Saturday, March 8, 2008

My Mosaic Style

I stumbled onto mosaics as an art medium only two years ago. And then I latched onto the idea of doing mosaic nudes about a year after that!
At the time, I just wanted to try the medium itself and thought that the female nude is the most cliched subject in all of art. Using that form, I felt, would free me from having to really come up with some special subject. I just w
anted to concentrate on learning mosaics first, making actual "art", second.
But people, it has turned out, really like my nudes. I get a lot of compliments for the way that I capture the 3 dimensionality of the body. At first I was taken aback by the praise and wondered what people were actually seeing when the looked at these pieces.

The female body is curvy side to side and front to back. And the joy and challenge of getting people to see and feel that physical volume is the artistry of it for me.

I've been asked to teach my technique many many times.
So here is a series of pictures taken of a recent project.

First I draw the figure based on an idea, image or some feeling I've experienced. Then I trace it onto a substrate of either plywood or, if it's for outdoors, Hardiboard. Then I cut it out with a simple jigsaw. I seal the wood with bonderizer, which you can buy at a tile store, or with white acrylic paint.

To begin, I choose from which angle my light source will come.
For this piece I decided the light source would come from the left.

I used regular mirror to delineate where the highest points of the body would be. To stay consistent, I do the entire mirror phase fir
st. To the eye, more light hits where there are larger pieces of mirror, less light where there are smaller pieces of mirror.

Then I decide on my color palette. I choose a high or bright range. Colored mirror works best for that because the color sparkles and glitters in the light.

Next I choose the mid-range of colors. These tessarae should be non-mirrored but can have rough surfaces or mottled coloring so they pick up and reflect light in odd and interesting

And last I decide on the deep colors to use in the shadows on the body, where
the light would shine the least.

On this piece, my highlights are red and gold mirrored glass, the mid-tones are flat yellows and oranges, and my deep tones are blues. A very simple palette.

Then I just keep in mind the shape of the limbs and muscles and the movement of the actual "personality" that I want to

You can see in these pictures how the tessarae follow the curves of the breast and thighs, the long muscles of the arms, the bulk of the hips, etc.

Then I throw in some non-sequitors - series of tessarae here and there that don't make sense for a body but serve to keep the viewer interested. After all, they know it's a nude!

You can try this style on a basic shape like an apple. Just make sure it has ample volume with bright highlights and deep shadows.

The finished piece, and it's companion, are waiting to be grouted. I'll post them soon.


Stacy Alexander said...

Kim, you're nuts for not teaching this technique! You really have a firm grasp on how you do it. Your tutorial was very concise and exacting. Now, I want to try it! I know my efforts would pale in comparison...but still. It really looks fun!

Thanks for posting this!


Annie Thomas-Burke said...

I have been an admirer of your work for some time now. Thank you for the tutorial. I also do mosaic work and I am especially drawn to mannequin work, your tutorials apply there as well.
I share my process photos here:

Also, congats on your feature on Stacy's blog and Newsletter!

Kim Larson said...

Hello Annie,
I looked at your work on Flickr. Love it! You are multi-talented! And thanks for your nice comments too.