ANATOMY OF A MURAL – George Fishman

OVERVIEW – How the workshop will run.

INTRO: The workshop is designed to take us on a journey that’s both practical and visionary – with emphasis on the practical. There’s no blueprint for your professional success. Each project is different in terms of the players’ temperaments and practical needs, the theme, logistics. This workshop is based primarily on a single project: “Coastal Reflections of Fort Walton Beach” mosaic mural. The procedures and issues we explore here will likely be similar to those you will encounter. Many of the documents I will provide can be adapted for your use.  I invite you to let me know which of these topics are of greatest interest. 

TOPICS covered:

• Client communications/documentation 

• Contract/Pricing

• Design process/presentation/revision

• Materials selection/ordering

• Enlargement of design for reverse method

• Layout considerations: Color mixing and transitions, perspective, andamento, cutting, gluing 

• Creating seams

• Transfer from face mount to panels – substrates and adhesives

• Grout/no-grout considerations

• Edge treatment

• “Processing” of finished studio work – lessons learned, completion, letting go

• Preparation for crating

• Installation


Handouts  - everything’s available via email





ORIGIN OF PROJECT - Where does the job come from? References, Ads, Web site. 

Establishing qualifications; show sample of design and mosaic 

Referring artist made the connection to dealer in exchange for 10% referral fee

Provide references, pics, samples, pricing guidelines  


Client had seen mosaics during trip to Italy at ideal time 

Dealer gave prominence to the mosaic artwork within total art component.

Architect provided location within lobby and niche to inset and spec’d lights

Interior designer responsible for palette of surfaces: woods, stones, fabrics, counter finishes natural stone fountain

Contractor built plywood-lined niche


Discussion of general parameters of project

Scale, possible imagery, schedule, team

Review of past work and pricing

Produced package of images for client

Presented price range keyed to comparable work

Contract terms & revisions

DESIGN PROCESS - always through intermediary

Shift of design from historical to pictorial. Show first sequence of layouts* with intervention of Dealer interpretation during “big meeting.”    

Client provided book and CD of historical imagery

Later sent set of commissioned photos when theme shifted.

Evolution of imagery & back-and-forth (indirectly) with client           

Placement of oak tree, relative prominence of seagrass

Inclusion of sailboat (first shrimper) and plane to represent people/commerce, but no figures on beach

Importance of color of water

Inclusion of both sunrise and sunset

Statement of artistic goals – 

Compression of time and space 

Include both sunrise and sunset 

Include vista of ocean, beach, prairie and wetlands

Tone - poetic, rather than realistic representation; like memory, rather than immediate photo capture.  

Design elements scale, density, color, andamento, continuity of design


Shifting tone and color balance and saturation

Final design approval and transition to fabrication

Plan lighting with architect

Division of design into panels 

Consideration of size/weight 

Consideration of straight vs interlocking edges

Printing process 

Design enlargement and division into strips

Printing on banner cloth, proofing and reprinting

Materials order 

(trial withTileCreater software) 

. Coordination of different manufacturer’s palettes


Setup of doors on tilt table (remember to describe process and samples of shifting from panel to panel).

Adhesive method.

Started with pure wallpaper paste, then shifted to paste, mixed with marble powder to give more body.

Layout considerations 

Andamento – general flow considerations (horizontal water, swirling clouds, outlining, color transitions, whole tiles at outer edges 

Panel Beginning

Show photos and vid  

Panel Transitions

Show sample of fabric and glued edge


Cleaning for panel-mounting

Solvent and water 

Application of sand to fill joints

Considerations grout/ no grout

Brush off grout and blot with damp sponge

Two-layer thinset method

Primary thinset consolidates mosaic*

Gives safety margin, in case tesserae come loose

Allows panel mounting to be done without concern for pulling loose edges or other possible mishaps while making adjustments of fit

Mix slightly wetter thinset and apply carefully to back of mosaic

Allow to cure one week, then grind flat and smooth; clean up edges

Set angle bracket stops for panel to assure alignment*

Secondary thinset bonds mosaic to panel

Prepare normal consistency thinset and apply with 3/16” notched trowel to panel and skim coat to mosaic*

Set panel onto mosaic, placing the top end against stop and allowing air to be pushed toward back.

Assure alignment all around

Beat in with rubber mallet, then apply bars and weights*

Wait 24 hours and remove weights


Move outdoors and prepare for messy work 

Wet down the cover cloth (if windy, use towels to hold moisture 

Pull cloth and remove glue and sand with rubber spatula and stiff bristle brushes 

Hose and brush out grout joints


Grind or hone edges to make flat and square 

Straightness of edges will assure minimal joints

Trial Fit  show vid in yard

Set guidelines, place panels and check for fit 

Mark and hone until best fit is achieved 


competitive bids, including insurance


coordinate payment with shipping

Payment of balance before shipment

Transfer of title or bill of sale



Measuring tools, mud mixing, hammers, cutting tools for cement & wood; screw drivers & drill, prybars, mini-jack

Supplies: masonry, fastening, shims & wedges, drop cloths, buckets & mixing containers, duct & masking tape

Jigs*  “jack” 

Logistics – talk to client, contractor to assure access, power, water, waste disposal, non-conflict with other tradespeople


Staging – 

Talk through process with assistants; place tools and materials where they’ll be accessible

Clean as you go; don’t create unnecessarily messy environment – avoid problems with others

Dry fit before mixing glues, drilling holes.

Use cover cloths and tape to protect other surfaces

Measure twice, cut and drill once

Secure shims 

Drill, then set screws loosely

“Nudge” to final fit

side-to-side, up-down & in-out 

Tighten screws

Cover screw heads with putty and tesserae


Maintain file of notes, emails, photos, so lessons are retained.

Mount overhead camera to shoot at intervals

PROCESSING of finished work – lessons learned, completion, letting go. 

Mosaic goes from being a fantasy to a malleable vision to a rug in the bazaar (pricing) to a daily companion (fabrication phase) to a brick wall (cleaning phase) to a box of china (crating/shipping) to a mirror (installation) to an art object (installation photos) to a memory



Crating Bids 


Bill of Sale

Processing Artwork

Crating Quotation/ Bill of lading

Architectural Drawing

Installation Diagram


Contact: gfmosaics@bellsouth.net

copyright George Fishman 2017