• 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.

  • Mosaic Peacock: A Cautionary Tale

    Mosaic Peacock: A Cautionary Tale

    My recent blog article about small mosaics has a section at the end that explains how to take catalog-ready photos of mosaic art. My article about mosaic frames includes some discussion about the best light for photographing artwork and the need to avoid foreshortening.

    I know why the issue is coming up more and more in my thoughts.

    People are emailing me photos of amazing artwork, but all too often the photos leave me wanting to know what the artwork really looks like without lighting or angle issues. I can tell that the art is good and that the photos don’t do it justice.

    Some artists are bad about photographing their artwork because they are always consumed by their latest project and drop artwork quickly once it is deemed complete.

  • Small Mosaics Update

    Small Mosaics Update

    I have been making some small mosaics on our bamboo mosaic coaster backers, and I wanted to share a photo of the collection so far and talk about some more advantages of working in a series of smalls.

    Each of these coasters will be a “tile” that is used in a large sculpture that is in the form of a framed altarpiece with a small door at the center. An altarpiece is a backdrop for an altar or sacred relic. The wall in which the door is set is tiled with these coasters and makes up most of the area of the flat altarpiece.

    I’m thinking I will use the sculpture as a removable cover for my generically-tiled fireplace. Then I could make a little art shrine in front of that, nothing elaborate, mostly found-object curios for my cats to knock over.

  • Sports Logo Mosaic

    Sports Logo Mosaic

    A stylized logo or pattern is different from a picture of an object. In a picture, the goal is to create a sense of verisimilitude (likeness) by including small details and visual complexity. In a logo, there is an opposite emphasis. To create a logo, images are “posterized” and every element is reduced to monochromatic color fields and small details are eliminated.

    Before I write about how well artist Curt Gassmann used gridded element in his Minnesota Vikings logo, I need to explain why you shouldn’t use them in a mosaic picture if your goal is to make the image as interesting as possible.

  • Curves Not Lines for Better Mosaics

    Curves Not Lines for Better Mosaics

    Artist Marianne Limandri’s mosaics are good examples of how to create more interesting designs by thinking in terms of curves instead of straight lines.

    Straight line segments (or their imperfect representations) occur all the time in nature, from cactus needles all the way up to the endless horizon on the open sea, but they are the exception more than the rule. Nearly every other element in any given natural scene will be anything other than a line.

    Lines by Default

    Straight lines are much more common in human artifacts and architecture. If you are trying to train your mind to see and depict the natural world, you need to unlearn some default modes of visualization.

    Start thinking of lines as temporary starting points and design aids that are discarded as the work progresses.

  • 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.

  • Video of Mosaic Rose Design Process

    Video of Mosaic Rose Design Process

    Natalija has filmed a video of her laying out a rose mosaic inset for her new home, and it’s a good demonstration of cutting and fitting tile and other basic techniques. More importantly, it shows the process of design evolution by trial and error, something that is lacking in most craft videos.

  • 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

  • Wood Frames For Mosaics

    Wood Frames For Mosaics

    Artist Tanya Boyd emailed me some photos of her mosaics, and all of them were in wooden frames of different types. It reminded me that I am overdue to write up the ways of sourcing wooden frames for mosaics:

    used frames from paintings or mirrorsframes made using molding and a miter sawframes made from recycled wood

    By the way, I forgot to get the names from Tanya, and so I made up names from my first impression. They are all happy mosaics and very well done.

    Mosaic by Tanya Boyd that my mind thought of as “I Hears You Wif My Ear Mommy.”

    I particularly like the thematically-appropriate frame used for the mosaic I called Mosaic Poet Sunset. If you’re making bohemian art, the frame has to match.

  • Secret to an Exceptional First Mosaic

    Secret to an Exceptional First Mosaic

    I’ve already written about Brad Srebnik’s first mosaic and how impressive it is. It’s also amazing how well Brad documented the process as he was learning it.

    Brad emailed me a summary of his methods and the lessons he learn from the project. He has some good photos of some important steps, including making a small study before the main project.

    The small study is a huge help when everything about tile mosaic is new to an artist: cutting tile, using thinset, spacing tile, selecting colors, selecting grout color, etc.

    The small study lets you get things right. It also lets you work more efficiently on the main project.

    Improving your efficiency as a first-time novice can be absolutely critical, especially if your mosaic is highly detailed or large or an architectural covering.

  • Cutting Glass Mosaic Tile: A Practical Guide

    Cutting Glass Mosaic Tile: A Practical Guide

    Designs are said to be elegant when they “don’t try to push things uphill” but instead go with the natural flow of materials and forces.

    Consider the Roman arch versus a rectangular doorway with a flat lintel on the top. The flat lintel could be constructed from a superior material than that used in the arch, but the arch is likely to be in place centuries or even millennia after the lintel has cracked and fallen.

    The arch is intrinsically stronger because all its members are in compression. It’s simply a more elegant design.

    Practical Glass Tile Cutting (Mosaic 1 inch or less cut by wheel-blade cutting pliers)

    A similar concept applies to making art: There are methods that are artificially labor-intensive and problematic, and there are methods that make use of how materials tend to behave on their own.

    This is particularly true when cutting molded glass tile with a special pair of pliers known as a Wheel-Blade Mosaic Glass Cutter or Glass Nipper.

  • 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.

Got any book recommendations?