Decisions, Decisions, Decisions!

Running girl

Running girl

If you have not worked on this series of mosaics, you would not believe how many decisions have gone into them. Each one of those little pieces represents several decisions, sometimes made more than once.

Most of the people who have walked onto this job come in having little idea about how to make any of these decisions. They don’t even know ahead of time what decisions there are to be made. But, guess what? They all learn on the job! Most of this mural has been made by people who didn’t know how before they started. Impressed? So am I.


First, there’s the decision about value of the piece. What?!?!? ‘Value’ refers to the lightness/darkness of it. In other words, where is the light falling on the figure? What is in shadow? What value best tells the story of the shape of the thing?


Next, there is the question of color. What color family am I working with on this skin, this shirt, this grass, this bread? What tile do I actually have available in this room? Is there some already cut, or do I need to go into the supply room and break up a plate, shape it to my needs, and polish the sharp edges?


Jennie, I think you’re right- the dark pieces on her chin are too dark and they need to be replaced.

Size and shape matter. Do I need a small piece for a detail? Do I need a larger piece to represent light striking a whole plane of a face or arm? Do I need to break up an area of same-sized pieces with one or two of a different size? How do I cut this piece to be the puzzle piece that exactly fits into that hole?

Making tile selections to shape those knees and calves.

Making tile selections to shape those knees and calves.

The direction of the grout lines can be terribly important in defining shapes of facial features, creating movement within the whole composition of the picture, and leading the eye of the observer where you want it to travel. With this many people working on the mural (hundreds, over time), it is hard to create consistent direction and flow of the pieces, but you will definitely notice it in some passages, if you look for it.

Sometimes it is necessary to climb on a ladder and look down on the thing.

Sometimes it is necessary to climb on a ladder and look down on the thing.

Finally, what really matters is how the entire mosaic looks from across the Great Hall. All the details you see close-up are obliterated at a distance, and the only thing anyone notices is how the accumulation of pieces work together.

Enjoy more photos from last weekend’s escapades:

Here’s the next set of photos. (You can click on one to enlarge and create a slide show for yourself.)