Yasmin Youssef doesn’t want to be defined by just one thing.
That’s the reason she loves mixed media. She can incorporate anything she finds into a texture or another layer of her work.
In her collage work, Yasmin brings life to the found maps, wallpaper and postcards from vintage markets. On our recent trip to her studio, she showed us a hand written letter she picked up in France from 1830.
Yasmin’s cyanotypes, or plant x-rays as she likes to describe them, are another way she preserves history and pays homage to the natural world. Plants from her garden and the sun combine with ink to create original UV photographic prints.
For Issue 20 “Combo,” Yasmin created two original works for the front and back covers. In our interview, she shared her inspirations, process and why she chooses to delve into so many mediums.
What are you inspired by?
COVID and the general isolation from it amplified my need to go outside. I get so much inspiration from things I see outside–textures of plants, color combinations. There is so much to see if you really let yourself pay attention. The moon was a steadfast companion that I could rely on which inspired my series, Lessons from the Moon.
Right now I’m interested in making juxtaposing patterns with moonscapes and mountainscapes to create these abstract cyanotype landscapes. They incorporate the geometric and organic.
What combination of materials do you use to make your art?
For my cyanotypes, I use heavy watercolor paper, collage, plants and/or flowers, paint, ink and water. For the collages, I use paint, textiles, paper, gold or silver leaf and found imagery.
Is there any material you haven’t tried that you want to experiment with in the future?
Encaustic is a material I have tried and want to keep using but I need a particular set-up. It requires a blow torch, wax and a well-ventilated area to create this luminous layer. I’ve been working on a faux encaustic, which you can see in the embedded layers I’ve made in my Animal Shields collection.
Is there a time when you experimented with a material or technique and it didn’t work?
There is a magic that happens with cyanotypes that you can’t rely on it happening over and over again. They’re so dependent on environmental conditions. I tried one with an asparagus frond, but it was too fine so it didn’t show up. It’a learning experience. I love the plants that have more pattern with the leaves.
Do you feel like you have a distinct style?
I feel like I work within three different mixed media styles: cyanotypes, the faux encaustic method and collage featuring female figures. I find myself going in a different direction depending on the day and the season.
I don’t want to be defined by one so I experiment and try different mediums. I never really thought I had a style but when I put everything up, I realize they work together– the color palette, themes, feeling, detail. So even if I have a wall with all three, they still compliment each other. It just seems to be happening. It’s unintentional.
How has your art evolved over time?
I started just with mixed media, collage and incorporating vintage ephemera. That has been my mainstay because I enjoy the process. The cyanotypes are precise. You get one shot so there’s more room to fail. The faux encaustic is so much layering that it’s a meditative process. There’s a different feeling when making each one.
Any words of encouragement for aspiring creators?
It’s totally acceptable and possible to have a full time day job and still make art, even if it’s on the weekends. It’s not always clear from the presentation of how artists are making it work because we don’t always talk about it. Sometimes it’s not possible to make all of your living as an artist, so having a career that funds it is not a bad thing.
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