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Pet Portraiture

Over the years I have been commissioned to mosaic many pets and my own pet rabbit Chippy appears in many of my best mosaics. The first thing you need to ask yourself if you want to make a mosaic of your pet is WHY? – What is it about Fido or Tiddles that inspires you? There doesn’t have to be a profound answer to this rather basic question– if it’s simply because he’s so CUTE then that’s fine – but make sure that the mosaic captures that fact and is cute too! More likely though it will be because you want to capture his or her personality – so what IS it about him or her that makes him / her unique? Once you have nailed that –write down a few descriptive words and keep those words in the back of your mind as you design and make your piece.

When I am commissioned to mosaic a pet I try to find it as much as I can about the animal. I am trying to capture Timmy – THAT particular Bernese hound and not just any old mutt!

Timmy_ungrouted_72

 

 

 

 

 

In a former life I was an animator so character and characterisation is fundamentally important to me. Getting the eyes right is the most imperative thing and if both eyes are shown then getting a pair of eyes to match along with getting the eye line right is my first priority.

Timmy_CU

 

 

 

In Timmy’s case I many eyes in order to capture his dignified alert expression.I felt that this piece resolved itself once I had got the ears right by using a rippled iridized herringbone glass. His ears were a different texture to the rest of him – fluffier and very tactile – you just HAD to run your hands through them, so therefore I felt that they needed to be handled in a different way in the mosaic too.

Timmy_CU2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next dog ‘Princess’ belongs to my friend and fellow mosaicist Tricia Hoffman. Tricia commissioned this portrait of her beloved Princess when I was with her in Ann Arbor

Princess_72pics

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is only the eyes that give it that sort of Walt Disney ‘cartoony’ sort of look , if we cover the eyes up and have another look, it is actually quite a realistic study and if you compare it to Bernese dog above  you will see that they have a lot in common.

Princess_org_CU2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The muzzle for example is handled realistically:
Princess_org_CU1 - Copy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Barbados Floor Mosaic Part 1: Design

The biggest mosaic I have ever made was a floor commissioned for a house that was being built in Sugar Hill on the Caribbean island of Barbados. The brief was to include everything Bajan within the mosaic.  So I was given a long list of all the things that are significant to life in Barbados – cocktails, dominoes, Mount Gay Rum, Banks beer.

03-001

 

 

 

 

In terms of the space I really wanted it to look airy and roomy and even with the long list of everything to put including the kitchen sink, I didn’t want it to look cluttered and that’s why I decided on this sort of spiraling bit like water going down a plug hole and also the color of the background is that beautiful Tiffany blue very soft relaxing blue so that made it a big difference to the final effect as well.

03-053

 

 

 

Animals

I intended these bats to be used on a greetings card:

Bats_Processed

…but the buyers kept turning it upside down because people couldn’t tell which way was the ‘right way up’. . I was advised to remake it – and to include a tree branch for the bats to hang off. “But they’re BATS!” I tried to explain…“and if I do that then it won’t be funny anymore!”
I felt that the omitting the tree branch –added to their ‘batty’ expression – and that this was the joke in the design!

Sometimes logic and over-thinking things get in the way of visual comedy.  You can be TOO clever! Sometimes being SILLY is enough. I think that my bats are silly enough and funny enough to stand alone.

Kaant_org

 

 

 

 

 

The humor in some cartoonist’s is in the line itself. They are funny DRAWINGS! I am thinking here of my hero Ronald Searle, whose cartoons aren’t necessarily ‘jokes’. Many of MY mosaics fall into this category. For example the silly fusion birds shown below will either amuse you or you will think the idea is a bit thin.

I am often told how funny my work is and how funny I am too – sometimes unintentionally! The fact is that whilst I DO like to make humorous pieces and amuse the viewer, I also take my work seriously. There is a belief that work that is funny can’t be serious – but it is possible to be serious about being funny! Ask any comedian. One crucial line in the drawing of, say, a snake, can make it funny or not as the example above shows.

I think that the mosaic above is funny in itself, but I have yet to meet anyone who gets the pun in the title. ‘Kaant’ is a reference to Kaa the hypnotic snake in Rudyard Kipling’s ‘ The Jungle Book’, but, unlike his hungry namesake, Kaant has already eaten, so much in fact that he kaant move! This is a good example of me trying to be too clever, the metaphor is obscure and as a result the joke misses the mark.

Crocodile and Tucan 01

 

This crocodile and Toucan mosaic is a simple visual pun – comparing the crocs long snout to the toucan’s long beak.

Crocodile and Tucan 04

 

 

 

 

 

The fox below was inspired by picking up a piece of agate at a craft fair and thinking “Oh – that looks just like a fox’s ear!” In fact this is not a new observation – there is a conch shell nicknamed ‘fox ear’ for the very same reason. I then hunted through the rest of the stones to find another piece to match it, plus a piece that would work for his long foxy nose. My notion was, that if the agate already looked like a fox’s ear and I used it as such – how could that possibly fail?! The patina of an abalone shell seemed the perfect choice for his nose and I was able to cut a mille in half and show the two halves in cross section to act as his shifty eyes.

fox_org

 

 

 

 

My intention was to show him thinking – scheming away as to how he might get to eat a tasty chicken dinner. I have lost many such chickens that way

Fantastic Mr Fox_Org_moo

 

 

This arctic fox is a companion piece:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

…again inspired by the beautiful pieces of agate
Here’s a joke I just made up:  when is a stone not a stone? – when it’s agate!:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Which one do you like the best? – The white one or the red one?
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

here’s another yellow version:

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Meaner still! – Look at how his ears are cut from the same slice of stone.

Here’s another meany:

Fox Dad

I called this one “Who’s theDaddy?” because  I imagined him being the father of this cub:
fox cub_2

 

 

 

 

and his even cuter brother:
fox cub_1

 

 

 

 

I like those long tails made out of single fusions!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have a love hate relationship with foxes – I like them but I just wish that they would stop eating my friends – RIP Weetabix!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

The idea behind this next piece is that the ring tailed lemur is high up on his branch, but his enormously long tail is swinging towards you, almost hitting you – as though you will need to duck in order to avoid it. I have echoed the lines of the tail with some trees on either side. Notice the way that the branch comes down in one soft diagonal in the opposite direction to the andamento of the background. This counter balances and accentuates the overall movement of the piece.

lemur_Org

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

lemur_Org_CU2

lemur_Org_Cu1

 

 

 

 

 

I was pleased with the Lemur  so I made  a companion piece:

Lemur_2

 

 

 

 

 

Look at the way in which the arc of his tail is echoed in the rocks.

Lemur_2_Cup_2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The curves within curves create rhythm.  I often frame the top and bottom of these tropical scenes with fusion leaves.  It gives the impression that you are an interloper – you are peering through the undergrowth. As you can see – he is just as startled by you as you are by him.

Lemur_2_CUp

 

 

 

 

 

This is a piece about tonal contrast. The idea is that the white horse has been drinking those stripes in the water and as a result has turned into a zebra!

Zebra_ME_org

 

 

 

 

 

 

I like to create a ‘acnopy’ of my grasses so that you get the feeling of depth and looking through the undergrowth – such as with this armadillo.

Armadillo 007

and his companion:

Armadillo_2

 

 

 

Let’s end on this Nepalese goat:

Nepal Ram_org

 

 

 

 

 

I  made him to help promote ‘Freedom Matters’ – a charity for which I am a trustee. Freedom Matters fights trafficking and frees Nepalese children and young people from slavery, abuse and exploitation.

Check it out:
http://www.freedommatters.org.uk/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BIG cats!

This is one of my favorite mosaics:Sicily_Leopards 004

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is hung on the outside wall on the garden side of our house. I particularly like the way the light shines on the gold – it looks different at different times of day.

Here’s a detail of the fruit I made for the tree:

Sicily_Leopards_tree_detail

 

 

 

 

This mosaic is inspired by a mosaic frieze in the throne room of King Roger II which I visited whilst in Sicily on my mosaic masterclass / holiday. However I didn’t want to copy it but wanted my own take on it. The key – for me anyway – lay in getting the character of the leopards right, so I started by making various ‘portraits’ of these leopards:

Leopard Head_CKF_Org

It’s like casting an actor for a movie – the one above could be Tony Curtis!

Klimt Leopard 007

 

 

 

 

 

 

…or Matt Damon

Cheetah_Sicily 01

 

 

 

 

 

 

Or Tom Cruise!

Cheetah_Sicily 01_CU

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Having decided on the one that I liked best (Tom Cruise) I was ready to embark on the bigger mosaic.

Sicily_Leopards _detail

 

 

 

 

I wanted to give this lion that bored, world weary look that lions often have and to try to suggest that he is in captivity. My original version (below) had a brick like floor rendered in unglazed Cinca ceramic tiles, suggesting the floor of a zoo or circus cage.

Lion_old floor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 It was my daughter Mollie who pointed out that I was “Taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut” by making that floor so obviously man made. At her suggestion I ripped it up and remade it using Mexican Smalti. The result less obvious and that subtlety added to the pathos of the finished piece.

Lion resting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This next one (below) has a mane consisting of the same coloured glass fusions as the one above – but this time they appear to be bursting forth – like lava flowing from an erupting volcano. His eyes are positioned in a ‘Picassoesque’ manner –the eye further away is larger than the nearer one – which is of course incorrect as far as realism is concerned. Although he looks like a Picasso lion – he is, believe it or not drawn from a 15th Century tapestry in St Mark’s Cathedral, circa 1430, which I admired on a recent visit to Venice.

Lion_Venetian

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This one is not even a mosaic! I made this icon on a workshop taught by my friend and master icon painter Peter Murphy:
http://www.petermurphyicons.co.uk/

Lion Icon processed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s a zodiac Leo:

zodiac_leo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and this one who is  a Bob Marley fan so I called him ‘Bob Marleo’:

Bob Marleo_72pics

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This one is into Egyotology…

Leopatra_72pics

 

 

 

 

 

 

…so I called HIM ‘Leopatra’!

This cheetah is a Nepalese cat

Nepal Tiger_Org

 

 

 

 

I  made him to help promote ‘Freedom Matters’ – a charity for which I am a trustee. Freedom Matters fights trafficking and frees Nepalese children and young people from slavery, abuse and exploitation.

Check it out:
http://www.freedommatters.org.uk/

 

 

 

Cats

I have mosaiced many cats over the years…..Let’s start with my self portrait:

TN Poly MAC 625

 

 

 

 

 

Believe it or not, I actually dreamt of this cat, but I couldn’t remember where I had seen it.  It was a big, beautiful fluffy Burmese cat that had had the door slammed in his face. I made the mosaic as I had dreamt it and hung it on the wall of my studio, thinking no more about it. Then one day my friend Jenny Jackson came to see me and exclaimed “That’s Belle!” – at which point I remembered that it was HER cat.  It was amazing that she recognized her cat which had reminded me of Barbara Cartland’s cat.  Barbara Cartland was a romantic novelist and very fond of pink. She wore it constantly and wandered around looking like a wedding cake.  My idea was, that if Barbara Cartland had owned a cat (she actually preferred dogs and owned a HUGE Great Dane named ‘Duke’ after her friend Lord Louis Mountbatton) then this is what he would have looked like!

TN Poly MAC 625

 

 

I can identify with the poor chap because when I wear a suit, I just look like a tramp wearing a suit. So despite his pretty pink bow, this cat still looks very disheveled and you can see that he has caught his tail in the door a few times.

catfish Org

A lot of my ideas come about by simply playing and messing about with my fusions and arranging some of my fusion fish side by side, made me realize that two fish facing each other could become eyes and furthermore it would be quite witty if they were the eyes of a cat! 

catfish_CU

 

 

 

 

 

So that is how this mosaic came about – you can see the preparatory sketches in Chapter 2. It seemed logical to make a nose from a fish as well, and the ears are sort of shell like, a bit like scallop shells.

Catfish_Pink_72pics

 

 

 

 

 

 

Having made him, I realized that the cheeks could have resembled prawns, so I developed this idea in the following mosaic. Prawns are pink (when they are cooked anyway) so that’s why this cat is pink. 

Catfish_Pink_CU

 

 

 

 

 

I thought I would try some out in blue:

Blue Catfish_2_72pics Blue Catfish_1_72pics

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This one even has a fish hook for a mouth!:

Catfish_blue_hook mouth_72pics

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I liked the idea of incorporating flat fish – so I went ahead and made a batch of plaice – not knowing at that stage how they would look in the finished mosaic. This was the result: 

Can't Plaice Him_org

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I was in Sicily I gave a man my card who was actually a mosaic artist himself.  He spotted on the card that the cat was made out of fish and then proceeded to explain it to me in simplistic terms – pointing out that the eyes were fish and that indeed the nose was also a fish. I really didn’t know how to respond to his revelatory explanation – I just stood there listening to him explain my work to me!  It was really quite a surreal experience…I wonder what he would have made of this ultimate one which is completely made up of fish!:

Fishface_org

It’s easier to ‘read’ this one if you look at him side on:

Fishface_on side_72

Can you see the five fish – running horizontally now?!

The great thing about making mosaics is that it takes a long time to make one, so you don’t have to have 100s of ideas in a short period of time.  Usually whilst I make one mosaic, I naturally tend to get an idea for the next one.  So there is a natural progression or journey. It is not that they get better necessarily, in fact looking at this series, I think I like the initial one the most.

After the catfish, I started to incorporate birds in the cat’s faces:

Blue Birdfish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I didn’t realize that in America there IS a bird called a Birdfish – here in England we don’t recognize that as a term, so it was very satisfying to legitimately call this mosaic ‘Birdfish’.

I made this mosaic of two cats against a background of subtle grays a while ago:

Siamese_black_72pics

It owes a lot to the Siamese cats, Si and Am in Disney’s ‘Lady and the Tramp’ (1955) which was my mother’s favorite film.

 Siamese_black_CU2Siamese_blackCU1

 This cat portrait of Thomas was commissioned by his owner.thomas the cat_1_72pics

 

 

 

 

 

Thomas’s speciality is playing goalkeeper with a ball of silver foil:

thomas the cat_2_72pics

Here he is reworked as a cartoon character:

thomas with silver ball

 

 

 

 

 

He’s arachnophobic:

Arachnophobia

 

 

 

 

….and turophobic!

Turophobia

 

 

 

Here’s a white Siamese

Siamese_real_white_72pics

 

 

 

 

 

Siamese_real_white_CU

 

 

 

 

 

 

This white Siamese family  are more stylised:

Siamese_white_72pics

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s a black one:

Cat_Black_1_72pics

 

 

 

 

 

Cat_Black_1_CU

 

 

 

 

.and  his brother:

Cat_Black_2_72pics

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is another commissioned cat portrait – Boris:

boris 004

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and finally a Mexican Chihuahua – Juanita!

Skinny cat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My latest Book: Fused Glass Mosaics

book cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mosaic artist Martin Cheek provides a practical “mental tool kit” to assist the reader in making fused glass mosaics. Growing out of 7-day master class, this book begins by exploring creative influences and the development of a design and continues through the execution, with an in-depth exploration of the uses of colour and texture in glass mosaic art. Illustrated with more than 300 colour images and driven by an engaging text, each chapter offers techniques and examples, and concludes with a challenge designed to expand the reader’s artistic and practical abilities, like making a subtle mosaic using analogous colors or making a piece inspired by a favourite artist, and learning the techniques for using a glass fusing kiln. While written for seasoned mosaicist, there is something for glass artisans at all skill levels. A gallery of the author’s works provides ideas for the reader’s own creations.

Here is a review by fellow mosaic maestro Oliver Budd:

“From the moment I was greeted by the two cheeky cranes on the cover of Martin’s new book I knew this would be another classic from the master of mosaic animal caricature.

 Martin’s background in animation enables him to interpret animals in a way that delivers a moment of real delight.  They are wonderfully characterful these little glass creations, personalities with a touch of pathos that makes them very endearing.

 I’ve known Martin for many years now and had heard that he had bought a kiln with the winnings from a TV game show he’d not only had the lack of dignity to enter but had then compounded by having the indecency to win!  When we met at an American mosaic conference in Chicago last year he showed me the glass fusions he was now making with that kiln and I thought how brilliantly they worked with mosaic.

 I don’t know how the publishers resisted the urge to title the book “Cheeky Fusions”, as in a sense the word fusion can mean not only the actual melted glass elements but also the fusion between these and the mosaic cubes within which they are set. These two elements compliment each other perfectly.  Purists say “it’s not strictly mosaic” but hang on, these are very beautiful objects and I say “hang the purists!”

 For many years Martin has included milifiori in his work, lots of it.  The tiny glass fusions make great eyes and details in mosaics (check out the dogs on page 73, they had me howling!)  Martin’s fusions are a step further on.  They are clever, they become ears, fish, peacock tails and wings, butterflies and cat’s eyes and they imbue the creatures with character to the extent that one mosaic of a pheasant really does look, as Martin puts it, “as is he has just realized that he’s not the sharpest knife in the box and that tragic thought has stopped him in his tracks”.

 The book is laid out in an interesting and very informative way beginning with how a mosaic evolves from sketches to final composition to the making of the work and the inclusion of realism and/or humour. 

 The book is written as Martin talks so it’s very much like you’re sitting in his studio as he eloquently explains the different pieces.  This makes for a very easy atmosphere as you hear the tales of how a particular piece came into being.

 The sketches are particularly interesting as they are cartoons in themselves, you can see Martin creating a visual joke in every one of them.

 Martin’s large mosaic floor in Barbados gets a chapter all to itself and I’m so glad that it does as this is a wonderful work full of life, colour and vigour.  It is all made in Mexican Smalti and is a real joy to feast your eyes on, from the bold and brightly coloured banana leaves to the jewel-like humming birds and the client’s jazzy sandals as if just left by the side of the ocean (even these sandals have a comic personality, how can that be?)

 I’d followed Martin’s blog when he was making this work so it was a treat to see the complete story of it’s creation in print with some excellent photos showing all the technical aspects of the work from first sketches to final grouting.

 Colours and contrasts come next with some different ways of setting your mosaic pieces and found objects.  A chapter on community mosaics runs through a selection of school commissions that have none of the brilliant wit and gusto of Martins studio work but then a man has to earn a living and the children do get a great chance to be creative with these projects. 

 A very useful final chapter on how to tackle a commission follows and anybody who wants to make a business out of this art form should benefit from his words of wisdom.  If you follow this advice it will help you avoid very easy-to-make pitfalls like working for nothing and enslaving yourself to a client’s bad taste.

 So a very important addition to your mosaic book library.  If you’re a professional mosaic maker it is always an intriguing delight to see how somebody else works and if you’re just starting out it will furnish you with a wealth of information and tips that will give you ideas and the confidence to improve with this ever intriguing art form.”

Here are some other reviews:

“As an aspiring mosaic artist, I find that work and life too often derail my plans to produce more art. Without consistent practice, I’ve wondered how I can ever hope to advance my skill level and carve out my own style. Then I bought Martin Cheek’s new book.
The title suggests that the focus will be on learning about and incorporating glass fusions. In that respect, the title is misleading – because the book is so much more than that! Within the 17 chapters, Martin covers specific approaches to developing a mosaic. While he addresses glass fusions and shows many inspiring illustrations that incorporate them, he doesn’t limit anyone’s approach to their use. At the end of each lesson, he issues a challenge to the reader to produce a mosaic that uses the approach described.
What sparked my resolve to accept the challenges was a little note that appeared on the bottom of page 159. Martin offers to issue a certificate of completion to anyone who completes the challenges and has passed his review of the pieces, photos of which are posted to one’s own Facebook page.
I haven’t been the same since I read that. For the thirty or so bucks I paid to buy this book, I get what amounts to a mosaic course taught by a world-renowned mosaic artist. My mind hasn’t stopped spinning with ideas; I’ve completed four assignments already, have begun the fifth, and am about to order materials for the next three. This process is pushing me to try new techniques, materials, and subjects, and I’m committed to completing the challenges this year.
A brilliant example of a “call to action,” this book is giving me the kick in the rear I needed. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to be inspired, enhance skills, and possibly discover that you have a style all your own.”
Betty Cleffman Hager

 “WOW! Just received my pre-ordered copy of Fused Glass Mosaics. This is a spectacular book. The design inspiration and technique for each mosaic are explained quite nicely. The artwork is fabulous. There is a lot to be learned from studying this delightful work. When you open it, it’s like having Martin Cheek come for a visit.”
Mary Glick (USA)

 “Prompt delivery Wow this book is great. Pack full of wonderful colour photos with engaging text for understanding mosaics and and great ideas for making your own! A must for anybody who’s interested in the medium mosaics. AAAA++++ “
Susan Shane

“This is a must-have for mosaic artists and hobbyists alike. Martin covers all parts of mosaic creation: color, tone, texture, shape/size, andamento, narrative. This is an inspiration-filled book for anyone who wishes to improve their technique or begin working with fused glass as tesserae. Thanks Martin!”
  Anne Baldocchi

“Whether you are a newbie or experienced with fused glass or mosaics, this may be the book you were lacking in your library. I’ve dabbled in both but have been truly inspired after seeing Martin’s wonderful creations. These may be “master class techniques” but any level glass artist or mosaicist will benefit from Martin’s techniques, humor, and clear descriptions. I especially value the multiple executions of his mosaics, and the evolution of his drawings which enable you to see all sorts of possibilities for the same project. You’re also able to see why something works or doesn’t, without having to create three of them yourself the first time round. Whether you decide to tackle a large or small project, Martin’s sketches and text about how he works and ideas for how you should approach your work, will encourage you and “infuse” new life into any project you attempt. “
Muttlover

This is a wonderful book, a must have for your mosaic library. The photography in the book is incredible and Martin provides excellent inspiration and challenges for all levels of mosaic artist.
Felicia W. Poes

“I have just received the book, it is great, even better that what I has viewed on the computer.
I loved what you have drawn at the front, more than a signature and it make that very special.
Thank you very, very much.
A great book, the best for anyone serious about mosaic, NOT master mosaic in one week-end.”
Alain

“Wow was thrilled to receive this book earlier than expected have not been able to put it down has lots of great photos and suggestions to make them one of the best mosaic books I have seen and
read. Love the idea of using fused glass with mosaic tiles.”
June Haskin

“I think this book is just what was needed in today’s advanced mosaic hobbyist community. So many start from scratch mosaicists have needed such an instructional book devoted to helping emerging and experienced mosaic enthusiasts alike reach that higher level in their artwork. Chapter by chapter, the author takes the reader through multiple challenges, as only a classically trained artist can do, and here, his experience and true love for this artform take charge of the readers attention. I have found this book to be beautiful, and full of inspiration and creativity of the author’s own artistic genius. A must have for any mosaic enthusiasts library. “Robbie Miller

“In this beautiful book Martin Cheek generously shares his artistic process honed over 30 years of making mosaics.
This book is both instructional and inspirational and great value.”
carry

Copies of the book signed by the author are available from Martin Cheek: Email: cheekmartin@hotmail.co.uk

Price £27.50 / $35.00
UK P&P: £5.30 -£8.50 surface mail order within Europe

 

Dogs

I enjoy pet portrait commissions and I find that dogs in particular offer up good subjects for me. I like the various character of the different breeds and i try to find out about the individual personality of the actual ‘sitter’ before I start work.

Timmy_ungrouted_72

 

 

 

 

 

This commission for Timmy a Bernese hound resolved itself once I had got the ears right by using a rippled iridized herringbone glass. His ears were a different texture to the rest of him – fluffier and very tactile – you just HAD to run your hands through them, so therefore I felt that they needed to be handled in a different way in the mosaic too.

Timmy_CU2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also made many eyes in order to capture his dignified alert expression

Timmy_CU

 

 

 

 

My friend Jennie loves dogs and as such is considered a ‘soft touch’ when it comes to taking in rescue dogs. Her latest, Darcy, is a cocker spaniel who is very naughty indeed. Jennie was one of my course participants in Sicily and on the way out; we had to buy a new camera because Darcy had eaten her old one! You would have imagined that this was an instant passport to the local glue factory for him but apparently not. Anyway – THAT anecdote was the inspiration for this piece – I imagine that Butch has recently devoured the TV remote and as punishment, has been banished to his kennel, where as the title suggests, he is contemplating his misdemeanors.
Bulldog_72pics

 

 

 

 

 

The inclusion of the glass fusions in his legs (below) are supposed to signify his war wounds and as such add a degree of realism to this piece.

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I like this study of a Basset Hound in this chapter because it seems to captures that pathetic look particular to hounds, which insinuates that you haven’t fed them for days! They look so soulful and sad and I think that this in itself is quite humorous.

Exif_JPEG_PICTURE

 

 

 

 

 

 

This mosaic could have turned out ‘realistic’ were it not for the eye, that is handled in a cartoony way. Apart from that, the rest of it is quite an accurate study of a Basset Hound -including that big floppy ear.

Exif_JPEG_PICTURE

Have you ever tried to train a dog? Well if you have then you will recognize this look as you try for the umpteenth time to train him to fetch your slippers. You can carry on repeating the words “SSLL…IPP…PERS!” until you are blue in the face, but it is obvious that he simply ain’t gonna get it!Slippers!_72pics

 

 

 

 

 

The title for the piece below is ‘Give Him a Biscuit’ is suggesting that – until you give him a biscuit – you won’t be able to tell which end is which!

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Are you worried about your elderly dogs failing eyesight?  Well in that case, this mosaic is for you!  It’s a doggy eye test – show it to your dog, and starting at the top, he should be able to recognize a St. Bernard, followed by a Burmese and a Dalmatian, then come the Labrador and the Retrievers and at the bottom, little Spaniels, Shih thus and Chihuahuas.  If he can read the bottom line then stop worrying about him, he is doing fine!

This piece was critiqued by my Aussie friend Jane Denison who is an art historian. Jane says: “Beyond demonstrating a new application for millefiori and giving us a big belly laugh in the process, we CAN look at this mosaic to unravel why it works so well. Firstly, Martin uses the golden triangle composition that was popular in the Renaissance. If you draw a line connecting each of the outer millefiori, you’ll see that they form an equilateral triangle and that the top millefiori element complies with the 3 to 2 ratio known as the “golden spot”. This classic composition is ideal for creating harmony, uniformity and balance – three principles that work well in pattern designs. The mosaic also “works” because it comprises three simple repeated forms, and therefore there’s no extraneous detail obscuring the humor. And, finally, in using only a shallow space in the foreground, the safety barrier between the artwork and the viewer is diminished. Consequently, the dogs’ backsides seem too close, a bit shocking and … very funny!”

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This is a private commission of two border collies.

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The border collie’s is the most intelligent breed of dog you can get – in fact one is dissuaded from owning one unless you have the time and energy to devote to it. I wanted to convey this in my mosaic.

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I like the combination of the realistic treatment of the dogs juxtaposed with the cartoony stylization of the funky rug.

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This Bolognaise appears a few times in the work of the Venetian painter Carpaccio.

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Maybe it was HIS dog? Anyway here is my version in homage to Carpaccio’s little pal. The gondola’s trousers SHOULD be black but as a wink to Carpaccio I have made them carpaccio red!

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This dog belongs to fellow mosaicist Tricia Hoffman of ‘Mended Pieces Mosaics’. Tricia commissioned this portrait of her beloved Princess when I was with her in Ann Arbor last February.

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It is only the eyes that give it that sort of Walt Disney sort of look

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but if we cover the eyes up and have another look, it is actually quite a realistic study and if you compare it to Bernese dog above  you will see that they have a lot in common.

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I’ll end on my personal favorite. Schnauzer’s look like old Colonels – don’t you agree? He’s been there – seen that back in 1923, but it’s not as good as it used to be!

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Fish

Fish make a great subject for mosaics! I think it’s  because their scales suggest a mosaic anyway:

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I am trying to remember back  to my first fish mosaic. I can’t recall it – but this cute little angel fish was certainly ONE of the first.

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This was probably the first SIGNIFICANT fishy work – inspired by the fish mosaics of Pompeii (now in the archaeological Museum in Naples)

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This companion piece soon followed:. you will find that gilt head sea bream in the Pompeii mosaics too .. . as well as in ‘Fruit de Mer’ our local fish shop!

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These Cephalopods complete the triptych. Cephalpod means literally ‘head footed’ such as the squid, octopus, cuttlefish and nautilus shell shown here. The squid and ‘little miss Muffet spider – like octopus look very ‘cartoony’ and modern – but if fact they are very closely inspired by the 4th Century mosaics of Aquileia:

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These two are made of natural stone and were commissioned to go on the bathroom floor of a yacht.

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Here’s a detail – lots of sore fingers with that tough green marble!

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here they are again in a simpler (and cheaper!) form using Cinca Unglazed Ceramic:

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and as a mosaic kit designed for my friends at http://www.mosaicsupplies.co.uk/

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These millefiori fish were fun to make:

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…with their funny faces:

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Pheasants

After peacocks, pheasants must be my second most popular subject for a mosaic – well for ME anyway! It’s a fine line though – many of my pheasants are masquerading as peacocks and vice versa – and it’s often difficult for even me to tell which is which!

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I was trying to show that this beautiful bird is also incredibly stupid, with a brain the size of a garden pea. I used to keep pheasants and I don’t think I ever saw one of them have an idea, without all of the others having to follow suit! This one seems to realize that he is not the sharpest knife in the box and that tragic thought has stopped him in his tracks.
Over the years, this pink pheasant has proved to be my most popular and enduring mosaic.

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Here’s a green one

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This pair of green pheasants have subtle stoneware ceramic elements – that dates them for me! – I would make those wings and tails in glass these days

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This one wants a drink …is he a pheasant or a rather dull peacock?…I don’t know either!

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…and a blue one. by now you can already tell that I am trying to anthropomorphize these guys – and give them human characteristics – surely you know someone who looks like this blue pheasant?

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People always say that this one looks like a Gustav Klimt but the fact of the matter is that Klimt is like millefiori not vice versa! Klimt visited Ravenna in 1900 and fell in love with mille. He immediately began to incorporate it into his work, a notable example being ‘Salome’. He entered ‘Salome’ into the Venice Biennale and the Venetians liked it so much that they bought it! It now hangs in the Cà Pesaro Galleria Internazionale d’Arte Moderna, Musei Civici Veneziani, Venice. Here’s the link: http://www.klimt.com/en/gallery/women/klimt-judith2–salome-1909.ihtml

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Here’s another Golden pheasant – this one is ‘post weakest link’ (That means after I won the quiz show ‘The weakest Link’ and blew my winnings on a glass fusion kiln!)…hence the fusions.

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This green one is on the run…

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So is this brown one

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This orange pheasant was made whilst I was on tour – in Austin Texas at Artisan Glass Studios. Hence the use of stained glass.

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I called this one my ‘Valentine Bird’ because he has fused glass hearts incorporated into his tail feathers!

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HE got away with pretending to be a pheasant ….but these CROWS have got another think coming if they think that THEY can get away with it!

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I SUPPOSE that these are   pheasants:

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If not I don’t what ELSE they could be!

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Except maybe one of THESE:

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…Or these!:

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Owls

I have made LOTS of mosaics of owls over the years. I think that this was the first

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I imagine them as siblings with the older and wiser one taking care and looking out for his little brother.

Here’s another early one of a startled owl

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…and his fluffy baby!:

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I like the fluffy downy look of the owl chicks:

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…far removed from the raptors that they will become in adulthood!:

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A lot of people have told me how funny they found my mosaic ‘Nocturnal’:

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This mosaic, believe it or not, is a self portrait of…err…ME …with my wife, Margaret. A natural worrier, Margaret has the habit of waking me up in the middle of the night to tell me all about what’s on her mind. The expression of the owl on the left is how I feel when being woken up to be asked: “Have you sent a Christmas card to Leo?!”

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All mosaicists love Klimt – it’s a conditional on be allowed to be one in the first place!

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This bird is the same one that appears in Klimt’s tree of life….

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but as you can see he contemplative medidations are being disturbed by an invasion and infestation of cheeky owls!

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I like the simple shape that makes up the owl.

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I like to play with this shape to get different characters:

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I can make them menacing killers:

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..or cute siblings!:

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