Category Archives: Mixed Media

“The Vital Obstacles in the Creative Process” – Reflections on my creative journey

“The Vital Obstacles in the Creative Process” – These words definitely caught my attention when I recently saw them posted on the FB Page of On Being with Krista Tippett!  http://www.onbeing.org/blog/the-vital-obstacles-in-the-creative-process/6311#comment-add-form

It is counter-intuitive to associate obstacles with any kind of positive light, yet it can be. I know that, deep down. And I learned that early on in my art practice. As a matter of fact, reading the following quote by Wendel Berry really brought my creative journey into view and made me pause and reflect about the energizing role obstacles have in my creative journey.

“It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work and when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey.”

I came to creating art from that point very point of not knowing what to do!  As a new transplant to Montreal, Canada, I was looking for something to do. That’s when I came across the description of a course about creativity that caught my eye. Little did I know at the time that signing onto this class would lead to a journey of cultivating creativity on many different levels.

I knew very little beyond some high school art class about art, materials. So I was definitely stepping into unknown territory at the time, with little to no expectation but one, to try and see.  And try and see I did, over a few months, then year, then years and I have kept going ever since.

Try and see. That’s my motto.  And in the process what really I got trained in is the art of founding my way around obstacles and into new territories. I learned that early on. When I started painting, using brushes felt awkward in my hand, so one day I stopped. And I started using socks instead! The socks really did it for me! I had a more immediate contact with my painting surface. As a result, I felt freer with my gestures. I found an ease and it made my creative explorations fun and liberating.

I see my creative explorations as encounters where obstacles turned out to be  catalyst for change, and stepping stones for new found partners in materials, techniques. Early on, I found that using canvas was getting in my way, so I switched to paper. That was a very happy change for me. I found a whole new range of gestures and mark making. I could draw on it, paint on it, collage, stitch, print. It is a material that really took me, and still does take me, on many creative explorations. And I love that.

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Red Hot Purpleness – Encaustic, pastel, dictionary page – Karen Chaussabel

 

Tree of Life serie

Encaustic, pastel, pencil on amate paper – Tree of Life Serie – Karen Chaussabel

Stitching my heart out - K. Chaussabel

Stitching my Heart out – Thread, silk, pen on paper-  K. Chaussabel

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Paper, thread, encaustic, pastel, ink  Mixed Media – Au coeur – Karen Chaussabel

In the process, I find what works, often because of what doesn’t.  When I signed up for dry point printmaking, I discovered that doing quick gestural work is hard. Making a mark with the etching needle on copper plate requires a stronger touch and one that involves friction. Both went against the grain for me and that made me realize how much I cherish fluidity in material and process! It challenged me to find my way. And I did, with chine collé. The first time I dutifully went by the rules of keeping the thin rice paper within the confine of my printing plate. After that I took a certain pleasure of picking paper larger than my printing plate. I also started using different types of paper, including paper I had painted on before.

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Mixed Media Dry Point – Untitled – Karen Chaussabel

The best discovery in playing outside the box was the star-filled-evening-sky effect I got from using cyanotype paper for chine collé!

Red Wood Constellation

Red Wood Constellation – Dry Point Chine Collé – Karen Chaussabel

I have to say at the time I felt a great sense of having overcame a challenge. And with it came a sense of having stayed true to myself. That was a great learning moment and one that became a compass for me. I learned to flow around the obstacle, I learned to find my way. I consider that a very valuable skill -in art and life.

 

 

 

 

 

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Knowing

I came across a poem, Black Bowl Dreaming, by Leila Philip and found particular resonance in the verse towards the end: ” a life spent knowing, through the hands.”  That is one of the most important experience I had early on in my creative explorations and it’s a teaching that stays with me. It’s starts with being present with what is, showing up with that and letting the hands get to work. That’s when I encounter the “knowing.”  I don’t look for it, rather it finds me.

This week,  I noticed that when I work with clay that I am more willing to be patient, unhurried, enjoying a leisurely pace! It’s rather different for me for I usually like to work quickly.  A slower pace is also reflected in my latest creations on paper.

Taking the time to stop and reflect.

Untitled - encaustic & thread

detail

Being with what is

Untitled - watercolor

Like fall outside, slowing down, taking stock of what has been harvested

untitled - watercolor & pastel

untitled - watercolor & pastel

Knowing it is fall, outside and inside.

Those bumps in the horizon

My recent road trip between Texas and Seattle, Washington rekindled my love for the wide open horizons of the west with its roads stretching into infinity, open skies and the occasional landmasses rising from the land.

Somewhere in Northeastern New Mexico - Photo Karen Chaussabel

I particularly like seeing the hills rising from this sea of infinity. And when you are driving from hours on end, it’s comforting to the eye and mind!

Those bumps in the horizon - Photo Karen Chaussabel

I have enjoyed following the movement of “bumps” in the landscape in my work.

Following the Thread - Mixed Media paper & silk

Vista II - Encaustic on wood

Mixed media on wood - ink, pastel, thread

Encaustic Monotype

Play on Words

I have a mixed media collage on paper piece at the Texas Federation of Fiber Artists show, Celebrating our Creative Spirit, at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft. It’s called Play on Words

Play on Words

Play on Words

And this is its story:

“Play on word” embodies how I go about creating a piece: following my curiosity and trusting the process. It started off as an experiment. The initial idea was to brush medium gel on mulberry paper to render it transparent. It worked and when I tinted it with an ink wask , the gel medium acted a s a resist. Neat! Still, it felt like this was not a finished piece and that I needed to look further what to do with it. So I decided to see how I could play some more on the transparent effect and tried to use the mulberry piece as a layer on top of other pieces. It all came together when I laid this experiment on top of a thesaurus page that I had sketched on. It just all fit. It belonged together. I had to sneak a bit of cheese cloth thread in there for the final touch and that was that. After I finished collaging the layers, I realized that the thesaurus page contained the word “play.” One can see it through the translucent paper (top right – middle). This word indeed described both the process and the spirit of this piece. Playing with techniques, materials, words, letting them be my guide, is my way to explore and cultivate my creative voice.

Creative Journeys

I never know where to start but always end up somewhere!

So how does it happen for me, how do I find myself on creative journeys I wasn’t even looking for but that somehow found me???? Well, I just go with and follow my curiosity. Like that one class about creativity I took one day in Montreal a few year back. Little did I know then that by simply signing up out of curiosity it would change my life, that I would go from enthusiastic art fan to actual art-maker!!! Talk about crossing the road!!!!

More recently, I gave encaustic another try. I am glad I did!!! It openened an entire new realm of creative possibilites for me. Although I must say initially I was a bit put off by the process of building layers. I did end up with images nice enough but the layering bothered me. It ran against the grain for me. Luckily, I was shown how to do encaustic monotype and I took to that like fish to water!!!! That started a brand new creative journey for me.

Here is my very first monotype to illustrate why/how I got into making encaustic monotype and in it found a creative voice:

Blue Agave The very first thing I took note of was that this was a process of dispersion and that I was going to have to let go of controling exactly where the medium went (blue areas in the picture). Surrender became essential. While going with the flow is the way to go, there is more than one way to bring some definition, by using pastel for example (white marks), or pencil, adding fiber (silk piece collaged near the bottom), adding layers of encaustic medium or paint with a brush (black marks on the right). I find the possibilities endless and love the fact I can put the painting aside come back to it and add to it if I want. It allows me to remain open to creative possibilities of what I am playing with. And I never loose the fluid quality of my work because I can just put the image back on the plate and make it move by melting. It is a process that works so well for me. It allows me to remain entirely open and playfull.