Her grandfather was an artist, her father was a silversmith and designer, and she also had her own portrait painted when she was just 4 years old. Dorte Christjansen has been surrounded by art her entire life.
“My family was good at giving me the right supplies,” she said. “I can remember doing things like copying an ink drawing of a tree my grandfather had done that I just felt was wonderful.”
Originally from Denmark, Christjansen moved to Canada, then Seattle and finally Southern California, where she attended California State University, Long Beach. She received a bachelor’s of fine arts in drawing and painting, a master’s of fine art in illustration and a teaching credential. The mediums she uses are watercolors and batiks– the combination of traditional wax-resist techniques combined with silk-painting techniques.
Along with her family’s influence, Christjansen attended classes while in junior high school at the Seattle Art Museum. “Those were really interesting because I could go out and look around the museum,” she said.
Christjansen also looked at several art books. “I loved going to the bookstore and looking at all the books,” she said. “Japanese and Chinese art influence me [as well as] Art Nouveau [and] Renaissance.”
Her current focus is to continue to develop as an artist. “My goal is to keep improving and to keep working in my studio and just seeing where it leads me,” she noted.
When it is time for a piece to be sold, Christjansen’s feelings are bittersweet. “It’s mixed because I am delighted and flattered and pleased that somebody thought enough of my work to actually pay for it,” she said. “And sometimes, I am sad to see it go, but I am also delighted that someone has a chance to live with it.”
Christjansen’s favorite pieces tend to change frequently because her affection grows for her latest works as they develop. “There are pieces that stand out because they may have indicated a direction for me or a discovery of a technique or a way of depicting something,” she explained. “I would say those do become my favorite pieces.”
Today, Christjansen is working on a series that she hopes will be finished by the time of the Long Beach Open Studio Tour in October, in which she will once again participate. This new series does not yet have a name. “They earn the name after I’ve been working on them for a while,” she explained. “I start referring to them by a name, and eventually it sticks.” Christjansen also plans to improve her website.
In addition, Christjansen aspires to find a new gallery of which to be a part. She recently had to part ways with a gallery where she’d shown for two decades because its owner had retired. She has been represented in Four Oaks Gallery in Pasadena and Eileen Kremen Gallery in Fullerton. “I’m kind of, sort of, maybe looking for a gallery but not really [looking] that intensely about it at this point because it’s kind of interesting working with the Long Beach tour and selling at my home,” she noted. “It keeps me busy.”
Along with art, Christjansen loves to garden. The various flowers and plants she uses in her gardening are sometimes incorporated into some of her pieces. For instance, “Monarch Metamorphosis,” a 32-inch, square batik on double China silk, was inspired by the Monarch butterflies that visit her garden.
She is also currently volunteering at the Colorado Lagoon in Belmont Heights. She even plans to base an entire series on the lagoon.
“What we’ve been doing is detoxifying it and trying to get the natural habitat back,” she explained. “So, there is going to be a bird sanctuary, trails and paths as well as swimming and just nature.”