Category Archives: Art Review

Reviews of modern mosaic art.

Missing Tiles Detail View Mosaic Art

Why Did My Tiles Come Loose From Thinset?

Recently, artist Jackye Mills emailed me about a problem she was having with her first mosaic project, and it really caused me a lot of angst because the artwork was a strong design that was otherwise well executed. I hated the thought that a first-time mosaicist could do such a good job on something so ambitious only to lose the project due to a technical issue. Continue reading

Glass mosaic with stone background

Making Mixed-Media Mosaics By A Process of Elimination

Artist Susan Watson created a stained glass and stone mosaic for her studio exterior wall and chose the background color and material using a process of trial and elimination.

Mixed-media mosaic artists often choose backgrounds by laying tile on the pattern or backer after the figures have been tiled, as I explained in my recent article How To Choose Mosaic Background Colors and Patterns.

Black Considered For Background

Black was considered for the background because black makes colors “pop” or seem more intense. Susan decided black was too dark and didn’t look good with the colors where the mosaic would be installed.

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Anime Girl Mosaic Art by Natalija Moss

How To Choose Mosaic Background Colors and Patterns

Background colors for mosaics should be chosen based on how well they contrast with the colors used in figures. For this reason, most mosaic artists will tile their figures first and then choose their background colors by a trial-and-error process of placing tiles on the mosaic backer and just seeing how they look.

The same approach can be used to decide what pattern of placement (andamento) you should use for the background. You look at what you have in the figures in the foreground and choose a background pattern that is compatible. Continue reading

Lighthouse Mosaic By Natalija Moss

Making Pictures With Colored Mirror Tile

Natalija improvised this picture of a lighthouse using the Colored Mirror Tiles to show that they can be used to render an image. We added these tiles last year, but I haven’t had time to use them in anything.

In Praise of Colored Mirror Tiles

I can say that the Colored Mirror Tile ranks the highest of all our product lines in terms of being “pretty shiny things” in a rainbow of colors. (Sure the 24kt Gold Mosaic Glass is dazzling, but that is only one color, and things like beads and gemstones are more accents than they are materials for rendering.) Continue reading

Marlene Dietrich Mosaic

Inspiring Mosaic Portraits Using A Grid Pattern

David Armstrong has created some inspiring mosaic portraits, and he did it using whole tiles arranged in a grid instead of irregular pieces cut and fit as needed. Normally, I dislike mosaic designs based on grids because they lack the extra visual element provided by tile arrangement (andamento), but David’s work has tons of visual interest that more than compensates for this. Continue reading

Pan's Head mosaic in progress

Pan’s Head Mosaic: A Classical Interpretation

Artist Frederic Lecut’s “Pan’s Head” mosaic has a style that matches its theme, and it is a great example of using classical elements in a contemporary mosaic.

The face of the “goat-footed god of Attica” or Pan is the subject of Lecut’s mosaic, and consequently the artist incorporates several aspects of ancient Greek mosaic in his design. Continue reading

The Afghan Girl's Eyes Mosaic by artist Frederic Lecut.

Mosaic Artist Frederic Lecut’s Opus Pixellatum Technique

Artist Frederic Lecut’s Opus Pixellatum Technique is a tool for rapidly creating original photorealistic mosaics and incorporating improvised elements.

Artist Frederic Lecut

Mosaic Artist Frederic Lecut creates striking portraits of people’s eyes, mosaics that are photorealistic in execution and powerful as compositions because they are cropped closely and look almost like eyes seen in a Niqab. Continue reading

Mosaic Patio Table with bench seats by Naomi Haas.

Glass or Ceramic Tile for Mosaic Patio Table?

Ceramic tile can be used for outdoor mosaic patio tables provided you live someplace warm year round, but otherwise glass tile should be used because it is impervious to moisture and freeze damage. There are other reasons to use glass tile explained later in this article.

Concrete Patio Table Set

Artist Naomi Haas recently completed a mosaic patio table set that included concrete benches, and I really liked it for several reasons. For starters, the table base and benches she had were sturdy and stable and appropriate for an outdoor mosaic (and not wood or rusted light-gauge metal or some of the other junk people email us about using).

Mosaic Bench 1 of 3

Mosaic Bench 1 of 3 uses a design of solid colors instead of being a copy of the other benches.

I also like the color scheme. Naomi colored the un-mosaiced surfaces black and used black grout to make the bright festive colors of the Mexican Talavera tile stand out. To make the concrete black, Naomi used a product called Flex Seal, but black spray paint could have been used. Another thing that draws me to this project is that Naomi made a different design for each bench instead of making them the same.

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Mosaic Art Untitled Valri Castleman

How To Price Mosaic Art

Pricing art is difficult because it is subjective, and pricing mosaic artwork is even more problematic due to the extra labor required to make it, but there is a structured way to determine a hard number, even if the buyer is a friend or relative.

Recently artist Valri Castleman emailed my a photo of her untitled mosaic shown above and asked for my advice on how to price it for a family member. Normally I am not drawn to mosaics made from triangular pieces, but I like Valri’s mosaic and think it is worth sharing for several reason. For starters, there is some sophisticated “figure-ground-reversal” going on that reminds me of Picasso and the Cubists. There is also some interesting use of grout lines to outline figures. Lastly, the mosaic is a good case study for how to price your art for sale to a friend.

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How To Add Texture To Mosaic Art

Mosaic artwork can include rough textural elements that would be impractical in architectural tiling such as a shower wall, which needs to be smooth for cleaning and safety. Note that smooth does not mean flat. You can have textural elements in an architectural surface, but they need to be rounded and not jagged. (Cheese-grater walls in the shower or even your hallway would be problematic.)

Serendipity

For the past few months or more, I have been meaning to create a mosaic which uses cut pieces of tile mounted on their side so that I could demonstrate how a “hand-cut” smalti look and feel could be created with ordinary molded mosaic tile, which is significantly cheaper than smalti. But work and other art projects kept getting in the way, until finally one day out of the blue artist Dee Ruff emails me some pictures of her work, and they illustrate exactly what I had in mind!

We Are Stardust Mosaic Side View

“We Are Stardust” Mosaic Side View by Artist Dee Ruff shows the beautiful texture and hand-cleaved look that can be had from ordinary molded tile.

We Are Stardust Mosaic

“We Are Stardust Mosaic” by Artist Dee Ruff includes a “portal” (glass panel painted on the reverse side).

Mixed Media and Texture

"In the Garden" Mosaic

“In the Garden” Mosaic by Dee Ruff features ceramic figures by Atlanta-based artist Martha Coursey.

"Nature" Mosaic by Dee Ruff

“Nature” Mosaic by Dee Ruff includes a stained glass inset that matches the “color wash” gradient of the tile.

Dee’s “In the Garden” mosaic really caught my eye because I have always been drawn to mixed-media mosaics and mosaics where the work lines of the background interact with figurative elements in the foreground. This mosaic has both. Plus as a subtle color wash gradient in the background. Plus a hand-cleaved texture made from molded recycled glass tile that was cut and mounted on edge. (It was almost as if this mosaic were made to order for me. Imagine my surprise when Dee emailed it to me.)

Dee says “in the Garden” is one of her favorite pieces. Note that the flowers are made from ceramic figures by Atlanta-based artist Martha Coursey, who does amazing work. I like how the smooth glazed ceramic pieces contrast with the rough cleaved texture of the sky.

Backers, Substrates, and Mounting

Dee makes her panels from recycled expanded polystyrene (Styrofoam)  covered in alkali-resistant fiberglass mesh and multiple coats of thinset mortar colored with concrete dye. The “hollow” core makes the substrates lightweight, and the skin of thinset and mesh makes them strong and tough (impact resistant). Dee says that she builds the mounting hardware directly into the skin so that it is anchored by layers of thinset reinforced by fiberglass mesh.

Dee uses the Wedi brand of hardware, but brass picture hanging rings sold by building material stores should work, provided you use the heavier gauges. Note that no mounting hardware will be strong enough if you hang them on a nail in drywall, which is weak and fails easily. Nails or screws for mosaics and paintings of any size should go through the drywall and into the stud inside the wall (use a stud finder) or in the crown molding at the top of the wall with a hooked rod hanging down.

Note the safest and most robust mounting system is probably the French cleat. See Natalija’s Instructions for French Cleat Mounting.

More Of Dee Ruff’s Art

Dee Ruff currently has work available at the The Mosaic Love Gallery in Jonesborough, Tennessee. Dee’s website is Black Cat Mosaics, and she has some interesting multimedia mosaics and collaborations online there.