Jonathan Cohen {E} Artist Feature

by Christina Diaz

The Work of Jonathan Cohen Artist

Nowadays there always seems to be someone trying to push the limits in the art world,  self-proclaimed artists click-click-clicking away on digital works of “art.” Call me old-fashioned, in my opinion, art is meant to be felt, it’s meant to provoke emotion in the viewer. I want to feel the art.  When I look at the work of Jonathan Cohen it is crystal clear that he pours his blood, sweat, and tears into his work. Literally.

Born and bred in Los Angeles, California, Jonathan creates mosaic art with stained glass.  You read that correctly, mosaic art. Not the most popular medium these days, but it has been around for centuries, dating as far back as 1500 B.C. At the ripe old age of 7, Jonathan’s father, Joseph, began teaching him, and his older brother Chris, this ancient art form. He had learned this ancient trade from his father, Carlos Cohen, when he was a young boy. Three generations of Cohens creating stunning mosaic works of art.

In this digital age, Jonathan’s father didn’t want his two kids creative juices wasting away on the couch with an Xbox controller in their hands. So night after night, father to son in the studio, he taught his sons about tiles, glass, cutting techniques and so forth. “Playing video games was a reward once we finished our mosaic work,”

Jonathan says.  He recalls the first time he won an award for his mosaic work, “One of the first mosaics I did was for a contest  for ‘National Bank’.  I won 2nd Place and I was 8 or 9 years old at the time. It was a mosaic of an Aztec pyramid in Mexico.”

Jonathan’s pieces are filled with passion, his attention to detail is jaw-dropping, and his perseverance is inspiring. You have to see one of Jonathan’s pieces in person to grasp the amount of time and hard work that goes into each piece. One of his newest pieces, an ode to the Breaking Bad phenomenon, Jonathan created a Walter White portrait mosaic. It took him about 3 months to complete, over 220 hours of cutting and placing glass tiles. He admits that “with pretty much every project I’ve worked on, I get  a couple of cuts every square foot.” Ouch!

Despite the hazards of the job, Jonathan thoroughly enjoys what he does and it shows. “I love that I am carrying on with the family tradition. I want to make my family happy – and I touch so many peoples lives through my work. I’m always working on no less than 4 projects with help and teamwork with my father and brother (Joseph & Sons) completing around 20-40 projects a year. For residential and commercial, interior & exterior. Simply carrying family tradition. His family aims to reinvent the medium one mosaic piece at a time.

When Jonathan isn’t working on his art, he’s a dedicated employee at Bauformat German Kitchen Cabinetry ( in Glendale. He works there as you guessed it! A tile installer. Inevitably, he wants to learn how to place his mosaics in walls which is a long-term goal.

Want to know more about Jonathan’s creative process? Keep reading!

“Design comes first, through Photoshop or Illustrator to see what kind of colors. I pencil sketch on a wood panel or hardy backer (a concrete slab – for durability and weight). The wood is my canvas since it’s a heavy material. We have a couple of options, we sketch it out on the wood panel or maybe use a projector depending on size. Once we decide on design, we go to a Stained Glass store in La Cresenta  – old family friends through the generations. We buy the glass buy square footage. The glass comes from all over the world – Spain, Italy, China, and Europe. It comes solid and using chisels and tile nippers and slicers, we break it according to the sizes we need.  We unload at home and start separating colors and textures, from there we lay it out against the sketch and match the colors and shades. We then mix up a batch of of Maple Custom Thinset (an adhesive motar to place tiles and glass mosaics), then lay out the tiles piece by piece. This process can take months. (A 2ft to 3ft piece would average about 3-6 months – all depends on the size of the piece and tiles.) After every stone is set, Jonathan uses grout (a cement, concrete) he slabs it on the whole piece and then he gets a sponge and from there he’ll wipe off excess grout until he has all excess grout polished off each and every stone. Piece will then sit in the sun and dry for about 2-5 hours. After that Haz-Off  is sprayed on it to remove any grout or mildew, followed by another wipe down with silk leather towels, followed by a final polish of each stone.”

Find more of Jonny’s work here:
Instagram @jonnycookiee
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Jonathan Cohen {E} Artist Feature