Category: Inspiration

  • Artistic Style in Mosaic

    Artistic Style in Mosaic

    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.

    Ivana hadn’t worked in mosaic before these pieces, but she gave it a try when I started a series of small mosaics and recommended them as a way of learning the basics of the craft.

    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.

  • Mosaics in a Painterly Style

    Mosaics in a Painterly 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.

    You can also use stained glass instead of molded glass tile or smalti.

  • Large Mixed-Media Mosaic Mural

    Large Mixed-Media Mosaic Mural

    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

  • Mosaic Flower Pot Planters

    Mosaic Flower Pot Planters

    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.

  • Inspiration Versus Reproduction

    Inspiration Versus Reproduction

    I once had an employee-artist who became angry with me for encouraging people who didn’t think they could draw to trace artwork or photos to make patterns.

    I explained that we wanted to reach all skill levels and that included some people who would be attempting mosaic or even art for the first time.

    I explained that it was a learning exercise that had value in itself and wouldn’t necessarily dull people’s imagination.

    Chagall was the most imaginative of all the painters of the early 20th century, and his introduction to art as a school boy began by copying illustrations from books.

    I can safely say that I’m not against people making exact copies of existing artwork on principle.

    But why would you want to do that with a mosaic?

  • Knight Park Mosaic Sculpture

    Knight Park Mosaic Sculpture

    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.

  • Natalija the Mosaic Russian Doll

    Natalija the Mosaic Russian Doll

    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.

  • Texture and a Sense of Space: the Mosaics of Terry Nicholls

    Texture and a Sense of Space: the Mosaics of Terry Nicholls

    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.

  • Bas-Relief Plaques and Mosaic Stones

    Bas-Relief Plaques and Mosaic Stones

    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.

  • Abstract Mosaics As “Quilt” Elements

    Abstract Mosaics As “Quilt” Elements

    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.

  • Mosaic vs Mixed-Media Artwork

    Mosaic vs Mixed-Media Artwork

    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.

  • Using Class Mosaics For Public Art Project

    Using Class Mosaics For Public Art Project

    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.