How to Draw Impossible Shapes


How Impossible Shapes Inspire Art
This diorama puts Peeps rabbits in the labyrinthine black-and-white geometry of M.C. Escher's original work "Relativity." Escher was the stand-out artist for impossible shapes.
This diorama puts Peeps rabbits in the labyrinthine black-and-white geometry of M.C. Escher's original work "Relativity." Escher was the stand-out artist for impossible shapes.
The Washington Post/Getty Images

Impossible objects are fascinating. You can study them for long periods of time, tracing their lines, trying to figure out just where the "trick" is that makes them look real, yet unreal, at the same time. No wonder they often inspire artists to re-create them. Probably the most famous artist in the world of impossible constructions is M.C. Escher.

Escher, born in the Netherlands, was a talented graphic artist who produced nearly 450 lithographs, woodcuts and wood engravings during his lifetime, plus more than 2,000 drawings and sketches. He was fascinated with impossible objects, and helped popularize the Penrose triangle, which he incorporated into many of his works. One of these is "Waterfall," a lithograph of a waterway zigzagging uphill and ending in a waterfall. The waterfall actually serves as the short sides of two Penrose triangles, although you don't necessarily realize this unless you're looking for it [sources: New World Encyclopedia, The Worlds of David Darling, M.C. Escher].

Lionel and Roger Penrose's Penrose stairway also caught his fancy. If you carefully inspect Escher's famous print "Ascending and Descending," you'll quickly see the Penrose stairway inspired this print [source: The Worlds of David Darling].

Many other artists around the world become enamored of impossible objects. A polished aluminum sculpture version of the Penrose triangle, for example, was created by Brian McKay and Ahmad Abas in 1997; it sits in East Perth, Australia's Claisebrook Square [source: Alexeev]. And don't forget the Penrose triangle was originally created by an artist, the Swede Oscar Reutersvärd.