Category: Improving Your Art

  • Well-Executed First-Time Mosaic

    Well-Executed First-Time Mosaic

    One of the most well-executed mosaics I have ever seen in terms fine details wrought in slivers of glass came to me in photos in an email last week from artist Irene Clifford.

    As Natalija pointed out, ” Most people would throw away tiny pieces like that as scraps.”

    The mosaic is excellent work in several ways.

    The andamento of the mosaic as a whole is instinctive, and it fits the details and curves being rendered naturally (instead of being rows to cover space without much regard for the shape of the color field).

    The size of details relative to tile size is optimal for creating visual interest. That and the andamento impress me more than the exceptionally well-executed details with glass slivers.

    Most people could make multiple mosaics without ever coming close to this level of instinctive andamento or being able to work with tesserae that small, being more or less a sliver.

  • Centering Mosaic Table Top Designs

    Centering Mosaic Table Top Designs

    Artist Stephanie Potter‘s mosaic table top designs are mandalas that catch and hold the eye with contrast, symmetry, and visual interest. They are centered so that the outer circle of tile is at the edge of the circular table tops.

    Mosaics made on wooden table tops are for indoor use. Outdoors, the wood swells and contracts with changes in humidity, and that causes tiles to pop off.

    Mosaic Table Top Stephanie Potter Iridescent Glass Mandala

    Of course, it is easy to explain how you keep a design centered if you draw out all the work lines for the rows of tile, which would be more or less required for such detailed, symmetrical designs like these made by Stephanie.

    But how do you center a mosaic on a round table if your pattern doesn’t show every row of tile? What do you do when you want to improvise a figure in the center of a table but still surround it with concentric rings of tiles where the outermost ring of tile is at the edge of the table?

  • When To Use Sanded Grout

    When To Use Sanded Grout

    This article is about why we recommend “the opposite” of what the tile industry recommends for grouting glass mosaics and mosaics with a standard grout gap. This article also explains how to avoid scratching the glass tile while grouting with sanded grout.

    Industry Recommendations

    The tile industry recommends using sanded grout for gaps 1/8 to 3/8 inch and adding a coarser grade of sand for gaps larger than 3/8 inch. For gaps less than 1/8 inch, which is what mosaic glass mosaics have, tile manufacturers and industry associations recommend using non-sanded grout.

    At Mosaic Art Supply, I have always recommended using sanded grout for everything except mosaics with hairline gaps between the tile. Why the difference? There are three reasons.

    Plaques not Walls

    Many of our customers are making mosaics on small movable surfaces like plaques or tabletops not walls or floors, and these smaller mosaics are subject to being dropped and impacted and vibrated and flexed more than an architectural surface. The sand provides tensile strength and helps the grout not be knocked out of the gaps as easily.

  • Public Art and Commissioned Mosaics

    Public Art and Commissioned Mosaics

    Artist Steven “Stevo” Sadvary has a broad mosaic portfolio of pet portraits, cityscapes, signage, educational murals and other public art, all solidly rendered.

    I like public art that inspires people to make their own art, especially children, and I think there are a few things about Stevo’s art that make it optimal in that way.

    Mosaic Sign Phoenix Dragon Tiger Tortoise by artist Steven “Stevo” Sadvary.

  • Mosaic Bowls and Platters

    Mosaic Bowls and Platters

    Mosaics cannot be a “food safe” surface as defined by the Food and Drug Administration because grout is porous and cannot be cleaned easily or completely, and it sheds material over time. That being said, you can still make mosaic bowls and platters as centerpieces for holding fruit and other decorative uses.

    Artist Susan Klug Kahan emailed me some photos of her peony mosaic bowl and asked my advice on grout color. Susan used a narrow grout gap, and so the visual impact of grouting and grout color would be minimal, but there was still a lot of incentive to get it right: The design was all about harmonious colors, and so a poor choice of grout color would be particularly conspicuous.

  • Use of Natural Stone in Landscape Mosaics

    Use of Natural Stone in Landscape Mosaics

    I recently saw some stained-glass mosaics by artist Debra D’Souza, and they reaffirmed my belief in the mosaic business and actually cheered me up after a day of work poop. To explain why Debra’s mosaics make me so happy, I first have to explain a problem that really haunts me as a retailer of arts and craft supplies.

    Flame Lake Stained Glass Mosaic Landscape by artist Debra D’Suza 24 x36 in Not Rocks with Fake Skins

    Most of the stones you see used in mosaic artwork are rounded river rocks, which is fine when they are unique stones collected from beaches and hikes and real life, but all too often they are the epoxy-coated or urethane-coated river rocks of the same type of stone from the same factory no matter where you buy them, which is really sad to me.

  • Cartoon Patterns and Mosaic Pet Portraits

    Cartoon Patterns and Mosaic Pet Portraits

    The pattern for a mosaic is sometimes referred to as a cartoon because it is just an outline with no attempt at shading or color. The purpose of the cartoon is merely to map out the major work lines and color fields, and so the cartoon is relatively simple, even for photorealistic work. The texture and color mottling and finer details come from the tile.

    Mosaic Pet Portrait Cali work-in-progress 2 by artist Donna Van Hooser Simplified Yet Exact

    The cartoon is not required to have all the lines needed to create an image, but what lines it does have should be exact. For example, you shouldn’t try to draw all the flecks of color in the iris of an eye, but you should have that iris drawn exactly where it goes.

  • Alternatives to Marble Mosaic

    Alternatives to Marble Mosaic

    Many people are drawn to the idea of making mosaics from marble and stone, mostly because that was the material used by the ancient Romans but also because they would like to make a mosaic from natural materials in subdued colors.

    Nevertheless, as soon as these people start trying to source materials, they quickly become frustrated with how limited the color palette is in marble mosaic, and they usually end up mixing the stone with smalti or ceramic or porcelain tiles, or they use dyed stone or synthetic stone for certain colors.

    In either case, the mosaic usually doesn’t have the look and feel that was desired, which is really a tragedy because superior results could have been more easily and cheaply accomplished had the artist used all glass and merely restricted the color palette to more subtle hues.

    Before you convince yourself you need to work in stone, spend some time looking at glass mosaics made from subdued color pallets.

  • Skin Tones and Mosaic Portraits

    Skin Tones and Mosaic Portraits

    Finding the “Right” Color

    There is tremendous power in getting the colors right. No matter how loosely executed, an impressionistic landscape painting takes on photorealistic qualities merely by having the correct colors for a scene with its particular light.

    For that reason, most people wanting to make a mosaic portrait begin by trying to find the “right” color for the skin type they are trying to render, whether it be a pinkish northern European skin tone or a Latino coffee color or whatever.

    When these people email us asking questions like, “which tile would you use to render the skin of a caucasian person?” or “which tile color would you use to make a mosaic of Polynesian faces?” my answer isn’t what these people are expecting or wanting:

    Mosaic portraits should not be thought of in terms of one particular color that generally represents the skin tone of a race or individual. Instead, look at the highlights and shadows of the model photograph and think in terms of rendering those areas in a way that gets their colors right.

  • Using Found Objects in Figurative Mosaics

    Using Found Objects in Figurative Mosaics

    Found objects can be used as mosaic tesserae based on their color and texture and shape, as another form of tile more or less, but found-objects of symbolic value add a whole new dimension to mosaics, one that is as cerebral as it is visual.

    You do not have to choose between making a found-object mosaic or a figurative mosaic. You can create visual interest in figurative mosaics by using found-objects in a spare and selective way.

    Mosaic I Am Down to Earth by Janet Sacks

    I wanted to show off and discuss artist Janet Sacks’ mosaics because she has some great examples of using found objects in figurative mosaic, both in the sense of improvised tile for texture and color and in the sense of symbolic value. Janet’s work is particularly strong in my opinion because she does not overuse symbolic found objects.

    Janet also has a couple of mosaics that deviate from practices that I recommend as a general rule, and I wanted to talk about why they still work.