Popular Easy Motifs in Tessellation Art
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Some motifs show up oddly often in tessellation art. Why?
And, what rules should guide you in choosing an easy motif?


When you choose a motif for your tessellation, choose something exotic with a shape that's got vagueness, variety, and flexibility.
Fish come in a huge variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. They can also be as twisty-flexible as a gym sock, a towel, and a snake.

Look at the work of any tessellation artist. M. C. Escher, Marjorie Rice, Dr. David Annal, and I, for example, all draw many fish and other water animal tessellations. Also, kids doing their first tessellation often choose a fish motif. Why? If you're choosing a theme for your tessellation, this is an important point.

It's easy to tessellate fish because their appearance is so variable and their bodies are so flexible.

Have a look at these fish. These are common sea animals. If you have the time, visit Google Images and search for pictures of an eel, a butterfly fish, a porcupine fish, a mimic octopus, a seahorse, a napoleon wrasse, a ray, a frogfish, a flying gurnard, a trumpet fish, a razor fish, a moamoa, a forceps fish, a batfish, a jack, and a jellyfish. Fish can look like almost any basic shape: long, short, big, small, soft, hard, baseball or bat, spiky or flat. Isn't it amazing? Of one kind of fish alone, there are 800 species: there's the cleaner wrasse, as small as your smallest finger; there's also the Napoleon wrasse, larger than the largest basketball player.

Like monsters, fish come in so many forms. Because that's true, we tolerate all kinds of liberties taken by the artist. The artist can add a few extra fins and change the shape of the head and tail, but we won't say "hey, that's not right. That's not what a fish looks like." Unless the artist says this fish is a specific species, the artisthas incredible freedom to play with that shape.

Maybe you need an example. Did you ever see that famous shark movie, Jaws? Nobody who saw Jaws ever said "Hey, great movie, but that drawing of a shark was totally dumb." Yet, in the middle of the movie an old pro shark hunter drew a really weird picture of a shark. Look at his nose. That big triangle-shaped fin shouldn't be there! It should be on his back, not his nose!!!

screenshot from the movie Jaws
30 minutes into the movie "Jaws", the audience is listening to the shark hunter's story.
Nobody is thinking "Dang, why is that big fin on the shark's nose?! Thaaaaat's not riiiight, mmmkay?"

Like gym socks and monsters, fish are twisty-bendy flexible. You want to bend a fish once, twice, or three times? It's OK; the fish still looks comfortable. Few other animals can do that. Can people bend like that? Mostly, no, but there are exceptions like circus people, magicians' assistants, and my ex-girlfriend Zelda.

No bendHalf bend1 bend2 bends

Easy Motifs in Tessellation Art
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