MosaicBlues: August 2017 .entry-content { font-size:25px !important; }

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Mosaic Art : a Celebration of Mugen, Border Collie extraordinaire.

Mugen Mosaic

About 12 years ago, I fell in love with Tosca, my sister’s Border Collie !

Tosca, my sister's Border Collie is exploring the bank of the Somme River in Saint Valery sur Somme, Picardie, Northern France.
Tosca in Saint Valery sur Somme, France.

About a year later, a friend of mine having located a breeder with puppies not to far from home,  I went there to look at them. I wanted a black and white female like Tosca. I ended up with a Red Male...

Border Collies are considered the smartedt breed of dogs, they also are extremely loving creatures, but they need lots of exercise.
Mugen, 3 month old.

I named him Mugen – a Japanese words meaning Endless or Infinity.

A loving and cheerful companion, Mugen had an endless creativity. Life never was boring around him ! 

Border Collies are extremely creative and energetic dogs, they need lots of exercise to channel their energy, without exrcise, they end up destroying things..
Mugen loved water and destroyed a few water hoses...

Extremely loving and sociable, he knew everyone in the neighborhood and everybody knew him, cooked for him, invited him to play, drive, spend the night and they would drive him home. I was just known as Mugen’s Dad...

Although very versatile dogs, Border Collie would rather avoid the direct sun of Alabama.
Mugen, 5 years old

When Mugen accidentally died in 2014 I was heartbroken...

Since I have this year created several mosaic models of beloved pets for their owners, I decided to build a mosaic to celebrate Mugen’s memory, based on the above pisture of him.

This is the picture I worked from :

Eyes of Mugen, Red Border Collie, picture used to create a mosaic model.
Mugen's Eyes.

Using my Opus Pixellatum technique to realize this project, I created a model and had it printed.

This Opus Pixellatum model is composed of numbers referencing colors of tiles to use to build the mosaic.
Opus Pixellatum model for the Mugen Mosaic.

I installed the model under a sheet of transparent vinyl on a bench in my studio. 

The printed model is laid under a clear vinyl sheet.
The model under its vinyl sheet.
I cut a piece of fiberglass mesh to be glued on top of it (the dark rectangle on the bench above the model)

And started to glue my tesserae on top of the mesh. 

A mesh is glued on top of the vinyl covering the model, the tiles are then glued on that mesh. You can see the model through the mesh and vinyl.
The Mugen Mosaic, first tesserae laid.

I first lay every other tesserae, because it helps the glue set faster, and also because it allows me to later use - if I decide to do so -  colors different from what is called by the model. This is one of the many variations allowed by Opus Pixellatum

50 % of the tesserae - tiles are first laid living gaps in between to allow variations later on.
Mugen Mosaic, 50 % of tesserae laid. 

At this stage, I have to lay the remaining tesserae, I will use some iridescent tiles in lieu of the regular ones to complete the piece. Once everything is set, I will remove the enmeshed mosaic from the model, glue it to its support, and grout it. That will happen in the next article...

Tiles used for this mosaic are 8 mm recycled glass tiles from Mosaic Art Supply

If you would like to build yourself a mosaic portrait of your pet, I will create a model of it from your picture. This printed model comes with a list and quantities of the tiles needed and instructions to carry out the work. 

Beside the fact that such mosaic will end up costing you a fraction of the cost of a regular piece, you will have the great joy and satisfaction of building yourself a faithful and long lasting portrait of the beloved creature who faithfully shares or shared your life ! 

I am a French mosaicist
living in Headland, Alabama, USA.
My Art is about inspiring people.
You can see some of my work at

You can contact me either by phone 
at (334) 798 1639 or by email at 
You can also subscribe to my

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Meet Daniel Adams, Printmaker and Mosaic Artist.

Generally, mosaic artists do not start in life as artists, and it is fascinating to discuss with them how they got into the Art. I first met Daniel Adams last April 2017 in Decatur, Georgia at a mosaic seminar co-hosted by Mosaic Art Supply. 

Printmaker and Mosaic Artist Daniel Adams carves a printing plate in his workshop at Department of Art and Designs of Harding University, Arkansas
Printmaker Artist Daniel Adams working on a plate.

I had invented my Opus Pixellatum mosaic technique in 2015 to build several portraits of the eyes of Yezidi refugees. As I assembled the mosaics, I realized the technique allowed for such a wide range of variations that I was going to need help to figure them out.

And so Joe Moorman and I co-organized this event -seminar to get people started in Opus Pixellatum by building a mosaic portrait of their own eyes.

Daniel had to spend several weeks on other projects, and after a few weeks got in a frenzy and created many mosaics based on the model from the seminar. That was exactly what I was hoping someone would do! 

Daniel kindly agreed to answer questions I had about his Art. I hope you enjoy his interview :

1. Daniel, when we first met last April in Decatur, GA, I understood that you are an Artist and an Art teacher. Can you tell us a little more about Art.

Art is a creation of humanity. Every society that is functioning has this activity as a part of it. “Art”, or the arts (visual, music, dramatic, poetic, literary, dance, etc) are expressions of the artist(s) thinking and feeling about certain subjects. The subject matter of art ranges widely including: simple observation of the natural world, mystical interpretations, religious devotion, political activism, social commentary, abstract symbolism, and deeply personal therapy. Some artists simply play around with forms (colors, compositions, lines, patterns, etc) to see what shows itself as something interesting to contemplate.

2. One day, during a trip to Greece, you got interested in Mosaic. Can you tell us what happened, and how you got started? 

I teach art and design at Harding University in Arkansas. We have a number of international programs—one of which is Harding University in Greece (HUG). We study academic subjects, such as the humanities, Biblical archeology and Modern Greek. We also explore the Greek Islands and other nations close by (Egypt, Turkey, Israel.) My interest in mosaics was piqued as we were traveling through northern Greece and came to the ruins of Pella, the birthplace of Alexander the Great. The stone mosaic floors of the wealthy houses that had been uncovered were amazing. 

At the beginning of the 4th century BC Pella was the largest Macedonian city. It was the birthplace of Alexander the Great in 356 BC.
Floor Pebble mosaic in a wealthy house of Pella, Macedonia

As a printmaker, many of the techniques we use to create images involve pattern and these floors were covered in intricate patterns made of stones. I had seen glass tesserae mosaics in Rome and Ravenna in Roman and Byzantine churches before. They were nice, but for some reason the effect of the repetitive stone patterns spoke to me. After the semester in Greece I returned to my normal printmaking and didn’t think much about it. 

3 - Please tell us about some of the mosaics you created - not including the Opus Pixellatum ones, we will address those later – How did you get started? And what are your main sources of inspirations? 

A few years later I had the blessing to be able to take art students to Ghana, West Africa, to paint murals in an orphanage near the southern coast of Ghana. There I fell in love with the abstract patterns of palm fronds. So once back home, I began a series of black and white prints of these fascinating patterns. 

In GhanaDaniel fell in love with patterns of palm fronds and began a series of black and white prints inspired by those trees.
Palm Frond print by Daniel Adams

And I began a mosaic to create a large piece based on palm fronds to go above the front door of our house. 

Palm Frond mosaic inspired by Palm trees from Ghana (West Africa)
Palm Frond Mosaic by Daniel Adams

After that, I have planned to do a floor mosaic at the entryway below these same doors. But I didn’t yet have enough experience to tackle an eight foot by three foot entryway. So I waited (and am still waiting.) 

This past year, as a way to get our entire church community involved in a creative activity, I proposed, planned and (the congregation) completed a three by eight foot mosaic that addresses the Grace and Truth of Christ and our privilege to shine like stars in a world filled with darkness. This was completed in April 2017.

This 8 x 3' tryptic was realized by the members of the congregation which Daniel belongs to.
Grace and Truth, 3 x 8' (1 x 2.4m) Mosaic designed by Daniel.

My inspirations for subject matter come from observations I make while traveling and from my deeply held faith.

4. As I said earlier, your investigating the many possible variations of Opus Pixellatum is exactly what I was hopping would happen after our April Mosaic Fiesta. Please tell us how you got started doing in this research and experimental work. Did you work at random, or did you have an Ariadne thread to follow?

For me, and for most formally trained artists, it is standard operating procedure to work through themes and variations and to play around with media to really get a feel for what you can say and how to manipulate the medium to best effect. Any media is like a language. The more comfortable you are with what is possible and how you can use it, the more fluid and natural your creations.

To be honest, I didn’t like the looks of the first grayscale “eye” mosaic (OP fig. 1) that we did at the workshop. My particular pixellatum pattern was a compressed value range of only five values, rather than the normal seven values that were present in the others’ projects. So the depth of value range was just not what I wanted to end up with. But I knew I had to work the process, first, in order to understand the limitations. 

Daneil was no thrilled with this first piece but kept experimenting with the model !
Opus Pixellatum Eyes Mosaic Portrait - Original version.

My second attempt (OP fig. 2) was simply adding color (shades of green) and playing with a more interesting border. The framing helped and I adjusted my placement of the different values to get a “better likeness.” That one was better, but it still didn’t satisfy. 

Opus Pixellatum Eyes Mosaic Portrait - Variation #2

The next variation (OP fig. 3) I decided to blow the color palette out and include multi-colored tiles of various sizes, yet maintain the values structure of the pixellatum pattern that Fredric supplied at the workshop in Georgia. This one started to jump and come alive! I decided to play up just top and bottom borders of strong black and white pattern. 

Opus Pixellatum Eyes Mosaic Portrait - Variation #3

For the next one (OP fig. 4) —still following the underlying pattern— I wanted to vary colors, again, but this time more subdued earth tones—and see what would happen by adding in natural stones (like the ones I saw at Pella.) I also decided to reorganize the structure by adding in vertical bars of grayscale values to add interest. 

A few pebbles reminding of the Grandiose Pella Mosaics
Opus Pixellatum Eyes Mosaic Portrait - Variation #4

The last of the theme and variation (OP fig. 5) on the workshop model was to do a triptych of the original grayscale image. I recreated the central “half” of the mosaic just as it had appeared in the first one, but then left the two side panels using common playground gravel to make a natural stone mosaic that followed the forms, but transformed them back to a more traditional look—it created an interesting dichotomy between digital and natural that I find very satisfying. With this one I also experimented with locally applied grouts of different colors to see what that would do to the final look of the piece.

Daniel also experimented with grouts of different colors on this piece.
Opus Pixellatum Eyes Mosaic Portrait - Variation #5

5. How do you now feel about the variations allowed by Opus Pixellatum?  Would you recommend the technique to mosaic beginners? 

I think for untrained individuals who are wanting to explore mosaic in a more structured way, Opus Pixellatum gives them the confidence to move from simply “filling in the dots” to exploring how variations and personal choices change the status quo, and how that can be so exciting. 

Remember that Vincent van Gogh created between 36-39 self-portraits in a three-year time span (1886-1889). We learn through doing and repetition. Hey, if it’s good enough for Vincent, it’s good enough for me!

6. Joe Moorman and I are considering launching an open Opus Pixellatum Challenge. We provide a model and an indicative list of tiles for people to use, like you have done with the model of your eyes. This way we should be able to see a great number of variations from a unique model. How do you feel about this? 

I think this would be great fun. Do I understand that this would be the same model for everyone and then they would all just go at it, approaching it in their own unique way?

Many mosaics have been realized in the world based on this image, We plan to release a Opus Pixellatum model for people to experiment with it.
Possible model for Opus Pixellatum mosaic challenge

That's exactly what we have in mind. I am considering using the picture above as model, as several people have created many variations of her already. We believe this would allow people to realize the potential of this technique for improvisation  ! 

7. Daniel, do you think your Etchings and Mosaic techniques have influenced each other in your Art?

I am just beginning to explore the connections between how I have been creating prints over the years (both etchings and relief prints) and the aesthetic challenges posed by mosaics. I have been working on a series of glass block window relief prints for about eight years now. (RP figs below). I am exploring light with these prints. I’d like to see what I can do with this same pursuit of light with mosaic tiles.

Sunset - Relief Print.

8. What are your goals, Art wise, for the next 2 years? 

My artistic goals for the next two years are to continue exploring light and composition through the glass block series (both print and mosaic) and to see how I can combine my third love —sketch notes— into a larger format using printing techniques, large drawing and possibly mosaic drawing (much like Marc Chagall’s walls in Chicago—but not that large!

Afternoon Warmth - Relief Print

9. Where can we see your Etchings and Mosaics? Please provide links so we can enjoy your work.

One of the issues with the obsession to create is the lack of attention to my personal website. The work represented on captures a good history of the past 15-20 years of my printmaking work.

You can follow me on :

It is Instagram where my most recent creative activities first show up.

10. Any word of advice or encouragement for people new to mosaics? 

Be very curious! Ask the question, “What if…?” Be okay with slowing down and taking your time to place tiles. Don’t be upset if your piece doesn’t match up to the vision in your head—your head is always far beyond what your present skills can accomplish. Use that frustration to spur you on to keep trying, keep adjusting, keep producing. Don’t stop after the first one and think “I can check that off my list.” Your first one is just the turning of the knob and barely opening the door into a new and different experience. You see, with the amount of mosaics I have under my belt, I’ve barely crossed over the threshold into the next room.

Great advice Daniel, Thank you very much !

I am a French mosaicist
living in Headland, Alabama, USA.
My Art is about inspiring people.
You can see some of my work at

You can contact me either by phone 
at (334) 798 1639 or by email at 
You can also subscribe to my

la la la !

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Emperor Hadrian's Mosaic of the Doves

The Capitoline Mosaic of the Doves was discovered in 1737 during archaeological excavations of Emperor Hadrian’s Villa.

The Doves of Pliny, or the Capitoline Doves Mosaic is made only of cubes of colored marble, without any colored glass.
The Doves Mosaic unearthed in 1737 at Hadrian's Villa.

While some scholars believe this beauty is the actual Dove Mosaic built by the famous 2nd century BC Sosus of Pergamon and mentioned by Pliny in his Natural History, others believe it to be a 2nd century AD copy of it made for Hadrian.

Numerous copies were made of this mosaic, even into late antiquity. In addition to Tivoli, these have been found at Delos; at Pompeii and Capua...

Roman mosaic - doves drinking out of a cup and floral and fruits border, Opus Vermicullatum, Pompeii, 1st century AD
Doves Mosaic unearthed in Pompeii 1st century BC

In other parts of the Empire and in the Christian mausoleums of Santa Costanza in Rome and Galla Placidia in Ravenna. 

Roman Floor mosaic with central emblema showing doves drinking out of a cup and a Dramatic Svastiska border.
Doves Mosaic with svastika borders in Malta, 1st century.

 Doves (end of the 1st century BC to start of the 1st century AD) Mosaic 45 x 44.3 cm
Doves Mosaic from Ostia Antica, 1st Century BC

The iconography of the doves drinking from the foutain of life ("a well of water springing up into everlasting life." John 4, 14) is repeated four times in the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, above the four arches supporting the tambour and the vaulted ceiling.
Doves Mosaic - Mausoleo of Galla Placidia, 5th Century AD

I consider the finest of all to be the emblema discovered at Hadrian’s Villa, made of thousands of very small tesserae - 2 to 3 mm squares, a technique named  opus vermiculatum, by far the most sophisticated mosaic technique.

A fragment of the outside border of this mosaic is displayed at the Musee d'Arles Antique this summer. 

Fragment of the border framing the famous Capitoline Doves mosaic diplayed at the Musei Capitolini in Rome
Fragment from the border of the Capitoline Doves mosaic

The tesserae used to build this border were no bigger than 3 mm (0.11"). Usually this size of tessera was only used for the center piece - the emblema, and regular Opus Tessellatum built from bigger tesserae was used for the borders. Hadrian was a protector of the Arts. Those kind of Chef d'Oeuvre were only assembled in a couple of very specialized workshops of the Empire by very highly skilled craftsmen.

Those variations of a same pattern are an other example of the way ancient musivarii worked. I believe they had  books or scrolls of models for the architets or patrons to chose from. In some cases, several patterns were mixed in a same mosaic (I will write something later about the parrot you can see in the lower right corner of the piece from Ostia...)

One reason why I am visiting many sites and museums in Europe is that I am putting together a library of geometric patterns used by the Romans. This is taking quite some time as those patterns are anything but simple. They are, however, gorgeous, and they bring to any center piece the same depth a vibrant frame brings to a painting. 

I am a French mosaicist
living in Headland, Alabama, USA.
My Art is about inspiring people.
You can see some of my work at

You can contact me either by phone 
at (334) 798 1639 or by email at 
You can also subscribe to my