Building a Mosaic Portfolio

Artist Jacqueline Spohnholtz is building a mosaic portfolio to solicit commissioned work, and she is doing it in an intelligent way in my opinion.

Of course the portfolio needs to be uploaded to an online platform such as the artist’s website or Instagram, and it needs to be built from catalogue-quality photographs (full spectrum white lighting, no foreshortening, no glare or shadows, properly cropped).

I am not referring to those aspects of building a portfolio, which can be done using an ordinary cell phone with a good camera.

What caught my eye about Jacqueline’s initial work was the fact that each mosaic is stylistically different yet similar in themes and focus and level of competence.

Most beginners find mastering the basics sufficiently challenging without throwing in style as a variable, and so the fact that each of these early mosaics was successful says a lot about the artist’s skill level and potential.

Romanesque Mosaic

A recent portrait, before grouting, by mosaic artist Jacqueline Spohnholtz

Creating images in different styles allows an artist to explore and develop their range and find their own voice. It also shows that you are capable of producing bespoke work, which is important in commissioned mosaic artwork.

Let’s face it: commissioned mosaic is often an architectural surface, and these mural projects don’t have the same freedom as an art object the size of a painting which can be easily swapped out.

By showing a client that you are capable of making a mosaic in different styles, you not only give them things to point to and say “like this,” but you also give them more confidence in trusting your judgment and letting you make something original.

For that reason, I think the mosaic above in the style of an ancient Roman mosaic is a great piece for Jacqueline to have in her portfolio even if she never makes another Romanesque mosaic.

Jacqueline Spohnholtz’ first mosaic, from around 2000

Learning on the Job

The best jobs are when we are learning new things by doing them. You can look at Jacqueline’s work and see that she is learning and exploring with confidence.

The mosaic above is Jacqueline’s very first mosaic. Notice how Jacqueline instinctively knew that the face couldn’t have same wide grout gaps used elsewhere in the mosaic.

Notice the different andamentos (ways of arranging tile) used in this mosaic.

There is a lot to admire in this mosaic.

There are also some problems.

There is insufficient value contrast between figure and background. The white of the checkered clothing and the white of the mottling in the background are too similar, and this makes the figure less distinct.

Notice how the white grout compounds this problem. (I would love to see what it would look like with the grout stained a darker color, but I don’t think it would increase the contrast between figure and background.)

Also notice the wide inconsistent grout gaps around the feathers of the cap.

BUT in spite of those issues, the mosaic is a successful and interesting piece of art.

It has it’s place in a portfolio, and the fact that it is a first-time mosaic is a great talking point.

One of artist Jacqueline Spohnholtz’ early mosaics

The Importance of Photos

The photo of the mosaic above has a glare from one light source on the left third and a glare from a second source in the top center.

Glares and shadows can be avoided by photographing artwork only in diffuse sunlight, which also ensures the colors are true.

Most people will see the photo of your mosaic and not the mosaic itself. This is true for great artists, famous artists, obscure artists, amateur artists.

The photo is critical for marketing the artwork and the artist.

Mosaic portrait by artist Jacqueline Spohnholtz


I like how easily and naturally figurative mosaic can incorporate abstract elements. The rippling arm flowing into the smoke and the hair are great. Style and subject are in harmony.






3 responses to “Building a Mosaic Portfolio”

  1. Fred Genchi Avatar
    Fred Genchi

    Joe. You had a post regarding changing grout color on existing mosaic. Could you tell me how I could access it?

  2. Carole Raschella Avatar

    Beautiful work. I have a special affinity for peacocks and love this one. Just curious…I realize the light glare alters the image, but do you think it would stand out better with darker grout? I guess the same question applies to her first piece, the woman with the feathered hat.

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