Valentine Watercolor Tessellation: Inspired By M.C. Escher

Final Escher Cover

Hearts and Valentines are already filling the stores as the month of February approaches.  This heart watercolor art project is inspired by graphic artist M.C. Escher.

Escher was a Dutch graphic artist whose woodcuts, wood engravings, lithographs, drawings, and sketches were mathematically inspired.

Escher went by M.C. Escher but his given name was Maurits Cornelis Escher.  M.C. is much easier to remember! 😉  He was born in 1908 in Leeuwarden, Friesland, in the Province of the Netherlands.  Young Escher was not a very good student, he even failed second grade, but he excelled in drawing.

In 1922, Escher traveled through Spain and was inspired while in Granada by the architecture of the Moorish palace Alhambra.  The detailed decorative designs of the colored tiles sparked his interest in the mathematics of tessellation.

Tessellation

A tessellation is an arrangement of shapes closely fitted together, especially of polygons in a repeated pattern without gaps or overlapping.

The tessellations of M.C. Escher are the inspiration for this art project.

 

 

In this art project, we will explore the technique of using rubbing alcohol to create textures in watercolor.

Supplies needed for this project are:

  • Watercolor paper
  • Watercolor paint
  • Watercolor paint brushes in varied sizes
  • Masking tape
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Palette for mixing paint
  • Paper towels
  • Scissors
  • Sharpie marker
  • Post-it note
  • Cardboard
  • Small ruler

Escher Supplies

Drawing First

The first step is to create a heart shaped piece that can be drawn in an interlocking pattern.

Using a standard Post-it note, mark the outer points and inner point of the heart design.  It’s important that each upper side of the heart be half the length of the bottom side of the heart.  This will ensure our hearts fit together like a puzzle.

Once your design is drawn, attach your Post-it to a small piece of cardboard and trim along the lines.  Once you’ve cut out the heart, carefully trim the edges so that the upper side and bottom of each opposing side of the heart are cut parallel to one another.  (Time to use our math skills 😉 )

Practice tracing around your heart on paper to make sure your heart shape creates a pattern that fits together nicely.  Trim as necessary to get a good fit.

Post It Cut Out

Once you’re happy with your heart shape, it’s time to trace it on our watercolor paper.

First, apply one strip of tape to all the edges of your watercolor paper.  This will create a nice clean border for your artwork.

After you apply the tape, use your ruler to outline the inner edge with a sharpie.  We used pink to go with our Valentine theme.

Place your first heart near the center of your paper and trace it.  Next, align the pieces and fill your paper with the pattern.  Use the sharpie to finish any lines that may not be completed from your tracing.

Escher Drawing

Now it’s time to paint!

Using your watercolor paint, mix a nice pink color and cover the whole page.  (Feel free to use the colors of your choice).  Allow this layer to dry before you continue.

Next, mix a darker color (we used red) to start creating your next layer of hearts.  Alternate the hearts you paint to create a pattern.  Use a total of three colors – the first layer of pink and two other colors.  The second and third colors will be painted over the first.  (It’s much easier to paint watercolor in layers – always paint the lightest color first.)

While your heart is wet, use another watercolor brush to let droplets of rubbing alcohol drip into the wet paint.  WATCH WHAT HAPPENS!!

Escher Paint Steps

Heart Detail

The alcohol does not mix with the paint and creates a very interesting design and texture.

** CAUTION – USE ADEQUATE VENTILATION WHEN USING RUBBING ALCOHOL AND ADULT SUPERVISION!

Allow this layer to dry and then add your next layer of hearts keeping with your pattern.

To help keep your pattern straight, note that each color of heart lines up in a row.

Change how you apply the alcohol to create a different texture.

 

Escher clean up

Once your watercolor painting is completely dry, carefully remove your tape.

If you have any paint leaks (like we did) allow it to dry and you can cover it with a white gel pen or white paint.

Voila!  You’ve created your very own Valentine tessellation!

Escher Final

 

 

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About the author

Crystal Foth manages 19 Southern California fine art studios for Mission: Renaissance Fine Art Classes. She spends her free time creating art, planning fun art projects and enjoying creative adventures with her family around Los Angeles.

View all articles by Crystal Foth

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