Relativity #1: Carving "Relativity" in Relief

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Blog entry by Phil32 posted 09-10-2018 06:14 PM 554 reads 0 times favorited 2 comments Add to Favorites Watch
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As my next woodcarving challenge, I’ve decided to do Escher’s “Relativity” – a lithograph he did in July 1953. The original graphic was close to 11 inches square:

But the basswood I planned to use was 12” x 15,” so I stretched the image to fit the wood. I tried stretching it wide. I tried stretching it tall:

I even considered adding a little to the original as I had done on this carving of “Print Gallery:”

Continuing with the tall stretch I traced the image on the wood. The first step in many relief carvings is to find the deepest part of the carving. In this case it appeared to be under the arch in the upper center:

That lump in the middle is one of the human figures, climbing the stairs from the basement. Next, I began carving the other deep places, usually under arches. I had to be careful to leave wood for objects that would appear in front of the arch or stairway.
If you study the design for a while you’ll see that the local “up” is not the same in all parts of the scene. That is, the vertical direction from the stair treads is left, right, toward the top, etc. Note that there are stairs on the underside of the main stairways! All with people ascending or descending.
Here I have started carving some of the steps. The strip left on top of the steps is the hand rail:

Why did Escher call this “Relativity?” Was he illustrating the weirdness of the space/time continuum? Or, was he showing us the difference between General Relativity and Special Relativity?
The carving continues, shaping each of the exposed stairs and the edges of the stairs underneath. The scenes in the alcoves along the edge will be incised into the background, and the lines brought out with gel stain.

This project started in April and here it is September.
All of the human figures wil be given more shape. The areas to be defined by incised details will be smoothed out before doing the incising. This is so the gel stain will wipe off cleanly from around the lines. This includes the balusters of the handrails.

All of this is being carved with hand tools, mostly fishtail gouges and a knife. My work area is the dining room table! My lovely wife prefers that I work in the house. More to come . . .

-- Phil Allin - There are mountain climbers and people who talk about climbing mountains. The climbers have "selfies" at the summit!

2 comments so far

View Oldtool's profile


2747 posts in 2428 days

#1 posted 09-10-2018 09:39 PM

Your carvings are very nice, beautiful work & craftsmanship on your part. Looking at Escher’s original lithograph, it appears to me it would be difficult to find a starting point or determining where the deepest part of the scene is.
Keep up the good work and I’ll be looking to see how this comes out.

-- "I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The point is to bring them the real facts." - Abraham Lincoln

View Druid's profile


1932 posts in 3033 days

#2 posted 09-27-2018 02:16 AM

Nice to see Escher’s work is still being appreciated. I’m also looking forward to more of your work.

-- John, British Columbia, Canada

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