Finding Your Why?
by Cassidy Mantor
Artistry, integrity, compassion, and humility are Christian J. (“CJ”) Martin’s core values. His company, CJ Painting, has been serving Central Oregon for the past 20 years and operates under that same value system. It has grown to the point where CJ now can pause to reflect on his work and plans for his future with his young son, Maxwell.
“Innovative” is the litmus test for CJ Painting’s new projects, meaning that they have to be unique creative challenges. CJ’s friendship with Bend architect Eric Meglasson taught him to assess the value he can contribute to a creative project. “Meglasson’s houses are one-of-a-kind works of art, and their magic lies in how they fit into the environment,” CJ says. “I’m most interested in the artistry that makes a home thrive.”
CJ’s craftsmanship is on view for the public to see at Bend’s Domaine Serene Wine Lounge. His company did the metalwork finish on Domaine’s 30-foot-tall fireplace. The challenge of the job was to give it the depth of aged steel, while also being mindful of keeping guests clean when they inevitably would brush up against it. “Many clients are seeking that aesthetic of aged steel, but it needs to be livable too,” CJ says. “We don’t want it covering them in rust.”
“This home set me on a path of getting back to why I started painting in the first place.
–CJ Martin, Owner, CJ Painting
To get the effect, CJ Painting applied a transparent metal spray and then scratched the surface. It looks rough and texturized but is sealed with a uniform protective coating. The same finish was used on the builder’s home too. There’s also the post out front that they’re redoing. CJ talked to the owner of the block and got permission to tackle it with his new crew. It’s a statement piece that gives guests a taste of the aesthetic inside the building.
Integrity is part of CJ’s personal and professional program. He is respectfully direct and favors face-to-face conversations to make sure everyone is on the same page. “I’d rather have someone tell me bad news than sugarcoat it,” he says. “That’s where trust is grown.”
CJ Painting recently finished a project revitalizing the exterior of a 9,000-square-foot ranch in Tumalo. They recolored the exterior staining of the home instead of sanding and stripping it. They bleached and toned areas that were weathered and created a uniform canvas that they recoated for longevity and protection. CJ shares that it was a rocky process at the start due to an excessively rainy spring that forced multiple reschedulings. Not one to mince words, CJ plainly says, “The project was turning into a nightmare.” Nevertheless, CJ Painting’s integrity set the stage for what became a great working relationship with the client and a successful finished product.
“When art critics get together they talk about Form and Structure and Meaning. When artists get together they talk about where you can buy cheap turpentine.”
“The family was from Eugene and wanted to do a maintenance project on their home’s exterior, but they had concerns about spending what we quoted,” CJ says. They agreed to meet in person to discuss the circumstances. “During that meeting, I was reminded of why I was doing it,” he reflects. “They were hardworking people, and no matter the size or caliber of a project, we are all on a budget. I always estimate high on homes like this because you can quickly run through money. I’d rather my estimate be $5,000 high and return $3,000 that we don’t use instead of up-charging when we’re in it.” The Tumalo home proved to be a pivotal moment in CJ’s work. He shares, “This home set me on a path of getting back to why I started painting in the first place.” A people-pleaser, CJ delights in making clients happy.
As he begins to share the story of the Tumalo home, one of his employees walks by. He turns to him and asks, “Is your dad OK?” The employee shares that he’s not doing great. Instantaneously CJ offers, “Want to take the day off? Don’t hesitate to leave if you need to.” He says to me, “The guy’s dad is in the hospital and he’s tired. He’s a straight-up guy.” Without needing to explain himself further, CJ’s compassion and empathy are evident. He’s a human trying to do his best for his company, his community, and his family. “I tell my team at work that being humble and being humiliated are two different things,” CJ says. “I’m incredibly grateful for our work and where I am personally.” He mentions another home they recently completed that is in Brasada and will be on the Tour of Homes.
Hitting the pause button has served CJ well. At the start of COVID and Bend’s explosive growth, CJ Painting was extremely busy. “This year, I started slowing things down, picking and choosing what to spend time on,” he says. While they were incredibly prolific, their pace wasn’t going to sustain the quality of work they stand for. He adds, “I came to the point where someone – I – had to say, ‘Stop.’”
These days, many people are burnt-out and fried. Working remotely offers flexibility, but there’s also a lack of boundaries between work and home. ”My son’s given me a purpose that I never had before,” he shares. Tomorrow, they’re going to the lake because as CJ says, “Those are the experiences you can’t get back. I treasure that time with him.” Self-aware, CJ acknowledges that he can’t control the universe but can control how he reacts to what comes his way.
“I’m not doing better than anyone, I’m just doing better for myself than I used to and I look forward to sharing that with my son.”
“I talk about this with my son now, about employing humility and honesty,” he says. “Every moment is an opportunity to live our best.” Living honestly and with integrity has helped CJ rediscover the truth of why he started painting decades ago. “I got into it because I loved taking something that was totally trashed and bringing it back to life,” he says.
CJ has a gift for breathing new life into his projects. His latest passion project is sitting on sawhorses in CJ Painting’s new headquarters at the end of Butler market on the edge of Bend’s urban growth boundary. The project is refinishing a cabinet that he reclaimed from a gas station dump. “It was covered in 10 inches of dust in a trash pile but it caught my eye. I knew it was real wood and I wanted to redo it,” he says with a smile. He enjoys working on it by himself in the middle of the night. When it’s done, it will be finished blue with a black glaze and go into CJ Painting’s barndominium.
The barndomium houses CJ Painting’s custom finishing shop and gives CJ a place to reflect upon what he’s built. “I bought the Brasada beams, and my framer buddy is helping me put them down as the floor on the second level,” CJ says. “The offices have the metal and beam work as the lid, and I’ll sit up there in the evenings with a sense of gratitude. It’s deeply satisfying to see what we’re working on and gives me such a powerful sense of calm.”
Pablo Picasso said, “When art critics get together they talk about Form and Structure and Meaning. When artists get together they talk about where you can buy cheap turpentine.” CJ is fluent in discussions about solvents and openly shares that knowledge with his team at CJ Painting. He says he wasn’t always like this, but that his intention is to help people see things differently.