My dear old friend Jay Brown had been requesting a mosaic of a blue crab for years, and this past week Jay had his official investiture as a federal judge, and so I decided it was time.Art with a Capital A
Normally I avoid bespoke commissions like the plague because I have trouble keeping to a script, even when I write the script.
I have done so much engineering work with rigid specs that it is important to me that my art be its own animal and go where it wants to go. I tend to make things only when I feel driven by mystical-religious type impulses.
I also seem to be unable to keep things easy no matter how much I plan to do so at the start of the project. I just start exploring, and the Blue Crab Mosaic was no exception.
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.
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.
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.
Angela Bortone and Natalija Moss recently restored a marble mosaic interpretation of a detail from Botticelli’s Venus, the well-known Renaissance painting.
They used the Hercules Precision Stone Chopping Machine to cut the Mable Mosaic Cutting Strips they used for the work.
Note that many colors of our Mable Mosaic Cutting Strips are currently out of stock but will be restocked in 45 days.
My recent blog post about Lonnie Parson’s Peacock mosaic was a cautionary tale about what can happen when you fail to take at least one definitive photo of your finished mosaic.
I didn’t want that blog post to be about how to photograph your artwork in optimal light with no foreshortening. I wanted the post to be about how good the mosaic was, but since no photo of the finished work existed, the photo issue seemed like the right starting point.
Well, the miracle of Natalija has delivered yet again, and I have a second chance.
Artist Ivana Sorrells works at Mosaic Art Supply, and she made a couple of small mosaic plaques using our vitreous glass tile, stained glass, and 8-inch plywood mosaic backer boards, plus a few odd findings from a few other types of mosaic glass.
These mosaics were quick and easy for Ivana to make because they weren’t large and detailed, and they were the same size. That second point is more important than you might realize.
One you figure out the resolution issues for a particular size backer, you can make additional mosaics of that size much more quickly.
I wanted to share Ivana’s mosaics because they are original in terms of andamento, background, and artistic style.
Paints can be blended to any shade or hue, but the mosaic medium requires that an artist render an image in a limited set of fixed colors.
The color palettes of molded glass tile product lines are limited to 40 to 60-ish colors, and this limitation seems to encourage novice artists to work in a posterized style of monochromatic color fields.
You can fight this tendency toward dullness and increase visual interest by variegating your monochromatic color fields with multiple shades of the same hue or a set of related hues.
Artist Dianne Stearns and her students have created an impressive mixed-media mosaic mural on the exterior of their school in Tuolumne County, California.Too Much Inspiration
The mural is a “regional icons landscape collage,” and so naturally it shows local landmarks and regional archetypes, but when you have El Capitan in Yosemite National Park and the butterfly meadows of the Sierras, you have a lot to work with.
You could say you have too much to work with.
How do you show it all? How do you do the models justice when it’s “postcard country” you have to depict? How do you communicate the sense of mountains and space and light?An Elegant Design
Dianne’s solution was a collage that left the big sky of the Sierras completely open, which evokes the feel of the cloudless skies so common in the Sierras.Tuolumne County School Mosaic Mural with artist Dianne Stearns
Artist Morgan Halford‘s mosaic flower pot planters are colorful geometric abstracts executed with a spooky level of precision.
I like that they are exceptions to my general recommendation to work in a looser fashion in the uniformity of the sizing, shaping, and orienting of tiles.
TIP: Most people find that they can render images more effectively if they tolerate a little error in each of the pieces. By effectively, I mean they can render an image that is truer to the model while working faster at the same time. Instead of requiring each piece fit exactly, let slight errors be your grout gap. That approach is easier than planning a larger and more uniform grout gap.
Morgan wasn’t rendering an image. She was making abstract geometric patterns, and the uniformity of the spacing was an important part of the design for her. The effect is striking.