Mosaics in Paint

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Using delicate and dense micromosaics (example 1) Ancient Roman mosaic artisans mastered resemblance to paintings at distance of just a few feet.  At larger scales mosaics were a model for stained glass windows with their arrangement of fracture lines carefully piecing together illusions with tinted and painted glass.

Example 1. Micromosaics using lapis Lazuli, glass, gold, and gemstones, 1780.

With the development of clear and colored glass in Venice stained glass windows with their oddly grid-like patterns became a staple of Renaissance Europe.  My second example presents a stained glass window from 1510 in Rouen, France. The window’s segmented appearance borrows from earlier mosaic traditions. This tradition of integrating the pattern of the glass shapes and their interstitial, dark separating lines into one harmonious  whole  referenced older mosaic works for structure  and design.  The tradition continues through today (example 3)

Example 2.  From the life of John the Baptist, 1510.

Example 3. Graham Jones, 2003, V&A museum, London.

Painters borrowed the close patterning of colored shapes from mosaics and stained glass. Example 4 offers an example by Pierre Bonnard. Observe how his brushstrokes apply paint as if they were small stones whose eventual arrangement aggregate into a single harmonious image. Many artists from the late 19th century (Van Gogh, Gustav Klimt, Impressionists) similarly treated their paint strokes as if they were arranging independent color shapes. Their collective arrangement of complementary colors provided a luminous and lively experience whose colors were heightened because of their sharp juxtaposition against other colors.

Example 4. Pierre Bonnard, oil painting, earlier in the 20th Century.

Using both the complementary color arrangements amplified color contrasts as well as the autonomous color shape patterns found in mosaics and stained glass. The process gives us an opportunity to make similarly vivid effects with paint. Here is a  step-by-step illustration of the process in oil. My example begins with a spray of dogwood blossoms in oil over dibond aluminum.

Example 5. Step one, laying in a field of merged colors.

Example 6. Step two, finding the shapes, patterns and fracture lines.

Example 7. Step three, applying color and modulation to the shapes.

My next two examples present shorelines with the interstitial space patterns created by arranging rocks. Notice in example 8 how the rocks are depicted at a variety of angles.  Some catch bright, warm sunlight.  Some reflect the blue in the shadows.  The rocks are pitched at varieties of angles just as classical mosaics have subtly pitched angles with their individual tiles. This gives variable sensations of reflectance as your eyes move across the image.

Example 8. Blue Shores, oil on dibond aluminum.

Example 9.  Bright shores, oil on dibond aluminum.

Using more of a micromosaic pattern I present example 10, an oil on brushed silver  dibond aluminum.

Example 10. Oil on brushed silver dibond aluminum.


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