Nick Scalfittura

The Tessellations of Nick Scalfittura

 

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Nick Scalfittura’s tessellations are of a degree of magnitude above most other people in the field, and indeed, I rate him most highly indeed, of the top ranking. Although he attains just seven of the ten determining aspects of ability and understanding of the issues, this apparent low marking is misleading; indeed his work is one of noticeable quality, and is only due to relatively few tessellations being shown, with criteria as listed in the introduction:

(1) The inherent quality of the motif (silhouette and articulation)
(2) Showing the whole motif (excluding ‘heads’)
(3) Excludes ‘breathing room’ tessellations
(4) x The number of tessellations in the body of his work
(5) x Variety of motifs
(6) A tendency to the more difficult to achieve motifs
(7) Coloured or shaded tessellations (excluding wireframes)
(8) x Contrasting colouring of tessellations
(9) Finished rendering
(10) Borderline

Pleasingly, Scalfittura’s tessellations posses seven of the ten desired attributes. It can be done; there is (tessellation) life after Escher…!

In more detail:

(1)  Recognisable in Silhouette
Pleasingly, nearly all of Scalfittura’s eighteen tessellations are immediately recognisable in silhouette. Indeed, there is only one of his oeuvre here that I can question, Golfer. The articulation is quite superb. Some indication as to quality is that in percentage terms, this is the highest ratio I have seen 17/18 (94%). This is quite stunning; no other artist remotely approaches this. Inferior surface embellishment, the refuge of the inferior artist, is nowhere to be seen.
    The aspect of recognisably of the motif, as seen in silhouette is fundamental to the premise of a quality tessellation. Lesser artists struggle with this concept (inexplicably so, given its simple premise), and fail to recognise its importance and unfortunately delude themselves as to equating interior life–like interior detail surface detail with a exterior outline that is articulated.

(2) Shows the Complete Motif
 
Scalfittura’s tessellations, without exception, are of the more challenging type, namely of ‘complete, whole bodied motif’ (like top tessellators Bailey, Bilney, Crompton, Escher, Nakamura and Nicolas), in contrast to the inferior and easier to accomplish amputation ‘head only’ type.
    As a premise, the ‘head’ only type is excluded, as this category is lacking in any challenge of worth, being all too easy. Lesser artists frequently do not understand the difference between the two types, and undertake such ‘head’ only examples (on account of their less challenging aspect), and unfortunately delude themselves as to equating these with the more challenging whole body motif.

(3) Excludes ‘Pseudo’ Tessellations
Scalfittura’s tessellations, without exception are of the higher moral ground ‘true’ type, without gaps and overlaps (and so exclude easier to accomplish ‘pseudo’ types, the latter being much beloved by inferior tessellators).
    Lesser artists frequently include ‘pseudo’ types (on account of their less challenging aspect), and unfortunately delude themselves as to equating these with the more challenging ‘true’ type.

(4) The Number of Tessellations
One concern I have with Scalfittura’s tessellations is the relatively low number, just 18. Ideally, I would like to see more, of which he is surely more than capable. Strictly, I have to mark him down for this although I am loathe to do so, given the outstanding quality. Quality is everything, sheer weight of number counts for relatively little, although not to be ignored. Likely, he is striving for quality, rather than just large numbers of run-of-the mill tessellations of no particular merit.
    Typically, lesser artists will show a large number of inferior examples, and consider that such large numbers outweighs quality and unfortunately delude themselves as to equating different aspects.

(5) Variety of Motifs
Another concern is a lack of variety, with just 7 different motifs, albeit that said I place under a single human category some examples of which could be differentiated. But even so, this would result in perhaps no more than 10 different motifs. Again, strictly, I have to mark him down for this although I am loathe to do so, given the outstanding quality.
    Noteworthy is the complete lack of the simpler to achieve birds and fish. Likely, he finds these too simple, and simply ignores them.
    Lesser artists (of which he is not) frequently shy away from undertaking variety, showing simpler to achieve birds and fish to the exclusion of variety, and unfortunately delude themselves as to equating these with the more praiseworthy variety of motifs.

(6) Challenging Motifs – Human Figures
An strength in his work are the human figures, in various guises, which are all excellent, and on occasions quite superb, of which this forms a major role. Indeed, he shows no less than 13 (72%), which is again outstanding in percentage terms; no other artist approaches this. Although numerically this is substantially much lower than Nakamura’s 70 (which to some extent is padded by inferior examples, such as unnatural ‘bendy’ arms, arms without hands), these are nearly of all inherent high quality throughout. When compared to Escher's paltry 4, of at times questionable quality, this is worthy of the utmost praise.
    As such, the impression given by this is that human figures are ‘easy’, on account of their relative frequency here. However, this is to the contrary, as these are amongst the most difficult motifs to achieve. As such, he must be purposefully striving for such motifs, of which aside from the challenging aspect appeal on the human interest level.
    Lesser artists frequently shy away from such examples (on account of their challenging aspect), or when shown are best described as mutants, with disjoint elements, such overly long arms or legs, or anatomical inconsistencies, with the artist preferring the simpler to achieve birds and fish.

(7) Coloured or Shaded Tessellations
These are all shown coloured (like Bailey, Bilney, Crompton, Escher, and Nakamura). No inferior ‘wireframe’ types are shown.
    Lesser artists frequently show ‘wireframe’ examples, for no good reason (from which one can only conclude is that they do not understand the issues).

(8) Contrasting Colouring of Tessellations
Scalfittura’s tessellations as a premise are coloured in contrasting colours. Although overwhelmingly his tessellations show contrast, on a few occasions there is the odd exception to this feature, where contiguous colours are used. For example, Coffee Waiter, Chef, Dog with Newspaper, Surfer, Republican-Democrat, Snake Charmer, Piper, Bear and Bull 8/18 (44%), and so in percentage terms this is relatively high, although that said, where conflicts occur, this is at a minimum. Again, strictly, I have to mark him down for this, although I am loathe to do so given the outstanding quality.
    Lesser artists (of which he is not) frequently show ‘no contrast’ examples, for no good reason (from which one can only conclude is that they do not understand the issues).

(9) Finished Rendering
Scalfittura’s style, as regards finish, is of a consistent manner throughout, favouring a degree of detail level as espoused by Escher, where the motifs are portrayed in a simplified manner, without excessive detail. These are all computer rendered (rather than hand-drawn), to a very pleasing, high quality standard. As such, he strikes the ideal balance between too simple (although this has its strengths) and too detailed. As a rule, generally a simplistic finish is to be preferred (as here), as too much detail hinders a clear interpretation of the motif.
    Lesser artists sometimes render the motifs in too much detail, believing this to be superior to a more simplistic rendering.

(10) Borderline
Scalfittura always adds a borderline, either of unit thickness, or slightly more pronounced. Generally, strong colours are used that don’t strictly require a borderline. Even so, even in such instances, he nonetheless uses this feature.
    However, the omission of a borderline cannot be said to be a fault as such, in that the inclusion or exclusion is down to personal choice, depending on the circumstances of the tessellation. Undoubtedly, this is secondary to the tessellation itself, and so of less importance to other, more fundamental issues, as detailed above.
    Lesser artists invariably omit this feature, not understanding the reasons for its general desirability, namely that of aid in discerning the motifs.

General Comments:

Positives

Scalfittura, in contrast to most other tessellators, has many tessellations of good or excellent quality that are deserving of the utmost praise. The all-important aspect of being recognisable in silhouette extends to mostly his entire work. Indeed, only one (Golfer) fails this test. Not only are these recognisable is silhouette, but their articulation is invariably very good indeed. In particular, his human figures are very good. Furthermore, his motifs do not have just the single, most typical viewpoint, but strike different poses (typically of an ‘action’ pose, such as leaping), all the while retaining their inherent quality. Note that many have true articulation, in that the head, body, arms (and ideally hands), and legs (and ideally feet) are readily discernable. Contrast this attention to detail with other people’s human figures which lack this, which are generally wholly surface embellishment.

Pleasingly, many of his tessellations are of a themed nature, in that the motifs have a natural confluence to each other:

(1) Coffee waiter (waiter at table with coffee being served, and holding cheeseboard)

(2) Chef (chef with hat, soup tureen and pan)

(3 Knight (knight in armour, with sword held aloft)

(5) Waiter (waiter, with food being served)

(7) Dog with newspaper (dog and paper in mouth)

(8) Surfer (surfer with surfboard striking a typical pose, of bended knees),

(9) Spartan (Spartan gladiator, with sword and shield)

(10) Snake charmer (snake charmer with snake rising from basket),

(17) Businessman (business man with newspaper),

(12) Superhero (superhero, in typical elongated flying pose

(18) Santa Claus (Santa Claus with sack and pudding).


Others are opposites, such as:

(10) Republican-Democrat (elephants and donkeys)

(16) Bear and Bull (in allusion to the stock market)

Likely, he must be striving for such confluences. In contrast, other tessellators have enough trouble coming up with any two motifs, never mind with confluences. Inferior artists often have to accept their motifs with disjoint features that bear no relation to the motif e.g. a dog carrying a box on its back, which obviously lacks any unifying feature. No such artifice is found in his work. A feature throughout is a natural confluence of the individual motifs, with the motifs possessing all the elements or accoutrements (e.g. Knight, with sword, Spartan with shield. Again, such attention to what might at first thought be petty detail simply adds to the inherent quality of the tessellation. Say if a hand can be articulated, then make it so, rather than just surface embellishment, as favoured by lesser artists.
    Although nearly all are of a high standard, some are worth singling out in particular, of which I detail below:
    A highlight, described as a superlative, is that of the ‘restaurant’ theme, featuring waiters and chefs (Coffee Waiter, Chef, Waiter, shown below). These are quite superb, and of a type that no-one else has done before. As a concept, such a pose is fraught with difficulty to accomplish to a satisfactory degree, of which these remain of the highest standards of the art.
       

Very good are his other various human figures. The articulation on the examples below is most impressive. Highlights include Knight, Surfer, Spartan, Piper, Santa Claus.

         



Negatives
As such, I struggle to find any negatives! Even the one I have reservations about, Golfer, one can make a case for acceptability. Certainly, there is a lack of variety, with just 7 different motifs, and relatively few tessellations, just 18.  However, the sheer quality overrides this. Aside from the relative shortcomings above though, I can find very little to fault here. Indeed, one could be accused of cavilling with the above comments – most other artists would be more than pleased with the one I cavil with here.

Escher Comparison
Is he better than Escher? In this instance, direct comparisons are not easy, in that these artists present their tessellations differently. For example, Escher has more in number, but some are unworthy. Scalfittura has fewer, but shows none unworthy. Scalfittura completes ignores the easier birds and fish, whereas Escher didn’t. Therefore, to decide who’s best is not straightforward. My concern is with quality, not number. Can I say it… dare I say it, but I consider his tessellations are better. (Although the examinations below show parity.)
Mostly better in the ‘silhouette test’ with Escher
Fewer numbers of tessellations with Escher (Escher’s 137 being padded to some extent, whilst Scalfittura’s 18 are not), of generally comparable quality, indeed if not better
Less variety of motifs with Escher, 32 against 7
More challenging motifs (i.e. human figures) than Escher, 13 against 4
As can be seen, by the simple comparison above, they are more or less on a par. However, I put more weight on the quality issue, of which these are quite superb, outscoring Escher. Admittedly, sheer number and variety play a part (Escher’s strong points), but underlying this is the quality issue.
    Admittedly, Escher was, to all intents and purposes, the first tessellator (negating Koloman Moser’s examples), and so all the kudos of inventing/discovering a new type of art from is worthy of the utmost praise. Indeed, without Escher, how many people, including Scalfittura, would have the wit and invention to do this? Probably none. Therefore, Escher stands alone here. However, that said, why should the person who makes the breakthrough in a certain field be regarded as having the field to himself, with other people’s contributions neglected or ignored? As Escher himself stated, he himself opened the garden gate of tessellation, and wandered around.  Other people of a like mind have now followed him through, some, but not many, with innovations of their own to contribute. Escher did not do everything.

Summary
Scalfittura is a very exceptional, if not superb tessellator, and certainly one of the finest, with his tessellations occasionally being of a superlative nature, for example the ‘restaurant’ theme, featuring waiters and chefs (Coffee Waiter, Chef, Waiter). These are quite outstanding, are innovative, and worthy of the highest praise. Many others are worthy of praise, for example Knight, and Dog with Newspaper.
    Even when quite not of the highest standards, then these are still generally of a much higher quality than with other people. As detailed above, he understands the various issues underpinning the composing of inherent quality of tessellations. Furthermore, he introduces some innovations of his own, such as a Knight, Dog with Newspaper, Surfer, Spartan, Snake Charmer, Bear and Bull, these as a motif type not been seen in others work. Also, he concentrates on motifs of a high quality that are difficult to achieve (human figures). Indeed, this in percentage terms is by far the highest, 13/18 (72%). Again, worthy of the highest praise.
    That said, although I praise him wholeheartedly, I place him below Nakamura. Simply stated, Nakamura outscores him, in different ways; by greater numbers of comparable quality, more superlatives, more different motifs, more human figures.

Table of Distinct Motifs of Nick Scalfittura

 

Motif

Frequency

Waiter/Chef

3

Knight

1

Surfer

1

Golfer

1

Spartan

1

Snake Charmer

1

Piper

1

Superhero

1

Businessman

1

Santa Claus

1

Devil

1

Raptor

1

Dogs

2

Elephant & Donkey

1

Bear & Bull

1


Table of Escher-Like Tessellations

 by Nick Scalfittura

Number

Motif

Borderline

1

Coffee Waiter

Yes

2

Chef

Yes

3

Knight

Yes

4

Devil

Yes, unit thickness

5

Waiter

Yes, unit thickness

6

Raptor

Yes, unit thickness

7

Dog with Newspaper

Yes

8

Surfer

Yes

9

Golfer

Yes, unit thickness

10

Republican-Democrat

Yes

11

Spartan

Yes, unit thickness

12

Snake charmer

Yes, unit thickness

13

Piper

Yes

14

Superhero

Yes, unit thickness

15

Dogs

Yes, unit thickness

16

Bear and Bull

Yes

17

Businessmen

Yes, unit thickness

18

Santa Claus

Yes


Created: 15 September 2010
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