I’m so grateful for the small community this blog has brought to life—and we’re just getting started! In this post, I have the honor of sharing work from talented artists from around the world. Karen Sikie is one of these artists and I was immediately captivated by her work I love the way she celebrates the power of nature through these bold, large scale paper mosaics.
Recently, I watched the video she shared (it is posted below) and was absolutely in awe. I can’t imagine how gorgeous and fascinating these pieces are in person. The texture, colors, and power are incredible. It’s an honor to highlight Karen Sikie’s work today. I hope we all get to see one of these stunning pieces in person one day soon.
Every great artist has a great story. This is what Karen shared with us about her background and upbringing:
“I have come to realize that I became an artist out of spite, at first.
“My father was an aspiring artist and his mom, my grandma, was a hobby artist. My early memories were always around art and being creative; especially with my grandma, who would take us to the swap meet and buy us little figurines to paint. Other times, my sister and I would help her sew super cool tiny leopard print capes and hoodies for our Barbies! Often, I would intently study her “flowers in a vase” paintings and wondered how she did that. Whenever we visited there was something creative to do.
“I also hoarded crayons. I LOVED doodle art and hid the markers from my siblings. Paint by numbers fascinated me, I was intrigued with how shapes made up images, which is the foundation of my current work as a collage artist.
“This carried on into my school, as well. In kindergarten, I created two finger paintings because I was unsatisfied with the color and composition of the first one. In second grade, we cut out circles in all the different colors from construction paper and strung them together to create a caterpillar. I remember really considering the colors and I picked all shades of pink and purple, a more monochromatic caterpillar if you will. Cut to me in my studio recently using a paper punch on purple paper creating a multitude of purple circles. In high school I dabbled in being creative, but it was while attending UCLA as a French major that I was exposed to art again. This is when I declared that I was going to become an artist.
“Now here is where the spite part comes in.
“My dad was handsome, charming, creative, and funny. He was also dark, moody, and unhappy. He was an on and off again father who eventually left our family on Father’s Day, for his secretary when I was 11. And when he left, he took my grandma with him.
“So, while in the UCLA bookstore in the art section, looking at Gustav Klimt, I was transformed! I remember thinking, I’m going to be an artist! And then came, I’ll show him! (Not so much my grandma). He may have failed at being an artist and took my grandma away in the process. I was going to be a real artist!
“At this point I didn’t know how to draw nor did I have any art experience other than finger painting and making really pretty construction paper caterpillars. But I guess it was in my blood.
“I promptly left UCLA (which I later regretted dearly) and got a job in the Martin Lawrence Gallery in the Del Amo Mall in Torrance while going to El Camino taking life drawing and painting. Later, I went to work in a frame shop, which is where I was introduced to paper.
“A woman came in with an antique wedding photo to reframe and it had this amazing embossed textured paper around the border that she wanted to throw out. I really was enchanted so I kept that paper. Soon paper started to make its way into my paintings and took over completely. Remember paint by numbers? That is how I developed a highly specialized form of collage I call Paper Mosaics.
“I am no longer motivated by spite but by the beauty, patterns, and energy of the natural world.”
With paper mosaics being such a unique and specialized style, it demanded we ask Karen how she goes about the process. She said, “What I call Paper Mosaic is a highly specialized form of collage. I begin each collage with a detailed drawing which acts as a map or template for the hand cut shapes I will apply to the surface.
“I use all types of papers and paint them too, a bit of inspiration from my paint by number days. I also do portraits and abstract work. For me, these still are expressions of the beauty and energy, rhythms, and patterns of the natural world. May we always remember we are a part of the Earth.”
Next, we asked Karen what creative projects she finds joy in. She shared this: “Right now, I am really into paper punches, and not just circles but all kinds of patterns and shapes. I enjoy creating patterns with the punch outs—both those with an organic feel or very grid-like and geometric. For Pink Peony, Fire Tulip, and California Poppy I used original pages from a ledger from the 1920s and punched it with a border pattern punch creating a grid-like pattern. The center of California Poppy and Plum Aster are layered punches of different sizes to create depth. The background of Mother Moth is a variety of paper punches with a more organic random effect. I provided a time lapse video of me applying the background punches on Mother Moth. Naturally Together, Variegated Monstera Deliciosa, and Protea have narratives of the cycles of life in nature.
For this process she uses: “paper (all different kinds), tracing paper, scissors, paper punch tape, pencils, paints, and glue, usually Yes paste or Elmer’s glue and to finish the work off a uv inhibiting clear coat to protect the surface.”
Inspiration for Paper Mosaics
How about inspiration. This is what Karen had to say. “I am utterly in awe and inspired by the natural world. And as my artwork reflects this so does my personal life. They are not separate but blended. This is the message of my work; that we are intrinsically connected to the natural world. I tread lightly on this magnificent planet by making sure I dispose of my art practice waste responsibly by using a zero-waste art box by terra cycle.
“In my personal life, I am learning to grow my own herbs and veggies and eliminating my one-use plastics. For me this is all one life and what I know for sure is that the planet will be fine. It is us who need to understand how to live here on Earth so we can thrive. For me, nature has all my answers. She is infinitely beautiful, mysterious, and wise. Let us all tread lightly, for our own sake.
“My inspiration for the images that are a part of the Up Close Series is nature and Her wisdom. I create work that has a few narratives with one main theme being transformation. I will leave the rest for you to discover.”
You can learn more about Karen’s work and process on her website and Instagram page.