Category: Improving Your Art

  • Cleaved-Tile As Smalti Alternative

    Cleaved-Tile As Smalti Alternative

    If you like the cut-face look of smalti but don’t like the price, remember that you can cut recycled glass tiles in half and mount them on edge to get the same look and feel as smalti.

    Since your “halves” of tile won’t be perfect halves, they will all be slightly different heights when turned on edge. The surface formed by these tiles make can’t help but have an interesting texture.

    The slightly uneven surface emphasizes the tiles as individual pieces, and the mosaic “effect” of the image is enhanced:

  • Frida Kahlo Mosaic

    Frida Kahlo Mosaic

    Artist Denise Cook’s mosaic portrait of Frida Kahlo is a great teaching example. It illustrates several important tips for making better mosaic artwork. The background and skin tones are made more visually interesting via variegation of shade and hue respectively. There is also a satisfying andamento in the background, and the use of found objects to represent pictorial elements is done seamlessly.

    Visual Interest In Backgrounds

    Portraits often have simple “monochromatic” backgrounds so that the central figure is more iconic.

    In painting, it is easy to avoid boring uniformity in a nominally “monochrome” color field merely by being a little lazy. If the paint isn’t overmixed to perfect uniformity on the palette, every brushstroke can’t help but have a slightly different shade or hue or both.

    In mosaic, you can achieve similar results by using 2 or 3 different tints of the same or similar hue. That is what Denise did in her Frida Kahlo portrait.

  • Design Priorities

    Design Priorities

    I’ve explained about the importance of artwork being balanced and harmonious with itself.

    I’ve also written about how mixed-media mosaic allows you to incorporate found objects as elements of images otherwise rendered conventionally in mosaic tile.

    When do these two modes clash with each other?

    Usually when there is just one of two elements that are found objects, and the rest of the mosaic is conventional mosaic.

    For some viewers, the one thing that is not like the rest of the artwork distracts from whatever else the art is about.

    The Atmospherics of Light at Night

    Terry Broderick’s Blue Venice Mosaic has me thinking about these questions because it might be “the exception the proves [challenges] the rule.”

  • Mosaic Lazy Susan Teaching Example

    Mosaic Lazy Susan Teaching Example

    Artist Kim Wilkowich emailed me a picture of the mosaic lazy susan she recently completed, and I think any artist would be justifiably proud to have made it merely because it is so well-balanced and harmonious in multiple ways. It is a great teaching example for several fundamentals of art and composition.

    Looking for instructions for making your own mosaic on a wooden lazy susan? My previous blog article uses a coaster for demonstrating how to lay up a complex design over a pattern and to be able to edit the design before you actually glue it to the wood. For a lazy susan, you would use the lazy susan to trace a large circle on some butcher paper or pieces of printer paper taped together. I would not try to wrap a circular board with contact paper. Remove paints or sealants from the wood before gluing tiles to it.

    Why does this mosaic look like it could have only been made by an experienced competent artist if not a professional? Of course there is the tight execution and consistent grout gap and strong iconic designs, but for me what sets it apart more than anything else is the consistency between the different panel designs.

    Similar levels of complexity and tesserae size between panels.Colors and design elements distributed between panels.Harmony of color intensity.Balance amount of cool colors and warm colors.Pairs of color wheel opposites used throughout the mosaic. Mosaic Lazy Susan has similar level of complexity between panel designs, even the leaves of the tree and the composite panel design at the bottom have no piece smaller than a piece used in the other iconic panels.

  • Art Therapy Projects

    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.

  • Composition and Correcting the Model

    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.

  • Grout Color for Stone Backsplash

    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.

    Randy worked through the decision in a thorough way using basic methods BEFORE testing colors in hidden places in the backsplash. 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.

  • Owl Mosaics and The Importance of Andamento

    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

    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.

  • Shipping Resumed

    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.

  • Warning: Marine Plywood Not For Mosaic

    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.