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Don't Eat the Art!

Artist Kristen Cumings uses jelly beans to make colorful candy mosaics

From a distance, the image above of Batman swooping into view looks like it’s made from a rainbow of tiny beads or stones. But when you look closely, it’s something much sweeter: Each spot of color is actually a jelly bean! Artist Kristen Cumings uses thousands of jelly beans to make mosaics of pop-culture icons, famous works of art, and more.

Look closely at the image above of Batman swooping into view. From a distance, it looks like it’s made from tiny colored beads or stones. But it’s really something much sweeter: Each spot of color is a jelly bean! The image was made by artist Kristen Cumings, who uses thousands of jelly beans to make her artwork. She depicts pop-culture icons, famous works of art, and more.

The colorful candies come in a huge variety of shades but are mostly uniform in size, which makes them perfect for making mosaics. A mosaic is a 2-D picture or pattern made by arranging small pieces of colored material, like glass, tile, or stone. But Cumings loves using strange materials for her art. “It’s less intimidating to use unusual supplies,” Cumings says. “There’s no way to do this wrong, because there’s not a right way to do this!”

Cumings starts each project with a reference image. It might be a photo of a person or a drawing of a character. She draws a grid over her image and then draws a grid with the same number of squares onto a 4-foot by 5-foot wooden board. That makes it easier to enlarge the image accurately and in proportion.

She paints the image onto the board so she has a guide for which areas should be which color. Then, starting at the bottom of her frame, she sprays her board with a special type of glue and begins sticking on jelly beans one at a time. It takes about 40 hours to place them all.

Jelly beans come in a huge variety of colors but they are mostly the same size. That makes them perfect for making mosaics, says Cumings. A mosaic is a picture made by arranging small pieces of colored material. Artists usually use things like glass, tile, or stone. But Cumings loves using strange materials for her art. “It’s less intimidating to use unusual supplies,” she says. “There’s no way to do this wrong, because there’s not a right way to do this!”

Cumings starts each project with a reference image. It might be a photo of a person or a drawing of a character. She draws a grid over the reference image. Then she draws a grid with the same number of squares onto a 4-foot by 5-foot wooden board. The grids help Cumings enlarge the image accurately and in the right proportions.

Cumings paints the image onto the board first. This gives her a guide for which areas should be which color. Then she sprays her board with a special type of glue and sticks on jelly beans one at a time. She starts at the bottom of her frame and works up. It takes about 40 hours to place them all.

Ann Parry/ZUMA Wire/Alamy Stock Photo

14,000: Approximate number of jelly beans artist Kristen Cumings uses to make one jelly bean mosaic

By carefully arranging beans of different shades, she can re-create folds in clothing or shadows on a face. Cumings uses up to 40 different colors per mosaic to create these effects. When the last bean is placed, Cumings lays her mosaic flat on the floor and covers it in a resin to preserve the artwork.

Cumings often creates mosaics at conventions or events, where over the course of a few days she makes a new piece from start to finish. People always ask her the same question: Does she snack on the jelly beans as she works? “They’re not really even food-seeming to me anymore,” Cumings says. “When I say the name of a flavor, I hear the color.”

By carefully arranging beans of different shades, Cumings can re-create folds in clothing or shadows on a face. She uses up to 40 different colors in each mosaic to create these effects. When the last bean is placed, Cumings lays her mosaic flat on the floor. She covers it in a resin that becomes hard when it dries to preserve the artwork.

Cumings often creates mosaics at conventions or events. Over the course of a few days she makes a new piece from start to finish. People always ask her the same question: Does she snack on the jelly beans as she works? But Cumings says they don’t even seem like food to her anymore. “When I say the name of a flavor, I hear the color,” she says.

Answer the questions about the jelly beans Cumings uses in her mosaics. Write all answers in simplest form. Record your work and answers on our answer sheet.

Answer the questions about the jelly beans Cumings uses in her mosaics. Write all answers in simplest form. Record your work and answers on our answer sheet.

The eye of a dinosaur has 9 yellow, 2 white, 4 black, and 5 orange jelly beans. What is the ratio of the total jelly beans used to orange ones? What type of ratio is this?

The eye of a dinosaur has 9 yellow, 2 white, 4 black, and 5 orange jelly beans. What is the ratio of the total jelly beans used to orange ones? What type of ratio is this?

 To make Harry Potter’s Gryffindor crest, Cumings used 20 gold, 10 white, and 4 red jelly beans. What is the ratio of red to white jelly beans? What type of ratio is this?

 To make Harry Potter’s Gryffindor crest, Cumings used 20 gold, 10 white, and 4 red jelly beans. What is the ratio of red to white jelly beans? What type of ratio is this?

A. Rosie the Riveter’s forehead is made of 130 pink, 60 yellow, and 25 brown jelly beans. What’s the ratio of pink jelly beans to the total?

A. Rosie the Riveter’s forehead is made of 130 pink, 60 yellow, and 25 brown jelly beans. What’s the ratio of pink jelly beans to the total?

B. What is the ratio of yellow to brown jelly beans used?

B. What is the ratio of yellow to brown jelly beans used?

A. In Cumings’s recreation of Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night, one square foot has 138 blue, 130 orange, and 10 green jelly beans. The rest are yellow. What is the ratio of orange to green jelly beans?

A. In Cumings’s recreation of Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night, one square foot has 138 blue, 130 orange, and 10 green jelly beans. The rest are yellow. What is the ratio of orange to green jelly beans?

B. One square foot has 636 jelly beans. What is the ratio of yellow to the total number of jelly beans?

B. One square foot has 636 jelly beans. What is the ratio of yellow to the total number of jelly beans?

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