Escher’s Tessellations

Back in high school, we had an art class assignment to make a tessellation of our own. I never forgot that class for the sole unfortunate reason that I couldn’t make one. Haaay.

Years later, I read about Dutch graphic artist M.C. Escher’s life and how he’s famously credited as the “Father of Modern Tessellations”.

That comes as no surprise since Escher had an innate talent for space, perspective, and art! His father was an engineer, and he studied to be an architect before becoming a full-fledged pen and ink artist.

So what exactly is a tessellation? In its simplest definition, it is a regular division of a plane. To expound, I quote Taschen: “…arrangements of closed shapes that completely cover the plane without overlapping and without leaving gaps.”

You think reading its definition is complicated? Imagine making one like these!

You can see that there are no overlaps, and there are figures in both the positive & negative spaces


Looking closely, you can see how Escher divides the plane and makes his pattern.
(Tessellations aren’t drawn per individual figure!)


Being the spatial genius that he is, Escher can even make tessellations in circular planes.


Most recently, we saw Escher’s work in American Idol 10 hopeful Emily Anne Reed’s arms. Tessellations naturally make great tattoos. 😉
Ik ben jaloers! (That’s “I’m jealous” in Dutch!)


But perhaps the greatest pop culture reference to Escher is Daft Punk’s Around the World music video directed by Michel Gondry. See the drawing below and watch how Gondry turned it into an indelible piece of music video artistry of his own:



While there are no existing sources saying Gondry was inspired by this, you can see the clever resemblance!


I encourage you to look at more of Escher’s work so you can see for yourselves how big an influence he is in modern art and pop culture. Hint: Incubus’ Drive music video, Inception‘s dreamlike worlds, and even Lego creations.

Escher’s drawings lifted from here. Videos from YouTube.

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