Artists can create a sense of motion in their mosaics by using concentric curved rows of tile, especially in the background around figures.
To me this use of andamento* is one of the most interesting aspects of mosaic, and it is an easy way for novices to make art that really engages the eye. I used this technique in the first mosaic I ever made, and when I used a photo of that mosaic to make our logo, I blacked out the figure of the fire bird to emphasize how much of the sense of motion was creation was created by the andamento in the background.
*The Joy of Shards mosaic website defines andamento as the visual flow and direction within a mosaic produced by the placement of rows of tesserae (pieces of tile).
In my recent blog article about black and white grout, I wrote the following tip for minimizing the width of grout gaps and working a little faster at the same time:
If tiles only touch at points but not along the length of their sides, then tiles can be positioned very closely and yet still be grouted. Consider working in this way instead of carefully cutting each tile to maintain a uniform grout gap.
I need to clarify what I meant by that.
Uniform Versus Consistent
Sometimes novice mosaicists will carefully cut each tile to maintain a perfectly uniform gap, which can be a little tedious, and worse yet, they make the gap a little wider than it should be because the artist does not have the experience to visualize what it will look like when grouted.
I think it is better to work a little less uniform, and to err on the side of being slightly narrow, even if that means tiles occasionally touch at a point or corner. By better, I mean more efficient, less tedious, and better looking.
All that being said, it is extremely important that the mosaic have the same type of grout gap in all regions. You want to be consistent in your style of gap. You do not want to have loosely executed in one place and tightly uniform in another, nor do you want wide gaps in one region and narrow gaps in another. Continue reading
You can increase visual interest in your mosaic by using variegated colors (multiple colors in patches or streaks) instead of monochromatic fields of only one color. This technique is particularly effective if your design is relatively simple and made from outlined areas of color like a coloring book or cartoon. Continue reading
Black grouts bring out the intensity of tile colors while white grouts overwhelm them. Natalie Knox’s Day of the Dead Skull mosaic is a good example of how well black grouts work and how a light colored backer isn’t a good indicator of the mosaic would look with white grout.
Don’t Be Fooled
If you lay the mosaic out on a white backer and try to use that as an indication of what the mosaic will look like with white grout, remember this:
When the gaps are filled with grout, they won’t have all the contrast provided by empty gaps, which have depth and shadow. A lot of white concrete at the same level as the surface of the glass tends to make the colors look washed out. Continue reading
Inspiring mosaic table tops with abstract geometric patterns were recently created by artist Risa Puno as part of her public art project Common Ground, an interactive sculpture designed to bring people closer together physically.
The concept of Risa’s sculpture plays on the metaphor of multiculturalism as mosaic, but instead of the folk or children’s artwork usually associated with that theme , there are cleaner abstract designs with color choices that ensure that each table has similar levels of intensity and contrast. The result is that the combined “quilt” is balanced and unified visually. Continue reading
Keira Miller recently made a mosaic bench in the shape of the state of California with a class of 4th, 5th, and 6th graders. The mosaic bench is made from California redwood and is to be auctioned off as part of a fundraiser to benefit their Montessori school.
Note that we do NOT recommend wood as a backer for outdoor mosaics, but if this mosaic had to be placed outdoors, some of the drier regions of California would be ideal. I think the mosaic would do well on a covered porch, and it would be a great addition to a family room or den. Continue reading
Artist Cherie Bosela has some mixed-media mosaic sculpture that you really should see, especially if you are considering making some of your own. Cherie’s body of work is incredible, and it includes bas relief mosaics (flat panel with raised elements) and figurative sculpture encrusted with glass beads and found objects such as seashells.
I absolutely love her stuff and how well material choices resonate with the subject matter, specifically the use of beads to create insects and flowers. (The ancient Egyptian word(s) for jewelry translates literally as “artificial flowers and animals,” if I remember correctly.) Continue reading
Artist Sherri Grasmuck created a mosaic facade of Guatemalan women on her house in Philadelphia that is the perfect case study for choosing a grout color. Continue reading
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
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 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.