Taking inspiration from the old mosaic masters of Ravenna

For as long as I can remember I have been drawn to objects that sparkle and shine, and following a short introduction to mosaic making course about 10 years ago I became totally obsessed with mosaics.

Ravenna gold and blue mosaic detail

Combine my obsession of mosaics and my love of Italy (and Italian art in particular) and you get the magic mosaic wonderland of Ravenna, Italy.

The small town of Ravenna on the north east coat of Italy is home to some of the most amazing and well preserved mosaics in the world. It’s here that one of the worlds most famous mosaics can be found ‘The Small Doves Drinking’.

Ravenna pigeons mosaic postcard

Everywhere that you go in Ravenna you see this image, on postcards, souvenirs and reproduction mosaics etc. It seems to symbolise the very essence of the town. However the ‘Doves’ mosaic is a very small section of a much larger mosaic that adorns the ceiling of the Galla Placidia’s Mausoleum, it can be seen here just left of centre above the left hand arch.

Ravenna pigeons ceiling
Ravenna ceiling mosaic

The small old town area has various sites where you can view some of the worlds most incredibly beautiful and well preserved mosaics. 

It was for me an emotional experience to see vast walls and ceilings filled with gold tiles and mosaics with the most exquisitely intricate designs. 

Particular highlights for me where:

  • The Neonian Baptistery
  • Galla Placidia’s Mausoleum
  • Basilica di S. Vitale
  • S. Appollinare Nouve
 
 
Jesus dove christening Ravenna

The Neonian Baptistery – Christening of Jesus

The Magi Mosaic Ravenna

S. Appollinare Nouve – The Magi

Ravenna di s vitale Mosaic ceiling

Basilica di S. Vitale

Ravenna ceiling mosaic

Galla Placidia’s Mausoleum – Vaulted ceiling detail

Ravenna deer mosaic
Ravenna ceiling mosaic
Ravenna ceiling mosaic
Ravenna deer mosaic
Mosaic Shop Ravenna

The fabulous little studio shops that sell mosaic materials were out of this world amazing, I was like a kid in a sweet shop. All sorts of gorgeous glass, milliflori, mirrored glass, textures and colours, I can only describe it as being inside a kalidescope. 

I decided to have a go at replicating the infamous ‘The Small Doves Drinking Mosaic’. Lots of other mosaic makers had done it and it seemed a right of passage. 

The mosaic technique in Ravenna is very different to the way I work. I cut tiles and create shapes and stick them onto a board and then grout the finished mosaic. The Ravenna way is to cut smalti glass and push it directly into the a cement, no grouting. Two very different ways of working producing very results.

Ravenna doves mosaic copy

First attempt…Not very successful attempt as the technique used doesn’t really allow for the tiny pieces of tile to be cut small enough to give the desired effect. However it was a good project for practicing graduating colour.

Ravenna doves inspired mosaic

Second attempt… I have over the years developed my own mosaic style and I decided to recreate the famous mosaic in this style with the sparkles edging and the various textures in the water. The doves created with the tiles cut to give contouring and shape. 

So this is my version of the famous Ravenna Doves,  paying homage to the great mosaic masters of old Ravenna who inspired me to create this piece of work.

Ravenna pigeons mosaic postcard
Ravenna doves mosaic copy
Ravenna doves inspired mosaic

If you would like to see more of my work then take a look in the mosaic section in my  Galleries Mosaic Art

Taking time out to learn new skills

Like many businesses the corona virus certainly did throw a spanner in my works. But sometimes taking a step back and being forced to take a different approach to how I make my living has opened my mind up to learning new skills. The last few months have proved to be a ‘lockdown learning curve’.

With all my Country Shows, Markets and Art Exhibitions  all cancelled, and my Art Workshops and classes postponed until it’s safe to teach again, I have had to adapt and change.

oil-pastel-flower

I thought at the very beginning of the lockdown that never again would I get this amount of uninterrupted time so I set out to learn new skills. Normally my time is filled with creating pet portrait commissions, wildlife illustrating, workshop planning and a part time job. So having this opportunity to take time out to learn, build and expand on my skills was not to be missed.

Finances governed some my choices as to what to embark on. With my normal income channels now cancelled I had to think of new ways to sell my products and services, so one of my biggest projects over this period has been to build this website and online shop. With no income it became a necessity to do this all myself, which was certainly challenging and a massive learning curve.

cow-parsley
watercolour-doodle
ra-drawing-class

We all sit within our safety zones and stick to doing what we know best. But for a long time I have been wanting improve my watercolour painting and drawing skills. My animal and pet portraits are all highly detailed and I have wanted to find a way of loosening up my work by painting and drawing with some looser, more fluid marks. 

I set out to try new art materials, so I purchased oil pastels, pastel pencils, gouache paint, new papers and just played and experimented. It was amazing how quickly you can learn new techniques and adapt these into your art making.

I have also done a few online courses and taken part in the BBC 4’s life drawing class, and I can honestly say my artwork and my approach to my work has improve hugely. 

Out of necessity other projects came to the fore. I bought an old Singer sewing machine a few years ago but was too lazy, too busy, too preoccupied, too scared to invest the time to learn how to use it properly, so it has been sitting in my studio gathering dust. However seeing some of the face mask offerings on the market, let’s face it they are not the most attractive of accessories I decided to have ago and make some for my family and myself. I was pretty pleased with the results and questioned why I hadn’t used this beautiful old machine before.

singer-sewing-machine
face-masks

So from initially worrying at the beginning of the crisis of how my art business would fair, I am hopefully in a better position to move my business along having learnt new skills and created new opportunities to build my business. 


Its quite amazing what you can achieve when you put your mind to it. 😁