Artist Interviews 2022

Karen Sikie  
By Julia Siedenburg

Karen Sikie’s work captures the beauty and delicacy of nature - and all that with the help of paper. She makes her beautiful paper mosaic artwork with the focus on “ exploring the beauty and energy of the natural world”. And this native Californian very much nails it. Her now mostly custom pieces come in all looks and sizes and can be hung on the wall or even placed inside the room as a divider. She has a gift that she is using very well. Her vibrant love letters to mother earth caught my eye and my heart immediately when I saw them and I am so happy to be able to share them with you here. Do yourself a favor and keep strolling down, dear reader.

What does creating art make you feel? Is it more of a therapeutic or relaxing tool or a way to channel and free your creativity and imagination?

Creating art allows me to freely explore the beauty of Nature world which brings me so much joy. It also is way I process my life. I don’t separate my personal life from my art practice. It is all my one life and an inner journey of self-discovery.

The creative part is very freeing, I can be inspired by a pattern, a flower or an idea. I love selecting the papers, sometimes painting them. Then, drawing the composition or the map, as I see it, is creative and spontaneous.

However, the execution of the Paper Mosaic is very meticulous and process driven. It is very meditative and allows me to bring my focus into the present moment.

Your parents were” hobby artists”, as you mention on your website, and while in college you pursued art and later worked in an art gallery and framing shop. How do you think those jobs gave you the tools that make you the exceptional talented detail-oriented artist that you are today?

My dad always wanted to be creative but had a family and responsibilities. That motivated me to just do it! Both my parents were very supportive of me being and artist and for that, I am so grateful.

My grandma was a hobby artist so at a very early age I was doing creative things with her which helped cultivate what was there in me.

The framing and art gallery allowed me to see the more business side of art and gave me confidence in pursuing art as a career. It also exposed me to paper, my chosen medium and other artist and their work.

You personally call your beautiful collage work “ Paper Mosaics”. Can you please describe to us exactly what you mean by that and how you found that term to describe it?

I call my work Paper Mosaic because for me it is exactly what it is, individually cut papers fitting together like a puzzle or mosaic to create an image.

When I was young, I loved doodle art and paint by numbers. I was so fascinated how shapes can make up an image. I see things in shapes. I remember when I was painting with a friend of mine, and we were looking at the landscape. She said, “Oh my look at all those colors.” I said, “Oh my look at all those shapes.” Each artist sees the world through their unique lens. I LOVE that about art.

Your tagline is “ exploring the beauty and energy of the natural world”. How did it happen that nature and animals became your main focus, also in your custom work and how long did it take to finish each of your series?

The Natural world is a portal to higher consciousness. In my opinion, it is the most beautiful, magical, exquisite teacher. Her wisdom shows us how to live and thrive on this planet. We are nature. We all are intrinsically connected. I hope my work can serve as a reminder to reconnect to ourselves, each other and Nature so we can shift HOW we are living together on this magnificent planet.

Nature was always a focus of mine, I wanted to be in a tree, on the grass, by the sea or feel the sun and wind. I prefer outside to inside. I remember when I was four, we planted some tomatoes. I could not believe what popped out of the ground and then we ate it! I could not understand how that little seed turned into the tomato. I still can’t. It is a miracle that we all take for granted.

When it comes to a series some take much longer than others. I have large folders with ideas, studies, and paper inspirations that I bounce back and forth with.

The portrait series is ongoing and evolving. It has spanned my art career. I started with portraits using my daughter as my model. I see the human form no different than a bird or flower. We are all a part of the natural world.

My botanicals and birds are subjects I will always return to but will evolve into their own series. For example I did a small scall bird series using fun and unexpected textures from magazines like W Magazine and Elle Décor. They are whimsical, fun and I will revisit the idea soon.

Your portrait work is a fascinating mix of hyperrealistic and abstract artwork. Some of these pieces have the actual person’s name as the title, while others are more of a description of the feeling or elements that are shown by that person. What inspired you to create the later portraits and how did you come up with the titles?

The early portraits were inspired by the sun, moon and the patterns in Nature. I also was very interested in how the fabric can drape the figure. So I chose the titles, Harvest Moon and Summer Solstice to highlight the inspiration.

My most recent series of Mug Shots was inspired by the expression in that moment the mug shot was taken. I wanted to capture their emotion. I use their names as titles because it was about them and the predicament that they found themselves in.

How did creating custom works and working a lot with materials like Paper and Lucite became your specialization?

I started to do custom work after I discovered that applying for shows and trying to get into galleries was not a business model I wanted to embrace. So, I reached out to interior designers and art consultants.

I was introduced to paper when I was framing. A customer came in with a Japanese scroll and wanted me to cut the top and bottom off. I fell in love with the paper and just kept it. Pretty soon I was collecting papers and one day thought I could incorporate them into my paintings and soon the paper took over. 
 I began with Lucite when a collector wanted a dividing screen but also wanted the light to go through and using Lucite and tissue paper solved both issues. It is also when I started to use tissue paper which is an awesome paper that is much stronger than most think.

Out of all your series, do you have a favorite piece, and if so which is it and why?

One of my favorite portraits is Day Dreamer. My daughter was my model, and it was through this piece that I discovered breakthrough techniques that I use in my portraits today which is the paring down of how I described the facial features.

I also love the simple color palette and it was the first time I incorporated text. For example, in the background is my actual dream journal and the flower in her hair is pages from a math book.

My favorite botanical is Protea, it was successful on a lot of levels, composition, pattern, and colors. Just everything worked. And I told my favorite story, that of transformation shown through the composition of the bud, blossom and finally the gorgeous Protea bloom. I also loved the weaving and layering of the leaves, which was painted wrapping paper.

I will often paint over a pattern to subdue it, so it only peeks out. This allows the viewer to be able to discover things in my work. There is depth. It is never what it appears to be at first glance.

Tell us a bit about your upbringing and your childhood.

I initially grew up in Glendale California, and then moved to Torrance when I was in 4th grade. I am the middle kid with an older sister and younger brother.

Growing up most of my memories revolve around art. In kindergarten I did a blue finger painting, and I wasn’t happy with, so I did another red one. In first grade I colored some green flowers, and my teacher told me there are no green flowers and I remember just completely dismissing her in my mind. And of course, we did so many creative things with my grandma. She would tell us that she would give us a penny for every word we could spell both forwards and backwards (palindromes) and then she would take us to the swap meet to spend it. I always bought paints.

My upbringing was pretty typical in my opinion with a small dose of dysfunction thrown in. But I did feel loved and supported.

Talking specifically about the female artist now. Do you think that female artists are more intuitive and emotionally connected to their subjects, may it be based on memory or fantasy, especially when it is nature related?

In my opinion, females and those that identify as female are naturally more intuitive and connected because that is the nature of feminine energy. This energy can be receptive and giving which is a tremendous strength. Nature is seen and understood as feminine so a female artist may often convey that in her work.

For me, I have the theme of birth and death and the story of transformation running through much of my work. This is based on my observations of Nature and also of spiritual ideas that resonate with me.

What are your plans for the future? Is any new series planned?

In addition to continuing to explore the endless beauty and wisdom of Nature I am going to be introducing The Butterfly Effect series.

One of Nature’s most powerful lessons is that of transformation so what better iconic symbol to use than the butterfly.

I want to invite people to honor a personal transformation with a custom Paper Mosaic butterfly. For me even the smallest transformation is important, for example, noticing a thought, seeing something differently, loving yourself more, shifting a habit. I could go on and on.

This is the Butterfly Effect, small shifts making big change.

So I am currently doing some sample pieces so I can introduce it on my Instagram @karensikie at the beginning of the year. I hope to see you there!

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