First, Tsevis illustrated the base composition, a Golden Eagle. Then, with software, he built the mosaic by choosing many small images of birds that match the tone, shape, and color of each part of the base. While a few appear multiple times, others show up only once. The last step of his process is retouching by hand. [For detailed image: climate.audubon.org/article/mosaic-mastermind/.]
I just recently realized the important role my grandmother played in my life. Always with her busy hands making patchwork quilts, crocheting, and knitting--the results of which looked just like the paintings I make.
This traditional block pattern or grid is probably what Close saw in his childhood.
In Chuck Close: Face BookChuck Close: Face Book, he explains his process:
Working from photographs, I make flat things--paintings and prints [a two-dimensional image of a three-dimensional object]. That's how I can commit a face to memory....I enlarge the photograph and, using a pen and ruler, draw a grid over it. The photograph becomes a maquette. I then transfer a pencil version of the grid onto the canvas or paper, keeping it proportional....The squares of the grid help me figure out where things go. I then place a color in each square. The first color is arbitrary--it's whatever color I feel like laying down. Then I go back and add layers of paint. Different colors sit next to one another; it's something like when a composer writes music. I am making music with paint colors. Just as a composer knows what multiple instruments, each playing different notes, will sound like when they all play together, I know if you place that blue and that yellow and that green and that orange together, it create the shadow I want or a highlight where I need it. And a cluster of those squares, with blobs and squiggles, I have learned, will look like an eye or a nose, when viewed from a distance.
Nick Stone at Magnolia Editions describes this phenomenon as "optical blending": "the human eye amalgamates neighboring colors into a single hue...for the eye works first on a micro level to combine the colors in each cell into a single bit of color information, and then on a macro level, to add up the mosaic of individual bits, as the abstraction of the grid coalesces into an image of a human face."
For Chuck Close, a grid is what gives him the freedom to create what he otherwise has difficulty seeing. By enclosing color in each square, he can eventually produce a unified image. Close has also described himself as "a nervous person" who tends "to be lazy and a slob." In Chuck Close: Face Book, he says, "I didn't want all that to dictate the kind of art I would make....So I decided to construct limitations, like using a grid, which would prevent me from making sloppy work." In addition, because of the large scale of his portraits and how long they take to complete, the grid allows him to break down a big painting into manageable parts he can deal with day to day.
Interestingly, one of the definitions of "simple" is "free from guile, innocent." Auping also notes that Martin explained how she made non-rigid grids: "
Martin employed a ruler to apply delicate lines of graphite on the canvas, but as the graphite moved across the weave, the lines became soft and irregular, not hard-edged and straight.
Are you drawn to grid compositions? If so, what is it about them that you find compelling? If you're not attracted to them, what doesn't appeal to you?
Has the grid form been overworked in modern art, a trend that comes and goes, or is it a perennial?
If you use grids in your artwork, how do you employ them and why? Do they serve as a constraint or do they help open things up? What is it about the basic grid that makes it so useful?