Tag Archives: Alternate Overdraw

Colour Sequence Application to Continuous Line Drawings by Mick Burton – demonstration continued.

img_5140 - copy

Clyde the Elephant, single continuous line with colour sequence by Mick Burton.

This is the continuation post covering my demonstration and workshop at Harrogate and Nidderdale Art Club on 6 December 2018.

Here is a reminder of my marker pen attempt at a continuous line elephant.


Demonstration of a Single Continuous Line Elephant, initial drawing, at Harrogate and Nidderdale Art Club by Mick Burton, on 6 December 2018.

At home later I followed the line/s around and found that there was more than one line and I needed to do one or two diversions to correct that.  As the pattern at the front of the neck has a sort of square which I needed to get rid of I used that region to also turn the drawing into a single line throughout.  With a bit of general smoothing of arcs all round I arrived at the following revised elephant.


Revised single continuous line elephant.    Mick Burton, Leeds Artist.

The next stage was to apply my Colour Sequence to the lines, which I completed in the last few days.  The result is shown at the top of this post.

To explain the process I use, and how it works, I will briefly go through the illustrations which I used later on in the Demonstration at Harrogate and Nidderdale Art Club.

We start by drawing a winding line in an anticlockwise direction.

anticlock 1 line

Stage 1. Single line drawn anticlockwise.   Mick Burton explains colour sequence.

Then, starting on an outside section of line, overdraw in red alternate sections of line.  This results in three different continuous line sections bounded by a red line.

anticlock 2 alt overdraw

Stage 2. Overdraw in red missing alternate sections.   Mick Burton explains colour sequence.

We can now number all the areas to indicate where the colours in the sequence go.  Call the outside 0 and number through the sections to 5 in the middle.  You will see that each channel between red lines has alternately numbered areas.

anticlock 3 number alloc

Stage 3. Number the areas in sequence from the outside (being 0) to the middle (being 5). Mick Burton explains colour sequence.

I have already decided on a sequence of colours to use, running from light tones to darker and from yellow to red.  First apply yellow and gold alternately throughout the outer corridor.

anticlock 4 first alt colours - copy

Stage 4. Paint alternate colours within the outer corridor. Mick Burton explains Colour Sequence.

Paint in the next two colours from the sequence – orange (which looks reddish here) and red – alternately in the inner corridor.  You can see how the colours are lining up in natural sequence of tone and colour.

anticlock 5 second alt colours - copy

Stage 5. Paint second set of alternate colours (orange, which looks reddish here, and red) in the next corridor.   Mick Burton explains colour sequence.

Lastly, for our anticlockwise line we paint the central area (which has its own red line surrounding it).  The result is a simple set of sequences running from the outside to the middle.

anticlock 6 full colours

Stage 6. The last colour in the sequence (dark red) is added in the centre. Mick Burton explains colour sequence.

As you will have realised, each loop going over earlier parts of the drawing adds a level, like overlapping shadows or leaves on a tree looking darker as they overlap.  The direction of darker tones of colour in the sequence reflects this.

In more complex drawings, however, the sequences of colours can change direction.  To show this we need to have a different single continuous line.

Start drawing your line with two loops from the lower left in an anticlockwise direction as before.  When you reach the upper left change to doing three loops in a clockwise direction and then go back to the start by a line running underneath.

clock 1 line

Stage 7. Start drawing your line from the lower left in an anticlockwise direction doing loops and when you reach the higher left change to clockwise loops running back to the right. Then finish clockwise running underneath to the start. Mick Burton explains colour sequence.

Here is confirmation of the directions of the line, anticlockwise and clockwise, and how they change and run back over earlier lines.  We now have a more complex drawing for colouring.

clock 2 directions of line

Stage 8. Here is the completed single line with the directions shown – red for anticlockwise and blue for clockwise. Mick Burton explains colour sequence.

By applying alternate overdraw in red we split the drawing into corridors which look a bit more complicated than the simple anticlockwise drawing we did earlier.

clock 3 alt overdraw

Stage 9. Alternate overdraw in red splits the new drawing up into corridors for colouring. Mick Burton explains colour sequence.

When we number the areas, starting at 0 on the outside as before, we have plus numbers at the top of the drawing but minus numbers appear in the lower corridor.  When we follow the natural sequence of numbers downwards from 2 through 1 and 0 we hit -1 and -2.

clock 4 number alloc

Stage 10. Numbering from 0 on the outside as before we get minus numbers as well as plus. Mick Burton explains colour sequence.

After I had been doing my colour sequence for a few years I found out that mathematicians call this mix of anti and clock directions Winding Number Theory.  When you continue with loops in an anticlockwise direction you are adding levels of overlap and when you change to clockwise you start reducing levels.

We can now apply alternate colours yellow and red to the upper channel.

clock 5 first alt colours

Stage 11. First set of alternate colours in the upper channel on the complex drawing. Mick Burton explains colour sequence.

Then we can complete the positive colour direction.

clock 6 last upward colour

Stage 12.  Completing the plus direction colours by adding dark red.   Mick Burton, continuous line artist.

Now looking at the lower colours, in the clockwise section of the drawing we add the final two colours alternately.

clock 7 downward colours

Stage 13.  Complete colour sequence on single continuous line drawn in both anticlockwise and clockwise directions. Mick Burton, Leeds artist.

So that is the basis of how I do my colour sequence.  

For my elephant, it is more complicated and I show below my sketch after doing the alternate overdraws to create the corridors of alternate colours and then numbered the colours throughout.


Single continuous line elephant showing alternate overdrawn lines in red and colour numbering. The key to the colour sequence and numbering is shown. Mick Burton, continuous line artist.

I have shown the key to the colour sequence and numbering in the top right corner.  The colours can be employed in the opposite direction, of course, but with all my drawings the choice of which direction of sequence to adopt is not too difficult.  The darker colours fall lower down or on the main body of the animal and the more delicate red, orange and yellow mostly on the face. 

I only use red once, and that is on the eye.  This really reflects the greater detail on a face which extends the colour range.  Several of my colour sequence animals have the eye coloured by an end of range colour only used once in the drawing, eg. Iguana, Harriet the Hen and Olympic Lion.

The completed elephant, at the top of the post, has a story behind it.  I did the initial drawing in my demonstration to Harrogate and Nidderdale Art Club on 6 December 2018, which is the day my first grandson, Lucas, was born in Glasgow, son of Kate and Mark. 

I have decided to call the elephant Clyde after the famous Glasgow river.  Lucas can have a picture on his wall which is exactly as old as he is.    

Kaleidoscopic Wild Horses, continuous line drawing with colour sequence.

Wild Horses, June 2017

Kaleidoscopic Wild Horses. Single Continuous Line Drawing with colour sequence in acrylic on canvas.  I happened to have a canvas 36″ x 10″ previously intended for an upright picture idea.  Mick Burton continuous line artist 2017.

This painting originated from a continuous line drawing which I produced for a demonstration at Stainbeck Arts Club, Chapel Allerton in Leeds in May 2017.  

IMG_0883 -Horses line.

Wild Horses,  single continuous line drawing. Demonstration at Stainbeck Arts Club. Mick Burton, continuous line artist 2017.

When I was thinking about a subject for the demonstration I saw an advert on the TV for the Cheltenham Festival which just showed loads of horses running – why there were no riders or jumps I do not know.  This also reminded me of one of my favourite paintings – “Scotland Forever” by Lady Butler in Leeds Art Gallery, painted in 1881.  A bit like “Charge of the Light Brigade” but straight at you, with the horses wild eyed and seeming to leap out of the painting.

See it at   http://www.leedsartgallery.co.uk/gallery/listings/l0081.php

Lady Butler painted a lot of war scenes and of course she had no military experience.  She was, however, married to a General and she persuaded him to let her watch manoeuvres.  In preparation for this picture she asked that the cavalry ride straight towards her so that she could get the feel for facing a charge.

When I had finished the demonstration, which was a result considerably rougher than the above, the members asked about colours.  I had not intended to talk much about colours, as I thought that my approach to drawing the lines would be enough at this session, but we had a solid half hour talking about my method and ideas about colour.  They said that they looked forward to seeing the image in full colour, so here it is.

My original intention was to do a black and white alternate shading version only, and this is shown below.  The tweaking which I did on the horses heads to achieve a better result in black and white was essential both to improve the continuous line and later to enhance the colouring.

IMG_0888 - Horses black & white

Wild Horses, single continuous line drawing with black and white alternate shading.  Mick Burton, continuous line artist 2017

Initially I did my normal approach to colour sequence, where I devised a 6 colour range (white, lemon, golden yellow, orange, vermilion red and crimson alizarin) to fit my alternate overdraw template for this image.  

This resulted in gold and vermilion appearing on all outer areas and I thought that I needed a darker effect in the lower half of the image.  So I substituted cobalt blue for gold along the bottom legs of the horses and finished up also substituting, on an ad hoc basis, some dark blue, violet and green to try and naturally leach colour balance upwards to meet existing vermilion and gold.

A fellow artist who likes my alternate overdraw and colour sequence method has told me that I should always apply it fully to get the natural result.  Generally I would agree, but thought that I needed to break some rules on this occasion.  I try and mirror nature in my art and of course nature evolves by breaking a few rules. 

Joan and I visited my Aunty Ann a couple of weeks ago.  She is 99 years old and still as bright as a bobbin.  She is a good artist and only gave up painting relatively recently, and always wants to see my latest stuff.  i took the Wild Horses along.  It took up the length of the settee and she was delighted with the colours.  I then realised that the painting’s reflection in the shiny metal fire surround made the composition even more abstract.

Aunty Ann’s shiny metal fire surround reflecting Wild Horses. Mick Burton, continuous line artist, 2017.

Two different Reflections of Wild Horses on metal fireplace surround, detail strips. Mick Burton, continuous line artist.

“Vortex” by David Kilpatrick. Single Continuous Line and Alternate Overdraw colouring.

Vortex, David Kilpatrick. flat,1000x1000,075,f.u1

“Vortex” by David Kilpatrick, artist from Atherton, Australia.   Single Continuous Line using the Alternate Overdraw method to allocate colours.   March 2017.   Mick Burton blog.

I have been exchanging ideas with David Kilpatrick recently and he has agreed to let me put some of his pictures in my blog.  “Vortex” stands out to me, as I have been a fan of Vorticism for many years.  He has used Alternate Overdraw to allocate colours in sequence and it has worked well.

David’s design gives the impression of a sheet of plastic, coloured green on one side and red on the other, and each twist showing the other side.  With overlaps you get darker greens or darker reds.  Four internal areas let the background shine through.  The whole thing is very natural, including David’s own style of patchy colour radiating outwards.

Next is David’s “Knight’s Tour” which he is still working on.

David Kilpatrick knights tour. image011

“Knights Tour” by David Kilpatrick, artist from Atherton, Australia.   Single Continuous Line based upon moves of a knight and using Alternate Overdraw to allocate colour sequence.   April 2017.  Mick Burton blog.

I did a Single Continuous Line “Knight’s Moves on a Chessboard” in 1973 (see Gallery 1965-74) with the intention of colouring it, but never tackled it properly.  One of the problems was the number of fiddly small areas.  It led to my “Knight’s Tour Fragments” instead (see my previous post on 16.2.2017).

But now we have GIMP!  David said that he used this to move the lines about on his “Knight’s Tour”.  I googled GIMP and it means “GNU Image Manipulation Program”.  Some areas are still fairly small but he has produced a vibrant structure.

David says that these are trial colours (I presume from GIMP) and he intends to work out an improved scale of colours in his own style.

However, the colours shown already demonstrate the natural balance inherent in the Alternate Overdraw colour allocation.  The composition suggests to me an island with yellow “beaches” as well as reds within opposite “volcanic” zones.

There is a choice regarding background, which would naturally be the same colour as the light blue internal areas and result in a surrounding “sea”, or it could be left white as shown above.

I look forward to seeing the final version, which I am sure will be another splendid example of Vorticism.

Another picture that caught my eye was his “The Pram” which is based on a magic rectangle.

“The Pram” by artist David Kilpatrick, from Atherton, Australia.   Based on a Magic Rectangle. 2015.    Mick Burton blog.

This pram picture has lots of line ends in it and makes me want to attempt one myself using a Continuous Line animal.  Such a design would make you want to connect up so many loose ends.  My Spherical pictures already do this to an extent, as I take a line out of the picture at one side and bring it back in at the corresponding opposite side.

I think that David chose the positions of the displaced squares in a sort of random way.  Maybe I would want to be confident that I could move them around, in the way you could on the movable squares game of my childhood, and get back to the actual original picture.

You can see much more of the art of David Kilpatrick on


Spherical Continuous Line Abstract with Colour Sequence.

Spherical continuous line with colour sequence.  Flypast Over Rolling Hills. Mick Burton 2015.

Spherical single continuous line drawing with colour sequence. Flypast Over Rolling Hills. Mick Burton, continuous line artist 2015.

I have modified my Spherical approach to continuous line from the method I described in my Continuous Line Blog post of 9 July 2014, which did not quite reflect the reality I was seeking.

I have kept the idea that when you draw out of one SIDE of the paper you need to return at the opposite SIDE at the corresponding point, so that the pattern matches vertically and after colour sequence the colours also match if you pull the paper round into a tube shape.  This is similar to the equator on a globe of the world matching.

Previously I had said that when going out of the top of the drawing you also need to return at the corresponding place at the bottom.  I was correct to say that the colours would not match, which would be equivalent to the poles on the globe of the world not meeting, but the treatment of the lines needed to be modified.

I realised that the bunching effect of the top being pulled together totally separately to the bottom being pulled together was fine regarding separate sets of colours but matching the line patterns from top to bottom was the wrong approach.

So, when I go out at the TOP now I need to come BACK IN AT THE TOP at the corresponding distance from the other end of the top.   Similarly if I go out at the bottom I come back in at the bottom.  You could then imagine that folding the picture vertically down the middle would mean that both pattern and colour sequence would now match at the top and bottom respectively (don’t actual fold it and spoil the picture ! ).

I recently drew the following for a demonstration/workshop at Stainbeck Arts Club in Leeds.  I started drawing the line a couple of inches in from the top left side and did a few rolling curves diagonally down from left to right, followed by several exits and returns to the picture – initially out at the lower right side and back in at the lower left side, then down and out at the bottom left and back in at the bottom right.

Spherical continuous line drawing with rolling and jagged lines.  Mick Burton 2015.

Spherical single continuous line drawing with rolling and jagged lines. Mick Burton, continuous line artist 2015.

I later tried some “shark fin” curves and a couple of large jagged sequences.

All the time I tried to draw the line cleanly through existing shapes (avoiding going near previous junctions) and being aware of areas I had not visited much.  Finally I needed to work out how to get back to my start point without spoiling the composition too much (here going out and back in can be handy).

I hope you can check the route of the line through the whole picture fairly easily.  I then applied my Colour Sequence to produce the picture at the top of this post.

The first stage is my usual alternate overdraw of the line (if you are overdrawing a section as you go out of the picture you need to continue to overdraw as you re-enter, or if not overdrawing going out it’s not overdrawing when you re-enter).  See my post of 10 September 2014 for the full ALTERNATE OVERDRAW process and my post of 27 September 2014 for the COLOUR SEQUENCE process.

I have used a series of 6 colours from Pale Yellow through greens to Prussian Blue which I have tried to work out in steps of tone.  This is partly to highlight the overlap effect of continuous lines and the natural depth of the abstract.  As always, there is choice of direction of colours – light to dark or dark to light.  Here it seemed best to have the single lightest area at the top and several darker areas across the lower part of the picture.  The picture also has an Optical Art look about it.

Printing the picture in Monotone is usually a good way of checking the steps of colour and light to dark.  So here it is.

Monotone of Spherical Continuous Line

Monotone of Spherical Single Continuous Line Drawing “Flypast Over Rolling Hills”. Mick Burton 2015.

I also produced another similar abstract for the Demonstration at Stainbeck Arts Club to show the Spherical approach with a different flow of lines and colours.  I had coloured the drawing with a sequence from Yellow through Reds to dark Brown.

Spherical Continuous Line with Colour Sequence.  Forest Fire.  Mick Burton 2015.

Spherical Single Continuous Line Drawing with Colour Sequence. Forest Fire. Mick Burton 2015.

Here is the Monotone of this picture.

Monotone of Spherical Continuous Line

Monotone of Spherical single continuous line drawing “Forest Fire”. Mick Burton 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.

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.

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

Winding Number Theory and Continuous Line Drawing


Whirlpool in Space, or Petrol Poluted Puddle. Spherical continuous line with repeat colour sequence with Rainbow colours.  Mick Burton, Continuous Line, 1971.

Whirlpool in Space, or Petrol polluted Puddle. Spherical single continuous line drawing with repeat colour sequence with Rainbow colours. Mick Burton, Continuous Line, 1971.

This painting was one of two pictures hung at the Chelsea Painters Open Exhibition, held at the Chenil Galleries, Chelsea,1971.  I walked along the Kings Road looking for the gallery (I had submitted through and agency) and it was great to see the Whirlpool first in a window by the entrance.

The design was triggered by a browse through mathematics books in the library and coming across Winding Number Theory.  This used a continuous line and every time the line was drawn winding in a counter-clockwise direction a level was added and if you wound back in a clockwise direction a level was taken off.

So far, in my colour sequence numbering based upon Alternate Overdraw, I had not had a sequence of colours greater than about nine.  If I used the Winding Number method and continued to wind around counter-clockwise many times I could have a long colour sequence.  I went a bit mad with the Whirlpool, which was done on a spherical basis (allowing drawing out of one side of the paper and back in at the opposite side), and has a sequence of 20.

I did not simply go from light to dark over the whole 20 (the steps in shade between each colour would have been too small), but oscillated up and down with a smaller range of colours similar to a rainbow.  I had seen the rainbow effect produced by sunlight on petrol spilt on a puddle.

Alternate overdraw with colour sequence numbers.  Continuous Line, Mick Burton.

Alternate overdraw with colour sequence numbers. Continuous Line, Mick Burton.

To illustrate the difference between my Alternate Overdraw and the Winding Number, I start with the Alternate Overdraw in Red on the left.  As shown in earlier posts, each channel of areas between overdraws has two numbers alternately.  You move naturally up to a higher channel or down to a lower channel, through the red line and continue the numbering.

As before, you start with “0” on the outside and 0 can also appear within the drawing.



When we come to Winding Number allocation, we can use the same basic drawing with little arrows showing the direction it has been drawn.  It can be either direction of course, but I have chosen one which will match the result above.

Winding number allocation.  Continuous Line, Mick Burton.

Winding number allocation. Continuous Line, Mick Burton.

Starting at “0” for the outside, if we cross to another area through a counter-clockwise border for that area, it will be a level higher.  If we cross through a clockwise line we reach a lower area.

Here the + areas are of course higher levels and the (-) areas are lower.

The numbering matches the Alternate Overdraw illustration above.



Now, just to show the initial thrust of the drawing for the Whirlpool, with many levels, the next illustration shows a line spiralling from the centre outwards and I have shown just 13 winds.

Part of initial Winding Number spiral for Whirlpool  painting.  Mick Burton, continuous line.

Part of initial Winding Number spiral for the Whirlpool in Space painting.    Mick Burton, single continuous line drawing.

Then I have drawn a line from the centre of the spiral directly back to the bottom of the picture as the first phase of breaking up the spiral so that lots more areas start to  appear.  The next such phase is a meandering line near the top of the picture. 

As I have said, this is a shorter version than the one usd for the main Whirlpool in Space picture above.

Next I have decided that the direction of  the line will be counter-clockwise starting from the bottom of the spiral, so that the levels go up towards the centre.  The numbers have then been added.

On the original painting, which is 24″ x 20″, I used alternate overdraw to allocate the colours.  This was because I was used to using that method and I think it is better for an artist anyway.  The Winding Number theory was simply the inspiration for producing a sequence of 20 or more.

Now, to go off at a tangent, I am interested in other artists in the family who keep coming to light.  As part of my research into my mother’s family, the Mace’s from Bedale (from 1825) and much earlier from Cambridge, I have come across a book by Thomas Mace called “Musick’s Monument” published originally in 1676.  It was published again about six years ago.  Amongst his own illustrations within the book is this one of a spiral depicting his idea of God’s world.


“Mysterious Centre of All Mysterie…” in Musick’s Monument, by Thomas Mace, 1676. Continuous Line, Mick Burton.


Thomas was a famous composer of the 17th century, and craftsman who made lutes and viols, whose main job was a chorister at Trinity College, Cambridge.

To add to this “sort of” co-incidence, my Uncle Harry Mace from Bedale, North Yorkshire, was a joiner and builder.  When he retired he started to make old style instruments, such as viols, and sold them to a music shop in Leeds.  I am sure he did not know about Thomas of Cambridge.

Thomas was not too impressed with a relatively new instrument in his time, the violin.