I have found that a truly creative person likes to dabble in numerous projects and a variety of techniques. Usually when artists isolate themselves into predictable techniques, doing the same type of art repeatedly, they have moved onto a business, and are pleasing the crowd. I think of artists such as Thomas Kincaid and Bob Ross, who had very recognizable styles. They were predictable. They had flourishing careers marketing their work and techniques. In a situation like this, their art became their business.
Much of what I do is the same. When I did the artwork for NASCAR®, my art turned into a business. My recognizable style of drawing has also been the core of many of my books. Thousands of people have enjoyed learning to draw from me. But I get a bit edgy if I’m doing the same type of artwork over and over. I’m sure Kincaid and Ross were the same, and behind the scenes they fulfilled their own artistic desires.
I find that I enjoy a variety of art, each with a different sensation. Drawing feels one way, painting feels very different. But sometimes I need a more hands on, tactile medium. I love the look of thrown pottery, and a few of my students do that as well as drawing. They say there is nothing better than big blob of wet clay beneath their hands, spinning on the wheel. I can’t stand it! I tried the clay, and I wanted to run from the room screaming. There’s something about the feeling of the clay drying on my hands that makes me cringe. It gives me the creeps. Gardening does the same thing. Put some dirt drying onto my hands, and you’ll see me running for the garden hose. I can’t stand that feeling. Maybe I’m weird.
What I did find incredibly satisfying is creating mosaics. With them, I have the hands-on feeling of manipulating the tools and putting the objects in place with my fingers. Yet, I manage to stay clean.
Mosaic art is fascinating to me. Mosaics are like handmade jigsaw puzzles, much like the ones my father and I loved to do together when I was a kid. It’s a relaxing task of placing small pieces together into a beautiful design. The cool thing about them is they can be made out of just about anything. If you like to repurpose things rather than throw stuff away, this could be a fun way to do it. Here here are a very small sampling of what can be done.
This is an old lap desk that my grandmother used. It was just plain wood, and while functional, it wasn’t very attractive. I tried painting it once, back in my decorative, tole painting days, but ended up sanding it off. What you see here is a similar design to the original painting. But I created the new version with eggshells. I used both white and brown eggs to create the decorative pattern. I first used a white colored pencil and a stencil to draw the design onto the wood, and then used clear craft glue to stick the eggshells to the wood. I crushed the shells into pieces, used a paintbrush to apply the glue in one area at a time, and then applied one little piece at a time. Finally, I will glaze it with clear polyurethane until the texture evens back out. It can then be used as a lap desk again.
This example is a yard sign I made for my home. A friend of mine who is a wood cutter created the palette shape for me out of heavy-duty plywood. The mosaic was made using pieces of broken stained glass. I originally was going to use ceramic tiles, but I switched because the wood was already so heavy. I love the way it turned out. With this one, after I glued down the glass, (I used WeldBond white glue) I used grout to fill in between the glass pieces. I then used grout sealer, and painted the back of the wood with white outdoor trim paint.
There is nothing like the feeling of “playing” again. I love sitting out on the driveway with glass, mirrors, or China nestled between two towels, and smashing them to pieces with a hammer. It’s a great release!
There are a number of great books out there for making mosaics using broken china, glass, mirrors, rocks and stones. Absolutely anything can be decorated in a mosaic style. My first memories of mosaic art was a beautifully crafted wall in the office building where my father worked. It resembled the 16th-century Italian murals, and it glistened with gold. As a small child I was mesmerized by it.
Creating mosaic art is a great way to take a break from the more serious style of art that we do. Give it a try! Who knows, maybe I will create a new book about it someday!
Until then, just be creative!