Mosaic Mural Backsplash Epic by artist Yulia Hanansen

The Stylistic Range of Mosaic Art

At Mosaic Art Supply, we have always tried to promote contemporary mosaic as a fine art and help people of every skill level create original work instead of selling overpriced craft kits for making cliche designs. This may have hurt us some financially, but I have never regretted taking the high moral ground. After all, if I wanted to help people mass produce junk, I could have remained an engineer in the corporate world.

One of the things that I have found particularly rewarding is seeing great art made by ordinary people with no formal training in art. I have also enjoyed seeing the range of styles that professional artists have been able to execute in mosaic, proving that the medium is as versatile as oil painting, perhaps even more so because of the found object and textural elements that mosaic can incorporate.

Mosaic Jupiter Great Red Spot Detail by artist Yulia Hanansen
Mosaic Jupiter Great Red Spot Detail by artist Yulia Hanansen

Recently one of my employees showed me the work of artist Yulia Hanansen, and I was intrigued for several reasons, and not merely because of the stylistic range of her work, which is impressive in itself.

It would be difficult for me to say which piece is my favorite, but I particularly like the kitchen backsplash with the paleolithic cave painting images from the epic period of human prehistory known as “The Great Hunt.” I like how its cool cyan color scheme complements the warm wood cabinets. It is not only an interesting and original mosaic. It is also a well-integrated part of the room’s interior design.

Revising and Layering

One of the disadvantages of mosaic compared to painting is that you cannot merely paint over a less than satisfactory part of the composition. Yulia addresses this limitation by cementing tile on top of tile when needed to improve designs in problematic places. I have long thought about doing this in figurative work executed in glass tile, but I have only done it in a few places in found object work. I think it is a brilliant idea because it adds an additional “random” or abstract textural element in figurative mosaic.

Mosaic Clauiano Timeline of Wine Detail2 by artist Yulia Hanansen
Mosaic Clauiano Timeline of Wine Detail2 by artist Yulia Hanansen

If this idea strikes you as inappropriate or a compromise in some way, you should remember that it only makes the art more interesting to viewers who don’t know why it was executed in that way. It gives them something more to wonder and think about. You should also be aware that the famous mosaic in Chicago that was created by the great artist Chagall has places where he actually painted details and outlines on top of the tile.

Mosaic Forest Fire Detail by artist Yulia Hanansen
Mosaic Forest Fire Detail by artist Yulia Hanansen

It has been said that everything is legal in art and that art is about cheating in an original or clever way. I agree with those sentiments wholeheartedly, and the only caveat I would make is that you should always be concerned with longevity and durability and not use scarce resources for something that will deteriorate quickly and end up in the landfill.

If a mosaic has been sealed with a tile and grout sealer, don’t assume you can cement revisions on top of it without first scouring those places with a wire brush.

TIP: You can reduce the need to do this sort of revision if you first lay up the mosaic on a temporary surface before you actually mount it on a surface with mortar or glue.

Layering As Technique

Looking at Yulia’s mosaics, you will notice that her use of layering isn’t about revising problematic areas. Instead, it is a fundamental aspect of the design that is used throughout the work from the beginning to create texture and depth and complex colors.

I invented this technique awhile ago to allow myself to ”paint” with glass like with oil paint, having brush strokes. It’s lots of fun and quite liberating because there is no fitting of pieces next to each other.

-Yulia Hanansen

Yulia teaches an online class on this technique, as well as classes on other mosaic methods.

Mosaic Portraits

Mosaic Portrait Einstein in Blue by artist Yulia Hanansen
Mosaic Portrait Einstein in Blue by artist Yulia Hanansen

Yulia’s mosaic portraits are as strong as her landscapes and abstracts.

Mosaic Birth of Venus by artist Yulia Hanansen after painting by Botticelli.
Mosaic Birth of Venus by artist Yulia Hanansen after painting by Botticelli.

Floral and Foliage

Mosaic Chippewa Creek Detail by artist Yulia Hanansen
Mosaic Chippewa Creek Detail by artist Yulia Hanansen
Mosaic Irises Queens of Dawn by artist Yulia Hanansen
Mosaic Irises Queens of Dawn by artist Yulia Hanansen
Mosaic Peonies Detail in Blue by artist Yulia Hanansen
Mosaic Peonies Detail in Blue by artist Yulia Hanansen

Motion and Andamento

Yulia makes insightful use of andamento to create a sense of motion, and the resulting textures beg to be touched.

Mosaic Solar Flare 3D by artist Yulia Hanansen
Mosaic Solar Flare 3D by artist Yulia Hanansen
Mosaic Hurricane Landfall Detail by artist Yulia Hanansen
Mosaic Hurricane Landfall Detail by artist Yulia Hanansen

13 thoughts on “The Stylistic Range of Mosaic Art

  1. Sharon Tepe

    I have always loved Yulia’s work, as it is all so different and pretty amazing. It is all so vibrant and begs to be touched, as you have stated. I have taken one of her classes through Mosaic Arts Online, and thought it was well taught.

    Reply
  2. Robert Nolan

    Questions: For the Peonies mosaic, did the artist use a basic hand glass cutter to cut each of the glass pieces used for the petals? Or did the artist use a different technique?
    What type of glass was used?

    Thank you.

    Reply
    1. Joe Moorman Post author

      Hi Robert,

      The material appears to be stained glass for the most part, and I can cut those sort of shapes (elongated “diamonds” with curved edges) using a mosaic glass cutter. The fact that she has so many of them with a fairly consistent size and shape leads me to believe that she has worked out a subtle technique of some sort where the glass is held at an angle in the cutting blades instead of being held perpendicular, which I have found essential for making straight cuts. I definitely do not think that she is starting with a bar of glass with that cross section and cutting off slices. The pieces are of consistent thickness with slight variations in the exact shape.

      Thanks,
      Joe

      Reply
    2. Sharon Tepe

      She does have a special technique that she teaches using nippers. I took one of her classes through Mosaics Art online.

      Reply
  3. Ellis Eisner

    Dear Joe,
    Thank you many times over for taking the position that you do. I, for one, both as an artist and Art Therapist, hate kits and the ‘art-a-doodle’ attitudes that come with them.

    I would like to send you some pictures, both of my work with your products and the work of one of my private clients who has been doing mosaics for almost 10 years now, with my help and your products. Though his disabilities have negatively impacted his ability to paint and draw as he once did, he has been able to more than express himself with mosaics.

    Please let me know the best way to send you these pictures.

    Thank you again and happy new year.

    Reply
  4. Ginger Conrad

    Thank you for writing this post, Joe, and for validating all the different styles and levels of mosaic art, and for showing us the amazing works of Yulia, which are so inspiring. Do you know what the rice shaped tiles in her works are made of? Glass? And does she cut them individually?

    Reply
    1. Joe Moorman Post author

      Hi Ginger,

      The material appears to be stained glass for the most part, and I can cut those sort of shapes (elongated “diamonds” with curved edges) using a mosaic glass cutter. The fact that she has so many of them with a fairly consistent size and shape leads me to believe that she has worked out a subtle technique of some sort where the glass is held at an angle in the cutting blades instead of being held perpendicular, which I have found essential for making straight cuts. I definitely do not think that she is starting with a bar of glass with that cross section and cutting off slices. The pieces are of consistent thickness with variations in the shape.

      Thanks,
      Joe

      Reply
  5. Nicole S McKinney

    I have studied with Yulia in several of her amazing workshops and also purchased both of her classes on Mosaic Arts on line. Her instruction has elevated my mosaics to a level I never imagined. She is an incredible teacher and artist.

    Reply
  6. Cartoonbear

    I was lucky enough to be a “helper” in a class Yulia taught at our children’s elementary school. I didn’t do mosaic then, was focused on collage, but after seeing her amazing teaching ability (mosaic for 8 year olds, and they all turned out beautifully? Wow) I went online to look at her work. It was shortly after being blown away by her art that I began doing found object mosaics with glass and then ceramics. (My work will never be as good as hers, which I sort of love—it’s aspirational and inspirational to look at work of people you hope to learn from.)

    I read a piece about Yulia and discovered her dad is also a mosaicist, I believe in Israel. His work is also amazing tho very different from Yulia’s.

    I am super grateful to have seen her in action and also grateful that there are professional real ARTISTS working in this medium, to counterbalance the heartfelt but uninspired and poorly executed crap that is often found when one goes looking for inspiration and examples. (The kind of stuff so dominant in the market that I often hesitate to say I am workin in mosaics, much less the dreaded, always mistranslated and mispronounced pique assiette!)

    Thanks for this blog too, it’s been an amazing source of everything.

    Reply
    1. Joe Moorman Post author

      Hi Claire,

      Thanks for your comments! I think I know what you are trying to say about the uninspired work, especially if you mean all the craft-kit stuff that encourages users to make a copy of a design that is cliche. I really see those kits as a wasted opportunity because when the user makes their own design, it tends to be more meaningful even if it is flawed in some way.

      I don’t mind the poorly executed as much because art can be crudely executed but inspired. Some of my favorite art is where people didn’t let their lack of experience or skill prevent them from bringing a vision to life. My painting would be much better if I would relax more and paint in a looser style and let the mistakes create visual interest.

      I’m jealous that you got to experience Yulia teaching children to mosaic!

      Reply

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