Many artists, teachers, and students ask whether their art can appear on If you're considering submitting tessellation art for posting on, this essay is a great starting point.

Most importantly, ask yourself whether your art *is* tessellation. The guideline I use on this site is, "Does it fit together like a jigsaw puzzle, without gaps or overlaps, to completely fill a surface?" If you're not sure your art fits the definition, read through this other essay: "Is it a Tessellation or not?"

For kids' art, fI sometimes accept a lot of art that DOES NOT completely fit the definition of tessellation, simply to encourage budding artists and avoid broken hearts. On the other hand, displaying art that isn't a proper tessellation only encourages imitators who may think "Ah, that's all right then." For this reason, I've recently started rejecting quite a lot of art that didn't meet the requirements listed below.


We don't expect every 10-year-old kid to be a fully developed Leonardo da Vinci. If a bird's head is bigger than his body, we won't reject the art. We've already accepted a half dozen "monster" tessellations featuring monsters who look like they swallowed bowling pins and lost a fight with Godzilla. We've got pictures of fish with their fins on backwards, and birds who couldn't fly if their nest was afire.

Neither do we expect all the art to be Escher style, in the sense of using a plant/animal/thing motif. Our website,, originally accepted only Escher-style tessellations. Since then, however, we have broadened our minds to accept abstract geometric tessellations, also known as "Islamic" or "Alhambra style" tessellations. To read more about the difference between Escher-style tessellations and Islamic-style tessellations, please visit our essay on "Escher or Abstract?"


Please, do your best. Work up to a reasonable level of artistic ability and cleverness. If you've only drawn a few hexagons on a napkin, don't expect us to clap enthusiastically, honor your half-hearted attempt, and show your work on Let's explore what I mean, first for Escher-style tessellations and then for Islamic-style, and lastly, look at how the same shape can be a valid Islamic-style tessellation but fail as an Escher-style tessellation.

In an Escher-style piece, your art should show that you've tweaked the outline of the tiles to make the tiles look as much like your target motif as possible. In other words, if you make a shape that tessellates and then think "Hey, it looks a little like a chicken", DO NOT STOP THERE. Use a bit of cleverness and the rubber end of the pencil to alter that outline. Improve the resemblance. Make the tessellating shape-- the "tile"-- as much like a chicken shape as you can. Ask yourself if the silhouette has been edited, and if the silhouette now closely resembles some theme-- a chicken, a chest, a man named Charles? THEN it's ready to be displayed here. We show art, not just engineering.

In an "Islamic-style" (that is, "abstract") tessellation which you want to show us, it's OK to stick with the basic geometric shape, but we're looking for "wow" feelings inspired by the geometry. No "wow", no deal. Show us that you've invested heaps of thought in trying different shapes and arrangements to get the maximum "wow, that's awesome inspiring math and geometry" feeling from your audience. If you keep the tessellation abstract but start using non-basic shapes, that's even better... but again, we're going to expect the art to have some kind of consistent feeling and inspire people to say "That's clever. Wow."

Your art will not appear on if: you send us a picture of copied tessellation, or something so unimaginative or undeveloped that it looks like unmodified chickenwire, fish scales, chevrons, or boring square bricks. We celebrate originality and creativity here. If you don't invest in your art, don't expect us to.

Lastly, please understand the difference between mathemtically correct tessellation-- something that's just good engineering but doesn't resemble a creature, object, or character-- and artistically correct Escher-style tessellation. That first one is OK for an Islamic style tessellation if it inspires significant "wow" reactions from the audience, but it can stop being a proper tessellation if the artist fills in interior details that make the basic shapes look like they overlap or have gaps. Consider these examples:

These are OK tessellations when they're not colored in with interior detail, although they lack an investment of creativity and shape editing so they wouldn't be accepted to appear on
I strongly wish these artists had invested more time and effort to make these designs clever with lots of "wow" factor, and maybe these people will, in the future.
bad tessellation chevrons This is NOT a good tessellation.
The design at left was a tessellation before the artist added windows and said "these are houses". See the windows? Without them, it's a technically OK Abstract style tessellation. With windows in it, it's trying to be Escher-style, and suddenly it is NOT a tessellation. Why not? Well, the windows tell us "these are houses." Although the windows don't affect the outline of the houses, they DO give us important clues about what that outline must be. If they're houses, then their outlines should be flat along the bottom, like the bottom of a square. So.. it's obvious that these houses overlap. The pointy roofs overlap the houses above-and-behind them.
This is technically an OK tessellation, although it wouldn't be accepted for publication on because its outline is too random and undeveloped. There's been no attempt to add "wow" factor or to edit the outline to make the outline look more like a real-world object.
It doesn't look like a real-world object, so it's an "Abstract style" tessellation. The shapes fit together in a repetitive pattern, without gaps or overlaps. The shape is a little unusual and lopsided, but it does follow the guidelines for a tessellation.
However, as shown below, if we add interior decoration we might find that it stops being a tessellation.
This is NOT a good tessellation.
The tile at left has the same outline as the valid Islamic tessellation above it, but now it's trying to be an Escher style tessellation. The artist decided that each "tile" looks like an elephant and water. (A "tile" is the repeating shape in a tessellation.) looks like an elephant and water. The water is the problem: water doesnt' have a definite shape in this art, so it looks like a gap. (If, on the other hand, we put water in a pool or a cup, then it has the definite recognizable shape of the pool or the cup, not the water.)
In this art, the water is a formless gap near the elephant shapes. Therefore it's not a tessellation.
Another objection: It's also lazy art because the artist has clearly made no effort to make the left side of the shape look like the back of an elephant. This is art I would (and did) put in's guest gallery because a young child tried her best, but it is not an ideal example of tessellation art so we will not publish this level of art in the future.

Without entering a contentious religious debate, it's worth noting that Islamic artists often obey the letter of the religious law prohibiting art that looks like some real-world thing, but not the spirit of the law, which was designed to prevent idol-worship like the "golden calf" story in Exodus 32:4. Some Islamic calligraphers, despite that ban, shape their words like real things... like horses and chickens, for example.

Also, think about the awe inspired by art that just shows off the "wow" factor of geometry without being a picture of a person or animal. The Alhambra's geometric art is not "real things"-- not representational art, that is. But, it's so beautiful as geometry and math interwoven, that the resulting abstract art is as awe-inspiring and attention-grabbing as the painting of Mona Lisa, and a lot more attractive than a cow figurine sculpted from yellow metal. It's not difficult to imagine that the Alhambra abstract art could become an idol, an object of worship. It already is: the Alhambra is already a tourist attraction, and many theologians and non-religious scientists talk about the sweep, beauty, and balance of science and abstract math, particularly geometry, as a way to feel awe and beauty.

Abstract tessellations, when done well, can be just as beautiful, and demostrate as much brain power and creativity, as Escher-style tessellations.'s latest webmaster has eased away from Dr. David Annal's initial strict prohibition against showing geometric/ Islamic/ Alhambra/ non-representational art.

So, for, we recently decided to allow abstract tessellation art to appear on our website...but it's gotta have plenty of "wow" factor. To judge whether we're likely to publish your abstract tessellation here, take a look at Alhambra tessellations and ask yourself if if's audience will experience some of that "wow..." feeling that Alhambra tessellations produce. Your tessellation should be of a high grade, showing high artistic value and showing that an effort has been made to tweak the outlines for some artistic reason.

Gimme sizzle, not fizzle.

Here're some examples of "DOs" and "DON'Ts" for abstract tessellations that might appear on

If the whole tile seems to be a mostly organic (swoopy, curly, no-straight-lines) shape then it shouldn't show its original "corners" or walls-- observers shouldn't be able to quickly guess, or see leftovers of, the simple geometric "cell" (the geometric shape that the tessellation started as). The original tessellation shape's flat lines and sharp corners shouldn't be visible in, say, an organic, swoopy style that the artist is aiming for. Put simply, the artist should show that s/he's not being lazy, and that s/he is tweaking the tiles toward some definite artistic goal. If it looks like a meaningless, flavorless blob or just a minor tweaking of a simple geometric shape, I won't be impressed.

If, on the other hand, a tessellation is all sharp corners and recognizable geometric shapes like stars, diamonds, and triangles then the artist had darned well better be showing us something awesome and creative in some other sense, not something that looks as been-there-done-that as brickwork, chevrons, or chicken wire.

brick tessellation chicken wire hexagons

So: would we post some abstract tessellations from guest artists on Sure... but they'll have to be of a high standard of creativity, beauty, and editing, and in some way emotionally "move" an impartial observer: it should inspire awe or fascination or some other emotion.

One last consideration: The staff of is not populated by prudes nor Puritans, but we do have a commitment to make the site "kid friendly" in the broadest sense. Therefore, although we see plenty of art thatcontains nudity or violence yet is entirely beautiful or in some other way strongly meritorious, you won't see nudity, blood-and-guts, or violence on this website. Also, we don't sell religion here, so don't expect art that praises any particular religion.

Our criteria for acceptable abstract tessellations and Escher-style tessellations are a bit vague, but I hope I've given you some sort of guide so you can predict whether to send your art to us for publication on