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Style Magazine

Mae Christensen

Oct 25, 2013 10:29AM ● By Style

Photography by Dante Fontana, © Style Media Group

Mae Christensen didn’t always spend her days translating breathtaking florals and landscapes onto canvas.

As a young military wife and mother, time did not afford her the opportunity to indulge in artistry. Yet, in retirement, her love affair with oils and pastels blossomed, and an award-winning artist was born. Her work has been featured in International Artist Magazine and received numerous awards.

I was lucky enough to grab a few minutes with Christensen to chat about how she came to find herself as an artist, how she works, and her words of wisdom for the younger generation of up-and-coming artists.

AB: How and why did you start making art?
MC: I was always interested in art, but I married young to a military man, had a family and moved around a lot; [therefore, I] didn’t have time to pursue art until I was retired and [able] to think about art as an interest. I started to paint and fell in love with oils and pastels. It soon became a passion and took over my life.

AB: What is your most important artist tool? Is there something you can’t live without in your studio?
MC: This is a difficult question to answer, because there are a lot of tools in my studio, but I would have to say my camera is something I couldn’t live without. I don’t paint en plein air, since I can’t carry all the supplies required to paint on location or stand for hours while the light is good, so I compose paintings with my camera and paint them later in my studio. Painting on location is preferable, but not an option for me, so my camera is very important.

AB: How do you know when a work is finished?
MC: When I’m satisfied with the finished painting, which may be months after I’ve completed it. Some paintings are finished quickly and others have to be put aside and looked at later (if I think something else is needed to complete it).

AB: Is there a piece of work you’re most proud of? Why?
MC: The painting I’m most proud of is a small 11”x14” portrait of my father that was done spur of the moment, as he watched me paint and visited with me in my studio. I took my pastels and started sketching him as we talked. The painting took just a few minutes to complete, almost as if something was guiding my hand. It was a perfect likeness of him; he was so moved I had painted him without his knowing…he loved it. My father passed away in 2009, and I can see him anytime I want…his portrait is in my hall.

AB: You work in oils, pastels and watercolors. Is there one medium that’s your favorite to work with? Why?
MC: I don’t have a clear favorite. I love the smell of oil paints, and the ease with which the oils flow over the canvas giving you the ability to change and correct as you paint. I fell in love with pastels because the colors are so brilliant, vibrant and vivid. Each subject I paint determines the medium I use, so I enjoy both. I also enjoy working with stained glass, and am currently working on a five-foot window square for my son as a housewarming present.

AB: Your work has received many awards. Is there one you’re most proud of?
MC: A pastel painting titled Eternal, which I entered in and won an award for at the first Sierra Pastel Society’s “Pastels on High” international show. I was so excited because it was my very first attempt painting with pastels, and was my first award; what’s more, the award-winners of that show were featured in Pastel Journal. A lot of firsts happened then!

AB: What would you most like to say to young artists?
MC: I would tell them to follow what their heart is telling them. Anyone can learn to draw and paint; what makes an artist is the LOVE of drawing and painting. Don’t let anyone discourage you—not the judges in shows, not the opinion of others, or your own occasional frustrations either. If you love art, you’re an artist and don’t let anyone tell you differently!

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