Mosaic as a medium has several intrinsic strengths and weaknesses. The main weakness it has as a selling point is that it takes significantly more time than drawing or painting for an image of similar complexity.
The intrinsic strengths of the mosaic medium far outweigh the time commitment.
For starters, mosaic is a “gateway” medium for people who aren’t confident in their ability to draw. I have watched people believe they have zero ability to draw make satisfying images rather quickly by moving tile around and playing with different arrangements.
The second is that mosaic lends itself to abstract and semi-abstract compositions.
This is a huge selling point for amateur artists who are still mastering basics of the visual arts in general: composition, hue contrast, value (light/dark) contrast, rendering, etc.
An abstract mosaic doesn’t require careful rendering of a model with verisimilitude, and so the artist can focus on more basic concepts like hue and value contrast.
This is the best place to start, and here’s why. You can carefully draft a model so that its form is exact, but if there isn’t good hue and value contrast, the work will be mediocre at best.
Semi-abstract mosaic is the best of both worlds. You can have figurative elements without the need to render a whole scene, and those figurative elements can be stylized and minimal in detail.
Artist Lynn Mcleod took my recommendation of a series of smalls to heart and made a series of four semi-abstract mosaics of the same size.
Lynn said she wasn’t interested in taking a class, but rather wanted to self educate and learn by doing so that the process would be more like play than work, which is definitely my preference and mode of doing things.
Lynn credits online resources such as our blog and Sonia King’s book Mosaic Techniques and Traditions as her guides.
Lynn says she is still learning and considers herself a beginner, but I am impressed with how she set up this structured learning exercise:
“I decided to give myself an assignment: to make several mosaics with both restrictions and freedoms. The restrictions were for them all to be the same size, on the same backer (foam/fiberglass), using one closely related color family and using a new technique. The freedoms were to design each one myself and use any material that came to mind.”-Lynn Mcleod
Lynn says that the sense of freedom and experimentation that she experienced making the series was wonderful.
I know exactly what she is talking about. Instead of having a completely new size and format for each mosaic, a series allows the artist to multiple chances to work in the same format and focus more on learning and creating.
Lynn says the main things she learned were:
Cleaning and hazing are the most important part of the grouting process.
Avoid too much focus on small details.
NEVER grout seed beads.
The last point made me laugh out loud when I read it. DEFINITELY do not grout an area of tiny rounded pieces such seed beads, not if you value your sanity and peace of mind.