Artist Uses Cigars as His Canvas

Artist Alexandre Sazonov prefers to work small. Real small. Whether the canvas is a cigar or a matchbook, the Russian-born painter has enjoyed a lifelong fascination with the challenge of creating on objects of the minute size.

"One of my greatest hobbies was to do sketches on small pieces of paper … napkins, business cards and matchbooks," said Sazonov, who moved from Moscow in 1992 and still speaks with a heavy accent.

In that year, Sazonov, who is now 51, moved to the neighborhood of Williamsburg in Brooklyn, New York. He opened a tiny art gallery to display his matchbook art and continued to create.

Soon after, Sazonov was offered the chance to display his work in the World Trade Center kiosks. One day, after setting up a few of his pieces, he was walking and noticed a cigar shop window.

Sazonov eyes locked onto the premium smokes, and he knew he had found his next test.

"The biggest challenge for me was the tools I had to use," Sazonov recalled. "The surface of the cigar is fragile. I tried a bunch of different things and I ended up with a tiny brush and acrylic paint."

The painter discovered, though, that his cigar creations could not hold up to the extended time out of the humidor and so would unravel. He solved this by using a combination of varnish and acrylic spray.

With the method perfected, Sazonov was off. He has painted several New York City landscapes, as well as pieces with an Arizona motif and on all different brands of cigar. "My favorite is painting faces," the artist admits.

Overall, Sazonov has created 25 pieces of original cigar art, all for clients.

Although Sazonov used to be a casual cigar smoker, he has since stopped. He also has moved out of Brooklyn and now lives in the Catskills mountain range with his wife and two kids.

The artist continues to work on cigars and matchbooks, as well as other unusually small surfaces, such as cigarettes.

If interested in commissioning Sazonov for a piece, his Web site is

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