Thursday, May 31, 2012

Drawing & Painting Mosaic

I was in the mood to experiment again, and decided to do a mosaic, but with colored pencils instead of paint. My inspiration was a basket of blueberries I have in the frig.

I've always loved mosaics, and love painting them (we'll get to the painting part farther down). Since I do so much colored pencil work I thought "hey, let's do one with pencils and see what happens."

I started with this rough sketch where I blocked out the colors for a more graphic approach, which I then tried to duplicate with the mosaic.

Doing a mosaic that's a rendered 3D form rather than a flat design takes much more work than it seems like it would. I mean, you can render something to look 3D and 'turn the form' easily with other media, so what's the big deal with mosaic? Why is it so much harder?

One thing I figured out is that you need to place the 'tiles' in a way that describes the form - which I did not do very well here. I placed them rather haphazardly, which kind of works against the form.

Also, the more tiles you use to render the object, the better detail you will get. Its kind of like resolution on a digital image - 300dpi will give you much more detail than a 72dpi image. So here its like I drew a 72dpi image and then had trouble getting enough detail.

The other thing is the grout. You can leave it all one color, or use it to help the design.  At first I had it all off-white, then I tried shading it to help shape the form. 

This little experiment isn't completely successful by a long shot, but I'm still really happy with it because I figured some things out, and the next time I attempt this it will (hopefully) turn out better.

One other technique thing - I found that burnishing the tiles to make them look smooth, and leaving the grout grainy, works the best for me. Unfortunately my hand can't take burnishing much. It gets very sore, and actually my whole arm aches after a long burnishing session. I think it would be possible to do the tiles with the Icarus Board if you're skilled enough with that to be able to control very small areas, and you're using wax-based pencils (like Prismacolors).

So, onto painting mosaics. I've done several pieces, all a little different, but all 'flat' designs, and with some combination of watercolors and gouache.

This one is based on a design in the Book of Kells.

I find that using the gouache opaque for the tiles makes them just a little bit 'raised up' off the paper, then you can come in with watercolor to do the grout, and it will float down the little alleyways and fill in nicely. You could also use acrylic for the tiles.

Here's a more abstract design. Gouache and watercolor again.

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This is one of my all time favorite contemporary mosaic paintings. It could be the real deal though, I'm not sure. I can't find out any info on who did it. (And it just so happens they've been re-running this show on PBS for the past several weeks.) 

Then of course there's this. A Roman mosaic in a museum in Tripoli. YUM.
Look at the subtleties in shading in that face and neck. Wow.

And this beautiful mosaic of Bacchus on the floor of the Met in NYC. 

I have a ways to go. 


Sarah Melling said...

Those Romans understood pixels before their time, didn't they? I love your rendering of the blueberry as mosaic...such fun!

Barney Erikson said...

I found it when I was looking for a different sort of information but I am very interested in the article, It is nice to read such kind of good posts I like your work keep it up!

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