Rekindle your Love of M.C. Escher Tessellations, draw your own tessellations using a free iPad App | Francine Champagne | Skillshare

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Rekindle your Love of M.C. Escher Tessellations, draw your own tessellations using a free iPad App

teacher avatar Francine Champagne, Tessellation Artist

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

7 Lessons (52m)
    • 1. Tessellations, Super Easy on the iPad

    • 2. What are Tessellations

    • 3. M.C. Escher — the Tessellation Master

    • 4. Magic Sentence for a Frog Tessellation

    • 5. Frogs Tessellation from A to Z on the iPad

    • 6. Easy with the KaleidoPaint App

    • 7. More Examples — More Inspiration

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About This Class

Learn to create Escher tessellation patterns with easy step-by-step lessons and plenty of examples. You will be drawing true nested shape tessellations in no time at all. No cardboard, no scissors, we will dive into all the symmetry groups over the next while. Using your iPad tablet, I will show you all the tricks I have learned in the last decade of drawing nested shape tessellations using KaleidoPaint. You will become a tessellation artist!

This is the first class in a series of 17 that I will be completing. Why 17? There are 17 ways that you can divide a surface following the rules of symmetry and we will cover them all, one symmetry group at a time.

In this first class I give you a bit of general information about tessellations, about the mastermind behind this tessellation movement, M.C. Escher. Most importantly, I will reveal the magic sentence to get you started on creating your first tessellation.

This time, we will zero-in on symmetry group P4g.

All you need for this class is a good dose of imagination, an iPad, and a stylus. No need for advanced drawing skills. No math skills.

And the KaleidoPaint iPad app is free!


Meet Your Teacher

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Francine Champagne

Tessellation Artist


Intertwining lovable animals, hilarious humans or geometric shapes, is my passion. Just like MC Escher, and his regular division of the plane drawings, tessellation topics are endless. They can be simple repeating patterns or more complex characters, quirky humans, whatever strikes your fancy. Originally from eastern Ontario, now living on Vancouver Island, I’ve been creating tessellations for quite a few decades. I've done my 10,000 hours of practice!

Time has come to share my intuitive and creative process, as well as the now easy, technical side. The how of tessellations. I've refined my methods, made it super simple with a few tricks, magic sentences I call them, to achieve a true nested shape tessellation in just a few strokes of a stylus on the ... See full profile

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1. Tessellations, Super Easy on the iPad: Hello, I'm Francine champagne, about a book a few decades ago, the magic mirror of MC Escher. That book and a few more ignited my fascination of tessellations. A suspect you've also come across MC Escher's work. It's probably why you're here today. Many people have tackled the most basic of tessellations. In grade school or high school art class, scissors in cardboard were told to repeat the cuts up, down, left, right. That's it. Most people go no further. Some artists dabbled in the technique. Few explore more than one or two tessellations. Daunting. Maybe. I'm here to tell you that it's not difficult, especially since the arrival of tablets and very cheap apps, we're spoiled today. I did spend a decade doing tessellations by hand, screen printing, ink and watercolor. It was tedious work. Just look at that exhausted helper. 2012 was the year I've found colloidal paint. We have evolved together. This is the app we will be concentrating on as it fulfills all needs, all symmetry groups and live line editing. I encourage you to download this free app and follow along. We can do tessellations much faster and better. We have the tools. No graph paper, no cardboard, know scissors know crayons. I hope you'll join me for a wonderful series of classes about creating tessellations with today's tools. One symmetry group at a time. 2. What are Tessellations: Hello again, Let's talk definition. What are tessellations? Wikipedia says a tiling or tessellation of a flat surface is the covering of a plane using one or more geometric shapes called tiles, with no overlaps and no gaps. The word plane in this case is not the kind that flies. Here. It means a surface. I would simply add the ultimate repetition of the pattern occurs in two directions, up, down, left, right. Or it can be skewed a bit, on an angle. Think of a stamp. You make copies horizontally and vertically. As long as the gaps aren't too wide, it's a tessellation. Floor tiles are the most common tessellations we see all the time. Or patio bricks. Some call tessellations, nested shapes. I like that. M.C. Escher called this drawing style, regular division of the plane. Symmetry is more than just mirrors. Tessellations follow any of these four rules of symmetry. Reflection, rotation, translation, glide reflection. There are 17 ways to divide a plane or surface following these four rules in different combinations. The same rules followed by crystals in nature. No gaps, no overlaps. Just to repeat the four symmetry operations. Reflection or mirror. Like so. Rotation. The easiest one to show you here is a 180 degrees. If your thumb is the rotation point, like so. Translation, which is just another word for repetition. Repeated over and over, down, up, left, right. And glide reflection, which is a natural combination of a mirror and a translation together. It seems it's quite common in crystals too. This is how it works. Mirror and a glide . We will cover these symmetry operations and their combinations for each symmetry group in future classes. For now, we will zero in on only one way to divide the plane. Symmetry group P4G. I'm not a mathematician, so this is about as technical as we'll get. I'm an artist and think as an artist. So no worries, we won't get into complex vocabulary. I might show you in a future class how people have classified all 17 symmetry groups. It's up to you if you want to use any of these classification systems. I've learned one system and created my own. M.C. Escher had his own codes too. But I usually look in my notes to find what I call my magic sentence. The one that tells me how to reach an outline tile. in Just a few strokes of my stylus. A tessellation is different than a pattern. There's no space between the elements. These first four images are tessellations, mind you, very simple ones. Using the most basic shapes you can tile a surface or plane, as they say, in only a few ways with pure simple shapes, we all know well a triangle, a rectangle, and a hexagon. The rectangle is special as it can be skewed, as illustrated in the fourth image. A circle. No, it does not tessellate, the octagon, neither. These last two examples have spaces left over in between. Then we can get into slightly more complex shapes. Some found in Islamic geometric designs. Simple tessellations with not too many lines, rotated, I-beams fill the plane, crosses title well, squares with the split shift as well. This fluid triangles tessellate it is found in the Alhambra, a palace in Spain. A four corner twist works well. This one is common in Zentangle patterns or the classic Louis cube from rotated lozenges. These geometric tiles have no recognizable human or animal shapes. And that is the difference between tile patterns and tessellations. Tessellations have recognizable shapes, mostly animal or human shapes, and sometimes objects too. What matters most to the tessellation artist is the perimeter of the shape, the perfect repeating outline that will accommodate a design. We can see fish in the tessellation outline on the left. As for the right side. With a bit of imagination, we can see a dog with a huge puffy tail or maybe a squirrel. The outline of the tile is most important, but also what you make of it on the inside. Imagination is important for both the outline and the details inside. Then we progress into really complex fluid shape tessellations. The type of nested shape we are here to learn in this class and future classes. The more you practice, the more your intuition will kick in and give you a hand. at seeing those wonderful creature hiding in your outlines. That frog tessellation in the middle of the top role was my first, drawn by hand. We will practice it in the fourth video in this class. In the next video, I want to show you MC Escher's work. He was the master tessellation artists that jump started this whole nested shape movement. Till then. 3. M.C. Escher — the Tessellation Master: Maurits Cornelis Escher, better known as MC Escher. The inspiration of this tessellation art movement. His huge body of work inspired many artists. There are many books about his art. He is known not only for his tessellations, but for graphic art, landscape lithograph, wood cuts, complex, impossible worlds. Escher snuck in some tessellations into his lithographs. I urge you to research him online if you're not familiar with his work. Most people recognize his art. It has made its way into popular culture quite extensively. In the past few years, there have been hundreds of museums and galleries showing his art. Interactive exhibits are popular these days. I will show you a sampling of his many accomplishments in drawing nested shapes. All of his 138 tessellations are in the symmetry section of the website, the official website. It's good to copy the masters. That's how some of us learn. Learning by doing. the trick is to go beyond copying a head sideways any direction. Use the masters as inspiration for a new adventure, a stepping stone towards your own style. Go do a simple image search, MC Escher tessellation, images. You might be amazed at what you see This Escher reptile tessellation is the first one I dissected with scissors and cardboard. That was during a class in the architecture department at Carleton U, the nature and behavior of materials. Professor Westwood was explaining crystal symmetry. The same rules that govern crystals also apply to tessellations. This was my introduction to drawing tessellations. My first fascination, my aha moment. I was copying the Master MC Escher, just like everyone else. I could draw it, but not necessarily understand it. That's why we are here in this class to understand the, how. MC Escher called this type of art, this obsession, Regular division of the plane. I quote, filling two-dimensional planes has become a real mania to which I have become addicted and from which I sometimes find it hard to tear myself away. Some tessellation artists say that you should keep your figures and characters right-side-up for your audience. Hm, this would limit the number of symmetry groups you could use, drastically. Where's the fun in that? In my case, I aim to make you tilt your head while looking at these, do somersaults, just like the little character wearing that bonnet. Rotation is one of the symmetry operations in this seashore topic, made up of three items from the beach. The combination is rotated around a four-way rotation point. Imagination is important for the inside of the shape, not only the outline. In angels and devils. MC Escher made good use of mirrors. Another symmetry operation when it comes to tessellations and crystals. We see bilateral symmetry in the humanoid forms, a mirror right down the middle. This is the symmetry group we are studying in this class. The only difference is that MC Escher has stacked two figures along the mirror. They both still meet at the four-way rotation point in the middle. Another mirror based tessellation, four identical mirrors with a four-way rotation point in the middle. This is the symmetry group, the method we will learn in this first class. There are 17 ways to divide the surface or plane. If all goes well, there will be 17 of these classes. I will show you in the last video in this series how to do this Escher tessellation. Here, MC Escher uses glide reflections. This symmetry operation is a combination of a mirror, but with a shift occurring in the placement of its reflection. If you were to place a vertical line, just like on a carousel at the fair, the pole right through the horse's shoulders, in this case, the mythical winged Lion. That would be the glide line and the reflection. The creature with a different color at a different height, flipped in the mirror. Here's another example of a tessellation using glide reflections. There are only four symmetry operations in total for all tessellations. Translation, which is basically repetition, reflection as in a mirror, rotation around the central point. And what we've just spoken about, glide reflection. From 1938. This is a fish and bird tessellation by MC Escher. Tile is split into two figures combined within the same tile. A simple repetition or translation of that combination tile up, down left, right. We can see that much thought was put into finding space for all the creatures' appendages. Look at the wing tips nestled around the fin, the front of the wings is the curve of the tail fin. Absolute perfection of thought, of observation, of problem-solving. Here Escher has modified the bird and turned it into a sailboat. This is a great example of translation. Sailboat and fish, a bit different than the previous tessellation. The tile is a combination of the two elements and is repeated by translation. The outline is of most importance in a tessellation with a good dose of imagination poured into that outline. The outline can always be tweaked and stretched and it should. And that's the fun part. What you remove from one side of the line will take its place on another side. It's always a give-and-take, a tussle for all available space. Here we see even more tweaking to both the outline and the inside of the tile. A refinement of the tessellation. I can only show you a few of his tessellations. There are too many. We can see here the three versions together. An evolving tessellation. I've outlined the tiles to show you the work in Escher has done in tweaking the outline. The third image, the fish's mouth is now open and grabbing the sailboat Stern. The ship's prow in the second instance used to be the same height as the belly fin. But in the third version, it nestles the belly fin, the back fin, and the tip of the sail. Notice the sail that is also much wider at the base. Minor changes with a big impact on the drawing. Escher's tessellations evolved from his study of the Islamic geometric designs. That's a whole field of study in itself. All this can give you an idea of the thought process behind the art form and all the work involved in creating, tweaking and then printing tessellations, let alone a metamorphoses like this one from 1940. Now we have computer programs, apps, digital printers. We are somewhat spoiled today. All the hard work has been taken out. But there still remains the need for intuition, for imagination. That's the small spark of an idea that you should not discount. There's no substitute for that. In the next video, I will explain our first symmetry group to tackle. 4. Magic Sentence for a Frog Tessellation: My first ever tessellation was done using a four-way rotation inside a box with four identical mirrors. Symmetry group P4g, some call it wallpaper group 12. I didn't choose the easiest group. Simply rang a bell for me. And I usually listen to my gut instinct. Why start with this symmetry group? Because there are hundreds of YouTube videos on using P1, the simple up, down left, right, translation symmetry system. It's the first one in the list. That's the one teacher show you in grade school with scissors and cardboard and bits of tape. I don't really want to do the same thing because students usually stop there as if there's no other way to tessellate. P1 can remain boring if you don't push it to the extreme. That will be another class which we will eventually cover. For now, I'm going to show you the first one I ever did using a four-way rotation and four identical mirrors. This is from my decades old sketchbook. All this work reduced magic sentence and my technique and your iPad. I converted my original colored pencil drawing to computer vector files using Corel Draw, years ago. That software had a very interesting function where you could edit your original single tile drawing. And any of the pasted clones would also change. That made it somewhat easier to tweak a tessellation in real-time. You could accomplish the same thing today in Adobe Illustrator. Bby editing is saved library item. Yet another class. This version of my frogs was done in a matter of minutes using KaleidoPaint on the iPod. Of course, with many years of practice beforehand, I will show you the tricks I learned and refined over the years. So you can quickly learn to create nested shapes just like this. I've turned the grid on here. Squares with the four-way rotation point in the middle, right where the frogs four knees meet. You can see that the software added an x that's KaleidoPaint symbol for a four-way rotation point. The black line with the orange glow is the important one here. The magic sentence for this type of symmetry P4G goes like this. Link, the four-way rotation point with a single line to any of the four corners. Let's say KaleidoPaint does all the repeats for you. In this version, I added one eyeball mirrored to the other half of the frog and a few lines for the webbed toes. Here is yet another version with more saturated colors and shading. Cute tree frog toes, slightly curvier lines. It's built the same way in the merit box with a four-way rotation point in the middle. Using the magic sentence. Again, the mirrored box illustrated here, right down the middle of the frog. Bilateral symmetry as they say. With the four-way rotation point at the knees . Seth Bareiss, another master tessellation artists said, and I'm paraphrasing here. Yes, draw the line, but don't stop there. Don't just put a line down, you must tweak tweak, tweak. Otherwise, your car will have square tires. Refine your line. That's easy with KaleidoPaint's line editing features. Follow your intuition. You will eventually see wonderful characters in your scribbles. Let's watch a live demo I captured on my iPad using KaleidoPaint. In the next video. 5. Frogs Tessellation from A to Z on the iPad: Music 6. Easy with the KaleidoPaint App: In this video, I will explain KaleidoPaint's interface. Now might be a good time dimension you're drawing stylus. I urge you to find some kind of stylists smaller than your finger. The old rubber tip stylus is are slightly smaller than a finger, but there are better options out there. The Adonit Jot is the one I used for quite a few years. At least it was less expensive than the Apple ipencil. First order of business is to download and install KaleidoPaint on your iPad. There are some older versions available for Android devices, but the developer has mentioned that the app will no longer be updated. for older versions of iPods. I will show you the developers work-around solution at the end of this video. And good news. This app, KaleidoPaint is free and in my opinion is the best one out there for creating tessellations in the true nested shape manner. Just like MC Escher. It opens a blank canvas with the symmetry menu already flown up. Let's set the notation to crystallographic for now. And then choose P4G as the symmetry group. That was my first symmetry group to tackle. Note the four-way rotation point in the middle, the x, surrounded by four mirrors, the lines. Click on the color menu. It flies up to reveal a color cube. The perimeter are the colors. A dot shows the location of the color selection from the perimeter of the cube to the center is the saturation. And the slider at the bottom is the brightness. That other icon on the right of the paint chip is for the sub-menu of colors already used in your drawing. The next menu is for the thickness of your line, thin to thick from left to right. And similarly, there's a sub-menu for the previously used thicknesses for you to access. Again. this menu also controls the size of dots you might draw. Same type of colored cube shows up for your background color. Let's leave it white for now, something we are familiar with. In order to show you the other tools I need to open an existing image. Let's go for the frogs. The most important element of a tessellation, as I've mentioned before, is the perimeter of your tile. The beauty of this app is its ability to tweak the drawn lines to perfection. You can do this by accessing the Edit function. That's the menu at the bottom right. We can cycle back and forth from Draw mode. to edit mode in the same spot. This is the edit mode. All of these dots can be dragged around to modify the shape of your curves and vectors. As you've seen me do already in the previous video. If you click on one of your lines rather than dragging the nodes around, a menu flies out. The top part of the menu is for general changes to the line. Here you can edit the line color using a menu identical to the one we've looked at previously in Draw mode. Also with the same sub-menu. Here, you can edit the line thickness. These changes apply only to the line or dot that you selected. This is not a universal change. The points with a gray outline, are curves. The points with black outlines are either endpoints, corner points, angles. Similarly, you can edit your dots for color and size, and your shape fill. those are the nodes that float in the middle of nowhere. You can cycle back and forth between curves and angles by clicking the convert control point menu choice. Split control point adds a new control point by splitting the existing node into two along the line. If you split a corner point, the added point will also be a corner point. If you split a curved point, the added point will be a curved point. The other type of point is the one that floats in the middle of the color fill, not attached to any line. That would be the access node to edit your fill. The fill technique is a flood fill. It will keep on filling the space till it hits a line and stops there. If for some reason your fill goes where it's not supposed to zoom in, you'll have to find the culprit space, the crack between what you think are two lines meeting. You will need to close your shape properly. The color cube for the fill is the same as we've covered for lines. Hue around the perimeter. Saturation from the perimeter to the center, and brightness with the bottom slider. It's also got the flyout sub menu. The padlock icon was placed at the top right to lock your drawing. It won't be messed up if you actually touch the screen. I've handed my iPad to others to zoom in and out and pan around. It's fun. But to have my drawing come back totally scary is not fun. I do like to lock my drawings for show-and-tell. Or once they're finished. That last icon, familiar to most of us is for exporting files. You can save or copy the drawing exactly as it looks on your iPad screen without the interface, the default is PNG. You can also email an image and the default there is JPEG. Or you can save a tile-able rectangle for use in Photoshop or any raster editing program. But that'll be another class, another video. These image sizes depend on your settings. That's the gear icon in the bottom right, we spoke of briefly when we first opened KaleidoPaint. That's it. That's it for the interface, not complex at all, no math involved. For now, go out and install the app if you haven't already. Practice drawing lines and editing them. For this video series, try your hand at P4G. The four-way rotation point in the middle of four identical mirrors. The magic sentence being, draw a line from one of the corners to the middle of the rotation. Tweak, tweak, tweak. In the next video, I will show you a few more P4g examples other than the frogs. Then your imagination will carry you away to your very own tessellations. Go out and practice setting down some lines and tweaking them. Stick around. if you have an older iPad and I'll show you where to find some answers. Okay, for those older iPads. If you get an error message on the App Store, follow the link to the developer website a bit lower on the app store's page. For KaleidoPaint. On Jeff weeks website, Have a look in the download section. Click on older versions. The KaleidoPaint section on that webpage allows you to access all the way back to iOS five. Jeff will guide you through the procedure. The icon may look a bit different. This is a screen grab from my old iPad Mini. See you in the next video for more elbow to elbow feet to feet, head-to-head tessellation examples. 7. More Examples — More Inspiration: We've covered quite a bit up to now for this single symmetry group, a technique to build a nested shape, a tessellation inside a mirrored square with 4 point rotation in the middle. If you start looking a little more closely at tessellations and trying to identify the symmetry operations that are present in there, translation, mirror, rotation, you will be able to eventually identify all symmetry groups. I can usually spot a P4g tessellation with my little Diddy. Head to head, feet to feet, elbow to elbow with a few body part variations. This is one of MC Escher's P4G tessellations from 1936. I hope it is becoming obvious to you what the process looks like, to link one of the corners to the central point. Here I've tried redoing MC Escher's work, but using KaleidoPaint on the iPad. And a bit of help from the iPad split screen option. Again, linking one of the corners to the central rotation point and tweaking using the Edit menu, zooming in and out. This is my final tweak diversion of MC Escher's 1936, the little crouching man, redone in KaleidoPaint all on the iPad, slightly different. It always is. And to further uncomplicate matters, I've started extracting a single instance of my characters. This makes it easier for some people to understand the topic. In this version, the four characters have been recolored. This was done in Pixelmator on the iPad. It can be done in any pixel-based image, software. Photoshop, Procreate, whatever you like using. A line from the center point, the dogs' tails to the corner point between the girls feet. This version has been recolored in Photoshop to differentiate the characters. It makes it more pleasing to look at an easier to decipher. Head-to-head, feet to feet, tail to tail. Just a few more ideas showing you the potential and limits of this symmetry group. And a reason to study the next symmetry group in the next class series. I'm not a big fan of symmetry groups with mirrors, but they are part of the system. And I studied them all. Same method starts to emerge here. Head to head, feet to feet, elbow to elbow. After a while. This little diddy helps you identify these easily. The drawing is a bit skewed here, but that's because I took a photo of the framed ink and watercolor original. This is a quick one in P4G, always in KaleidoPaint. Interesting how the hands mesh together at the center. The epaulette fits under the armpit. Part of the gray hair could also be the soles of his boots. Same little diddy here, head-to-head, feet to feet, hand to hand. Another quick one in P4G, I call it the little crouch. The knees are at the corner point here instead of the elbows. What it's still the same little diddy, a bit modified head-to-head, feet to feet, knee to knee. In this example of cheated, the head borrows its top half from another instance of it's reflected self. You will see this cheat fairly often in my tessellations. You could add barbells and he could be doing squats at the gym. Use your imagination. From my series of cell phone zombies, that's a story in itself. Same cheat here, as the little crouch, where the horizontal mirror is smack in the middle of his eyeballs, as well as a vertical bilateral symmetry of the face. Same Diddy, head to head, feet to feet, elbow to elbow with the hashtag at the elbows. That single extract with the open mouth on the forehead is a little creepy, I must say, works better with a closed mouth. as it just looks like forehead wrinkles. Could be a wicked tattoo though. A simple arc from the center to one of the corners, then a series of spaced arcs converging to one corner. A zen like activity. I call this one, Pastille, reminds me of a classy Gum Drop wrapper. A fairly simple line that reaches the center, then boomerangs back to the mirror a bit different than usual. I've tried it and discovered that you can actually stack a whole series of characters along the mirror as long as one of them reaches the center point. That will be another lesson. Mirrors, rotations, translations. Escher uses the same line principles as I've explained in this class to create his symmetry work 123. To me, they look like flying fish, seen from above. Escher has linked the central for a rotation point to one of the corners. I attempted to recreate MC Escher's flying fish tessellation, and KaleidoPaint. With a bit of practice beforehand, I was able to draw it in a few minutes. Notice my tweaking of the lines, zooming in and out to view the results and tweaking some more, entering and exiting the edit mode and adding the final lines, the eyes, enjoy. 00:09:05.280 --> 00:11:42.070 this is an exported image direct from KaleidoPaint. This is my version of MC Escher's flying fish in symmetry group P4G had been different than the original, but that's okay. A bit of re-coloring for the fish going left, right The colors were added using Pixelmator on the iPad. And more color to the fish swimming up and down. This class was about only one of the 17 symmetry groups. My next class we will deal with one of the other ways we can create tessellations. I think I've given you enough examples and the simplest of methods to create a nested shape tessellation. Go out and practice your lines. Let your intuition kick in. Let your imaginations see what's in those shapes. Tweak lots, and show me what you can do. Ask questions and I will answer as best I can. The next symmetry group we will study is quite similar to this one. A three-way rotation, but all within an equilateral triangle. Cheers. That's an anagram of Escher!