China sketches – Qi/Life energy

Practicing Qigong has been part of my life for a few years now and ever since I started, figures appeared in my work.  They closely followed me in my explorations of Qigong. They express some of the movements I learned, or just overall feelings of being alive, of tapping into Qi, life energy, that exists within and around me.  Being one with wherever I am.

” I am part of a greater whole  and it is part of me” – Prayers to the Great Creator Julia Cameron

Qinqcheng Shan, Sichuan - Inside one of the temples of this sacred Daoist Mountain

The China trip was a Qigong study trip and my sketchbook filled up with related images.

Gathering Qi

Group practice

Cultivating heart Qi

Heart Qi

Radiating Heart Qi

No boundaries between in and out

Surrounded - Wei Qi

it gives wings!


I just came back from a two weeks trip of a lifetime to China where I studied Qigong and visited numerous historical sites and temples. I am still processing all I saw and experienced….

One of the experiences that stands out for me right now, is walking up many many many steps to reach the top of Eimei Shan, a sacred Buddhist mountain.  Stepping up and up and up, through the forest, in the fog, I was keenly aware how magical and extraordinary an experience this was for me. I took a moment to celebrate  where I was and it was captured in this picture:

Pausing to express gratitude and Joy - Eimei Shan - K. Chaussabel

And these are my first creations since I came home.

Moved - Encaustic on paper- K.Chaussabel

Moved - detail - K. Chaussabel

Moved - detail - K. Chaussabel

Moved- detail - K. Chaussabel

“We are life’s music, so let us dance.”

Julia Cameron – Prayer to the Great Creator

Following the thread

“Suivre le fil,” following the thread, is a French expression that means to find one’s path. It’s an expression with a lot of meaning for me.

Following the thread for me is about following my heart/art.  It’s about listening to what intrigues me, what peeks my curiosity and following up on that feeling and exploring. That’s exactly how I got started on making art 10 years ago. I saw a course description that spoke to me. It read “for those who want to try but never did and for those who did but want to try again.” This description sounded good, so I decided to sign up. Little did I know then, that taking this creativity course would take me on a journey well beyond that class…!

And interestingly enough, thread became a companion on that journey. I followed and used it in my various explorations

It started to appear with collages, as another way to make a mark.


Ink, thread - K. Chaussabel

Thread, paper - K. Chaussabel

The thread made its way into encaustic as well

Encaustic, thread, on paper K. Chaussabel

Encaustic, thread, ink, on paper - K. Chaussabel

The gift of a sewing machine allowed me to explore the use of thread in a yet different manner. I use it in a deliberately random manner, though the results are nothing but random….  I call them wild mind stitching.

Stitching my heart out - K. Chaussabel

Stitching my heart out - K. Chaussabel

Stitching my heart out - K. Chaussabel

The thread showed up when I explored other media, like glass and ceramic.

Fused glass with copper threads - K. Chaussabel

Fused glass, copper wire - K. Chaussabel

Fused glass, copper wire - K. Chaussabel

Raku with cheese cloth impression - K. Chaussabel

Following the thread, following the path of heart.

wire, bark - K. Chaussabel

Encaustic monotype

Making an encaustic monotype goes from seemingly random gestures to an image. A piece of paper and an image appears. It’s part improvisation, part seeing.

From encaustic  paint bar melted on the hot plate

Hot plate - encaustic - K. Chaussabel

To an image on paper

Contemplation – Encaustic Monotype – K. Chaussabel

Serenity – Letting the light shine through

I came across a quote that articulates rather well my current explorations.

“Serenity is not freedom from the storm, it is peace amidst the storm” Anonymous

This piece speaks of  this place for me.

Encaustic monotype - Surrender

This is what this piece looks like when it is backlit:

Being present in the storm and finding sanctuary in its eye. Surrendering to what is and in the process discovering the unseen.

Finding serenity  by letting the light shine through.

Stepping into the unknown – Honoring what is

I moved. To the pacific Northwest.

After 6 months of limbo, of being in between, I moved into a new house, and for the first time, a studio of my own. A lot of stepping and a lot of unknown!!  As I reflect on my first steps into this new space and life, I am reminded of the teachings I have been gleaning thus far: Be open to possibility. Be present.

In the light of my recent experience, I can best describe living and creating by these principles as the experience of the beach house in the following text by Martha Manning, A Season of Mercy, found in Molly Fumia’ book Safe Passage, Words to Help the Grieving

The Beach house…
was designed so that in a bad storm
the ocean could have a way
to rush through it
without doing any major damage…
its beauty is in its durability
and its durability comes
not from offering resistance to the
power of the ocean
but in finding a way for the water to pass
thereby saving it
and letting it stand strong

To be open and let life come through is to let whatever is, come through, whenever it is coming through…. sun when it is sunny and rain when it is cloudy and stormy. That pretty much means living with the unknown and inviting the unknown.

So there I am stepping into my new space, stepping into my unknown.  All I really have with me the first day into my new space is “be open to possibility and be present,” and a lot of feelings. I have my own, related to moving, plus those related to the tsunami having struck Japan a few days before. They are all there. That’s my starting point.
That first day in my new studio, I grab what I can, a table top, 2 cabinets, ink, paper, pen, whatever is within easy reach, aka not buried deep in boxes, and get to work. Those first marks are quick sketches. Bodies lying. Lying in rest. Looking rather familiar (see early 2010 post)…Departing souls all over again….!!!
How pertinent….and unnerving too. Experiencing, loss and grief,  in the personal and universal realms, simultaneously, it is a lot of sensing.
Over a period of days, these images get transformed. Layers of ink washes come and go, embodying layers of these emotions.

Stepping into a new place with feeling overwhelmed, feeling grief and loss. Storm and waves passing through. Not exactly a comfortable place to be.  Letting it through the best way I can. Open to possibility and  being present.  Honoring what is. – that’s the only way I know how to step into the unknown.

Those I am my first steps:


Departing Souls - Honoring what is

Departing Souls - Honoring what is

Departing Souls - Honoring what is



Along with image making, there were texts and music encounters as well.  Molly Fumia’s Safe Passage, Words to Help the Grieving certainly had plenty to say to me and for me. So did this text by Cyril Scott a British composer, writer, poet, found on a music sheet titled “Pictorial Sketch”…

THE PLAIN by Cyril Scott

Through the misty shadows of the ideal plain,
Where souls of beings wandered in the times past,
Along the winding ways in strict and graceful train,
We see them gliding to the place of dreams,
Where all dreams last

In the fainting distance where the lofty trees
Exhale their cooing fragrance on the young grass,
A shepherd vaguely pipes, reposing at his ease, while
Sad and slowly on the whitened road
The pale nuns pass.

On the shining river that so calmly winds
Its silver course towards the near sea,
A little ship is plodding where at length she finds
A well-earned rest here in the plains of peace
And harmony

“Gliding to the place of dreams” is what the piece of music Calming Your Mind evokes for me. It is also while listening to this piece of music that the words  “departing souls” appeared.

Stepping into the unknown – honoring what is, exploring what is.  It’s what I do to find a way to journey forth into the unknown.

improvising in nature with nature

I enjoy sketching outside, taking notes of nature using nature. I set aside the usual art making tools like brushes and pencils, and instead look around me to find something to use as mark making tool.  It’s an invitation to improvise. Sometimes I find the tool before the subject. It was the case with the studies in ink, I made of a small apple


I was walking around, looked down, found a blue jay’s feather, kept going and came up to this wild apple tree.

The feather was the ideal tool for me to follow the contour of the apple with my eye and let my hand trace it on the paper with ink. I did that over and over. The softness of the feather was ideal, it led my hands. I tried both right and left hands in making the curves. I enjoyed the gesture that came. It felt smooth and effortless. It was a liberating sensation to just commit to that one gesture, over and over. I got into a certain rhythm that felt meditative.

Nature notes - apple - Ink with wood stick

I brought with me this art of improvisation  in nature while visiting Grand Tetons National Park last summer.

Grant Tetons

I had with me a small sketch book and a bottle of ink and I went looking for something to make a mark. I found a smooth pebble, place a small drop of ink on it and went to work. This is the result, drying in the morning sun:

nature note - Grand Tetons - ink with stone

With each tool I find in nature, I find a unique way of making a mark, a gesture. It’s an improvisation that leads to discovery. With the coconut husk I found at the beach on the Pacific coast of Mexico, I discovered I could get quite gestural with it and I responded to that.  The husk also picked up the ink rather well, making a thick, rich mark.

nature notes - ink with coconut husk

Nature notes - ink with coconut husk

Improvising in nature with nature is for me a way to connect to the joy of being open to my creative process.

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

New life emerging

The images that came after paying tribute to departing souls  seem to flow according to the natural order of decay and rebirth.

Nature’s inescapable cycle of emergence and growth is coming through! Spring energy is permeating my work.

Emerging Life

Life, in the form of an agave plant, is emerging. Taking hold. And its presence is being felt.  Getting a shower of qi/energy from nature. Getting a sense of renewal.

Shower of qi

New life

“Departing Souls” continued – Circle of life

“Departing souls ” deals with lives lost, and souls rising from bodies.

Departing Souls serie

Departing Souls I - MoMa Wales Tabernacle - A Book about Death

Bodies are dissolving, becoming shells, going back to the earth, completing nature’s circle of life.

Circle of life

Circle of life