Monthly Archives: April 2015

Escher Islamic Mosaic Change to One Continuous Line. STAGE 5.

Escher painting 1922 of Islamic Mosaic tile at the Alhambra.  WikiArt.  Continuous line study by Mick Burton.

Escher painting 1922 of Islamic Mosaic tile at the Alhambra. WikiArt. Continuous line study by Mick Burton.

In my post of 4 April 2015, Continuous Lines in Escher Islamic Mosaic painting, STAGE 1, I mentioned that the original Islamic artist had deliberately created two Continuous Lines, when he could have just as easily created one, because he wanted to retain overall symmetry of design and border connections.

I stated that I had examined the design and worked out how to make a change to the border connections of lines to create one continuous line throughout the design, and this is how it’s done.

Here is the chart from STAGE 2 again, which shows the Main Continuous Line in Red and the Minor Continuous Line in Blue and the colours are also shown as the connections loop outside the Border.  The change has to be done without changing the Alternate Overdraw in the main design and this is done by linking a Red Overdraw with a Blue Overdraw at the same time as linking two not overdrawn lines.

Minor Continuous Line, Alternate Overdraws in Red and Blue.  Mick Burton Escher Mosaic study.

Minor Continuous Line, Alternate Overdraws in Red and Blue. Mick Burton Escher Mosaic study.

We need a crossover on the Border involving a Red loop and a Blue loop.  If we part them at that junction and re-join the Red with the Blue, and then join both not overdrawn ends as well, we have united the Main and Minor continuous lines.  See Below.

Joining of Main Red Continuous Line to Minor Blue, leaving both non Alternate Overdraw lines joined at the former junction.  Mick Burton Escher Mosaic study.

Joining of Main Red Continuous Line to Minor Blue, leaving both non Alternate Overdraw lines joined at the former junction. Mick Burton Escher Mosaic study.

To show how this change is reflected in the Border, here is a before and after “Spot the difference” comparison which I have drawn.

Change of Border on Escher Mosaic to enable one continuous line. Mick Burton study.

Change of Border on Escher Mosaic to enable one continuous line. Mick Burton study.

As you can see, the difference between having two continuous lines and one is just a couple of flicks of a pen. Obviously, the artist would have known there was a one continuous line option and that he could have done it without losing any design or colouring options.

Presumably, the artists were required to retain overall symmetry above all else, including in the Border.  Eric Broug has also informed me that continuous line drawing is very rare in Islamic geometric design. 

I think that the Artist chose two continuous lines in the Mural Mosaic to demonstrate that he was only one step from having one line, and he made sure that the Border was drawn so that this change opportunity (which occurs on each of the four sides)  was as simple as possible.  He is saying “I could easily have drawn One Continuous Line ! “

After completing my research into the Escher painting, and explaining the one continuous line alternative, I realised that I needed to draw the single continuous line myself.  Here it is.

One Continuous Line Drawing, including Border signals, based on Escher Islamic Mosaic.  Mick Burton, March 2015.

One Continuous Line Drawing, including Border signals, based on Escher Islamic Mosaic. Mick Burton, March 2015.

 
This completes my five STAGES of explaining my thoughts on Escher’s terrific painting, in 1922, of the Islamic Mural Mosaic in the Alhambra.  I hope you found this abstract continuous line it to be interesting and stimulating.

Finally, I would like to thank Margaret Graves, Assistant Professor of Islamic Art and Architecture at Indiana University, for her encouragement and guidance after I completed my research.

Escher Islamic Mosaic Continuous Lines, Create and Change Border. STAGE 4.

A key part of the Mural Mosaic tile painting by Escher in 1922, is that he has included the Border in detail. The Border gives an indication of what happens to the lines when they hit the sides and where they feed back into the design. In the quarter section detail of the mural below you can see marks on the Border.

A line leaving the design either joins the border (so that you can follow where it goes) or goes under the border (and you can deduce where it re-emerges).  It is not easy to work all these paths out at first, but there is a logic to it.  If in doubt between two choices, one of them usually has a clear answer leaving only one option for the other.  Another aid to us is that each side of the Border is identical in the same direction around the design, so if the marks are not clear on one side you can check at a corresponding point on another side.

Detail to show Border.  Escher mural mosaic in the Alhambra.  WikiArt.  Mick Burton study.

Detail to show Border. Escher mural mosaic in the Alhambra. WikiArt. Mick Burton study.

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When I first started this research I did a basic hand copy showing all the lines hitting the sides and then showed each one as a loose end outside the square.  I then studied the border on the Mosaic to work out how all the loose ends should be joined up and charted them – this initial chart was in STAGE 1, and I show it again at the end of this post.

That was relatively easy, observing the result of what artist had done.  The hard bit is working out  from scratch which loose ends to tie up to produce continuous lines in a way which would still enable the colours to be allocated by the Alternate Overdraw (or equivalent process used by the artist).

According to Eric Broug in his demonstration video’s, the tile rectangle containing the design would be selected out of a larger pattern area.  In my own art, when I have drawn a large continuous line pattern and completed the Alternate Overdraw (so that I know the colour sequence everywhere) I can pick out a small section to display which of course already has the Alternate Overdraws.  Similarly, the Islamic artist producing the Mosaic would know the full colouring etc for the tile section.

I show below the design with all the loose ends and Alternate Overdraws in Red.  At this stage the artist would not know how many continuous lines would occur in the tile section on its own.  He will have also needed to produce a straight edge on the corners and other parts of the perimeter to block unwanted lines which encroached from the outside pattern.

Section of larger pattern with Alternate Overdraws and loose ends showing whether overdrawn.  Mick Burton study.

Section of larger pattern with Alternate Overdraws and loose ends showing whether overdrawn. Mick Burton study.

You will see from the loose ends that half of them are overdrawn in Red and half not. If you connect up pairs of the overdrawn, and pairs of the not overdrawn, loose ends then there will be continuous lines throughout the design and the Alternate Overdraw Template will be unaffected. If I connect up the not overdrawn pairs around each corner of the design, then working along the sides both overdrawn pairs and not overdrawn pairs work out consecutively. This matches the line direction message in the Border on the Mosaic design.  Here is a chart (previously in STAGE 1) showing all the loose end connections.  We know from STAGE 1 that there are two continuous lines, which makes the case strong regarding the artist using Alternate Overdraw, but it would not have mattered if there were more than two.

Escher Islamic Tile.  Basic line structure, with border connections. Mick Burton continuous line study.

Escher Islamic Tile. Basic line structure, with border connections. Mick Burton continuous line study.

Having looked at Borders in detail, that prepares us for the final STAGE 5 where I show how we can turn this into a Single Continuous Line design.  

I will also give you my opinion on what the original Artist thought about a Single Continuous Line and why I think he is definitely an Artist and not just a craftsman.

Mick Burton Continuous Line Blog.

Colour Sequence Allocation on Escher Islamic Mosaic Continuous Lines, STAGE 3.

Now that we have applied my Alternate Overdraw to the Continuous Lines in the Escher Islamic design, I can show how I allocate colours.  We can then compare the result with the colours on the original Islamic design painted by Escher in 1922.

My basic method of allocating colours is covered in my Post on 27 September 2014 entitled “Colour Sequence on Continuous Line Drawing”.

I will start with that same basic process where colour “0” is the outside of the drawing and this is alternated with “1” in its channel or channels.  When we cross through an overdraw from a “1” area we allocate “2” to this adjacent area on the other side and then alternate this with “3” (if there are any) in that channel.  In the negative direction, if we go from a “0” area through an overdraw we will allocate “(-)1” and alternate with “(-)2” in that channel.

Five colour number allocation on continuous lines for Escher Mosaic.  Mick Burton study.

Five colour number allocation on continuous lines for Escher Mosaic. Mick Burton study.

There are no areas coloured “3” and so we have 5 colours allocated, compared to only 4 colours used in the original Mosaic.

At this stage things did not look promising.  Trying to equate the 4 original colours in the Mosaic to my 5 numbers produced a best set of matches of 156 out of 313 (I won’t go into much detail here) which is just under 50%.

One thing that I did observe was that YELLOW matched “1” on 76 occasions and “(-)1” on 88 occasions.  This reminded me that I occasionally allocate colours positively by ignoring (-) signs.  When switched to simply using “0”, “1” and “2” I had 3 numbers to compare with the 4 original colours on the mosaic.  This now produced a best match of 241 colours out of 313 which gives 77% and was much more respectable.  Here is the 3 colour allocation.

Colour sequence allocation of 3 colours to continuous lines on Escher Mosaic.  Mick Burton study.

Colour sequence allocation of 3 colours to continuous lines on Escher Mosaic. Mick Burton study.

Of course the fourth colour GREEN used in the mosaic does not appear at all in mine.

As with a lot of art, including craft, there may be processes (or even rules) which get you a long way in a design but you have to know when, and how, to break away from them.  I may be a bit rigid with my Continuous Lines but my studies of Picasso and Dali doing them demonstrates that nothing is certain.

This Islamic artist, who I regard as very special, probably used a method equivalent to mine to allocate most of his colours but probably made the following over riding decisions to finish the colouring off –

a.   GREEN was allocated to the 8 areas surrounding each of the 8 planets, and nowhere else.

b.  Each of the 8 planets was coloured PURPLE, instead of black, to mirror its use for the centres of the Suns.

c.  Each Purple junction block at the middle of each side has three directional areas surrounding it which are coloured PURPLE instead of black.  I originally considered these to be decorative.

Allocation of all green colours and changes of black to purple on Escher Mosaic.  Mick Burton study.

Allocation of all green colours and changes of black to purple on Escher Mosaic. Mick Burton study.

If the above decisions were made first, then the remaining allocations would be made totally on my 3 colour allocation.  That is 229 areas remaining where my allocation matches 100% with the original Escher Mosaic colours.

229 colour sequence areas matching original Escher Mosaic colouring.  Mick Burton study.

229 colour sequence areas matching original Escher Mosaic colouring. Mick Burton study.

So there we are. I hope you have found my attempt to explain how this Escher Islamic Mosaic contains two continuous lines, which I believe was deliberate by the artist, and how most colours matched a colour sequence directly linked to the continuous lines.

The basic elements in the design largely match the template produced by my Alternate Overdraw method and, after specific allocation decisions were made by the artist, there was a total match of all other colours allocated by my method using the template.  Whether of not the artist used a similar method to myself, there is a direct link between the colour sequence and the two continuous lines.

In my searches through other forms of art, on the look out for continuous lines, I have not found any other example of art which contained both continuous lines and a related colour sequence, or signs of possible use of Alternate Overdraw with its Template.

There is a modern mathematical theory called “The Winding Number Theory” which could allocate colours in an equivalent way to my initial 5 colours, but it is not as much fun.

I will do a FURTHER POST (STAGE 4) on how the artist could have used Alternate Overdraw to help him to connect up the loose ends on the borders when actually constructing his continuous lines.

Mick Burton Continuous Line Blog.

Alternate Overdraw Applied to Escher Islamic Mosaic Continuous Lines, STAGE 2.

Escher painting 1922 of Islamic Mosaic tile at the Alhambra.  WikiArt.  Continuous line study by Mick Burton.

Escher painting 1922 of Islamic Mosaic tile at the Alhambra. WikiArt. Continuous line study by Mick Burton.

Before applying my Alternate Overdraw, which I use to allocate colours to Continuous Lines, I will give you my analysis of the colours in the original Mosaic and what I feel were the artist’s ideas behind the design.

Eric Broug states, in his YouTube demonstration “How Grids and Patterns Work Together” that this is a 16 point star surrounded by 8 point stars.  Geometrically you can produce stars with many different numbers of points.  Having done many planetary paintings myself, I feel that the original artist has realised that in this case we have a central Sun and 8 planets surrounding it which can represent our solar system (we can ignore Pluto as a planet as it only featured as such for a part of the last century).  The colours the artist uses reflect many aspects of this planetary situation –

a.  YELLOW is used as the colour for the flaming surfaces of the central Sun and the corner Suns.  All other yellow areas have star like shapes and represent distant stars peppering the background.

b.  PURPLE is used for the centres of the Suns and the 8 Planets.  Purple is also used for the lines of areas along the sides, vertically and horizontally from the centres of the sides and diagonally (the lines of purple areas may simply be decorative).

c.  BLACK is used for the “fan blade” shapes emanating from the Suns.  In my planetary paintings I often use black for the background outside a drawing and for the gaps through the  drawing .  The artist here could be using the same idea, so that the blades are in fact deep space seen beyond the Suns.

d.  GREEN is used to surround each Planet and I interpret this as representing life on each Planet, not just ours.

The process for completing an Alternate Overdraw is covered in my Post dated 10 September, 2014  (9/10/2014)  entitled “Alternate Overdraw on Continuous Line Drawing”.

In the previous post, STAGE 1, I showed that there are two continuous lines in the Mosaic.  I apply my Alternate Overdraw to produce a template for me to work with to allocate a colour sequence.  I have to bear in mind that there are 2 Overdraw results and 1 colour sequence for a single continuous line and 4 Overdraw results and 2 colour sequences for two continuous lines.

My experience tells me that the Alternate Overdraw, which will produce a Template best representing this Planetary composition, will have –

a.  An Overdraw for the Main continuous line commencing by overdrawing (in Red) a side of a fan blade of the central Sun, and

b.  An Overdraw for the Minor continuous line commencing by overdrawing (in Blue) a side of a fan blade on a corner Sun.

Main continuous line, Alternate Overdraw, choice 1.  Mick Burton, Escher Mosaic study.

Main continuous line, Alternate Overdraw, choice 1. Mick Burton, Escher Mosaic study.

Minor Continuous Line, Alternate Overdraw in Blue, Choice 1.  Mick Burton Escher Mosaic study.

Minor Continuous Line, Alternate Overdraw in Blue, Choice 1. Mick Burton Escher Mosaic study.

The aim  of the Alternate Overdraw is to create channels within the design where two colours can be allocated alternately within each channel and that adjacent channels have different pairs of colours.  An overall sequence of colours then follows across channel boundaries.

My experience told me, at this stage, that my colour sequence was likely to match the original Mosaic in and around the five Suns, but less so elsewhere.

I will show my attempts at allocating corresponding colours in the NEXT POST.  I will also explain why I feel that the original artist may have used the Alternate Overdraw or an equivalent method.

Mick Burton Continuous Line Blog.

Continuous Lines in Escher Islamic Mosaic painting, STAGE 1.

Escher painting 1922 of Islamic Mosaic tile at the Alhambra.  WikiArt.  Continuous line study by Mick Burton.

Escher painting 1922 of Islamic Mosaic tile at the Alhambra. WikiArt. Continuous line study by Mick Burton.

I look for continuous lines in all forms of art.  I first saw this design in my daughter Kate’s book “Escher, The Complete Graphic Work”, by J.L. Locher.   We are both long term admirers of this artist.  Escher did this detailed painting  in 1922 when in Granada at the Alhambra, and its quality really hit me.  It was of an Islamic mural Mosaic tile,  which was made up of those geometric lines which are often seen in Islamic art, and I assessed it for continuous lines.  

I could see that the overall symmetrical  pattern and I saw that Escher had painted the design BORDER, which seemed to indicate what happened to the lines after they hit the sides of the square.  I then worked out, from the Border Pattern, that the lines were fed back in the same routes on all four sides of the square.  From the point of view of finding a single continuous line, in my experience, such overall symmetry of the structure meant that it was very unlikely that there was only one line. 

Here is the basic structure which I arrived at, which shows the “wiring” connections indicated by the border.  Let’s see how many continuous lines there are.

Escher Islamic Tile.  Basic line structure, with border connections. Mick Burton continuous line study.

Escher Islamic Tile. Basic line structure, with border connections. Mick Burton continuous line study.

When I traced over the lines I found that there were in fact two continuous lines making up the whole design.  Here are the two results, a Main continuous line (in red) and a Minor one (blue).

Main continuous line, one of two.  Escher Islamic tile design.  Mick Burton continuous line study.

Main continuous line, one of two. Escher Islamic tile design. Mick Burton continuous line study.

Minor continuous line, 2nd of two.  Escher Islamic tile design.  Mick Burton continuous line study.
Minor continuous line, 2nd of two. Escher Islamic tile design. Mick Burton continuous line study.

 

By experimenting with border changes, a bit like swapping wiring connections, I did come up with a single continuous line, but the borders were no longer symmetrical.  It seems likely that the artist realised that two continuous lines was the best he could hope for whilst retaining overall symmetry.   In a LATER POST I will show how a border can be “tweaked” by a slight alteration to make one continuous line in the mural mosaic, and how this answer is achieved.  I will also show how the artist is likely to have worked out how to achieve two continuous lines by connecting up the correct loose ends.

I now needed to know  “How important continuous lines were, within this design, to the artist?”   It could be that Continuous Lines were incidental to other aims, or they may have been of prime importance.

In my NEXT POST I will apply my Alternate Overdraw technique to produce a Template of closed lines, which I use to decide upon the colours to allocate.   I will also suggest what the artist’s ideas were for the design and his colour selection.  In a FURTHER POST you will see how my colour allocation compares with the original colours and to what extent I feel that my ideas were the same or similar to those used by the artist.

All this has been done without any reference to the construction of the original line structure.  I have taken the completed structure as a starting point to apply my ideas.  I did not research in any detail on Islamic line construction, until after my whole study was completed.

I have recently found YouTube demonstrations by Eric Broug entitled “How to Draw a Mamluk Quran Page” and “How Grids and Patterns Work Together”, which gave me a good insight into pattern construction and include an explanation of a larger tile containing this Escher Mosaic design as a section.  This is a fascinating process used by the Islamic artists over 500 years ago.  Otherwise, I have not found any reference to borders, colouring, or specific meaning of this design.

Possibly my ideas will generate a new view on aspects of the creation of this and other Islamic designs. 

Mick Burton, Continuous Line Blog. Continue reading