Local artist/UD student draws creative inspiration from the sea

Date Published: 
June 13, 2014

Coastal Point • Tripp Colonell: University of Delaware student Katie Chavatel is inspired by the ocean and large portion of her art revolves around that theme. Here, Chavatel’s most defining piece is created from acrylic, oil and water-based media with saCoastal Point • Tripp Colonell: University of Delaware student Katie Chavatel is inspired by the ocean and large portion of her art revolves around that theme. Here, Chavatel’s most defining piece is created from acrylic, oil and water-based media with saWhen local artist and University of Delaware student Katie Chavatel was in ninth grade, she was cut from her school’s field hockey team. While most people would have been discouraged, it didn’t take long for Chavatel to realize that the end of her athletic career was only the beginning of what would be her true calling — art.

“I guess it happened for a reason, because I’m glad I ended up with art as my focus,” said Chavatel. “Definitely drawing, for me, is the biggest outlet.”

Chavatel keeps a sketch pad and draws anything from realistic scenes that she observes to sea creatures pulled from memory, infused with her own stylistic spin. However, for her major pieces, she incorporates some unique materials and tactics into her work that sets her already unique creativity apart.

“All of my pieces, I used really weird materials — most people would just draw or paint,” Chavatel explained of some of her earlier work as she developed her now-signature motive. “I use string a lot. I sew canvases and paper — it’s more like 3D design.”

One of her most defining pieces is an acrylic, oil and water-based mixed-media painting of an octopus — with sand, rope, string, silica and sea glass making up the texture.

“I have this fascination with layers, and I constantly want to build things up or build into them,” she said, describing her work. “It just adds to it.”

As with the octopus painting, most of Chavatel’s pieces are inspired by the ocean and the beach — the place that she has felt the most at home throughout her life. One of her creations directly embodies that notion: a drawing collaboration of her family’s home in West Fenwick, rooted to the ground by hearts and butterflies.

“I’ve always been the most comfortable here, so that kind of represents that my heart’s here,” Chavatel explained of the symbolism of the hearts, representing love and comfort, and the butterflies, representing happiness. “I really like getting all the detail of realistic stuff, but then I’ll do some abstract stuff in there.”

It’s her love and respect for her home that inspired Chavatel to employ her talents to send a message — using her natural artistic ability to create images that she hopes will help raise awareness to preserve the natural beauty of where she lives.

“I’ve always been interested,” she said of ocean pollution — the reason behind the digital design project. “Plastic in the ocean is harming our animals, so I wanted to show that plastic bottles literally make up our ocean; so I actually have them making up the wave.”

Taking an image of a surfer in the barrel of a wave, Chavatel imposed images of plastic bottles throughout the wave, to make it appear as if the surfer is riding a wave of plastic. The powerful imagery is further exemplified in a similar piece — a wave littered with plastic bottles under a sun, composed of bottle caps and trash.

“I wanted to get the word out about ocean pollution and, although it’s pretty mainstream, people don’t realize just how serious it is,” she emphasized. “Plastic is the largest source of ocean debris, and there’s literal ‘islands’ of plastic floating in areas of our oceans — mainly in gyres where the trash gets trapped.”

To see more of Chavatel’s artwork, check out her website at katiechavatel.wordpress.com or her Instagram, @katiechavatel.