Sandra Encaoua is a French artist of great range and depth. Her paintings are ethereal yet somehow accessible Sandra’s process is just as intriguing as her final products. I enjoyed hearing her explain how she does what she does.  I think you will too ...

“…When I lose myself in painting, I let go. All emotions, feelings that are positive or negative, leave their mark on the canvas …” 

MICHAEL: Hello Sandra, Your work is very intriguing. Your paintings really seem to be a combination of painting and drawing. Paintings that have elements of drawings? Very cool. Do your paintings begin as drawings or sketches?  I don't know.  Am I wrong?

SANDRA: Hi Michael, Indeed I always start a painting by a drawing. I need a model for support. Then, I get “lost” in my painting. I lose the drawing, paint by my hand alone and only at that time does the painting become interesting. It's like getting access to the subconscious. This is my subconscious who paints. The drawing is only one way to focus and to “enter” into the paint.

MICHAEL: What happens when you get lost in your painting?  Do you lose yourself?  What does it feel like?

SANDRA: Right, Michael. When I lose myself in painting, I let go. All emotions, feelings that are positive or negative, leave their mark on the canvas. It's very interesting to me in retrospect to observe the canvas. I find often the element that I had not thought of putting. Something or someone else is talking. Who? Chagall said that painting for him was a window that allowed him to fly to another world. I think that's exactly right for me. Painting gives me access to another dimension inside and outside of myself.

MICHAEL: It almost sounds like your process is a dance of painting.  You are swept away and into something bigger than yourself. No? Do you start with an idea of what you want to paint?  Or ... do you just put the brush to canvas and see where it goes on the canvas?

SANDRA: It is indeed like a dance, Michael. I start and I'm like carried by the canvas, the motion, the brush, the colors ... I always start with a clear idea of what I want to represent, what I wish to say, and the emotion I want to share. I lose my brush and I consider that the painting is finished when it seems to me that this emotion has passed … when it’s enrolled in the canvas.

MICHAEL: When you're painting, is there a message that you're sending out to the world?  What are your paintings saying to people who see them?

SANDRA: Actually yes. I always try to say something about me, about the world I see and about life. It depends on my series. I work mainly in series of three. I currently have [PoP] Serie, which is directly inspired by my new living place, Miami.

My three main series are “Earth’s Memory,” “People” and “Judaica.” “Earth's Memory” shows visions of elements where nature goes back to its fundamental essence and where its greatness crushes. It’s large format paintings of mostly rampaging landscapes. I question our (my) relationship to nature, to the elements and what remains of the human in front of a reality that is unleashed. I think it’s my relationship to God that I portrayed. Presence, absence?

The same question is repeated in the “Judaica” series. It asks us about history and its meaning. The meaning faces tests, has long history and difficulty in transcending this story to succeed in life. The question of the absence of God is also addressed in this series.

The “People” series is a little different. It tries to unravel the truth of the subject.  It seeks to go beyond the face, beyond appearances. My large format portraits and nudes seek to touch the essence of the subject. 

And the last [PoP] Series is lighter, more colorful. It seeks to transmit energy and it treats the subjects with less gravity, more joy. I have it also nicknamed, #happinesstherapy.

MICHAEL: I love the way you use color and create scale with your paintings.  They are bold and graphic.  I cannot tell from your website, but are these big paintings?  They look BIG.  Do you prefer to create big works or smaller ones?  

SANDRA: They are usually large paintings. I am much more comfortable on large canvases rather than small. The gesture is wider and better energy is released on a large canvas. My standard size is a minimum of 36x48 inches.

MICHAEL: How are you feeling as a female abstract expressionist painter?  Do you feel that female artists have as much power as male artists today?  Have things changed for the better for women artists?

SANDRA: I think that women artists have less power than male artists, but this is due more to the status of women in society than the fact that they are artists. We have to fight more to be credible, but that does not mean that women are less successful. There are many women artists who have their place and are no longer “women artists,” but “artists” overall.

MICHAEL: Finally Sandra, what is your voice?  What are you saying to the world?  What message do you want people to get from your art?

SANDRA: It’s difficult to answer this question. I would like my art to be a door, an entry to something else - a world that we can perceive with the naked eye. I wish we could feel the infinity of the world, beyond the simple reality that we perceive … especially in my series Earth's Memory, where I try to represent on the canvas a power beyond us. It’s an energy that we are all part of and we live, an energy that connects us all. Every imbalance affects us all. If we all come to understand this, we can have hope for the future.

MICHAEL: Indeed.  Thanks Sandra.  I’ve enjoyed our chat.

SANDRA: Thank you Michael!

Check out Sandra Encaoua at