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The Big Gallery

Variable Tilings

The Adventures of Lulu Lizard and Bubba Bat

Bats and Lizards

Busy Beetles

Penrose Gallery


Articles and Haiku


Questions? Comments? Email me!


Updated 3/19/2013

Hi, I'm John Osborn

Welcome to Ozbird.net!

This website is about my art, which is the art of figurative tiles and the tilings that can be made with them. Figurative tiles have a "figure", or a recognizable outline, and they fit together without gaps or overlaps as jigsaw puzzle pieces do.

Here you will find about 260 “Escher-like “ tessellations, (figurative tilings), with more being added as I get around to executing, (in presentable form), the backlog that exists in my notes and the new ones I’m doing now. Some of the tilings are made up of variably assemblable figurative tiles or tile sets such as my set of eight different beetles, that tile together in an infinite number of different ways. You’ll also see some of the incredibly varied symmetries of my ten-member bat and lizard set, my red fish, blue fish, yellow fish set, my four ghosts, my Ozbirds, and, (not finished yet, but soon to come): my Ozbirds AND Prairie Dogs tiling together in endless ways. -- And many others: Escher-like tilings. Penrose tilings. Variable tilings. Even a few whales, (from my life-before-tilings!), in their own gallery.

The Big Gallery, now contains some 62 different tilings of the ever-repeating sort to which M.C. Escher devoted himself. In no other culture in the world, prehistoric, recent, or modern,is there any evidence of an anticipation of Escher’s talent for tiling the plane with figurative shapes. Perhaps the Japanese, and certainly the Incas and some other New- World Amerinds, had a few designs of interlocking serpents and interlocking long-necked birds in woven friezes or borders. But none of these designs were capable of being extended in the second dimension to cover the plane,--- except in the same way that lines of my Frieze Dogs, can be stacked on on another. The only exception that I know of is an early Cretan, (Minoan), design, traces of which are found on pottery, showing interlocking six-legged octopuses, -- rather similar to my “Planarians”, (see page 1 of the Big Gallery).

Kolomann Moser’s “Trout Dance”, and a few other less successful designs of his, (even the “trout”, though graceful, have chin fins!), done from about 1899 to 1902, and published while he taught at the Vienna School of Decorative Arts, were, along with the aforesaid Cretan octopuses, Escher’s only real antecedents in figurative tilings of the plane. Moser’s work is thought to have been available to Escher and to have been his initial inspiration to develop and pioneer this art of figurative tilings, or amphography.

(Amphography is drawing, (-graph-), different parts of the same figure with both, (amph-), sides of one’s line. Think about it. The word describes what you do when you create a figurative tile. I formerly put out, for a short time, a newsletter entitled “The Amphographer”.)

Later on, Escher gained further inspiration through his acquaintance with both Professor Roger Penrose and with Penrose’s father, (who was also a Prof. Penrose). Escher’s very last tiling, done when he was terminally ill, he called “my little ghosties.” Penrose had visited him and shown him an interesting geometry, asking that Escher perhaps create a figurative tiling based on it. Escher did so, creating his fairy-shrimp-like “little ghosties. These tiles fit together along with their mirror images in more than one way to form a periodic tiling of an interesting sort , and one that was unlike any Escher had done before. Nevertheless, that one periodic, (ever-repeating), tiling is the only way they can tile. They, in turn, inspired my own Ghosts, as seen set in slate in the Big Gallery.

There are,however, figurative tilings whose tiling capabilities go beyond anything Escher ever attempted. By modifying the geometry underlying Escher’s “Ghosties”, one can make a type of figurative tile, or tile set, that is capable of infinitely varied tilings. My Penrose Gallery and my Variable Tilings Gallery, contain examples of this sort, and several other sorts of “variably assemblable” tiles and tile sets. My orange, yellow, black and white ghosts in the Variable Gallery are essentially the same tiles as the more formal set-in-slate ones in the big gallery, but are used, as you see, in many different tilings. It is remarkable that Escher came so close, (with the “ghostie” geometry), to tiles capable of variable assembly, and yet never actually created anything of the sort. Another point at which he came close, (and this happened much earlier), was with his square-based ants of 1953. A little modification and he might have devised something similar in kind to my basic variable bat / lizard set. But he didn’t. See my Bat and Lizard Gallery.


It was several years after Escher’s death in 1972 that Roger Penrose patented his “obligatorily non-periodic” dart / kite set and two rhombuses set, along with his figurative chickens based on the dart / kite set. These inspired the Penrose tilings you see here in my Penrose Gallery. To use these Penrose quasiperiodic sets, (designated the P2 and the P3 sets by authors Grunbaum and Shephard in their authoritative text, “Tilings and Patterns”), to do figurative tilings seems to me about an order of magnitude more difficult than doing ordinary Escher-type tilings. The only other person I know of who has done quasiperiodic figurative tilings with the dart kite set is Dr.Robert Fathauer of Tessellations Co. whose serpent, eagle, scorpion dart / kite tiles are most remarkable. He has also done some frog / reptile P3 Penrose tilings and numerous figurative tilings, (or to use his term: “recognizable-motif tilings”), of fractal and other sorts more mathematically recondite than any of mine.

On to the Big Gallery!

If you have any questions about tessellations, artwork, or just want to comment on the website send me an e-mail, I'd love to hear from you!


2001 John A.L. Osborn. Please point all links directly to Ozbird.net. You may distribute images found on this site freely, but please attribute all to John A.L. Osborn. None of the art on this site may be sold without the permission of John Osborn.