Inspired by Escher

I went to see an exhibit of work by M.C. Escher at the MFA last weekend. As a former crystallographer, tesselation is a subject near and dear to my heart, and it was really fun to see some of his original prints and woodcuts up close. This one in particular caught my eye:

It’s a visual tutorial illustrating Escher’s method, originally published in a series called Regular Division of the Plane. The other night, I invented a little tesselation game based on a technique I saw described in a the book Designing Tessellations by Jinny Beyer (all about using Escher-esque forms in quilting). The game goes like this: you start with a square piece of index card, and one person clips off a piece of it (a corner, a cut out of a side, whatever). The second person tapes the piece back onto the square, in a different place. Then, they cut off a piece, which the other person reattaches. This continues until the shape starts to look like something.

Once we had a shape, I traced it out on graph paper to check how multiple copies fit together. Then, I added some details and adjusted some edges to make the contours feel more fluid (the sharks below came from the blocky shape on the right in the picture above).

This morning, I scanned the graph paper versions, and pulled the image into Illustrator to trace the lines. A little cleanup and a few iterations later, I had a collection of symbols that could be used for tilings.

And, of course, once you have symbol to play with, there are all kinds of ways you can use it in wallpaper patterns.

Our second shape (the one on the left, above) started out life as a squirrel, and then in a single cut transformed into a goose:

This was a fun little exercise in improv art, and it was really fun to see the different patterns emerge from such a simple game.