• Value Contrast in Mosaic

    Value Contrast in Mosaic

    There’s a reason art instructors recommend working in monochrome or black and white before working in color.

    The reason is that contrast in value (light versus dark) is more important than contrast in hues, and it is easier to learn mastery of value contrast before you complicate the process with different hues.

    I am self-taught, and so I find myself relearning fundamentals all the time, but I have heard some highly-skilled painters and some highly-trained artists say the same thing.

    I’ve also heard numerous quotes about how great works of art are pedagogical demonstrations of some fundamental skill: leading the eye, lines of sight, near/middle/far depth, visual interest, contrast, etc.

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  • Pattern to Mosaic: Design Evolution

    Pattern to Mosaic: Design Evolution

    I thought I would share this particular studio photo because it shows the evolution of an improvised mosaic design, in this case a sailing ship.

    It also showed ad hoc changes to the pattern after it was already taped beneath clear contact paper.

    A mosaic is not a drawing, and we call rendering an existing image into a new medium “an interpretation” even when executed by the same artist because different artistic mediums have different languages.

    You can create a mosaic pattern by placing tracing paper over an existing image and merely tracing it, but there is still a lot of artistic decisions to be made.

    When you start laying tile, you may find that your design has to change is some way and that the pattern was just a starting point.

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  • Mosaic Door Progress

    Mosaic Door Progress

    This is an update on my Mosaic Door project built from a “series of smalls“, which is the most effective way to improve artistic confidence and ability.

    A “series of smalls” is more than a simplistic example of practice makes perfect. You can practice by painting works of all sizes and painting many different types of composition. But in that case, each piece has it’s own unique learning curve.

    Keeping the size of the pieces in a series all the same size removes that extra layer of difficulty. Many “series of smalls” are often the same or similar compositions, which also maximizes learning.

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  • Santa Fe Rail Trail Mosaic

    Santa Fe Rail Trail Mosaic

    Artist Julie Deery is working on a mosaic mural for the wall of the Santa Fe Rail Trail.

    The location for the mosaic mural is 130 feet of cinderblock wall along the Rail Trail just north of Siringo Road in Santa Fe.

    The theme of the project is “Generations” with the goal of having community members of all ages work on the project.

    Currently there is no formal funding or grant for the ongoing project, which is being created by volunteers using donations of materials and cash.

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  • Making Tiles from Stained Glass

    Making Tiles from Stained Glass

    We haven’t been able to keep our Smalti stocked very well over the past year because it has quadrupled in cost after the tariffs and freight gouging and the large factory price increase.

    I have been fretting about that a lot recently, and so Natalija reminded my how much cheaper and easier it is to use American-made Stained Glass instead of smalti.

    Natalija’s video below shows how quickly you can “strip & clip” a small sheet of stained glass into mosaic tiles.

    Stripping Stained Glass

    The “stripping” is done using the Economy Pistol-Grip Cutter. Note that a straight-edge ruler could have been used with the cutter to product strips of equal width.

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  • Making Mosaic Letters from Beads

    Making Mosaic Letters from Beads

    Glass Seed Beads in the 3.7mm size can be strung on short pieces of wire to make letters, numerals, and symbols in mosaic artwork.

    Step #1. Find Wire

    Any variety of metal wire can be used, but copper taken from stranded electrical wire is the easiest to find and use:

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  • Subtle Color Variegation

    Subtle Color Variegation

    I wanted to share more photos of Jill Gatwood’s Mosaic Butterfly commission because it is a good example of subtle use of color variegation when fairly uniform color fields are desired.

    I often recommend using color variegation (a mix of related hues or shades of a particular hue) as an alternative to monochromatic areas of color. Color variegation is a relatively simple way to create visual interest and increase verisimilitude, and so it seems like the logical way to mosaic by default.

    The problem is that it is possible for figures to lose definition and be lost in backgrounds when variegation is overused or used without looking critically at the image as you create it.

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  • Underestimating Grout Gaps

    Underestimating Grout Gaps

    Artist Harry Belkowitz’s millefiori mosaic Dove of Peace is a mixed-media piece of artwork with a black painted background surrounding the central mosaic figure.

    The rainbow silhouette of dove with olive branch might be a little aspirational right now, but I figured we all could use a little hope and beauty.

    The Dove of Peace also serves as a good starting point for discussing grout gaps and how to minimize the color impact of grouting.

    Many novices are disappointed or even disturbed by the appearance of their first mosaics after grouting.

    There are several reasons for this:

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  • Amazing Commission

    Amazing Commission

    I have survived the stress of managing the supply business during the pandemic/supply crisis so far only by allowing myself periods when I get very slack in responding to non-crisis emails.

    I tell myself I will get back to them eventually, but sometimes eventually is a long time.

    Most emails that can be ignored for a month lose all relevance and can be ignored forever.

    Other emails are just as important as they were on the day they were sent.

    Artist Jill Gatwood sent me an email back on August 4th with the subject line “My largest solo mosaic piece.”

    Both the mosaic and the email itself are worth seeing.

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  • Multiple Modes of Andamento

    Multiple Modes of Andamento

    First-time mosaic artist John Schroeder’s Celestial Transom Mosaic is something of a tour-de-force in combining different styles of andamento into a seamless composition.

    Kids, Don’t Try This at Home

    Combining different styles of andamento in a mosaic is something I would never recommend to a first-timer.

    It’s easier to figure out one way of working than two or three ways, and figuring out how to transition between modes of working in the same composition is an advanced skill.

    Combining modes of tiling makes things more difficult, and people usually botch it, and the discontinuities are jarring and distracting.

    Before I can tell you what is exceptionally well-executed about this mosaic, I need to clarify some terms that I have been using sloppily.

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  • Mosaic Restoration Video

    Mosaic Restoration Video

    Natalija made a video of her work with artist Angela Bortone in the restoration of a marble mosaic. The mosaic was a reproduction of a detail of Botticelli’s painting The Birth of Venus, and it was covered in grime and missing tiles. It also needed to be transferred to a new backer. There was a lot to do.

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  • Imperfection as Grout Gap

    Imperfection as Grout Gap

    The Blue Crab mosaic I recently completed is a good example of how to create a grout gap by making use of imperfect cuts instead of spacing the tiles intentionally.

    The “imperfect cut” method makes the process of creating a mosaic faster, easier, and less tedious -first in the cutting and placing of tiles but also in the grouting process.

    Instead of cutting precise shapes with a stained glass scoring tool, cut your glass with a Mosaic Glass Cutter and embrace the slight imperfections in the cuts it makes.

    That “error” will create the grout gap for you.

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Got any book recommendations?