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"Every artist draws himself."

M.C. Escher

One of the most brilliant artists of all time is M.C. Escher (Maurits Cornelis Escher, 1898 - 1972, Holland). His work is a perfect example of living creativity in pictorial form. If the picture at the right is a form of self portrait, he has shown us what an open mind would look like. Escher's work is the epitome of an open and enchanted mind.

He took his craft beyond the bounds of simply rendering in two dimensional medium what he saw. He embellished his work with imagination and stretched the limits of artistic expression. He managed to capture a three dimensional quality that few artists have matched.

Studies in Genius - M.C. Escher

Studies in Genius - M.C. Escher

What also sets his work apart was his ability bring the Moorish concept of tessellation to new heights. Tessellation involves the division of a two dimensional surface into a periodic checkered mosaic pattern. This is used heavily in Moorish art and architecture. Escher proceeded to invent new rules of tessellating a plane surface. In doing so he managed to create visions that defy reality as they interweave themselves in intricate but believable illusions.

In the image to the left the movement of the flock of birds, which changes into fish, utilizes a transformation of ground into figure. These transformations involve the subtle use of brightness contrast and shading which force certain figure-and-ground perceptions onto the viewer.


Escher also excelled in the portrayal of "impossible figures". These involve perceptual paradoxes that cannot be resolved in the mind, though the eye can experience them. In the wood engraving Other World to the right, we see that the creature appears to be sitting on the sill of an arched opening. Behind the creature is a bleak alien landscape. This section has a common horizontal perspective in which the vanishing point is on the horizon of the landscape. If you shift your eyes to the bottom of the engraving, you see the vanishing point as the zenith; and you are looking up at the creature, the background being an unfamiliar part of sky.

If you continue to study this picture you will see more visual paradoxes. You can become quite fascinated at the intricacy and plausibility of the changing visual perspectives, all accomplished in one drawing.

Studies in Genius - M.C. Escher


We highlight Escher's work here because he has a large portfolio that can be studied by anyone who is interested in opening their mind. Most public libraries have copies of his work. In fact, I have found that just by sitting down with a book of his images, my mind begins to experience a literal feeling of expansion. He stretches the imagination to include visual patterning that is otherwise considered impossible to the mind. And yet, here it is, portrayed in a completely plausible work of art.


One way to develop your own creative gift is to study the work of those who have expressed their genius. This cannot be overemphasized. Surround yourself with the work and ideas of those human beings who have ventured beyond the known of their time, bringing back their ideas for others to experience. I guarantee you that if you spent half an hour a day looking or listening to the works of brilliant minds, you would begin to have thoughts of your own that reveal your own personal genius. Everyone has some special talent waiting to unfold. All we need is the impetus and the exposure to inspired minds to bring this hidden talent to the surface. Once you know where your passion lies, there are no limits to how far or wide your own journey into the unknown will be.

Studies in Genius - M.C. Escher

Perhaps that is what life was created for. To perpetually journey into the unknown and bring back to concrete form what we have found. The drawing to the left shows the creatures looking into the unknown. If this was another "self-portrait" of Escher's, then he was showing us that a 360 degree perception on the unknown could reveal a fantastic perspective on reality. Looking in unusual places for unusual things, rendering them coherent to ourselves and others, is the very heart of creative thinking. Begin your journey today.

All M.C. Escher works ©2000 Cordon Art
BV - Baarn - the Netherlands.
All rights reserved.

© J.L. Read, 1997. All Rights Reserved.
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This site is dedicated in loving memory
to its creator, Janet L. Read
1949 — 2000


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