Artists Angela Bortone and Natalija Moss have discovered a new way to do huge amounts of extreme physical labor in an unheated loading dock. They call this latest folly the Knight Park Mosaic Sculpture.
I know from past experiences with my own large sculptural projects that Angela and Natalija have doubted their own rationality if not sanity many times while working on this.The Agony and the Ecstasy
Why do we as artists gladly do massive amounts of labor in conditions normally experienced only by construction workers and farm laborers?Artist Angela Borton with Sculpture Base Pre Mosaic
By angels led, by demons driven. We are the lucky ones. We experience purpose at all levels in our creative process.
Most artists are aware of how much personality a work of art can assume during the process of creation, especially when the piece of art requires a long period to complete. Artist Peter Vogelaar says he often spoke to his “Rebirth” mosaic matryoshka sculpture while working on her and referred to her as Natalija.
A matryoshka (“little mother”) is a traditional Russian doll made from painted wood and hollowed out for a series of smaller wooden dolls inside with the same design. These recursively-nested dolls symbolize fertility and the continuity of life and the family.
Peter made his mosaic sculpture Rebirth in the shape and styling of matryoshka dolls but clothed her in illustrations of the forest’s power of renewal instead of traditional costume.
For those of readers who were asking for inspiring examples of no-grout mosaics, I give you the mosaics of Canadian artist Terry Nicholls.
I am amazed by Terry’s work and its continuity. It is a very focused exploration of the mosaic medium as a fine art.
There is a sense of space that Terry creates by keeping landscapes wide open and compensating for the absence of figurative detail with increased texture and pattern.
These patterned and textured areas suggest fine repetitive detail in landscape elements seen at a distance: waves on the ocean, grass-covered hills, etc.
Artist Sandra Arkin’s bas-relief mosaic sign “Art Can’t Hurt You” makes me laugh.
Anyone who has ever made a glass mosaic with tiny details has anointed their work multiple times with blood. Am I right, or am I right?
Sandra says doesn’t draw or make representations of physical objects in her heart usually, but she is pretty adept at making patterns with her printer when she does want an actual image.
Artist Barbara Stutts recently emailed me some photos of her abstract mosaic stepping stones and mosaic-covered river stones, and they resonated with me for several reasons.
Barbara says she is relatively new to mosaic, but her abstract mosaics are worth sharing because they are well executed and serve as good teaching examples.
In this case, one of the lessons needing a teaching example is what beautiful art you can make without drawing or rending an image in any way.Abstract Mosaic Stepping Stone p1 by Barbara Stutts
Mosaic stepping stones such as these can be made directly on concrete stepping stones using thinset mortar, and you can purchase both products at a local building material store.
If you need something lighter and thinner for a mosaic that will be mounted vertically on an outdoor wall, you could use a large porcelain floor tile in either 12 inch or 18 inch size as the backer.
The Four Seasons mosaic by Marc Chagall in Chicago was originally installed outdoors in the 1970s but has since had a glass canopy installed over the top to protect it from the elements.
Part of the reason for the canopy is Chicago’s harsh freezing weather, which is hard on all mosaics, but another reason for the canopy is that Chagall painted additional details on top of the tile in places where his artist’s eye saw that that something more was needed.
Everything (except being boring) might be legal in visual art, but in mosaic, not so much. When you are making something to withstand the elements or to function as an architectural surface, you really have no choice but to use best practices and standard methods and materials. Otherwise, the artwork won’t last.
I recommend that schools wanting to make a mosaic mural for their school consider “crazy quilt” displays that are assembled from individual mosaic projects all on the same size backer, say anywhere from 6×6 inches or 12×12 inches.
This allows each student a real art experience (making their own design) instead of just being a worker bee on a group project, which runs the risk of teaching mostly the craft/shop aspect of the process while being too light on individual expression/design.
A good compromise is to have the class work on a group project to “learn by doing” under supervision and them have them do small individual projects afterward. These individual mosaics are then arranged as a “crazy quilt” frame around the central group project.
It is important that any school’s visual arts class or art project actually be about students doing art (individual design and expression). Don’t lose sight of that in your school’s project.Pre-Glue Exercise
When the students start gluing tile, you will be pre-occupied with showing inexperienced people how to glue without making a mess and won’t have much bandwidth for making sure everyone is working consistently in terms of spacing.
Showing the importance of small consistent grout gaps and how to arrange tile can be done before glue is ever involved.
Artist Denise Cook’s mosaic portrait of Frida Kahlo is a great teaching example. It illustrates several important tips for making better mosaic artwork. The background and skin tones are made more visually interesting via variegation of shade and hue respectively. There is also a satisfying andamento in the background, and the use of found objects to represent pictorial elements is done seamlessly.Visual Interest In Backgrounds
Portraits often have simple “monochromatic” backgrounds so that the central figure is more iconic.
In painting, it is easy to avoid boring uniformity in a nominally “monochrome” color field merely by being a little lazy. If the paint isn’t overmixed to perfect uniformity on the palette, every brushstroke can’t help but have a slightly different shade or hue or both.
In mosaic, you can achieve similar results by using 2 or 3 different tints of the same or similar hue. That is what Denise did in her Frida Kahlo portrait.
Artist Mollie Seymour’s mosaic plaque is a depiction of a small pueblo of cliff dwellings in a rugged canyon with water and sky rendered in bold andamento. Mollie made this for the mosaic for the courtyard of a condominium. I wanted to share it because it is a good example of using mixed-media mosaic to make a bas-relief sculpture.The Treachery of Images by Belgian surrealist painter René Magritte, 1929. “This Is Not A Pipe.” MMM: Where a Pipe Really Is a Pipe
Mixed-media mosaic (MMM) is a medium of art where elements of a composition can actually be the item being “depicted.” For example, a mosaic face could be smoking a real pipe. The artist can use a mix of found objects and elements rendered in conventional tile to produce results that engage the mind as both image and symbol all at once.
Artist Kim Wilkowich emailed me a picture of the mosaic lazy susan she recently completed, and I think any artist would be justifiably proud to have made it merely because it is so well-balanced and harmonious in multiple ways. It is a great teaching example for several fundamentals of art and composition.
Looking for instructions for making your own mosaic on a wooden lazy susan? My previous blog article uses a coaster for demonstrating how to lay up a complex design over a pattern and to be able to edit the design before you actually glue it to the wood. For a lazy susan, you would use the lazy susan to trace a large circle on some butcher paper or pieces of printer paper taped together. I would not try to wrap a circular board with contact paper. Remove paints or sealants from the wood before gluing tiles to it.
Why does this mosaic look like it could have only been made by an experienced competent artist if not a professional? Of course there is the tight execution and consistent grout gap and strong iconic designs, but for me what sets it apart more than anything else is the consistency between the different panel designs.Similar levels of complexity and tesserae size between panels.Colors and design elements distributed between panels.Harmony of color intensity.Balance amount of cool colors and warm colors.Pairs of color wheel opposites used throughout the mosaic. Mosaic Lazy Susan has similar level of complexity between panel designs, even the leaves of the tree and the composite panel design at the bottom have no piece smaller than a piece used in the other iconic panels.