Author Archives: Joe Moorman

Porch Mosaics series by art therapist Ellis Eisener, photo collage

Art Therapy Projects

Art Therapist Ellis Eisner sent me some photos of her client’s mosaics and her own work, and I wanted to share them with you and use them to illustrate several points.

Mosaic the Gateway Medium

Mosaic holds a special place in art education and art therapy in my opinion.

Often all that is required to get that process started is let people play with some tiles and a backer.

People who say they have no artistic ability will suddenly find that they are sliding tiles around to form simple pictures and shapes and designs.

Sorting a pile of small colorful objects is even more elemental than doodling with pen. It’s something animals do.

Handling objects is less abstract than drawing. It matters that the tiles are objects with weight and not paper-thin, not merely 2-D shapes.

Mosaic Floor Medallion Insert by art therapist Ellis Eisener
Mosaic Floor Medallion Insert by art therapist Ellis Eisner

Can’t Draw?

People who say they have zero ability to draw sometimes find they have a gift to render better than they thought if they become serial mosaicists. By the time they have completed three mosaics they will have resorted to making rough lines on the backer to help plan things or line something up.

And it’s a slippery slope from there if the “can’t-draw” student attempts more and more sophisticated mosaic designs.

Drawing a pattern is faster than making the mosaic, and using a pencil to mark critical lines of tiles evolves into sketching the whole pattern if the person keeps at it over time.

I have seen “can’t draw” students progress to the point where to the point where they routinely draw multiple versions of a pattern before they place the first tile.

Mosaic Plaques by student of art therapist Ellis Eisener, displayed on bookshelf
Mosaic Plaques by client of art therapist Ellis Eisner, displayed on bookshelf

Accessibility

Mosaic (and collage) CAN be options for people dealing with aging issues or impairments of some kind that make drawing difficult or impractical. Rendering with whole tile can be possible when controlling a pencil isn’t.

Mosaic Quilt

Porch Mosaics series by art therapist Ellis Eisener, photo collage
Porch Mosaics series by art therapist Ellis Eisner, photo collage

Art education and art therapy should always be about the experience more than the results.

That means small projects and simple designs are probably best, but that doesn’t mean the results can’t be impressive.

Many small mosaics displayed together in a “crazy quilt” is hard to beat in terms of guaranteed success because a collage of panels made by many different artists is intrinsically multicolored and filled with visual interest

I recommend school mosaic projects where each child gets to design their own mosaic plaque or stepping stone for a crazy quilt instead of working on one large group project.

I think this quilt approach lets children experience art more fully, and the results displayed together are multicolored and filled with visual interest.

I also though this was worth sharing:

Glass-On-Glass Mosaic

We recommend GE Silicone II for glass-on-glass mosaic. GE Silicone II is available at most building material and hardware stores. Black grout can be used to mimic the lead channel used in stained glass windows.

Glass-on-Glass Mosaic Window by art therapist Ellis Eisener installed
Glass-on-Glass Mosaic Window by art therapist Ellis Eisner installed

I like how frosty cool the winter panel looks:

Glass-on-Glass Mosaic Window by art therapist Ellis Eisener pre-installation
Glass-on-Glass Mosaic Window by art therapist Ellis Eisner pre-installation, photographed on opaque surface
Mosaic Art One-Moment In Time by Candy Hahn

Composition and Correcting the Model

Artist Candy Hahn emailed me a picture of her recent mosaic and the photograph she used as a model. It is a solid mosaic interpretation, and it reminded me that I am overdue to write about using photographs as models for mosaic art.

Sometimes a composition is made stronger by deviating from the model, especially when mosaicing or painting from a photograph.

Candy cropped the photograph so that the central figures were large enough to be the subject of the mosaic instead of being a small detail in the background.

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Red Light District Amsterdam mosaic by Terry Broderick

Stalking Van Gogh in Mosaic

Artist Terry Broderick‘s latest mosaic is titled “Red Light District / Amsterdam,” and it is an interesting follow up to his Pittsburgh Cityscape mosaic, which is equally impressive. I feel like both mosaics could be part of a show called “Stalking Van Gogh in Mosaic.”

I like the Amsterdam mosaic for several reasons: It’s a good teaching example of perspective and vanishing point and creating a sense of depth. It’s a very fine job of capturing the “temperature of light” and the look of things at night and how you can feel that it is night in the scene.

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Stone Mosaic Backsplash before grouting cropped

Grout Color for Stone Backsplash

Randy Evans emailed me a photo of his stone mosaic backsplash and asked for advice in choosing a grout color.

Even though this project isn’t figurative mosaic, and the grout gaps have the width of masonry joints (much larger than the gaps recommended for small glass mosaic tiles), it still makes a good teaching example about how to choose a grout color for your own mosaic for these reasons.

  1. Randy worked through the decision in a thorough way using basic methods BEFORE testing colors in hidden places in the backsplash.
  2. Randy took some good photos of his experiments, plus one of the installation as a whole that shows the importance of hue in making a backsplash work with the room’s color scheme.

You could use the same approach for picking out the color mortar you wanted to use for a stone or masonry surface.

TIP: You can minimize the color impact of grouting glass mosaic by using smaller grout gaps. It also makes grouting easier. Highly recommended.

CAUTION: A grout gap is needed in architectural mosaics because the grout is needed to seal out water, which can’t be sealed out merely by making the tiles touch each other.

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Eastern Screech Owl Mosaic by artist Linda Lawton

Owl Mosaics and The Importance of Andamento

Linda Lawton emailed me some pics of her recent owl mosaics, and one of them had an issue that made it a good teaching example about the importance of andamento. That mosaic also became a case study for how to mosaic on top of part of an existing mosaic if you want to rework a detail.

Three Owl Mosaics by artist Linda Lawton. Great Horned Owl, Eastern Screech Owl, Barn Owl
Three Owl Mosaics by artist Linda Lawton. Great Horned Owl, Eastern Screech Owl, Barn Owl

Since Linda is serious about her art and is always working to improve it, I felt like I could be honest with her in a way I couldn’t when critiquing the artwork of “someone I didn’t know.”

Over the past few years, Linda had emailed me about several different mosaics where she had ripped up tiles and re-executed details she wasn’t happy with. Some people have the true artist’s obsession with art and making it better, and it shows no matter the age or skill level.

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mosaic-moses-and-the-burning-bush

Shipping Resumed

We have resumed operations and are now shipping packages normally.

Please be decent to people in these hard times.

APOLOGY AND CONFESSION

My apologies to anyone who I have offended with my criticism of Donald Trump in my previous post Coronavirus Helmets, but you might want to give me a pass on that for several reasons:

My ex-wife is from NYC, and I was aware of all the deeply disturbing things that local people knew about Donald Trump BEFORE he entered politics, including assessments by very conservative bankers and tradesmen who hated Hillary Clinton with a passion. Most anyone who worked with Trump described him as a crook and cheat with too many ties to the wrong sort of Russians.

I have other insider information that makes me feel guilty for not speaking out sooner.

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coronavirus-helmet-found-object-art-front-20200411_175224

Coronavirus Helmets

My son and I took a short break from planting our native and heirloom vegetable garden and digging a second tadpole pond and made Coronavirus Helmets, which are an essential piece of equipment these days. The Coronavirus Helmet featured in this post is mine. I have more about Henry’s helmet later in this post.

As I write, there is almost as much proof that these helmets repel Coronavirus as there is proof that malaria meds work for Coronavirus -at least not any better than any number of existing pharmaceuticals that were designed for viruses and not a protozoa like malaria.

That is why I feel like I have contributed as much in the fight against the pandemic as Donald Trump has.

More actually. I spent much of February warning friends and relatives of the coming catastrophe and encouraging them to buy groceries and make other preparations as soon as possible.

What did the President do in February? He repeatedly claimed everything was under control and played golf.

My apologies to anyone who is offended by that comment, but you might want to give me a pass for several reasons:

My ex-wife is from NYC, and I was aware of all the deeply disturbing things that local people knew about Trump BEFORE he entered politics, including assessments by deeply conservative bankers and tradesmen who hated Hillary Clinton with a passion. Most anyone who worked with Trump described him as a crook and cheat with too many ties to the wrong sort of Russians.

Like any experienced manufacturing engineer, I had a complete safety plan for my employees to work solo shifts wearing N95 masks I purchased well in advance of the crisis, having dealt with outbreaks of flu and stomach virus in production lines before. My criticism of Donald Trump’s lack of a timely response is from professional experience.

The mosaic business is merely one of my activities, and I spent the past year looking into developing an aptameric alternative to protein-based drugs such as Humira. My masters thesis involved microbiology and the University of Georgia patented it.

-Joe Moorman, MS, engineer
coronavirus-helmet-found-object-art-rear-v2-20200411_175310
coronavirus-helmet-found-object-art-rear-v2-20200411_175310

How does a guy who has 8 part-time employees outperform the President of the United States? And how did I do it when my decisions were only based on basic information accessible to anyone who follows international news?

I don’t often use words like doddamn and futhermucker when I speak to my momma on the phone, but I did when I called her and explained why she needed to stop watching Fox News.

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Mosaic Street-Number Sign by artist Monika Walter damaged

Warning: Marine Plywood Not For Mosaic

Marine plywood cannot be used as a mosaic backer for outdoor and wet mosaic.

Yes, marine plywood can withstand the outdoors and wet days for many years, but it is completely unacceptable as a mosaic backer because it swells and contracts with changes in humidity in the outside air. That amount of swelling and contracting is tiny and might not be significant in construction projects, but it is fatal for mosaic. Absolutely fatal. It’s only a matter of time, and it’s usually not long.

People recommending the use of marine plywood as a backer for outdoor mosaics are not considering one critical detail:

The swelling and contracting of wood due to humidity isn’t trivial where adhesives are concerned, and the displacement (movement) can be measured. Imagine rainy days versus dry days. The displacement is more than enough to work glass free from adhesive because the glass isn’t swelling or contracting at all.

This is not speculation. I am an engineer and have worked in a materials testing lab.

Another piece of evidence I could bring to any argument about the use of marine plywood in mosaic is that I have received photos of tragically-damaged mosaics for 17 years, and marine plywood wins hands down as far as being the worst cause of grief, and the reason is simple:

Marine plywood SEEMS like a solid safe option because contractors will talk about the life they have gotten from it on certain jobs, and so the people who make the mistake of choosing it tend to be people who are making a design with a lot of work and care for the details. They took the time to choose a “good” backer because they knew they were going to put a lot of effort into their mosaic.

Seeing these mosaics damaged is much more painful than seeing some hasty work falling apart because the technical details were just outright neglected.

That brings me to an email I received from Monika Walter.

Artist Monika Walter

Monika Walter says she doesn’t consider herself to be an “artist,” but she has some solid work at her mosaic website, and she makes tables and mirrors and clocks for craft shows. They all look well-executed to me, and a couple of her mosaics make me jealous. More about that later.

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Madre de Guadelupe Mosaic by first-time-mosaicist Irene Clifford detail

Well-Executed First-Time Mosaic

One of the most well-executed mosaics I have ever seen in terms fine details wrought in slivers of glass came to me in photos in an email last week from artist Irene Clifford.

As Natalija pointed out, ” Most people would throw away tiny pieces like that as scraps.”

The mosaic is excellent work in several ways.

The andamento of the mosaic as a whole is instinctive, and it fits the details and curves being rendered naturally (instead of being rows to cover space without much regard for the shape of the color field).

The size of details relative to tile size is optimal for creating visual interest. That and the andamento impress me more than the exceptionally well-executed details with glass slivers.

Most people could make multiple mosaics without ever coming close to this level of instinctive andamento or being able to work with tesserae that small, being more or less a sliver.

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Mosaic Table Top Steph Potter Blue Mandala

Centering Mosaic Table Top Designs

Artist Stephanie Potter‘s mosaic table top designs are mandalas that catch and hold the eye with contrast, symmetry, and visual interest. They are centered so that the outer circle of tile is at the edge of the circular table tops.

Mosaics made on wooden table tops are for indoor use. Outdoors, the wood swells and contracts with changes in humidity, and that causes tiles to pop off.

Mosaic Table Top Steph Potter Iridescent Glass Mandala
Mosaic Table Top Stephanie Potter Iridescent Glass Mandala

Of course, it is easy to explain how you keep a design centered if you draw out all the work lines for the rows of tile, which would be more or less required for such detailed, symmetrical designs like these made by Stephanie.

But how do you center a mosaic on a round table if your pattern doesn’t show every row of tile? What do you do when you want to improvise a figure in the center of a table but still surround it with concentric rings of tiles where the outermost ring of tile is at the edge of the table?

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