Street Art. Giving back. The perfect combo to satiate my need to contribute to my community in a physical way.  Azalea Park has many public-spirited residents and community projects. We clean canyons and streets; we maintain multiple native plant gardens; we paint out graffiti.  Well, some folks do.  My knees and back aren’t up to many of the labor-intensive projects.

When the Azalea Park Mosaic League was formed to create art for the Pop Street Project, a neighborhood beautification grant in a neighborhood of San Diego. Pop St Project, I joined up.  The Pop Street Project combines the arts of mural, mosaic, and landscaping.

Original thumbnail sketch of "Marine Layer"

Original thumbnail sketch

My task as part of Team #3 was to create a mosaic to cover one side of a trashcan cover along Poplar Street. The other members of the team, Linda David, Gina Hughes, and Vicki Leon, (an accomplished glass artist and the coordinator of the League), were handling the other three sides and the top. The Old One-Two Team (at least 8 people) were covering other public surfaces, like bus benches, that were slated for beautification in the Pop St Project grant.  The overall goal of the league is to turn practically anything that gets tagged with graffiti into a beautiful piece of art, covered with mosaics.

Each artist creates their own piece. Mine took shape while I sketched during our first meeting about the project. It started as an abstract.

“Marine Layer” is named for the persistent early morning cloud layer that obscures San Diego skies, especially in May and June. Low and uniform, the marine layer can dampen spirits and cast a drab pall over the intensity of the day. But behind the marine layer, the sun persists, hot, fiery, intense.  It eventually burns off the low clouds, like the human spirit that roils with creativity to shine through the daily stresses of urban living.

Does this abstract really represent the sun?  Or is it that I have this thing for big red dots. I’ve used the theme many times.  Picasso had his Blue Period.  I’ve got Big Red Dots.

Themes by other artists include lizards, snakes, skylines, cats, succulents, seasons, and mandalas. The collection as a whole will represent a gallery of individual artists, with each contribution framed in black with a colored matte, all in mosaic glass or ceramic.

The images below show progress on my “Marine Layer” during May. Next steps include gluing each little piece to the underlying mesh–and of course laying out the rest of the bits–so that the entire composition can be installed on the vertical surface at its eventual home.

The mosaics must all be installed before the end of June, 2015, when we have our public unveiling. Updates as they happen.

Layout on template

Gluing sections with thinset helps preserve the layout as I work

Fusing glass from Alpine Stained Glass

Fusible glass from Alpine Stained Glass; it felt like sacrilege to cut it.

Digital concept image

“Marine Layer” digital concept image 8″ x 11 “

"Marine Layer" full-sized template

Full-size print-out of digital concept image; 25.5″ x 34″, including mosaic frame & matte

Trial tile placement

Test tile placement & cutting glass to fit

Template with mosaic netting

Beginning layout using mosaic netting over my printed template and showing color matched glass