Carol Davis is a local mosaic artist who specializes in capturing landscapes and nature in the Santa Monica area. PHOTO Courtesy of Carol Davis

Artist specializes in mosaics of Westside landscapes

By Bridgette M. Redman

Carol Davis knows that no two people will see the same thing in her artwork, but one thing she does hope for is that it will bring every viewer some taste of happiness and joy.

Davis is a mosaic artist who specializes in capturing landscapes and nature in the Santa Monica area. She takes photographs while she is out hiking or even driving around town and then transforms those photos into glass mosaic pieces of art.

“I start with an image that I’ve taken and I love to see how glass transforms it,” Davis said. “I never quite know. I have an idea, but it always kind of amazes me, especially after I grout it and the image pops out. Then the color choices are just incredible.”

Art is something that has always been in Davis’ life. Her father was an impressionist painter who used to take Davis to museums and explain paintings to her, pointing out perspectives and colors, and helping her to engage deeply with the art.

When she was five, her father took a painting she’d made in school of a butterfly and put it in his art show.

“It was just a painting I did at school,” Davis said. “He inspired me by loving the painting and putting it in his show. I was like, ‘Really? You want my painting?’”

Path traveled from collages to mosaics

She spent 10 years in San Francisco doing collage arts, building paintings from photos she found in old magazines from the 1940s and 1950s.

“They were kind of fun and kitschy,” Davis said.

She took a break from art for a while so she could raise her daughter. Then one day, she came across a mosaic class on Groupon. It was a weekend class and after attending it, she decided she was going to go for it.

Davis began to develop her own process for what she calls “painting with glass.” It starts with a photo which she sizes and then draws a picture of on wood. On a separate piece of paper, she tries out different colors with paint. She cuts large sheets of colorful glass into small pieces. She then begins placing them on the wood drawing, cutting shapes as she goes and then gluing them into place.

Once glass covers the entire drawing, she mixes and applies grout. After 20 minutes, she wipes the grout off and frames the piece.

Trees inspire Davis’ work. They make up the bulk of Davis’ inspiration and the art work that she does. She especially likes cypress trees because they remind her of her youth. When she’s looking for trees to photograph, she’ll notice the shadows and shapes and the way they can be transformed in her art.

“I like using shadows on things, especially hills,” Davis said. “I can really play with light logic — where is the sun coming from? Is it the upper right side? The left side? That means that a tree or a trunk is going to be lighter on certain parts and darker on certain parts. That’s how you make two-dimensional objects three-dimensional, by manipulating the colors.”

The tree’s shape also speaks to her— the way one limb will go in one direction and another in a different direction.

“Trees are so strong and literally grounded and the roots go so deep,” Davis said. “They seem kind of wise. What have they seen? What eras have they been through?”

Artist takes photos as she hikes and drives

Will Rogers Park is a favorite destination of Davis’ when looking for places to create photos for her work. It has a trail with a lot of eucalyptus trees that she really likes. At other times, even a sidewalk can capture her attention, especially the perspective created by a tree-lined path.

Davis spent some time in landscape design awhile back, focusing on sustainable design, which is what still draws her to landscapes. One time she was walking in an alley behind her house and saw a low wall with a weed growing out of it. It fascinated her and she ended up creating a mosaic of that.

“Sometimes I’m just driving around and I’ll pull over to photograph anything beautiful,” Davis said.

At other times, she’ll use photos that other people took and build upon them. One of her favorite pieces is called “Gus.” It’s larger than her usual work and was created from an image of a dog wearing a gas mask in World War I.

“First, this is very sad that dogs go to war,” Davis said. “But second, they designed a gas mask for this dog, so there is some nurturing in there.”

She liked the shape of it and in the background she put a tree to offer a taste of optimism.

“There is some hope there,” Davis said. “There is a tree growing behind this dog with a gas mask. It just seemed hopeful, but also poignant.”

Davis’ studio is in her converted garage and recently she hosted a show in her backyard. She made a lot of mosaics for the show and hopes people will consider them for themselves or for gifts. She describes them as a hunk of joy that you can hang on your wall.

“I want them to make people happy,” Davis said. “I’m biased because I made them, but when I look at them, they make me happy.”

Absolute Mosaics
by Carol Davis