Be Inspired, Don’t Copy 

Original Illustration by Kishore Bhargava

In my 4 years of self-training to be a mosaicist with no hardcore art background, I’ve used many online spaces to observe work, read tutorials and connect with mosaicists. There is widespread concern among many senior mosaicists on their work getting copied without any acknowledgement going to them as the original creators. There have been some who have accepted this phenomenon as a fallout of living and sharing in today’s Net-enabled world but it’s not that they are happy about it. Most others are openly critical of anyone simply treating images shown by Google Search or Pinterest as available to replicate. As a learner and mentor, this is what I advise a new learner to keep it nice and healthy for everyone.

  • Observe Intently. Look at lots of good quality work, observe the cuts  and andamento, and build a reference library of such work to learn from. Keep going back to these images only to observe as that helps internalise some aspects of those works.
  • Draw it out. Instead of tracing anyone’s work, just draw out several versions of those elements in your sketch book. By the 4th or 5th sketch, you will have made substantial changes from the original idea to make it remarkably different.
  • Use Nature, Folk Art, Still Life as your Prime Inspiration. Simply do this. You might claim to be a non-artist but you have admired landscapes, creatures, flowers or artefacts. You have decorated your living space with folk art or worn accessories with such art used on them. Draw out what you have admired and you will find many ideas in your sketchbook for your mosaics.
  • Use Simple Illustrations with your Preferred Fillers. Many mosaicists advise the use of illustrations from children’s books as they are simpler in their form and colours. Use such illustrations to fill them with zentangles, swirls, waves and colours of your choice.
  • Take Photographs. It is easy enough to click photos with smartphones. Take photos of what you see and like, build such a reference library and simplify such photos through your sketches for use in your mosaics. Birds and vegetation make good subject materials this way.
  • Take Help of Photo Editing Tools. You can run filters on your photos in Photoshop and phone apps like Prisma, Painnt and more to create effects and get ideas for your mosaic compositions.
  • Reproduce Roman Mosaics. Small selected elements from ancient Roman mosaics have been copied by many either as they are or by changing their tile cuts and flow. These reproductions become useful studies to understand the cutting and laying of materials, and they are not frowned upon as copies.
  • Be original and Find Your Style. As you make more, you will know more. With every 4-5 mosaics, you would know your preference for materials, colours, cuts, design elements, etc and your future work will show a certain preferred style of your own.
  • Get Feedback on your work. Get honest and brutal feedback on your mosaics from other creators, your family, a visiting friend, mentoring groups and reflect on those reactions. Don’t feel bad about it for you’re learning to be a good creator and any feedback teaches you some things that you hadn’t noticed.
  • Copy to Learn but No Sharing or Selling that Output. If you must copy to further your understanding of anyone’s technique, keep that output as your study without sharing its image on social media or ever selling that mosaic even as an ‘inspired’ piece of work. Those learning to paint may be displaying such work in galleries but it is just not right.
  • Create Regularly, Save its Photo and Gift it Away. Merely observing and admiring others creative output would not teach you to be a good mosaicist. You must cut the materials and create compositions to take your lessons. Make lots of small mosaics, take their photos for your personal library and gift them all away so you can create space for more to display in your home.
  • Create Mosaics for Enjoyment. After making 15-20 mosaics, you may start getting commissioned to duplicate your earlier work. Take those orders by all means but don’t create only to sell. Create for the sheer pleasure of it so you can enjoy the journey of learning too.


Author: Jyoti Bhargava

A perpetual learner who wears many hats and wants to equip any interested individual with information on making mosaics. Reach her at 'mail at jyotibhargava dot com'.

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