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Ravenna or Bust!

April 17, 2014


Ravenna is an amazing city just south of Venice. It was in this town, draped in history and art, that two friends and myself attended a mosaic portrait class at the Mosaic School run by Luciana Notturni. I wanted to share with you the outcome of a gruelling week of study and hard work. Although the week was exhausting it proved to be an experience of a life time and one I would recommend to anyone interested in creating mosaics in either of the modern or traditional method.

I am new to the medium but have fallen in love with the process of ‘building’ an experience from marble, glass and stone.  I know that being a painter helped greatly in the reading of the portrait and the translation of that reading into an image made from small pieces of marble.  It seems to be a natural progression for a painter.


I decided to do a portrait of my favourite Group of Seven artist, Frederick Varley.  Frederick Varley is possibly the finest Canadian portrait painter that ever lived and therefore seemed to be an appropriate subject for a portrait mosaic.  Not only do I love and appreciate the man’s gift as a painter but I also love and admire the stories told of his passion, compassion and generosity and love of nature and the human condition.   Now, I am able to greet Frederick, as I call him, every day as I enter my studio.  It is rather lovely I must say.


A mosaic portrait is done using the modern method.  The marble is cut with hammer and hardy and is applied with a cement over a ‘cartoon’ of the image.  The fun comes when the creator must interpret the essence of the person you are making the portrait of.  There are strict rules in mosaic of line and spaces, punctuation, triangle, colour and shape of tessera.  It is very necessary to adhere to these rules to get a believable portrait.  This is not easy.  We had one week to accomplish what would normally take a month to do.  I could have used the month as my background is not complete and I had to rush the lower half of my portrait but heh, at least it looks like Frederick at the ripe old age of 84.


Here are a few pictures I took showing the process:


In the beginning

In the beginning



the hardy

the hardy


the hammer

the hammer












my gray scale in marble

my gray scale in marble

the fun begins

the fun begins


he's coming to life

he’s coming to life














as far as I got

as far as I got

I wasn’t able to finish the background and I had to rush the hand and the sweater, but overall I am happy with the outcome.  It actually looks like him       🙂  This picture is a close up and a mosaic is meant to be seen from the distance.  The tessera blend together and when you stand back from Frederick, he actually    looks like a painted portrait.


I am happy to have him in my presence as I paint.  I am hoping that even a small fraction of his insight rubs off over time.  We shall see.


ps.  Sorry for the positioning of the photos…..a computer /site manager, I am not.

One Comment leave one →
  1. April permalink
    April 18, 2014 10:46 pm

    No pictures came through for me. Is it just me?

    April White

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