Archive for Mosaic schools

Where Do Our Creative Visions Come From?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on January 25, 2016 by Laura Paull

When I went to England last summer to take Sonia King’s course at West Dean College, I left behind an uncompleted mosaic that represented a new challenge for me. While representational in style–a landscape with specific elements–I wanted to make an ungrouted mosaic that used natural materials–stones, matte ceramic tiles–nothing ornamental. I didn’t want to be the crow attracted to shiny objects. NOT that there’s anything wrong with that.

The landscape I had in mind was one that I had seen every winter in the California Central Valley–vast expanses of pale buff hills populated by grazing sheep. Migrating white cranes would settle into the fields, enjoying a symbiotic relationship with the sheep that had something to do with their dung, and the contrast of the wooly animals with the sleek white cranes fixed in my mind.┬áThe sky was often leaden grey,┬ádarker than the land itself. Towering thunder clouds would build drama until expended in rain. I found some stones that were totally clouds — and look! they could double as sheep! That made my task of recreating this scene a whole lot easier.This was as far as I got before leaving for England. The major, and I think most important part by far, would be the ground itself – the quality and texture of the andamento that would unite all the other elements and render the landscape true.

This was as far as I got before leaving for England. The major, and I think most important challenge by far, would be to cover the ground itself with a quality and texture of andamento that would unite all the other elements and render the landscape true.

Sheep mosaic very incompleteMy project for the West Dean workshop was a completely different one – a small one that I could carry on a plane and hope to finish or at least get a good start on in one week. (see next post!) So imagine my surprise when I arrived at West Dean College, in the southern county of Suffolk, and found myself in a landscape that looked like this:

West Dean sheep blue sky

Or sometimes like this:

West Dean sheep rainy day.jpg

I do realize the English countryside pre-dates me, but it felt as if I had conjured this landscape from the persistence of my inner vision. Clearly this subject was not going to leave me alone!

I took many walks among the sheep (which were more plentiful than this photo shows,) through West Dean’s hills, (which were far greener than in California,) and was able to study them and their relation to the landscapes on which they depend. But when I returned home to resume the mosaic, I felt it didn’t matter, because I am not a painter, and the style of mosaic I had in mind was not hyper-realistic.

If my stones could suggest the sheep, if my rocks could be seen as weightless clouds — that was what I was after.

What mattered was an emotion I held for the life of animals on the land, their quiet pursuit of sustenance, their co-existence with one another and with us.

That. And the intrinsic challenge of the mosaic medium: to lay down line after line of earthly materials in a way that reminds of us something real, but through composition and texture achieves its own unearthly beauty.

Wet Dean sheep with Castle in BG

The sheep of Suffolk, in happy symbiosis with the estate of West Dean College of the Arts.