Category Archives: Improving Your Art

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

Quinn's Coop Rooster Mosaic pre-grout by artist Linda Lawton.

Color Constraints and Background Colors

Many artists like to choose background colors after the central figures have been tiled.

It is best to tile from the middle and work toward the edges to avoid awkward spacing between at key focal points, but you should not leave the color choices for the background as a complete afterthought.

Nor should you have firm color requirement for the background and tile the central figures without placing that color next to them just to see if they work.

Avoid “painting yourself into a corner” by doing a lot of cutting and mounting without thinking ahead.

“Thinking ahead” can be as simple as placing a single tile next to what you are tiling now to see if it has adequate contrast.

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Mosaic Coffee Table Pre-Grouting

Changing Grout Color With Paint

The following method is only recommended for dry indoor mosaics. Artist Megan Adams recently used it to save a mosaic that had been compromised by white grout, which makes tile colors look less intense and the mosaic as a whole “bleached out” in appearance.

We put white grout in bathrooms because it is used as an indicator of cleanliness. It’s use in mosaic art is limited to making your project look like a summer camp project. Avoid it. Consider black or dark gray grout instead to make your colors look intense.

Also keep in mind that traditional sanded grout is lighter in color when it hardens, and so sometimes a light gray or light brown grout can turn out looking like an off-white and cause the same problem as if you had used white grout.

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tree-of-life-chakra-mosaic

Chakra Tree of Life Mosaic, A Study in Design

Artist Betty Ackerman recently used our fire-polished millefiori (the Mud-Turtle Mosaic brand) and stained glass to make a circular mosaic in the form of a rainbow-colored tree of life with a column of chakras spiraling inward on the trunk. Betty calls her mosaic “Chakra Tree of Life.” The first mosaics I ever made were found-object “mandalas” in the form of a tree of life in an oval, and so Betty’s design spoke to me.

I wanted to share this mosaic because Betty did a good job at maintaining adequate contrast between the tree and the background and between the branches and the leaves in spite of the color transition in the design. It would have been all too easy for the figurative element of the tree to become lost with this much “visual interest” going on in every square inch, and so the mosaic is worth studying.

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koi-mosaic-table-backlit

Glass-on-Glass Mosaic Table

Artist Melanie Squires recently completed a stained-glass mosaic table, and I wanted to show it off for several reasons, and not just because it looks so good. There are some materials and methods to discuss, and there is the use of impressionism for the koi, which I thought was particularly effective.

The Table

Melanie made the table from a metal patio table with a glass top and attached the stained glass to it using silicone adhesive.

Warning: If you use a glass patio table for a mosaic, make sure the glass is thick enough to support the weight of the mosaic. It is possible to find glass patio tables at thrift shops where the original thick glass has broken and been replaced with something thinner. It is also possible to come across cheaply-made tables with thin glass, especially end tables and coffee tables.

Never use a table for an outdoor mosaic merely because that is the table you happen to have. Before you invest time, money, and materials, make sure it will last.

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concrete-sculpture-mosaic-before-after

Mosaic Lawn Sculptures by Bernie Taylor

Recently artist Bernie Taylor emailed me some pictures of his mosaic lawn sculptures including some concrete bird baths and benches, and he has an impressive body of work. Bernie’s work is also a great example of how you can buy factory-made concrete sculptures and make them unique works of art by covering them with mosaic.

Ceramic or Glass?

Bernie used glazed ceramic tile for his sculptures in Florida, but keep in mind that ceramic tile is vulnerable to freeze cracking while glass tile isn’t (because it is non-porous). Glass tile is also more affordable, easier to cut, and more widely available in more colors.

Glass tile is also smaller and thus easier to fit to curved surfaces. I am very impressed that Bernie was able to tile the complex curves of his sculptures and consistently do such a good job with it. Continue reading

Mosaic Redwoods by Tracy Kaplan Grouted.

Choosing Grout Color Using Tile Test Swatches

Tracy Kaplan recently emailed us a picture of her FIRST mosaic, and it is nice solid work, impressive even, especially considering that her instructor gave her some problematic advice concerning the grout color.  Tracy’s teacher had recommended a chocolate or nutmeg colored grout, but Tracy wisely considered how a dark brown might cause adjacent tree trunks to no longer be distinct and separate.

Perhaps Tracy’s instructor had meant a lighter shade of those browns, but I still think that those could have caused problems with the adjacent tree trunks.

Most likely, the instructor only saw a portion of the mosaic without adjacent tree trunks. Tracy admits that she only finished about an eighth of the work during the course and spent many months afterward working to complete it.

If so, this is yet another example of how artistic advice isn’t one-size-fits-all and can be counterproductive or even disastrous if the advice isn’t specific to a particular artist or even a particular work of art in its entirety.

Fortunately, Tracy emailed us for advice. Continue reading

Mosaic Chair by Janie Wright, back detail

Mosaic Furniture Pique Assiette Alternative

Mosaic furniture can be made from glass mosaic tile more easily and more affordably than it can be made from pieces cut from antique china and other patterned dinnerware. It’s also much more colorful! The choices available range from bright rainbow colors to soft pastels to different color families, earth tones, black and white.

You can even render portraits and landscapes on things like headboards because you have a complete rendering tool.

When you use glass tile instead of whatever you could scrounge up from months of yard sales and thrift shops, you start with a lot of horsepower on your side. Continue reading

Garden Retaining Wall

Mosaic Mural Surface Preparation

The best way to mount an outdoor mosaic mural is to use thinset mortar and mount it directly to a brick, stone, or concrete wall.

You can make mosaic murals on foam-core backer board and mount these backers onto wooden fences with screws, but that is less than ideal for several reasons, and the weight could cause the fence to lean if its posts aren’t securely anchored. That is why we recommend mounting mosaics directly on masonry surfaces (brick, stone, or concrete).

Masonry surfaces need to be cleaned and possibly smoothed before the mosaic is mounted, but that isn’t too difficult, and it is well worth doing if you want the mosaic to last any time at all. Continue reading

Mosaic Hummingbird

Repeating Motifs and Abstract Mosaics

Repeating simple designs or motifs is an effective way to make iconic compositions that catch the eye, and you can take this technique to its extreme to produce abstract art where the pattern itself becomes the subject of the art and not just a tool for rendering figures.

Karla Conmy’s River Meanders mosaic is a good example of repeating motifs taken to the level of abstraction, and Sally Scardino’s Hummingbird mosaic is a good example of using a repeated motif to make a figurative composition stronger. Continue reading

Mosaic St. Michael the Archangel

Mosaic Saints, Angels, and Icons

Historically, mosaic icons were made with traditional materials like smalti, marble, and gold leaf glass. Those traditional mosaic materials might be preferred if you are trying to make a reproduction that looks historically accurate, but they are more expensive and more difficult to work with.

Do You Need Smalti?

If you have any latitude in choosing your materials, remember that it is possible to make striking and realistic images using ordinary vitreous glass mosaic tile, which is both affordable and easy to work with.

Vitreous is the same thickness as the gold leaf glass we sell, and so you could still incorporate gold in your icon if you decided to nix the smalti and stone. In fact, it would be easier to use our gold leaf glass with vitreous than with the thicker smalti and stone.

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