glass mosaic tile art studio of william j enslen jr
Below is Chapter 7 (Backgrounds and Borders) from my ebook, Mosaic Pieces: Essentials for Beginner and Professional Mosaic Artists.  The ebook is targeted to mosaic artists of
all experience levels.  I also include anecdotes throughout the ebook that add to the fun of learning how to create beautiful glass mosaic tile art.  I hope you enjoy learning
about backgrounds and borders, and how to use them to enhance your mosaic art.

Don't forget to read
Chapter 6 to learn about color and contrast.  And check out my Lesson of the Month to learn how to install a glass mosaic tile backsplash using the
Direct-Indirect mosaic method.
Chapter 7
Backgrounds and Borders
Page 1
Please note: Text and figures from the ebook
have been reformatted to fit this webpage.
Your mosaic's background is just as important as the primary focus, so pay attention to it.  If it overpowers or hides the mosaic's main features, the
whole project is ruined unless you intend to subdue the main features or merge everything into a muddy image.  The proper background enhances the
mosaic's look.  It can complement the key features or it can clash with them.  Either is okay as long as it fits your desired look.  As with other aspects of
your project, proper planning is the secret to integrating the right background andamento and color into your project.

Borders aren't as critical as backgrounds, but they can still damage the overall look if you don't plan well.  Borders not only enhance the look but can also
be functional.

Backgrounds

Backgrounds don't have to be fancy and should not detract from the primary focus.  Backgrounds are generally filler to complete the mosaic.  If you don't
plan to make the background functional, then simple opus regulatum or tesselatum usually works just fine.  (The chapter,
Designing and Drawing, in my
eBook describes in detail with illustrations the typical types of andamento.)  Some artists add some opus vermiculatum to create the illusion of movement.

I most frequently use either opus regulatum or my own variation of opus palladianum.  See the closeup view in Figure 7-1 for an example of regulatum.  
Note two interesting points:

  • The regulatum pattern is intentionally misaligned.   For this piece, perfect tesserae alignment, whether in a checkerboard or brick-work pattern, is too
    stiff and unnatural.

  • Each tessera is hand-cut producing varying shapes and sizes, which also results in imperfect grout lines.  These deliberate variations result in a less
    rigid, more flowing background.  The dark evening sky comes alive with movement more so than with a pattern of perfectly aligned tesserae and
    flawless grout lines.
Figure 7-1.  Imperfect Tesserae Alignment Creates Background "Movement"
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Please click on the Chapter 7 page you'd like to go to next:
(To see a full view of this mosaic, please see my Gallery.)
Oftentimes, the mosaic artist prefers structured tesserae alignment depending on the application.  For example, kitchen backsplashes and shower stalls
look wonderful when done in a color mix of perfectly aligned vitreous glass tiles.  The point is that no one style is better than another for all applications.  
It depends on your desired look.  See Figure 7-2 for an example of how a highly structured tesserae alignment can look beautiful.  My neighbors, Jim and
Melodee, chose the perfect tile color and design for their kitchen backsplash.  A structured tile alignment is best for their backsplash application (Figure
7-2); whereas, a background of misaligned tesserae is best for my mosaic application (Figure 7-1).
Figure 7-3.  A Functional Background that Contributes to the Overall Image
Figure 7-2.  Perfect Tesserae Alignment and Grout Lines Can Look Wonderful in the Right Application
In addition to simply filling space, backgrounds can also be functional to the mosaic's overall image.  The background in Figure 7-1 is merely filler that
helps create flow.  Its only contribution is to create a heightened feeling of movement.  In contrast, notice in Figure 7-3 how the background contributes
much more to the overall mosaic.  It presents the sky and, more impressively, the beautiful reflection off the ocean.  The entire background (i.e., sky,
ocean, and reflection) are done using hand-cut vitreous tiles laid in a loose opus regulatum similar to the pattern in Figure 7-1.  I blended the various
colors of hand-cut squares to create gradual color change.  The sky is lighter far away at the horizon and darker close to the viewer.  The ocean is
dark-blue far away at the horizon and gradually turns green close to the viewer.
Bill Enslen, Glass Mosaic Tile Art
Bill Enslen, Glass Mosaic Tile Art
glass mosaic tile art
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Copyright © 2008-2013 by William J. Enslen, Jr.  All rights reserved.
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