Lesson 2: An Escher Encounter
Students will learn about art and design through games.
Students will use the structure of a game to explore elements of art and design, such as shape, color, and pattern.
Worksheet 2; pen or pencil, computer access
Time required: 45-50 minutes, plus game design time
What to do:
1. Introduce students to the work of M.C. Escher, the Dutch graphic artist famous for using a technique called tessellation to create optical illusions and other amazing designs. (Images can be found in the resources below.) Tessellation is the method of fitting shapes together so that there are no overlaps or gaps, just like a jigsaw puzzle.
2. Explain that while Escher's designs are very elaborate and creative, tessellation is seen all around us. Common examples include floor tiling and brickwork. Ask students to think of other common examples of tessellation. (Examples might include pavement stones, quilts, and some mosaics.) Suggest that it is even possible that they have doodled an example of tessellation in their notebooks.
3. Point out that Escher often used color to help create patterns and rhythms in his designs. Ask students to name other effects that color can achieve in art. (Examples might include evoking a certain mood or feeling and drawing the eye here or there.) Discuss how using color is effective in a tessellation because it helps to set the regular shapes apart from each other.
Using the student worksheet:
4. Distribute Worksheet 2 and tell students that they are going to explore tessellation by making designs for video games. After a brief outlining and sketching exercise, students will create games using tessellation as a design element. Using the website Gamestar Mechanic, they will build the game and make it available for others to play.
5. Divide the class into small groups. Instruct groups to think of the tessellations they have been shown as inspiration for their games. If needed, print out images of tessellations and post them around the classroom for students to study.
6. Instruct groups to discuss the tessellations and, using their worksheet, to list the features of their tessellation. (These include the shape of the tile or object, how long the sides of the shape are, color, pattern, emotional effect, and so on.) Students will then create games where a tessellation is used as a design pattern. The game can be simple, but encourage groups to be bold in their tessellation design.
7. In Gamestar Mechanic, have groups build their games. Have them give their game a title and description, much like Escher would title a drawing.
8. Invite groups to present their games to the class. Discuss the artistic approaches they used. Ask how they think tessellation effects the way the player uses and feels about the game (These might include creating a threatening or pleasant environment for the player to walk through, creating a rhythm for the player to move to, making the game harder or easier, etc.).
Encourage your students in grades 7-12 to submit their video game designs to the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards for the chance to earn scholarships and awards. Click here for information and registration details. Collaborations are welcome!
TIP: Click here and discover how easy it is to use the online Gamestar Mechanic game design software. This special section for teachers includes an overview of the program as well as a Quick Start Guide.
The Official M.C. Escher Website
Tessellations Website-Escher and how to make your own
Recommended Book: M.C. Escher: Visions of Symmetry by Doris Schattscheider