Category Archives: Inspiration

Inspirational material and ideas for mosaic art.

Porch Mosaics series by art therapist Ellis Eisener, photo collage

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.

Mosaic Floor Medallion Insert by art therapist Ellis Eisener
Mosaic Floor Medallion Insert by art therapist Ellis Eisner

Can’t Draw?

People who say they have zero ability to draw sometimes find they have a gift to render better than they thought if they become serial mosaicists. By the time they have completed three mosaics they will have resorted to making rough lines on the backer to help plan things or line something up.

And it’s a slippery slope from there if the “can’t-draw” student attempts more and more sophisticated mosaic designs.

Drawing a pattern is faster than making the mosaic, and using a pencil to mark critical lines of tiles evolves into sketching the whole pattern if the person keeps at it over time.

I have seen “can’t draw” students progress to the point where to the point where they routinely draw multiple versions of a pattern before they place the first tile.

Mosaic Plaques by student of art therapist Ellis Eisener, displayed on bookshelf
Mosaic Plaques by client of art therapist Ellis Eisner, displayed on bookshelf

Accessibility

Mosaic (and collage) CAN be options for people dealing with aging issues or impairments of some kind that make drawing difficult or impractical. Rendering with whole tile can be possible when controlling a pencil isn’t.

Mosaic Quilt

Porch Mosaics series by art therapist Ellis Eisener, photo collage
Porch Mosaics series by art therapist Ellis Eisner, photo collage

Art education and art therapy should always be about the experience more than the results.

That means small projects and simple designs are probably best, but that doesn’t mean the results can’t be impressive.

Many small mosaics displayed together in a “crazy quilt” is hard to beat in terms of guaranteed success because a collage of panels made by many different artists is intrinsically multicolored and filled with visual interest

I recommend school mosaic projects where each child gets to design their own mosaic plaque or stepping stone for a crazy quilt instead of working on one large group project.

I think this quilt approach lets children experience art more fully, and the results displayed together are multicolored and filled with visual interest.

I also though this was worth sharing:

Glass-On-Glass Mosaic

We recommend GE Silicone II for glass-on-glass mosaic. GE Silicone II is available at most building material and hardware stores. Black grout can be used to mimic the lead channel used in stained glass windows.

Glass-on-Glass Mosaic Window by art therapist Ellis Eisener installed
Glass-on-Glass Mosaic Window by art therapist Ellis Eisner installed

I like how frosty cool the winter panel looks:

Glass-on-Glass Mosaic Window by art therapist Ellis Eisener pre-installation
Glass-on-Glass Mosaic Window by art therapist Ellis Eisner pre-installation, photographed on opaque surface
Red Light District Amsterdam mosaic by Terry Broderick

Stalking Van Gogh in Mosaic

Artist Terry Broderick‘s latest mosaic is titled “Red Light District / Amsterdam,” and it is an interesting follow up to his Pittsburgh Cityscape mosaic, which is equally impressive. I feel like both mosaics could be part of a show called “Stalking Van Gogh in Mosaic.”

I like the Amsterdam mosaic for several reasons: It’s a good teaching example of perspective and vanishing point and creating a sense of depth. It’s a very fine job of capturing the “temperature of light” and the look of things at night and how you can feel that it is night in the scene.

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Eastern Screech Owl Mosaic by artist Linda Lawton

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
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.

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coronavirus-helmet-found-object-art-front-20200411_175224

Coronavirus Helmets

My son and I took a short break from planting our native and heirloom vegetable garden and digging a second tadpole pond and made Coronavirus Helmets, which are an essential piece of equipment these days. The Coronavirus Helmet featured in this post is mine. I have more about Henry’s helmet later in this post.

As I write, there is almost as much proof that these helmets repel Coronavirus as there is proof that malaria meds work for Coronavirus -at least not any better than any number of existing pharmaceuticals that were designed for viruses and not a protozoa like malaria.

That is why I feel like I have contributed as much in the fight against the pandemic as Donald Trump has.

More actually. I spent much of February warning friends and relatives of the coming catastrophe and encouraging them to buy groceries and make other preparations as soon as possible.

What did the President do in February? He repeatedly claimed everything was under control and played golf.

My apologies to anyone who is offended by that comment, but you might want to give me a pass for several reasons:

My ex-wife is from NYC, and I was aware of all the deeply disturbing things that local people knew about Trump BEFORE he entered politics, including assessments by deeply 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.

Like any experienced manufacturing engineer, I had a complete safety plan for my employees to work solo shifts wearing N95 masks I purchased well in advance of the crisis, having dealt with outbreaks of flu and stomach virus in production lines before. My criticism of Donald Trump’s lack of a timely response is from professional experience.

The mosaic business is merely one of my activities, and I spent the past year looking into developing an aptameric alternative to protein-based drugs such as Humira. My masters thesis involved microbiology and the University of Georgia patented it.

-Joe Moorman, MS, engineer
coronavirus-helmet-found-object-art-rear-v2-20200411_175310
coronavirus-helmet-found-object-art-rear-v2-20200411_175310

How does a guy who has 8 part-time employees outperform the President of the United States? And how did I do it when my decisions were only based on basic information accessible to anyone who follows international news?

I don’t often use words like doddamn and futhermucker when I speak to my momma on the phone, but I did when I called her and explained why she needed to stop watching Fox News.

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Madre de Guadelupe Mosaic by first-time-mosaicist Irene Clifford detail

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.

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Mosaic Table Top Steph Potter Blue Mandala

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 Steph Potter Iridescent Glass Mandala
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?

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Artist Heather Hancock mixed media glass architectural abstract art, vertical

Geometric Architectural Perspectives

Recently I wrote about The Stylistic Range of Mosaic Art and mentioned that I am still being surprised by the different styles that artists are able to execute in the medium, especially those with formal training.

I meant formal training in art when I first wrote that, and I was thinking about how technical innovation is easier for someone who has studied the nuts and bolts of different mediums.

Later I got to thinking about the extent to which art is fertilized by study of other disciplines, and not just the example of how Renaissance artists studied mathematical perspective and anatomy.

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mosaic-science-mural-detail

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
Mosaic Sign Phoenix Dragon Tiger Tortoise by artist Steven “Stevo” Sadvary.
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Prairie Diptych Mosaic, 4 ft x 2 ft

River and Prairie Mosaics

Artist Janet Flom used some of our vitreous tile in some pubic space mosaics in 2016-17 that are photorealistic and well-executed, and I wanted to show them off as inspiration. The subjects of the mosaics are prairie wildflower patches and landscapes of the upper Mississippi River.

Andamento

I say Janet’s mosaics are well-executed because the tiles are arranged in lines that correspond to the shape being rendered instead of being placed in a grid where each tile is nothing more than a pixel.

I greatly prefer mosaics that have this added element of visual interest and think it is worth the extra effort.

Using an andamento that follows the shapes being rendered also allows you to capture smaller details with larger pieces.

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peony-mosaic-bowl-susan-klug-kahan

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.

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