Category Archives: Improving Your Art

Articles with ideas to take your art to the next level.

Second Layer of Mesh

Making Foam-Core Mosaic Backers For Outdoor Projects

Artist Jill Gatwood uses the following method to make water-resistant foam-core mosaic backers for exterior mosaics, such as the Pet Memorial Name Plaques she does for clients who need something that is lighter weight and easier to ship than stone or solid concrete. The method wraps the foam in three or four successive layers of fiberglass mesh and thinset mortar, and that coating is pretty tough, tougher than stone. (The combination of polymer-modified cement and fiberglass can withstand blows that would easily crack granite of the same thickness.) Continue reading

jingo-pet-name-mosaic

Pet Memorial Name Plaques

For people wanting to make a portrait of their furry friend, I wrote an article on pet memorial mosaics using April Costigan’s work as illustrations of what is possible in terms of capturing likeness. The problem is that for many people, the task of rendering a realistic portrait of their pet is beyond their current skill level.

Fortunately, it is possible to make a pet memorial mosaic without the pet’s portrait and still make it personalized and specific to that pet. For example, instead of attempting an image of your pet, consider spelling their name in mosaic and making the surrounding area significant in terms of colors and found objects. More on that later.

Artist Jill Gatwood emailed us some pictures of some pet memorial name plaques that she has made, and they are good examples of the visual interest that can be created in the background with patterns of contrasting colors. I wanted to show these off because I think people who aren’t confident in their ability to draw will be inspired to make their own versions. Continue reading

four-seasons-garden-path-mosaic

Four Elements Garden Mosaic

“Amateur” artist Tobin recently completed his Four Elements garden mosaic, and it is amazing for several reasons, the least of which is the fact that it was created over a span of six years with the artist getting up at 5 am to spend 45 minutes on it before leaving for his day job in corporate project management.

Here’s what I find impressive about Tobin’s mosaic:

Mosaic Swallowtail Butterfly

Mosaic Swallowtail Butterfly. Note the uniformity of the grout gap in the background, which is as impressive as the detail in the butterfly.

  • Each figure is well executed with a level of detail and precision that is remarkable. An experienced artist following a digitally generated pattern couldn’t do much better if at all. Continue reading
Detail Fish Shower Mosaic by artist Jen Vollmer

Figurative Mosaic Composition Integrated With Shower Tiling

Artist Jen Vollmer recently completed a shower mosaic which features fish and flowing water executed in the same colors as the surrounding mosaic tiling. Jen says that in retrospect, she wishes she would have used a darker grey grout and blue/green glass tiles instead of the light blue, which would have increased the contrast.

I’m partial to intense colors and strong contrast, and those are required for an image to be eye-catching, but what struck me about Jen’s mosaic was that it is subtle in a professional way, integrated with the existing tile work and intentionally calculated to not stand out too strongly.

It was almost as if a client had commissioned the work and said, “Make the design figurative and naturalistic and have its own flowing andamento, but make it also integrate visually with the grids of tile that it runs through, and do that as seamlessly as possible.” Continue reading

Tadpole Place One-Third Poured

Impulse Art Projects: A Case Study In Sculptured Concrete

It’s EXTREMELY important to allow yourself to do creative projects on impulse without overthinking it. The reason is simple: research tends to kill the creative urge, at least for most people. Research can become an end in itself and go on to long and kill enthusiasm or the window of opportunity is lost.

Research can also give you problematic information and expectations for several reasons:

  1. Advice isn’t one-size-fits-all, especially artistic advice.
  2. People forget that the examples they are looking at were made by masters or that the advice was written for professional results of a particular criteria that isn’t relevant.
  3. Corruption of the original vision. Usually creative ideas evolve and grow by incorporation, but sometimes new inputs can overwhelm and kill the dreamlike essence of the original inspiration. Sometimes too many ideas and possibilities occur to the artist, who is then unable to chose one and focus on it.

Instead of naively charging in like a kid playing and learning through play, adults tend to want to reduce the process to executing a known procedure as much as possible. That really isn’t art, at least not in the experiential sense for the artist.

All that being said, it’s also important to not waste expensive materials and to not produce something that falls apart quickly because you didn’t take the time to look up a few basics. Continue reading

Madre de Guadalupe Contemporary Mosaic

Strong Color Contrast in Heazlewood Mosaics

Artist Megan Heazlewood makes strong use of contrasting colors in her iconic mosaics, and I think her work is inspiring for that reason.

Egyptian Musicians

Egyptian Musicians Contemporary Mosaic

Egyptian Musicians Contemporary Mosaic by Artist Megan Heazlewood

There are several contrasting color pairs in Megan’s mosaic of ancient Egyptian musicians: the teal and pink of the lotus flowers, the blue and gold, the white robes and the different skin tones, the blues and greens versus the burnt orange.

Continue reading

Kitchen Backsplash Mosaic Detail

Kitchen Backsplash Mosaics Using Original Designs

If you search Google Images for “kitchen backsplash mosaics,” you can see some good work, but you will also see way too many photos of beige and gray tile work that really doesn’t help too much in the way of inspiration, especially if you are wanting to make an original figurative mosaic or use colors other than the monotonous earth tones that dominate the coverings industry.

Artist Heather Speers emailed me some photos of her recent kitchen backsplash mosaic, and it is a solid example of how figurative mosaics rendered in brighter colors can work for this location. Continue reading

Rebecca Stoops Bathroom Floor Mosaic

Re-Imagining Classic Geometric Mosaic Designs

One of the things I always notice in cities like New York or San Francisco are the older buildings that still have entrance ways and bathrooms with mosaics made from whole porcelain tile. These mosaics are very simple in design, sometimes merely a border around plain tile, or maybe a simple repeating geometric pattern. If there are objects or figures, they are simple stylized abstract motifs almost like those seen in Persian carpets.

Rebecca Stoops recently emailed us some photos of her bathroom mosaic project, and the design could be described as a re-imaging of those classic geometric designs, only executed in intense colors of vitreous glass tile instead of porcelain.

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The Power Of Black in Mosaic Design

I have written many times about black grout and why I recommend it for making tile colors look more intense, but I don’t think I have ever taken the time to talk about using black tile for the same reason.

Artist Carol Jasin recently emailed me some photos of her work, and she makes great use of black tile to make a her mosaics look more colorful and more substantial. Continue reading

Mosaic Picture Frame Iso View

Mosaic Picture Frame

Angela made a mosaic picture frame using our irregular glazed ceramic tile and left the sides of the frame uncovered. She also nested the angular shapes to created an abstract pattern without cutting any of the tiles to make them fit.

The unfinished side edges of Angela’s mosaic look particularly neat because the sides of the ceramic tile is straight and not beveled like the sides of vitreous glass mosaic tile, which could still be used if you didn’t mind an edge that was a little rougher. Continue reading