Category: Mosaics

Pin Up

Pinup model Bettie Page died this week. I don’t think I ever posted images of the insane push pin mosaic I made in 2006, but since it used an early photo of her as source material, this seems like an appropriate time to do that.

This is a full size, standard 5 foot by 4 foot cork board, covered entirely by colored pushpins. I did roughly one row of pins every few days during 2006. If I were the type to call things I made ‘Pieces,’ this ‘piece’ would be titled ‘Pinup.’

There’s really not much backstory to this – the concept occurred to me and seemed pretty fun, and I was in the middle of a long period of indulging my tendency to make ridiculous mosaics. Many projects of this nature (ie Large-scale mosaics built from non-traditional art supplies) yield cries of “Too much free time” and the like, but I would submit that in practice the actual assembly is meditative in a weird, procedural, decidedly non-mystical way. The finished mosaic now lives in my Wife’s office.

Below: Pins in bulk, source material, and a peek at the workarea. More angles of this mosaic, and two other ridiculous mosaics can be seen at

It's 2006, and I'm still posting IM conversations on websites

Z: i just scoffed about a band being called CSS yesterday

A: yep

A: same band

Z: but not a design reference

A: you’d think they were portland webdesigners commenting on
how the structure of indie rock is the same and is only shaped by
applying style attributes.

A: But no

Z: hahaha

A: the cascading style sheets

A: would be a good band name though

Z: that would be amazing

Z: agreed

A: dude

A: concept alert!

Z: hahaha ok

A: start a band

A: called the cascading style sheets.

A: write and arrange verse chorus bridge etc

A: and do the same song in like ten different styles

A: Literal!

Z: hahaha

Z: normal people would just think they were remixes

A: ah true

Z: and would not understand its nerdy gravitas

Mosaic Gallery

     About a year ago, I built a small portfolio site for the three large-scale mosaics I’ve made (Legos, Bottle Caps, and Thumbtacks). I then promptly forgot to link to it.

Mosaics by Adam Kempa

Video Mosaic

     Geoff sent me a link to this Music Video / Mosaic, directed by a guy named Thomas Hughes. The site describes it as: “A video mosaic constructed from the puzzling elements of a girl named Mandy.” It’s worth watching twice, so you can see how everything comes together once you’ve seen the end result. The song’s not bad, either (It’s by The Spinto Band). Here’s a direct link to the 12.5 MB Quicktime file, or you can click the image below.


Bottlecap Round-up

     In December 2004, I was forwarded the following article about a fellow bottlecap mosaicist. I’ve pasted the relevant bits of the now-unavailable-online article below. The fulltext of the article, which was published in North Carolina this past November, is preserved for posterity here. The only other reference to this artist’s bottle cap work I’ve found is to her appearance as a guest on this North Carolina Talk Radio show. There don’t appear to be any images of her bottle cap art online. I’m posting this in the hopes that the artist will stumble across this site when searching for their own name, and send me some photos.

‘Pop’ art: If the cap fits, paint it
By Catherine Brennan Hagood

     Need to quench your thirst for some refreshing art? Molly B. Right is celebrating “pop” culture by using old soda bottle caps, Liquid Nails and metal backgrounds in place of traditional oils and canvas.


     Right’s bottle-cap mosaic series is a foray into the pop-art world with an Old World twist. Her more traditional subject matter completely contradicts the nature of the commercial-oriented world of soda, yet the complex pieces of artwork blend together like cherry and Coke.

     Right’s renderings of the Mona Lisa, the Virgin Mary, plus many others are created with layered bottle caps (some rusted, some completely new), and are thoughtfully glued on her metal canvas.

     The images might then be touched up with a bit of paint, but the bottle caps are often untouched, leaving the Mona Lisa with soda-pop logos all over her face.


     “I realized how big my paintings were going to be when I used a single bottle cap for the pupil of an eye. I built the eye around the pupil and realized that my finished product was going to be really big,” Right says.

     Fortunately for her, Right located the owner of an old bottle cap factory and was able to buy the caps by the thousands.

     She actually primes some of these caps by “rusting” them in her back yard before applying them to her artwork. The rusted caps allow for a variation in the color, which lets her add shaded elements or color changes to her pieces.

     “I put some of the caps in my yard for a while to let them rust, otherwise they would all look brand new,” she says.

     Other bottle caps are used in pristine condition, such as a black bottle cap with a small, white polar bear logo used for a pupil with a twinkle in the eye.

     Right’s final mosaic images are awe-inspiring because of the amount of difficulty in creating something well-rendered with such a difficult medium.

     I also recently received a nice email from yet another fellow bottlecap mosaicist, who pointed out the existence of several other artists active in the cut-throat world of bottle cap art:

Hi Adam,

     Your bottle cap mosaic is really stunning… and I appreciated the links to other artists as well. Like you, I thought I was the only one doing this kind of thing, but I’m not all that surprised to find myself wrong on that count.

     I’ve been doing bottle cap mosaics over the last few years and would love it if you included a link to them on your page. Check them out here. The bottle cap pieces are in the second row from the top.

     A few other links to other artists who do great bottle cap work:

Remi Rubel (link, link)

Ross Palmer Beecher (link)
Rick Ladd (link)
Antique and folk art using bottlecaps (link, link)

     Sorry to hear about your brother, but I’m also glad to see that you’ve found such great ways to memorialize him, both with the artwork and the scholarship. Best of luck with everything,


     You can view my bottle cap mosaic here.

Flickr Pipe Dream

     One of the great features of Flickr is that you can subscribe to be notified via RSS whenever someone posts a photo tagged with a search term of your choosing. One of the tags I subscribe to is ‘Mosaic,’ which comes up with lots of photos of relic-variety mosaics, as well as the occasional mind blowingly awesome modern mosaic.

     Today’s feed contained this image. What is it? That requires a bit more explanation.


     There is a group on Flickr called ‘Longline‘ that is described as follows:

     “The idea of this group is to create a large mosaic of collective pictures, that has a web of lines running through all its constituent images, separating the full image into patches and creating emergent shapes. The concept should be visible in the group icon I created from the first four images in the pool. Join in the fun!”

     Really nerdy people will wonder if the production of this mosaic is automated, and I’m going to venture a guess that it is, based on the tagging methodology for the longline group:

     “The picture should be tagged with the “long line” tag. In addition there needs to be a “LL” tag coding the sides the line connects to in the picture. The sides are numbered, starting from the top in clockwise direction. A picture connecting the left to the bottom and right would thus be tagged with “LL234”

     …So it looks like the latter tag could easily be used to write an application to logically arrange the images into a connected mosaic, based on which sides are specified (Further research shows that I was right).

     The first thing I thought of when I saw the mosaic was the NES game Pipe Dream:


     In summary: Obscure puzzle game sub-genre + Flickr group + mosaic + this iPhoto poster tutorial [via Waxy] = some awesome wall-art.

More Candy Mosaics

     Marvel comics have released a series of edible mosaics, called “Snerdles.” Anyone who knows me knows four things:

  1. I love mosaics.
  2. I love candy.
  3. I love comic books.
  4. I love the shit out of combinations of things I like.

     Based on these facts, it should be clear that Snerdles are the greatest thing ever.


     I’d love to see a behind the scenes of how these things are made. I’m assuming it’s automated, and if that’s the case, just think! ROBOTS that make MOSAICS out of NERDS. No, wait – ROBOTS that make SUPERHERO mosaics out of NERDS, FOR NERDS.

     Update: There are examples of other, less geeky varieties of Snerdles here and here. Snerdles appear to be produced by Au’some Candy Company. I emailed them about the production process, but haven’t heard back yet.

     Other, more detailed snerdles links: here, and here.

     You can buy Marvel Snerdles in bulk here.

     I was also recently alerted to an article on Jellybean mosaicist Peter Rocha, which ran in a recent issue of ‘Stuff’ magazine. Jelly Belly has a (creditless) gallery of his works here. There are a few photos of additional works here. Unfortunately, Mr. Rocha is no longer around to bask in my e-preciation (Thank you, 1999!). From the article:

     “The artist, who immortalized such celebrities as Laurel and Hardy and Queen Elizabeth in his Jelly-bean portraits, died on April 20 at the age of 65. Each of his portraits used about 15,000 beans, and his Ronald Reagan piece hangs in the Ronald Reagan Library.”


Update (2/2010): Looks like snerdles are coming back in a new Super Mario Bros. themed series. I recently heard from an employee of Ausome, the manufacturers of Snerdles – further reenforcing my theory that if you want to know the answer to something, put the question in a blog post and leave it up for five years or so, and eventually someone will answer you. Here’s the tiny bit of information they were able to share about the process:

“There’s a machine which you run sheets of fruit snack through. There are stencils for each color candy bits and they’re laid onto the sheet with a glue (syrup).”


Print Media Excitement!

     My bottlecap mosaic is mentioned in the Fall 2004 issue of Venus Magazine (Le Tigre on the cover). The mention is on page 73, in an article discussing Site originator Leah Kramer chose some of her favorite projects from the site, and apparently my mosaic was among them:

     “Some projects on craftster are way more art than craft. In this project, Adam Kempa pays homage to his late brother Chris by creating a mosaic of Chris’ likeness made entirely out of different types of bottle caps. It’s an unbelievable technical feat and a touching expression on Adam’s part.”

     Wow! Super nice, and Exciting!


Miscellanea (mosaics, links, & games)

More Caps

     Chris, who wrote to me about his own bottlecap mosaic in progress after I posted the writeup on mine, has finished his.

     “Hey man, it’s more or less done, still looking to put a protective coating on
it so I can use it as a table without worrying about scratching it up.

     While searching for a suitable material to pour on it I found this site. Also a
pretty cool bottle cap project..”

     Here are a few pics of mine, I think it turned out pretty nice, I’m happy with
it. I am huge into sailing so this was a natural selection for me considering
the colors of caps I had sitting around.
For those wondering I first glued the caps down using a glue gun. I then
applied UNSANDED grout to fill in the gaps. Then I colored the grout to help
emphasize the color changes. I think it really helped to the color the grout.

     It would be awesome if you posted any of these on your website! Please credit
it to: “Chris Sivers and his drinking buddies at the University of Waterloo.”



Candy Heart mosaic, via

     “Nearly eight foot tall toddler bearing American flag. Built from several thousand pieces of Brach’s small Conversation Heart candy. The war in Iraq distracted me from painting, so I built this figure. Slogans on candy include ‘Mad 4 U’, ‘Hero’, ‘U R Bad’, ‘Be True’, ‘U R Mine’, ‘Go Boy’, ‘Dinomite’, ‘You Rock’, ‘Clueless’, ‘Awesome’, ‘Don’t Ask’, ‘Don’t Tell’, ‘You Rule’, ‘See Ya’, ‘I’m Sure’, ‘Gotcha’, ‘Got Love?’, ‘Fax Me’, ’email me’,’Dare Ya’, ‘No Way’, ‘Just One’.”


Drinkbox mosaic:

     “The poster was made at Takakura Junior and Senior High School in Nagoya (Third major city in Japan, one hour or so south
of Tokyo by bullet-train).”

     “The 44 thousand tiles were cut out of coloured drink-pack cartons! The poster uses only 24 colours.
Each tile is 3 cm². The finished masterpiece is abouit 4 metres high by 8 metres across.
It was their first ever mosaic poster and it took about two weeks to complete.”


From the ‘Link Pile:’

  • Great essay by Matt Stone of South Park fame on why he likes math. This is old, but when I went looking for it last year I couldn’t find it. I tried again, and Lo! Here it is.
  • If you happened to be into the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Or TMNT), or (like me) have an unhealthy affinity for all things ‘Behind the Scenes,’ you might find this archive of TMNT production artwork fascinating. The archive is maintained by co-creator Peter Laird, and entries date from earliest days of the TMNT penomenon through the present. Some highlights include interpretations of the turtles by Will Vinton of California Raisins fame (to promote “Pizza Crunchabungas”) and Jack Kirby of Marvel Comics fame; as well as a look at the working relationship creators Eastman and Laird had with Playmates, the company responsible for the TMNT action figures.

Answering my own question Dept.

     I finally got my hands on a copy of Karaoke Revolution, and got to experience it first hand. It does, in fact, grade based on pitch, as well as rhythm (the timing of each word). You can, however, ‘fool’ it by just humming the correct notes on beat – you don’t need to know the words at all. The difficulty settings allow you to determine how forgiving the judgement will be. All in all, a totally useful music game. Weird! The disc also has some interesting ‘behind the scenes’ video of the in-studio recording sessions for each song in the game (They’re all ‘soundalikes’), and the second volume has a Darkness song, in case your falsetto needs work.


Mosaic Addendum

     A few items of interest spawned by my bottlecap mosaic post:

     An article in Readymade several months back pointed me in the direction of canstruction. A brief description:

      “Canstruction combines the competitive spirit of a design/build competition with a unique way to help feed hungry people. Competing teams, lead by architects and engineers, showcase their talents by designing giant sculptures made entirely out of canned foods. At the close of the exhibitions all of the food used in the structures is donated to local food banks for distribution to pantries, shelters, soup kitchens, elderly and day care centers.”

     Below is a soda can portrait of Elvis Presley, which was among the 2003 winners, all of which are well worth seeing.


     I linked to these hook rug images in the original post, but I wanted to point out this one in particular: It’s an anamorphous hook-rug portrait of Marshall “The Medium is the Message” McLuhan. In order to view the portrait, a reflective trash can must be placed in the middle of the rug. The distorted portrait reflects correctly in the rounded surface of the trash can. Amazing on so many levels. Click the image for a closer view.


     Finally, someone who saw the original post re-introduced me to the wooden mirror, which is clearly the best thing ever. It’s a mosaic of 830 wooden tiles that are each connected to a tiny servo motor. A computer captures image data, taken from a camera hidden in the center of the mosaic. This data is translated into positions for each of the servo motors, as the wooden tiles reflect light differently depending on their position. The result is a real time mosaic mirror. Watching this video (Quicktime .mov) of the mosaic in action is the best way to see what exactly is going on.