Koi Watercolor Painting – Floating In The Landscape

This art mural appears to 'float' in the landscape. The intention here was to install a tile mural where the individual tiles are modular and easy to replace if required. A primary consideration for this design was to take advantage of the surrounding foliage, softening the outer edges and letting the foliage be seen through the mural. Invention of a unique installation technique allowed these design goals to be met. A client-selected, colorful, koi watercolor painting ties in well with the adjacent lily pad pool and tropical landscape elements. Since the artwork is kiln fired on frost resistant porcelain tile using inorganic ceramic pigments, it is weatherproof and will never fade.

When examining the accompanying photos one can appreciate the challenges involved in this project. Cementing the tile to a continuous cement backer board or a fixed wall may have been the usual approach for a tile mural, but would defeat the design goals. Instead, a secure yet modular installation required an innovative fastening system that would accommodate partial assembly in the workshop, subassemblies that were light enough to move on site for finishing the assembly in the field, and could maintain predictable and uniform spacing between the tiles. A strong redwood cross member support system allows mounting the tiles with standard galvanized machine bolts. The bolts had to be supported and captured within two backer board pieces cemented together with thinset mortar. The tiles were then easily cemented to the backer board pieces since the bolt heads were recessed and not protruding. Each tile had to be prepared this way with the bolts located in predetermined positions accurately aligned with corresponding holes drilled in the redwood cross members. All components that did not face forward in the final mural were painted with flat black epoxy paint.

On location at the installation site preparations were made a few days in advance. Two holes just over 3 feet deep were dug for the correct orientation of the mural and spacing for the prepared mural sections. 12 feet long pressure treated Douglas fir posts were placed and cemented into a plumb position at the correct design spacing. After allowing the cement to set, Scaffolding was assembled adjacent to the posts and the posts were painted with flat black exterior grade paint.

On the day of installation all five subassemblies (rows of tile) were brought on site. For each row, the end tile had to be temporarily removed to gain access for drilling in alignment with the posts. Clamps were used to and to achieve a level placement while drilling and securing the redwood cross members to the posts with machine bolts. The end tiles were then placed back in position securing from the rear. Each row was assembled using a similar procedure working from the top down while maintaining a common tile separation with temporary spacers.

From the pictures of the completed project one can see a beautiful finished installation and evidence of the final construction details. The mural measures 5' x 5' and sits 9' tall on its support frame. From the front-facing side, the flat black frame is hidden in the shadows giving the mural the appearance of floating.

Dan Rutledge - Artist

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