Sunday, May 5, 2013

Mosaic retrospective

I was asked to return to The Evergreen State College to deliver a lecture presentation about my work.  I did this last year for the same class, but different students.  This year, I decided to tell the story of my work from the beginning, demonstrating my slow learning process, and how attention to andamento has influenced my style.

While going back through old images, I was shocked to realize how rudimentary my technique was only a few years ago.  I also recognized that I have learned to make mosaic the same way I've learned everything: a little bit backwards.  In art classes, I always infuriated the instructor by jumping ahead.  They give the class some clay and ask us to begin by creating a coil bowl, but I'm already sculpting a figure.  But, my figure breaks in the kiln because I didn't work the clay correctly, and during the next session, I want to know how to make those coil bowls.  My learning process is to rush in and make mistakes, and THEN follow directions.

So it has been with mosaic.  Granted, when I began in 2000, the internet was new.  There was no youtube or tutorials online and I was just learning to use my big monster tower computer, and I may have found a few photos of mosaic on the internet, but nothing like the vast amount of information available now.  So, I was just busting up tiles and sticking them onto wood panels with mastic (which is all wrong, by the way.)  When I was given a big box of scrap stained glass, I didn't even know how to cut it.  Here is one of my first pieces:
Yes, I was so proud of this, a friend helped me put a title and watermark over the image and he posted it online for me.
As I've been collecting images for the powerpoint I'll be showing to this class, I keep seeing work that I once thought was really great.  And I still like the designs I created - I just had no clue about how to place the pieces to create a sense of flow and direction.  They are choppy.  I put pieces where they fit.
Now, this Blue Moon mosaic isn't bad, if you ignore the odd grout lines.  You can see that I was trying to use light and dark pieces for shading, but the placement of tesserae is a mess.  Now, I feel compelled to go back to my old work and re-make them using skills I've since acquired.  I think I would start with this one.

It was a relief to come to this point in my work, where I am finally starting to "get it."  There are a couple of things I would change about this, mainly in the face, but I have at least begun to be more careful about my placement of glass, making sure the grain of the pieces moves in the direction of the flow, and the keystoning radiates out from the central of the spirals.
Gypsy Rose, designed by Marco Hernandez
I really see my progress in this mosaic.  I played with different styles of andamento, cutting solid shapes for the roses, placing pieces randomly in the face and scarf, and using a more classic andamento for the background.  I think this is from 2010, so it took me 10 years of doing mosaic to start to understand how to make mosaic that is controlled and appealing to the eye.
Now, in 2011, I took a class from Carol Shelkin, and I've been playing with the techniques I learned from her.  Since I use small, odd-shaped pieces of salvaged stained glass, I'm not patient enough to cut each piece into little squares.  BUT, there is still some serious control taking place within what appears to be a random mess of colorful pieces here.  Without my past experience, I'm not sure I could have made good use of Carol's instruction.  And, I'm still learning.  In five years, I expect I'll be using these more recent examples to show all that I was doing wrong in 2013.  I can only hope so.

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