Thursday, January 31, 2013

Most everything starts with a sketch.

I've had a few requests for the process of some mosaic-themed art I've done for my church, so I will post here when I can about it. The main question some of you have had is how I created the banners, which are mighty big, and about the mosaic tiles, if they are all hand-made.

So here goes.

I was given the theme and the subject matter from the client (ie, my church), which is, in this first pair, the below:

Thankfully I was able to be super rough with my sketches; we've all worked together before so they knew that I would be executing the artwork in much more detail than shown here.

I also showed them some of my favorite examples of mosaics throughout history, so we could clarify how I was hoping these to turn out. Always one of my favorite types of artwork, mosaics are also one of the oldest and luckily, more permanent, samples of art and life from past times. The amount of detail, color, interest and life in some of these old remnants is amazing and, I can imagine, breathtaking in real life.

Here are a few that I had bookmarked from various places on the internet:

And my favorites since I was a nerdy little kid living in the local library, Justinian and Theodora:

Check out that detail! The luminosity! The fabric that seems to leap off the page! And those eyes that surely seem to follow you around as you view the loveliness. I would love love to go see this one. I encourage you to click on the images and look as closely as you can. Wow.

The research was almost more fun than the work. There are tons and tons of well-preserved (and not-so-well-preserved) mosaics from Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and even more modern times. Gorgeous, gorgeous work. I urge you to look them up at libraries and online and see how vibrant and lifelike these works of art could be. I kept looking back at these and many, many more as I started to work out how I was going to imitate this style in a manner that could be printed at large size (the banners) and small (bulletins, programs, etc.). As a designer/illustrator in this day and age, we use the ever-familiar tools of Photoshop and Illustrator instead of stone and glass cubes and cement; it was here that I started by creating an Illustrator document the size of one of my banners. In this case, the document size was 54 x 108 inches. Quite big, even in Illustrator.

Then I took my approved sketch and sized it way, way, way up, and pasted it into my Illustrator document.

Then I was ready to start experimenting with making the mosaic tiles themselves, and to start the laborious process of laying them out. I also was experimenting with different color palettes at this time. Both steps were time-consuming, but we knew that once this was decided here, it would be implemented on all the rest of the banners (6 total so far) and this work wouldn't have to be repeated.

After some testing and cutting out little squares of paper and taping them on the chapel wall and looking at it from the back of the church we decided the tiles needed to be about 1.25 inches approximately in order to be seen crisply from the back of the chapel. So then I had an idea of just how much work this was going to be! Tons of clicking commenced. I'll show more next time of the actual process of making all those hundreds of tiles and varying the shapes and sizes so they would look more like an actual, hand-made mosaic and, hopefully, not like it was just 'made on the computer'...which, contrary to popular belief (even my own dad!), is not an automated machine, but merely a tool which we use to create. It's a pretty great tool, though.


Kerri said...


Nanette R. said...

Very cool! Thanks for giving us a behind-the-scenes look at the design work you did.

Jill said...

Love! You are so talented my friend.

Alice4God said...


Jen Stadler said...

I wish I just had a speckle of your talent, friend! It's certainly not why I love you, but I DO love that about you!

Its Lainee said...

Thank you for posting this! I appreciate them all the more