Saturday, March 29, 2014

Tessellations-M.C. Escher

A week ago, we studied artist M.C. Escher. I taught the same lesson to both my little elementary class and to the middle/high school class. It was equally accessible and fascinating for both age levels. We watched a short youtube video about Escher, and then made our own tessellations. Tessellations are flat shapes that cover a plane with no overlapping and no gaps between shapes. It is the way Moroccan and other tiles cover a surface with design, or how a puzzle fits together.

I like the site There are a variety of ways to create tessellations, but we used the P-A-R-T method. Using a small square, (ours was about 3' x 3" to fit nicely on an 8 1/2 x 11" page) print the individual letters P-A-R-T in the corners of the paper left to right, top to bottom. Then an organic line is drawn intersecting the square from top to bottom, and another line drawn from side to side. Simple, not too complex lines work best. Curve them a bit or use wide angles. Cut on the lines to make four pieces out of the original square. Then the letters and shapes are re-assembled with the corners to the center and the letters spelling T-R-A-P. (Above.) Tape together, precisely lining up edges. Now place your shape in the center of a sheet of paper and trace around it. It does not matter which way you turn or tip it for the first one. Do what looks good to you.  When done outlining the first shape, slide it to one side until it fits like a puzzle "into" the shape you just copied. Fit it carefully, hold and copy around it. Keep sliding and fitting the shape to the ones on the page until the whole page is full of interlocking shapes and the design "runs off" the edges.
Now look at your shapes and see if you can find a picture in it. My tessellation looked like a bird in flight. (above) I added a few lines for an eye, beak and wing/tail feathers and repeated them across the design. Outline in black if desired, and color. The student below made a striking design in simple black and white pattern.
Not everyone wants to alter their shapes into a picture tile. Plain tessellations can be treated as more of a Moroccan tile and colored in a pattern.

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