Category: Improving Your Art

  • Using Floor Tiles as Backers for Outdoor Mosaic Plaques

    Using Floor Tiles as Backers for Outdoor Mosaic Plaques

    Concrete stepping stones should be used as the bases for outdoor mosaics that will be walked on, and the stepping stones and thinset mortar that you would need to make those are available at most any building material store.

    But what if you want to make small mosaic signs and mosaic plaques for your garden or porch?

    Large porcelain floor tiles make great bases for these outdoor mosaics.

    Ever since I started publishing updates on my mosaic door project that uses bamboo coasters for the bases of the small mosaics, I have been hoping that someone would email me an outdoor project that used “large” porcelain floor tiles as bases.

    By “large” I mean anything 4 inches or larger.

    Artist Cathy Reisfelt delivered.

  • Mosaic Mural by Stages

    Mosaic Mural by Stages

    Artist Kim Kahrilas’ bunny mosaic mural uses pet portraits and children’s book illustrations for inspiration and demonstrates how you can create a larger project by making it in modules.

    Kim made the mosaic on sections of tile backer board, with each section or panel having it own composition: four separate stand-alone scenes featuring bunnies plus some more narrow divider panels and the grass underneath the other panels.

    Kim says that it took 2 years to complete the project and that looking back over the photos made her realize that she had completed a lot of other projects during that period.

  • Mosaic Door First Full Revision

    Mosaic Door First Full Revision

    My Mosaic Door Project was something I had never done before: combining a work of art that was being made for magical/spiritual reasons with a commitment to FINALLY start doing a good job of photographing my artwork as I work and creating good teaching examples.

    I’m the guy that has never photographed vacations and wilderness trips and important peak experiences. I am too busy experiencing things to document it.

    Needless to say, creating art is one of those times I am too engaged to with what I am doing to be photographing things, at least at the best times or stages for a good how-to photo.

  • Two Mosaic Safety Tips

    Two Mosaic Safety Tips

    A stainless-steel ruler and a spray-bottle filled with water are all you need to avoid the most common injury and the most serious risk associated with creating mosaic artwork.

  • Mosaic Patterns as Rough Maps

    Mosaic Patterns as Rough Maps

    Most details in a mosaic are improvised and are not specified in the pattern. If so, then what is the purpose of a mosaic pattern?

    Like a rough sketch on a canvas to be painted, the purpose of a mosaic pattern is primarily to specify key lines and proportions, to be a rough map of the outlines of figures and where they are placed.

    What a mosaic pattern isn’t used for is to illustrate details that are finer than what can be rendered in tile.

    What that means in practice, at least for me, is that any small detail I render on a pattern is done merely to help me visualize what I am making, to supplement whatever photos or objects I am using as models.

  • White Grout: The Floral Print Aesthetic

    White Grout: The Floral Print Aesthetic

    Artist Masha Leder‘s mixed pique-assiette architectural mosaics using white grout are so good I wanted to name this blog article “In Praise of White Grout.”

    I have been hoping more people would email me some photos of their white-grout mosaic artwork ever since I started posting about avoiding white grout in mosaic images, meaning figurative mosaic that strives to be as life-like as possible.

    Well, art doesn’t have to reflect nature or nature alone.

    This is particularly true of mosaic, which intrinsically incorporates the concept of found object (anything can be a tile) and intrinsically suggests the possibilities of abstract geometric art (when uniform tiles are used).

  • 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.

    Art is about paying attention and seeing and “listening” to the art as it evolves. An artist is always learning and relearning by definition.

    My mosaic inset project has reminded me of the importance of value contrast.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.