The figure below is a metamorphosis that was developed over several months. It includes eight (8) tessellations. Rotation (P3 Greek Soldier)-->Rotation (P3 Turtles)-->Rotation (P3 Cardinals)--> Rotation (P3 Frogs)--> Translation (L1 Butterflies)--> Glide Reflection (L2 Flying Horses)--> Translation (L1 Achilles, Tortise)--> Rotation (P3 Icarus). This image is 7-1/4 inches wide by 28-3/4 inches long. It was big enough I couldn't do it as a stone lithograph so I drew it with pen, ink, and watercolor on paper. Its dedicated to my colleague M.C. Escher. Even though we never met- I enjoy walking into and exploring the garden. Those of you that read any of Escher's writing will understand what that means. I have an immense amount of respect for his intellect, creativity and graphic design.
Its been quite awhile since I wrote a blog. The image above is of a P3 tessellation that has been translated to a hyperbolic image. I originally completed the Icarus image in 1986 and did it on a lithographic stone and printed it. You can see that in the print called Metanoia (see Tessellation Art Gallery Page 2). I made that original print in the studio at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee with Mark Wilson as the instructor. I also made the Icarus tessellation into an etching called Michael's Dream (see Tessellation Art Gallery Page 1) and hand colored it. The above image was drawn on lithographic stone to make it into a new print. This is a photograph of the line work on stone. This is the second hyperbolic tessellation I've completed. The first was Flying Fish 2020 you can see that on the Gallery Page 1.
The basic geometry was constructed with line and compass and then I traced over that onto tracing paper using a light table. After several adjustments (actually numerous) I transferred it to stone. It was very time consuming to draw as each image is drawn by hand (Polychromos pencil) after transferring it to stone with iron oxide paper. I hope to print a color background and do some 3-dimensional shading work to finish it off but for now I'm satisfied. I'll print this stone at Muskat Studios. (www.muskatstudios.com). I've been collaborating with Carolyn Muskat for 20 years now since completing the image War and Peace at the MFA School back in 2000.
I enjoy working the stone and get a great sense of satisfaction as the image materializes and then pulling the first proofs. Drawing on the stone is a unique feeling and has a smoothness and coolness even if its old technology. I really enjoy it.
The images below are of two tessellations designs I have had for a number of years. The frog tessellation dates back to 2001 an the bird tessellation dates back to 2006. The black and white images are visually very appealing and crisp. Figure 1 is Frogs. Figure 2 is Birds V.
I've always been impressed with the way pure black and white images come off the page. Andrew Crompton has created some very impressive back and white tessellations and has previously made some suggestions to me about ways to enhance my images. I like the graphic style and the straight lines and angles that he uses in the hashing of the black against the white. In contrast to the pure black and white the colorful images, beautiful line work and organic shapes that Francine Champagne has done on her website are very expressive and grabs your attention. The dragon tessellation she has created through exploring pentagons is remarkable. She's also given me some pointers on using KaliedoPaint.
The images I am attaching here are three hand drawn, pen and ink black and white images and the first image I created on KaliedoPaint- which is very basic. I am working on learning more about computer generation of tessellations and hope to add some to my blog in the future but I am sure I will continue to design tessellations by hand as well.
The design of a metamorphosis as a tessellation is very challenging. There are limited examples of these types of tessellations. Escher was unquestionably the best and created the art form with lifelike tessellations. I have created some smaller designs with one motif that transforms but is technically not a metamorphosis. While I was working on a new motif a few weeks ago I noticed that the image I was making was similar to a previous bird image. The creation of Development IV began in earnest. I wanted to have at least three forms that changed. This metamorphosis is a combination of three designs; a lizard, a bird, and a frog and seahorse. I began to think about how I could depict the "desert to the sea". So the image began with the horned lizard motif in the desert and transformed into birds and then into frogs and seahorses. I choose to depict a Sargasso Seahorse. The Sargasso Seahorse is one of the strangest looking and best camouflaged creatures in the world. It has long appendages that look exactly like the seaweed in its habitat. Its virtually impossible to distinguish the seahorse from the Sargasso seaweed. Of course my representation is generalized and not as fabulous looking as the real thing.
Development IV was done in ink and watercolor. I'm planning on working on another much larger metamorphosis design that I started a couple of months ago and showed a sneak peek at the demonstration I did at the Museum of Fine Arts.
Try doing a metamorphosis design its very challenging but when you get an image you like very satisfying. Figure 1 below is Development IV. Figure 2 below depicts the original pencil sketch of the tessellation. I made some changes to the design as the drawing progressed to final design.
This blog shows several examples of small works I have recently completed. All of these prints are less than 3 inches by 4 inches in size.
The smallest linocut "Black and White" (2 inches x 2 inches) depicts two stylized sting rays with insets of two smaller rays. I liked the motif and since it reproduced well choose to print it in black ink.
The second motif is called Fish and Frogs and is 2-3/4 inches x 2-3/4 inches. Its a linocut in black and white. This motif is a little more complex but still rather simple. The idea came from a sketchbook drawing from several months ago.
The third motif is my first woodcut which I finished in late 2017. I am still working on my woodcut technique and used a basswood block with gouges to print the block. I called it "Four Dragons". Its 3 inches x 3 inches in size and I choose black ink. The motif comes from one of my P4 tessellations called "Happy Dragon" and is a stylized Chinese Dragon.
The fourth small work is a color linocut called "Star of Wonder" I did it as a Christmas Card last year and decided to make a simple 3 inch x 4 inch print. The colors were printed from smaller portions of blocks I cut out of the full block.
The last figure below depicts the linocut blocks for the two smallest prints and shows their size next to a quarter. Overall I was pleased with these efforts since they didn't take that much time to complete and print. I probably spent no more than a couple hours on each of the linocuts and maybe a little longer or up to three hours on the woodblock.
My first designs for tessellations were done on frosted mylar in the very late 1970's and early 1980s because it was the easiest way for me to copy the motif without a light table. I entered one of these early drawings in the Indiana State Fair in 1979 and got an Honorable Mention. Three or four of these early designs were lost or given away and I did not keep copies or records of them. One of the earliest but not the first is the Figure 1 below. Its a two figure tessellation of one of the designs I drew and gave away on mylar to a friend that worked in a gallery with me in the summers while in college. This design is one of the few that survives from 1979 on watercolor paper. In 2017 I decided to recreate the original drawing or redraw the original to the best of my recollection. Figure 2 is a drawing on tracing paper of "Searching for Clues". Its an example of my earliest types of designs which were more drawing than tessellation as I was just beginning to understand the way that the various symmetry groups went together. I am still trying to decide if I want to create a lithograph of this drawing. Right now I am just satisfied that I was able recreate the drawing.
I recently completed two (2) artist demonstrations on my tessellation techniques at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston on February 11th and February 14th. These demonstrations gave me an opportunity to interact with other Escher enthusiasts that had recently visited the exhibit in Gallery 155 ( over 50 of Escher's prints and drawings are on display! ).
I was able to work through several new designs and explain my process over a total of about 5-1/2 hours. One of the new prints I showed was a stone lithograph of a new winged horse motif. MC Escher's print Horsemen (No. 342) is arguably one of his best woodcuts. It combines the iconic and complex Horsemen motif which is a D1gg symmetry family within a masterful three color design as a flattened Moebius strip. The key to the D1gg is the beautiful glide reflection of the motif and the interlocking of the tessellation as it alternates left to right and right to left. Another aspect is it's very pleasing to the eye due to the color contrast. Color choice and contrast are critical to the aesthetics of tessellation. Overall Horsemen is one of my favorite and certainly in the top ten.
My attempts at an interesting D1gg motif go back several years. Most of these attempts I dismissed because they were not that articulated and just not good enough in my view. The Horsemen II and Lizards (2017) are nice but are not that much different than Escher's motifs. I created my first flying horse (Pegasus) tessellation in 2001. Since then I have modified it and made different versions in the C1 symmetry family (see My Tessellation Art Gallery page 2 Pegasus II) however I always wanted a flying horse as a D1gg glide reflection. See Figure 1 below. This new motif is a rare example that successfully accomplishes what I wasn't able to do previously and can be easily drawn as a Moebius strip. Hope you will try your hand at some D1gg's they are an elegant symmetry family and there's a number of great designs and drawings that incorporate them.
A second new motif was shown as a linocut. It was an interlocking sea turtle and fish motif. My inspiration for this design came from a family vacation to Bermuda where we saw sea turtles and many reef fish. Figure 2 and 3 depicts Bermuda and the original drawing.
I also had several activities (see examples) at a table that could be completed at the event or later at home. My goal was to make the demonstration a learning experience and as interactive as possible. See Figures 4, 5 , 6, 7 below.
It was an honor and a wonderful experience! Thanks to everyone that was able to stop by and say Hi!
It was great to be able to explain the fun and challenge of tessellation design at the MFA.
I am pleased to announce that I have been asked by the Museum of Fine Arts Boston to demonstrate my tessellation techniques in conjunction with the first M. C. Escher exhibit at the museum. My demonstrations will take place in the John, Bertram A. and Ronald M. Druker Family Pavilion (Classroom 159) on February 11, 2018 (Sunday) from 12:00 to 3:00 pm and on February 14, 2018 (Wednesday) from 5:00 to 8:00 pm. The event is free with museum admission. I will be showing how I begin a tessellation and then a watercolor of the design and linocut techniques. Additionally I have some take always for those that want to try their hand at making tessellations! Please come by and visit and see the Master works of M.C. Escher in Gallery 153 and 154 during your visit! For those of you that are Escher fans you must see the exhibit.
To access the artist demonstration calendar and MFA website:
Figures that transform from one geometric state to another are very interesting and elegant. Escher was of course a master at these elaborate constructions. His Development I (Catalog 300, November 1937) is a great example of the chessboard transforming into lizards. The black and white contrast is exemplary and a testament to his graphic skills. Over the years I have attempted several of these types of transformations. The earliest is in Metanoia (1986) which can be seen on my tessellation art gallery page 2. It's a two color lithograph of Icarus materializing out of a more abstract form overlooking a strange landscape. The design for the recent tessellation uses Icarus in a different symmetry family ( IXD4 <Escher> or P4). The image developed from a chessboard design I called Development II (Figure 1 below). This tracing was used for a guide to creating the ink and watercolor drawing of Rise and Fall (2017). I transferred the tracing to watercolor paper and inked it with sepia color ink. Figure 2 below depicts Rise and Fall.
This image uses my horned lizard motif. I decided to create the design after looking at some of my older reference material . The tessellation is a spiral of the horned lizard that slowly transforms to an abstract figure as it marches towards the center of the design. In all there are 450 copies of the motif in the tessellation. The orange, sienna and yellow contrast to enhance the swirling motion. The design was hand drawn and painted with watercolor and ink. I created it by first drawing a sector on tracing paper and then copying it on a light table. Overall the image is similar in concept to some of MC Escher's developments. The design of the swirling pattern was created from one of the design templates in John Willson's book, "Mosaic and Tessellated Patterns and How to Create Them", Dover 0-486-24376. Figure 1 depicts Development I (2017). Figure 2 depicts a detail from the watercolor.
The Centaur's Forest is an image that came from the standing centaur tessellation I mentioned in a previous blog. The image is a simple translation with very little articulation but I decided to develop it into a linocut. Although its not as complicated and articulated as the "The Golden Centaur" image in my earlier blog it seemed easier to include it within a forest. The moon is faintly appearing through the clouds. The tree is a transformed centaur. Figure 1 is a pencil drawing of the concept that became the linocut. I decided to remove the trees in the background as they detracted from the central tree image and that of the contrasting tessellation of the centaurs in the foreground. Figure 2 depicts the final linocut print of "The Centaurs Forest".
I have made many different types of lizard tessellations over many years. The motif on my web header is a P6 (Polya) of a horned lizard. The tessellation has effectively six lizards packed into a hexagon or three half lizards in an equilateral triangle. Its very stylized but is generally similar to the shape of a horned lizard or horned toad. I was always fascinated by these creatures and their pointy spines around their head and the fact that it has excellent camouflage and a really unusual defense mechanism; the ability to squirt blood from its eyes to scare off predators. I think also I remember the cartoon character Yosemite Sam using the phrase "great horny toads" when I was watching cartoons growing up. Overall it wasn't really a scary lizard at all but more of a desert oddity that could disappear into its surroundings. So that's what this drawing is all about the ability to appear and disappear into ones surroundings. Figure 1 below is Horned Lizard IV (2017).
The Golden Centaur is a mythical creature that plays the pan flute so beautifully its said to turn fall leaves to gold. The figure below is a tessellation of the Golden Centaur. The tessellation is in the family of C1 (Polya). I made several tries at a centaur in motion and after a number of attempts this is the outcome . The figure is very recent but I also created a standing centaur during this development several months ago. The centaur doesn't appear to be a common tessellation theme, however John Osborne did create a standing figure. I have not seen others but would be interested in knowing if they are out there.
This tessellation development was mentioned in my previous blog. It is of the Do3 dragon tessellation. The interesting part of creating these picture stories is that they were all based on studies or earlier sketches and were inspired by either MCE or other artists. Making this little dragon run around the page was a fun challenge. The use of the icosahedron and the triangular paper adds some geometric interest and is related to the triangular grid of the dragon tessellation. The protractor and pencil were used to create an eye stopper and they were used to create the drawing. I've depicted several of the drawing or printing tools in previous images.
It seems like the dragon motif is a popular theme for tessellations. I have completed at least three different forms of dragons that tile the plane and have been working on the enclosed dragon tessellation for a couple of months. Its a new tessellation design in a P3 group (Do3 Polya) and has an interesting motif of a little dragon similar to the dragon figures in my background header. I've chosen to include a template if you want to print it out and color it. I am also including two color variations or versions. Overall I am quite pleased with the outcome; however my ultimate goal is to create an icosahedron with the motif and also a picture story with the dragons running around the page.
I'm not sure if and when I will get around to that as it seems like I get further and further behind with my ideas and the completion of the images than I can possibly complete. Hopefully you will try your hand at making these types of tessellations and even creating an icosahedron. There are many templates for these on the internet. If you choose to make this into a three dimensional figure you will need two of the templates and will need to very accurately cut them out. I have not matched the outlines so will not guarantee they fit together well. One thing is for certain drawing them in two dimensions is difficult enough and the accuracy that is needed for creating a three dimensional object requires even more precision. There are a number of computer generated tessellation programs on the web which may help your quest. I however try to use hand drawn methods and tracing paper. Figure 1 - Dragon P3 Template. Figure 2- Dragons P3 Blue and Green. Figure 3 Dragons P3 Red and Orange.
There are a number of great butterfly tessellations out there. I really like Escher's No. 12 and No. 38 and No. 70 and especially his Circle Limit with Butterflies (1950). Alain Nicolas has an excellent example of a type 2S butterfly motif. I am sure there are many other examples out there as well. The following example is of another butterfly tessellation I created and left in my sketchbook for many years because I was not happy with the design. The Figure 1 below depicts the butterfly motif with two styles that were rejected. As you can see the difference is slight between the tessellation motifs but the sketch allows no overlap and the black and white does not overlap. The problem with this design is that the wings are too narrow in my view. The final design allows overlap and the wings are wider. I chose to include this second design recently within a Mobius strip since it allows the figure to evolve into a colorful butterfly that flies off the page. This concept is similar to several other Mobius strip designs (three other examples are shown on the tessellation-art-gallery pages). Figure 2 depicts the final design of the Butterfly tessellation.
A few people have asked me to provide additional examples of how I develop a print and my thought process. This blog will provide some of the details on the development of "Twilight at Castellano". This image came from one of my sketchbooks and is originally dated January 31, 2013. It has taken me four years to convert in into a print. Its not that I didn't like the image but I have so many ideas and can only execute a portion of them. This idea came from a visit to Italy many years ago and the location is completely from my imagination. I had been thinking about birds flying in formation (ie geese) and the spaces between them. I came upon the idea of doing a tessellation with birds and bats to contrast light and dark. The Figure 1 image was taken from my sketchbook and Figure 2 is a refinement of the image.
I transferred the image to tracing paper and had a lithographic stone prepared by my master printer at Muskat Studios. I choose to make the image a black to white scratch drawing from a black tusche background, It required the use of razor blades and knives to remove the tusche and build the light from the dark background. I started with a completely black background and scraped away at the stone to reveal the lighter portions of the image. This was not my first reverse image. I created "Above and Below"(See the Tessellation Art Gallery) through a similar method. Figure 3 depicts the transfer tracing I used to transfer the iron oxide paper image to the stone. Figure 4 depicts the surface of the stone as I removed the tusche. You can see the outline of the iron oxide on the sides of the drawing. Figure 5 depicts the final image on the stone (note: I flipped the image so that you would see it as it would be seen in the final print.)
The following blog will provide two images related to horses and transportation. The first image is an aluminum plate lithograph that has been hand colored. Its an image I created several years ago while taking a printmaking class. I developed the concept thinking about horses and horsepower. I juxtaposed the two images of the automobile and the horse to show how the common mode of transportation has changed over the past 125 years. Figure 1 depicts Horses and Horsepower.
The next image is a recent adaptation in black and white of the motif Horsemen II. The symmetry group is D1gg. I enjoyed creating this image as its very graphic. My favorite images are pure black and white and this is my own take on M.C. Escher's tessellation "Horsemen"(No. 67). The image is more angular and is not as elegant as MCE's but complements my other horsemen image which faces one direction as a D1kk. Figure 2- Horsemen II (2017) and Figure 3- Time Warp with unidirectional horses.
Michael Wilson has been creating tessellation art for over 40 years and is preparing this blog to share thoughts on the subject.