SchoolArts Room

Terrific Tessellations from Tricia Fuglestad

By Nancy Walkup, posted on Sep 7, 2014

Congruent and optical illusion digital art! 

by Tricia Fuglestad, SchoolArts, April 2014
Tessellations are designs made of repeating shapes that are congruent - the same in size and shape. When I taught my 5thgrade students how to make translational or slide tessellations, they used traditional tools like index or note cards, scissors, and tape to make a stencil or pattern that would tessellate or repeat without gaps or overlaps. You can share the infographic I used to guide your students through this process.



Students physically moved their congruent shapes across their papers to test if it would in fact create an M.C.Escher-inspired optical illusion. This became a finished piece of art once students added embellishments to transform the shapes into a recognizable image.  After learning how to physically make these tessellations, I challenged my students to transfer what they learned into a digital artwork using the iPad with the help of an Amaziograph app.






Before I introduced this digital version, I prepped by making what I thought would be a few translational tessellations using this app. Once I got started, I couldn’t stop! I made over 15 tessellations in one weekend! My obsession with this app and my desire to learn it helped me figure out some tips and tricks that would make this process easier for my students.




Creating a Video Tutorial



With this in mind I created a video tutorial that took my students step-by-step through the process while preventing distractions and keeping my students focused on creating an artwork that demonstrated understanding of translational tessellations. When you watch the video you will hear me giving tips and advice to my students as they navigate the tools and interface of the app. Playing the tutorial projected on my big screen while the kids followed along on their iPads ended up being the best way to get everyone started in the right direction.




Getting Digital



Students used our class set of styluses and drew, zoomed in for detail, mixed colors, added textures, touched up, and saved their work over two class periods. I printed table copies of my tessellation examples to help inspire students to explore new ideas, decorative techniques, and design solutions. I also passed out my Escher sliding puzzles to remind them of the artist that inspired this lesson and technique in the first place.




This use of digital tools in the art room is not necessarily transformative. I asked students to use a new media to make the same kind of art. But, once you explore the app you will realize that it will not allow gaps or overlaps (which you do not want) and you don’t have to individually redraw an image over and over again. The app will do this automatically. This digital media made the process faster, more dynamic, and forgiving.






My students were all able to successfully create tessellations and easily demonstrate understanding. Students saved and uploaded their final pieces to our online digital art gallery using the Artsonia classroom with the QR code I printed ahead of time. This digitally tucked away their artwork into students’ digital portfolios before they left my classroom. I posted my video, tutorial, and handouts on my Fugleblog (the last address below) so once you have the app and iPads available, you can give your students a chance to try it. I know they will like it as much as mine did.






Tricia Fuglestad is an art teacher at Dryden Elementary School in the Arlington Heights School District, New York.