Category: Art Review

  • Mosaic Virtuosity: Stained Glass Paintings

    Mosaic Virtuosity: Stained Glass Paintings

    Artist Lisa Sunshine’s stained-glass mosaics are tiny 4-inch iconic images intended for use in an illustrated alphabet series.

    I’m not sure whether these images are Sunshine’s own compositions or if she is using an existing illustrated series as a model, but either way the mosaics are virtuoso stuff.

    Sunshine’s mosaics are “impressionistic paintings” rendered in stained glass, they are miniatures, and they make the rest of us look like amateurs.

    TIP: Most people wouldn’t enjoy working in this small size and would prefer a 10″ or 12″ backer, especially if the mosaic contains multiple figures.

  • 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.

  • “Crazy Good Art”

    “Crazy Good Art”

    Sometimes I feel like a thoughtless child when I catch myself using expressions that show a lack of sensitivity for people suffering.

    Other times I feel like the expression in question has some insight or specitivity when used in certain contexts, no matter how overused or unfortunate the term might be in general.

    “Crazy good” might be a callous expression, but “crazy good art” has some references beyond the association of genius and mental illness and suffering and the classic heart-breaking examples like Van Gogh.

    I think there is some artist-to-artist meaning communicated in the phrase, and it is a reference to the “post-project blues” and the level of commitment required to make the piece in question. It is a high compliment expressed crudely for emphasis.

  • 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).

  • Underestimating Grout Gaps

    Underestimating Grout Gaps

    Artist Harry Belkowitz’s millefiori mosaic Dove of Peace is a mixed-media piece of artwork with a black painted background surrounding the central mosaic figure.

    The rainbow silhouette of dove with olive branch might be a little aspirational right now, but I figured we all could use a little hope and beauty.

    The Dove of Peace also serves as a good starting point for discussing grout gaps and how to minimize the color impact of grouting.

    Many novices are disappointed or even disturbed by the appearance of their first mosaics after grouting.

    There are several reasons for this:

  • Multiple Modes of Andamento

    Multiple Modes of Andamento

    First-time mosaic artist John Schroeder’s Celestial Transom Mosaic is something of a tour-de-force in combining different styles of andamento into a seamless composition.

    Kids, Don’t Try This at Home

    Combining different styles of andamento in a mosaic is something I would never recommend to a first-timer.

    It’s easier to figure out one way of working than two or three ways, and figuring out how to transition between modes of working in the same composition is an advanced skill.

    Combining modes of tiling makes things more difficult, and people usually botch it, and the discontinuities are jarring and distracting.

    Before I can tell you what is exceptionally well-executed about this mosaic, I need to clarify some terms that I have been using sloppily.

  • Mosaic Art Exhibition

    Mosaic Art Exhibition

    Janet Crawford has owned and operated Fog Forest Gallery in Sackville, New Brunswick, Canada since 1984.

    The gallery’s current exhibit is called “Piece Works” and has been in the making for several years.

    As the name implies, the exhibit features works of art that were created by assembling small pieces, and the exhibit itself is an assemblage of multiple artists and mediums, and so the title of the show is apt on multiple levels.

    The mediums include collage, found-object sculpture, rug hooking, mixed media, and of course mosaic.

    There are 12 artists in total including mosaicists Kath Kornelsen Rutherford, Tim Isaac, Sheryl Crowley, and Janet Crawford.

    I think Janet did a great job curating the exhibit because the mosaics selected show a range of styles possible in that medium.

    This article doesn’t include any images of the sculptures, rugs, and mixed-media artwork in the show, and so make sure you take a look at the gallery exhibition.

  • Mosaic Grout Rules

    Mosaic Grout Rules

    Artist Caroline Bommer’s recent Sunset Mosaic is a great example of an exception to the rules of mosaic art that I harp on in all my online content. After seeing the finished mosaic, I actually wanted to title this article, “Don’t Listen to Me. I Don’t Know Anything about Mosaic.”

    Exceptions to Rules of Art

    I have often written about how much I like exceptions to general rules and how problematic artistic advice can be, especially when dispensed and consumed as a one-size-fits-all way.

    First, there are many different styles of art. If you are trying to paint in a loose Impressionistic style, then following advice about how to paint in the French Academic style with all its crisp rendering will leave you farther from your goal.

    I would caution anyone reading different art instruction books to keep that in mind.

    I even recommend that you avoid reading some content out of idle curiosity when you know the style being discussed is different from what you are trying to do.

  • Subtle Mosaic Mandalas

    Subtle Mosaic Mandalas

    New Mexico artist Debbi Murzyn emailed me some pictures of her mosaic mandalas that she made using Native American symbols as the center of the designs.

    She says she didn’t realize her cultural faux pas until she had completed them, and I think she was a little surprised by the fact that she was surprised.

    After all, she does live in New Mexico and is sensitive to the problems of cultural appropriation.

    To me, that gives some indication that Debbi was focused on the design of the art itself and not thinking in terms of the context of the symbol or how if would play with an audience.

    Also, the mandalas don’t reproduce each symbol in the canonical way most commonly drawn. That is another indication that the art was made from the heart as opposed to leveraging the Native American associations with the symbols.

    The mandalas are also interesting and skilled art in ways that don’t have anything to do with the symbols.

    First there is the subtle use of harmonious hues and contrasts, and there are also some plays on symmetry.

    Those were the things that dominated my attention when I first saw the mandalas.

  • Mosaic Stepping Stone Path

    Mosaic Stepping Stone Path

    This is an ode to the mosaic stepping stone.

    There is much to praise:

    Each stone can be its own design or part of a theme, or even part of a larger mosaic image made by placing similar stepping stones side by side.

    Stepping stones allow you to build a larger design incrementally, from paths to patios, even whole landscapes.

    They allow you to work on a project as you find the time instead of committing to a rigid installation schedule, such as required for pouring a concrete slab.

    They don’t require large equipment or contractors.

    They don’t require disruption of the installation area necessarily.

    They make doing the work as satisfying and peaceful as the results.

  • Mosaic Backgrounds & Variegation

    Mosaic Backgrounds & Variegation

    In my previous post, I wrote about Peggy Pugh’s excellent use of color variegation and the potential for this technique to cause figures to lose definition when there is variegation in both the figure and the background.

    In response, artist Jill Gatwood emailed me photos of a student’s work where the problem had caused the central figure to lose all definition and disappear into the background.

    My apologies for the low resolution of the photo, but I was glad to receive it because it is a great illustration of the problem:

    Kokopelli Mosaic with original grout. If you didn’t know what I meant by figures getting lost in backgrounds, this mosaic is a prime example of what can happen when the figure and the background are both variegated in color.

  • Variegated and Mottled Colors for Better Mosaics

    Variegated and Mottled Colors for Better Mosaics

    I forgot to write about some of the teaching points from Peggy Pugh’s mosaic backsplash.

    Variegated and mottled colors create more visual interest in mosaic artwork than monochromatic color fields.

    However, there is a limit to how much variation you can put into an area of color and still render an element as a distinct element and make it look separate from the background.