Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Designs for SAMA Mosaic Marathon

Yes! Me! I will be leading the mosaic marathon at the next SAMA (Society of American Mosaic Artists) conference in Lexington, KY this coming February. I've created designs for three panels that will be made into mosaics by the conference goers in four days! The triptych will be installed in the lobby of the not-for-profit organization, The Nest: Center for Women, Children & Families. It will be the first time I lead a community built mosaic, so this will be a very new experience for me.

I knew immediately I wanted to use birds in the designs. I did research on the common birds in the area, as well as the trees. I asked the director of The Nest what birds were in the area and he told me that goldfinches were everywhere! I wanted to choose a bird that most people were familiar with so I went with them. When I looked up trees, I fell in love with the tulip tree, the state tree of Kentucky. What gorgeous flowers!!

Now that I had my bird and my tree, onto the design. I love the bird art of Hokusai (here's one of my favorites) and I really wanted to create something with that same kind of space. Once I decided on the size of each panel, I created small rectangles, 1/6 the size of the actual mosaics, so I could draw the flow of the branches first, which, to me, are the most important part to get right because it determines the underlying composition. (I work quite small when I design for large projects because I can see the overall composition so much easier.) Once the basic lines (very basic!) were decided, I could then go into detail and add the leaves, flowers and birds.

When my drawings were done, I scanned them, cleaned up the pencil marks in a paint program, and then printed them to color in. Once they were colored, I noticed a break in the flow of the composition. I realized there were too many flowers in the second panel. The flow of the branches wasn't working for me. Here's what I saw. When I took out two of the flowers, I was much happier with it. Because the panels will not be hung right next to each other, it didn't matter if the flowers connected from one panel to the next.

Once I fixed the flowers, I then began to play with the background in the paint program. For me, the background color is very important to get right, so I like to experiment with colors in the paint program before I actually color them with pencils. Here's some of the many colors I tried:

Once I decided on the periwinkle color, I printed the three panels very tiny so I could figure out the andamento of the background. I have much more control of the flow when it's so small. I draw right over the foreground so my lines are smooth and continuous.

I then colored one of the scans with these new andamento lines and wa la! Done. Here is where they will go. The first panel will be 2 1/2 x 3', the middle panel will be 2 1/2 x 5 1/2', and the last panel will be 2 1/2 x 4 1/2'. The mosaics will be made with Mexican smalti, provided by smalti.com.  The first two panels symbolize the families who come to The Nest, receiving nurturing, support and guidance.  The last panel represents the families, when they are ready to be on their own, flying away.

I am super excited about this project! I am really looking forward to seeing my designs come to life in February. If you're at the conference, please come by and lay a few pieces down! I'd love to see you. :)


  1. What a wonderful job you've done!
    I'm too excited for words!
    (dibs on a bird)...

  2. Can't wait to see you there and help you!
    Doreen Bell

  3. Thanks you guys!! Can't wait to do it with you!

  4. Thanks for sharing the design process with us. I'm sure they will come to life beautifully.

  5. Beautifully and so thoughtfully done! I really enjoyed reading about the process (you know how I love process) and I think it is the care you take with the process that is, in part, what makes your work so very uniquely your own. Hope I get to be there to lay some tess with the rest.

  6. Thanks guys! I hope to see you there, too, Fresca!!

  7. WOW Congrats!!! Lovely design work. If I make the conference I will hang out some and lay down some tile for you. YAY, so proud of you:)

  8. Hi Christine,
    This was cool to read about how you came up with your design. The finish looks as if it will totally be worth the effort. I like how you researched to get ideas for the design and then combined all of that. Very cool! I also loved the pieces you dropped off today for the show. It's going to be nice having some of your work in the show Christine.

    Thanks for bringing the family up to the ST today...was great to see you guys again....Jacks' getting bigger!

  9. Thanks Becca! Sure hope you can make it there.

    Ron, thank you! And thanks for taking my work in for me. It was fun to see you and Linda this weekend, and all of your beautiful paintings! Hope the rain didn't damper your last day. :)