Isabella Rosselini,  Alejandro González Iñárritu, Andy Warhol, Paul Newman, Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Woody Allen, David Byrne, Wham City: I’m inspired by painters but also very much by storytellers like writers and movie-makers, or people that have made fantastic stories of their own lives, by artistic and literary acts of generosity. I’m also inspired so much by people I am so lucky to know, fellow painters like Magnolia Laurie, Caomin Xie, Marcus Kenney, Monica Cook, Zachariah Vincent, Maria Raquel Cochez. Performance artist and painter Megan Hildebrandt inspired me to look further into history and place, and to use humor and swiftness; Joseph Young is a microfiction writer and a frequent collaborator, and his influence has encouraged me to leave space for people to fill with their own thoughts and stories.  My husband, Algar Thagne, is a contemporary architect and inspires me to think about space, interior and exterior, and the phenomenal effect on the body, and the importance of ideas and objects being of this time we are living in.

Q:  I noticed you paint a variety of subjects from circus acrobats to landscapes, is there one type of subject you like painting more than others?
A:  It changes all the time depending on what’s around me and what I’m living among. I did that series about the circus after working as an usher at the Cirque Du Soleil and watching these amazing feats every day, it fully consumed me.  But place as a character is becoming increasingly more important to me, and I love painting where I live, who I share that space with, the spiral of its history.  I’m always interested in painting people, but sometimes lately I find the presence of people is only seen in their wake, their buildings and signs and homes. 

Q:   How has your experience in drawing and animation influenced your encaustic artwork?
A:   Drawing, physically, translates very naturally into encaustic. I draw with my carving tools and I draw with oil pastels on the surface of my paintings. The lines I draw with the carving tools become filled-in painted lines, and the lines I draw with my pastels guide me while I’m painting, focus the thrust of the composition. Sometimes they stay in the painting, often they melt away or are scraped off, but I enjoy their traces.  Doing a lot of drawing also helps me be comfortable with the white of the page, or the empty but charged spaces around and within a form; I enjoy the bones of an image, the naked lines that describe and support a form as opposed to the solid form itself.
Animation effects my work in a much more background way, thinking about time-based imagery, movement, linear progression. I think if you could peel back each layer somehow in each of my paintings, and then stack them like a flip-book, there would be an animation, motion, action. I usually work from larger, softer, more general forms up to sharper, more specific shapes, layer by layer, so they are all in there, often moving, changing, correcting and adjusting as I build upwards.

Q:  I noticed that you are very active in showing at galleries, are there any exhibits you are in that are coming up soon?  Do you plan to have another solo exhibition in the future?

I have a few pieces in a few group shows at the moment. One in Lecce, Italy- if you go, though, you must take me with you.  I’ll have a piece in the Ossabaw Island Foundation fundraiser auction, in the middle of October, and a few others scattered here and there, but I don’t have any plans for a solo show at the moment, which I have to admit is sort of nice. I have one about every year, and always feel like I would love just a little more time to really consider everything I want to say. I’m looking forward to a little break from showing so I can take my time with some new large scale works, and figure out what to do with them once they are realized.

Q:  I saw on your website, that you hold encaustic workshops.  How often do you have workshops and how can people sign up?
I just got my new studio up and running here in Savannah, after a solid year of convincing the space it is not a garage and will never be a garage again, and scheduled a few workshops for the months of October and November. They’re listed on my website, which now has the option of signing up online or anyone can contact me by email: Thanks for asking!

Q:  With that in mind, do you also have any advice for artists who are just starting in encaustic?
Go slow and listen to the material. Let the paint pour off the brush; let it be itself and use its nature and follow it, guide it, don’t force it until you understand how it wants to behave. Engage all of your senses, even hear the different noises it makes at different temperatures when you scrape it; enjoy the sensations and follow them, too. You are making your image with every step in the process- fusing is painting, scraping is painting, drawing, carving, laying down the paint, it’s all equally important, take your time.

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