Maximilian: My first commission piece

Let me introduce Maximilian the 11 x 14 inch bead mosaic. He is based on Max, a most famous Pug and is my first dog bead mosaic. Max the Pug is the wonderful companion of two friends of myself and my significant other. Last year, our friends came to visit, saw my bead mosaics and mentioned how special they were. I mentioned that one day I would have to make one for them. Shortly after, they sent me a picture of their pug and Maximilian the bead mosaic was born. I have done my best to do justice to Max’s spirit, and feel that I have captured at least one of his expressions (green beans anyone!), even if my mosaic is not an exact replica of the Max I know.

I asked member’s of my bead mosaic group on Facebook what things they would like me to discuss regarding how Max was made. Three elements were mentioned over and over: shading and values, bead placement and my use of 3D components. I will address each of these below. But first I am going to start first with how Maximilian came to life.

Maximilian was created based on the original photo of Max that was shared with me (it will not be posted here as it is not my photo and I do not have copyright). It is not a great drawing, but it was good enough for me to get an understanding of how Max’s shape flowed and the key elements that are Max and to give me the base plan on which my mosaic could be created. It also captured the element that to me was the most important part of the piece: an expression that was part of Max’s personality. By drawing I gained an understanding of the subject matter and how I wanted to treat it when creating the mosaic, and intend to do this for all my major pieces going forward.

I wanted to give Maximilian a 3D component to make him seem like he was jumping from the page and looking at you directly. I had done this before and liked the style. Before I placed anything on the glass substrate, I took the time to explore the elements that I wanted to make 3D. The most successful method I found for this was using tin foil. That’s right, easily molded, it allows you to see how various components would look if raised from the page. Once happy with my selection, I recreated the look using Apoxy Sculpt, adding in any corrections I wanted to make based on errors in the original drawing. I actually succeeded better than I anticipated and have included images of the finished work on the side so you can see how the 3D elements worked out side on.

With my bead color selection I did my best to select a palette of colors for Maximilian, but as always I was limited to what I had available in my collection and what was available to purchase. The palette was chosen by picking a color that I wanted to use for the “sunny” side of Maximilian and the best corresponding color I could find that would be used for the “shady” side of Maximilian. This meant that when referring to the photo (and that is all I had to refer to), I would know which colors to use when.

In addition I broke colors down into light, medium and dark values – I think of this as the depth of grey present in a black and white photo. A dark value would be for elements of dark shading and the lighter values for lighter elements in the photo. This imbued Maximilian with depth and perspective.

I used color also as a perspective element for the background. I wanted to make Maximilian look like he was in the foreground with mountains and a time-lapsed star scape behind him, yet to do this I needed to create a sense of distance. Based on paper mosaics I had done previously (see below!) I knew that color can successfully be used to provide a sense of distance. So I used the same technique with Maximilian, darker in the foreground, lighter in the background.

Finally I angled the lines of the plain so that it created a sense of perspective and a line to the horizon. (Another technique used by artists to create a sense of distance).

Which brings us to the idea of bead placement. How did I determine which way the beads should go. For this I let Max be the guide! His fur all grows in a certain direction, and I knew that if the beads followed his fur I would give him heft and definition, making him come alive and letting the sparkle of the beads help give that gleam of life that might otherwise have been missing. And thus Maximilian was born.

If you need further details, still have questions, please leave a comment below and I will address them in a new blog post! However, tomorrow Maximilian the bead mosaic goes to his new home, which is why I am writing this tonight (just in case there were any last minute photos I needed to take). I will miss him. I have had much fun creating Maximilian the bead mosaic and I hope he gives his new owners much joy!