Mosaic Portraits

Below are some examples of mosaic portraits and impressionistic mosaic artwork with a discussion of how to create photo-realistic images in mosaic.
Afghan Girl Mosaic
Afghan Girl mixed-media mosaic portrait by Frederic Lecut of

Frederic Lecut

As with painting, most of the work of creating a photo-realistic mosaic image is making sure the colors used reasonably match those of the model being depicted. In painting this can be done conveniently by mixing pigments. In mosaic this can only be done by sourcing different materials until you find what you need, which can be frustrating even with the aid of sample boards and online suppliers. Natural stone only comes in so many colors, and different brands of glass mosaic tile are only made in so many colors because it is produced as a building material and not really as an artist’s palette.

Artists frequently solve this problem by using “mixed media” and combining different materials such as stone, glass and ceramic in the same mosaic. Frederic Lecut of is a master of this aspect of mosaic. His mosaic portraits shown here are made from multiple types of stone, glass, porcelain and colored mirror, some of which was sourced from recycled building materials.

Lecut says that the differences in thickness were not an issue for him because he works with the mosaic upside down in a reverse method. He pours concrete on top of the back of uneven mosaic, which fills in any differences in thickness, and then sticks a backer on top of the concrete. It is only later when he flips it over that he gets to see the finished mosaic.

Note that most novices prefer to work directly on a flat backer where they can see the mosaic as it is being created. This requires that the artist either cut their material to the same thickness or accept that the finished surface of the mosaic will not be flat.

Mosaic portrait of Maribel Verdú
Maribel mixed-media mosaic portrait by Frederic Lecut of

Susanne Sorogon

Susanne Sorogon’s work is very sophisticated in that she subtly incorporates mixed-media elements (glass gems, accent tile, etc.) in mosaics that are photo-realistic. Many experienced artists would be capable of making an abstract mixed-media mosaic and a photo-realistic mosaic, but few would be capable of doing both in the same mosaic. One is reminded of the painterly flourishes that define the New Realism of contemporary painting, where the intent is to depict the model naturally, yet still make the paint itself interesting as it is in abstract painting. I particularly like Susanne’s use of upside down tile in the Motorcycle mosaic and how the embossed patterns on the backs of the tiles suggest asphalt that has been textured with non-slip divots, which is typically seen in the turns of race tracks, though conspicuously absent from the photo she used as a model.

El Capi mosaic by Susanne Sorogon
El Capi mosaic art by Susanne Sorogon.
Motorcycle by Susanne Sorogon
Motorcycles mosaic art by Susanne Sorogon.

Harjeet Singh Sandhu

Mosaic Portrait of Michael Bloomberg
Mayor Bloomberg mosaic portrait by Harjeet Singh Sandhu.
Baba Farid Ji mosaic portrait
Baba Farid Ji mosaic portrait by Harjeet Singh Sandhu.

Harjeet Singh Sandhu’s mosaic portraits of former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and 12th-century Sufi preacher Baba Farid Ji are well done, but what makes them amazing is that they are made from ordinary 3/8-inch vitreous glass mosaic tile, which is only available in a limited number of colors. In fact, at the time Sandhu made these mosaics, many of our normal colors were out of stock! Note that Sandhu was able to use this limited color palette to render two completely different skin tones in a realistic way. For that reason, I consider this pair of mosaic portraits to be something of a tour de force.