The artist MC Escher was born Maurits Cornelis Escher in 1898 in Holland. He was a graphic artist whose art work was influenced by geometry, perspective and visual illusions. His designs were popular during his day, but have become famous over time, winning the artist international notoriety.
MC Escher’s Twisted and Trippy Tattoo Designs
Although Escher didn’t intend for his designs to be used in tattoo art, his illusion art works have become popular choices for tattoo designs. Many of Escher’s art works were created using woodcuts, a form of printing. The artist carves away wood from the surface of a woodblock to create an inverse image. Ink is then applied to the woodcut and paper is pressed against the design, leaving the image on the paper.
Most of Escher’s woodcuts used only black ink. He relied on the contrast between the white paper and the black ink to create drama within his designs. This method of using black ink on a white background works well in tattoo designs, especially on pale skin. The black tattoo ink stands out in stark contrast to the pale skin, recreating the crispness of Escher’s art works perfectly.
MC Escher was fascinated with visual illusions and sought to represent the world in ways that had previously not been imagined. One of his most famous images uses staircases to create an optical illusion. At first the scene seems logical, but within moments the brain alerts the eyes that there something quite strange about the design. The tops of some staircases appear to be the bottom of others, but those lower staircases appear to be above the upper staircases. The optical illusions within MC Escher’s designs transfer well onto skin, creating an interesting illusion body art work.
Escher also created dozens of beautiful drawings. One of the most well known drawings by Escher is of two hands. Each hand draws the wrist of the other hand. This beautiful drawing is a symbol of co-existence; neither hand could have come into being without the other hand. It is a different form of an urobolus, a legendary creature that exists in the myths of nearly ever culture on Earth. The urobolus is a snake, serpent or dragon in the process of swallowing its own tail, and has become a symbol of sustaining the self by devouring the self, an eternal action of creation and destruction. The tail relies on the mouth to sustain it, just as the mouth relies on the tail to sustain it.
Tattoos of Escher’s art are often chosen by artists and graphic designers. Escher’s name is used frequently in conversation among artistic types, and his graphic designs, while over a century old, are still considered groundbreaking art works. These days, making an optical illusion isn’t too hard. Computer art programs like Adobe Photoshop and Corel Painter make it quite easy to create and edit optical illusions. In Escher’s day, his methods of woodcuts and lithography would have been the height of technological advances of his age and each piece would have been the result of many hours of planning, experimenting and preparation.
The Meaning of MC Escher Tattoo Designs
Tattoos of MC Escher’s art have the same meaning as the art works themselves. Escher often used symbolic elements in his designs, such as fish and birds. He would then morph the symbolic elements in and out of each other, until parts of the design contained birds within fish and other parts of the design showed fish outlined by birds. The interlocking shapes would transform until they became abstract forms that were neither fish nor bird, but a little bit of both or nothing at all.
Many of Escher’s graphic designs represented the ever-changing nature of the world. By displaying symbolic figures in a state of transformation, Escher essentially showed the world as it was, in constant motion, always changing from one state to another. This sense of constant change within the world was later expressed by the abstract art movement, futurism. Tattoos of Escher’s art can be worn as a symbol of a life changing event, or they can be an acknowledgement of the ever-changing nature of life.
A contrast between black and white is often used in symbols to represent balance. The yin yang symbol, for example, offsets black and white as a way of showing balance between the opposing elements of the world; male and female, dark and light or night and day. Escher’s tattoo designs are far more intricate than a simple yin yang tattoo, but there is an equal amount of black tattoo ink as blank skin, creating not only a representation of balance in the design, but a balance between the body and art.