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It’s All About the Andamento: River of Life, Part Two

On 01, May 2010 | 5 Comments | In Uncategorized | By man-admin

Flow. That’s the word that kept coming to mind as we read this update on Gary Drostle’s “River of Life.” (First MAN post with background here)

Julie Richey has done a fine job of using the work to illustrate the concept of “andamento” or “flow” in mosaics. Below you will see mastery of the medium at work as Drostle brilliantly takes andamento beyond technical excellence and into use as a metaphor for the flow of water, of air, of physical power, of life itself. Thank you, Julie for this extremely thoughtful post. Thank you Sarah Zirkel for the marvelous photographs (keep nipping!). Thank you Gary for sharing your work so openly.
Enjoy — and please don’t forget to enlarge the photos for better viewing! Nancie

It’s all on the table! This is pretty exciting, folks. The finished edge of a 48-foot-long mosaic is complete and it looks like only a few days’ work to fill in the unfinished parts.

Today’s blog is a tag team effort: Here’s Sarah Zirkel working with Gary and sending us gorgeous photos of the progress. I get to cheer from the sidelines and narrate. Looks like another productive week has passed, and Gary is making great strides on the athlete medallion.

As an aside, we noticed that Gary is a bit, um, “distractable.” So I’ve implored Sarah to keep him on task. She promises she’s not letting him make his own tea or soak his own tiles off the backing paper. Here’s Gary, being distracted again by his cel:

In his defense, there is much paperwork and so many hurdles when you’re fabricating in one country and installing in another. INS. IRS. ANSI. OSHA. Need we say more?

So back to the topic. Most mosaic artists have heard the term andamento, even if they haven’t quite mastered it. From the Italian verb andare, “to go,” andamento refers to the movement and direction of the individual tiles, or tesserae. Sarah’s given us great close-ups of Gary’s work. If you’re a mosaicist and this andamento doesn’t make your heart flutter, turn in your badge and pack away your tile nippers:

The Diver is the center of the 14-foot diameter medallion. Look at the subtle change in shapes Gary is cutting to achieve the curvature on the skull and the upper back and shoulders. Many novice mosaicists make mistakes when trying to merge curves and lines together; they end up making tiny triangles which obstruct the andamento and interrupt the rhythm of the mosaic with their awkward size and shape.

Here instead, if you look closely you’ll see the proper method of ending a pointed area: two pieces are tapered toward the same point, but are blunted into a single piece that takes over where two tiny triangles would have been placed. I don’t have a little arrow to point to the exact spots I’m describing, but look at the diver’s right thigh, outlined in black. Mid-way down where the palest yellow and the golden color meet the thigh’s outline, you can see the larger pale yellow tile being used to taper the point and allow two lines to become one tile width, and then further tapered to the standard 1/2 tile used throughout the design.

Simple and graceful. Carolina Zanelli, an accomplished mosaicist trained in Spilimbergo, taught me to this concept long after I should have started using it. Looking back at some of my early mosaics, I see how it would have made a big difference in the overall flow of my work. Ah, well. Così è la vita.

We’ll call this The Runner unless Gary chimes in to correct me. All the figures in this medallion represent the various sports disciplines offered at the university wellness center. This guy must be traveling at lightening speed, because he’s making the ceramic air current bend around him.

If you look at the top center of the photo above, you’ll see just how Gary maps out the work in advance. Not much detail in the pattern. He’s making design, color and andamento decisions as he works with just the marker lines and small colored concept sketches to guide him.

We’ll go back to the diver’s early days so you can see both the sketch, sitting on the upper right, and the depth of concentration required to fulfill Gary’s intended outcome:

So we joke about Gary being highly distractable, sure. But this is a guy who knows exactly what he needs to accomplish. Aren’t we lucky to watch it happen before our eyes! Keep checking back to the MAN blog. I’m pretty sure we’ll be able to treat you to a partially finished medallion layout photo in the near future.

Julie Richey

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  1. Kelley Knickerbocker

    Holy carp!! Amazing how much detail springs from such undetailed markings on the paper. I'm gobsmacked and fascinated…on the edge of my seat craving each further installment. Go Julie and Sarah!

  2. Veronika Miller

    What pleasure to see someone work like this in a world of drywall and modular building components. Brava.

  3. Claire

    Thanks a lot for the informative article and photos!

  4. Nancie Mills Pipgras

    It's your progress too, Sarah! Brava!

  5. Sarah Zirkel

    Lovely write up of Gary's progress, Julie and Nancie. It has been a real treat watching Gary work…

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