Leading from from:
a) As the eye follows around the waterfall
Brian knew of the work of Escher who did various trick optical engravings and drawings around the turn of the 20th century.
There was one particular drawing that he did named "Waterfall' which showed a sort of castellated series of turrets with water flowing around.
Only the water has a water wheel and the water flows over the water wheel dropping down to another level.
If ones eye follows it around, it goes back up to the same point
He found that conceptual sketches for science fiction movies might be wonderful but when one translated them into three dimensions, they suffered the problem of becoming like Escher's visual paradoxical images and he called this the Escher Quotient.
What would happen then was that the final spacecraft model didn't look anything like the conceptual sketch.
b) The derelict as an Escher optical illusion
In one interview about his work on Alien, Brian Johnson the special effects supervisor, talked about Giger's original concept for the derelict being too hard to work out how to build because it looked like an Escher optical illusion.
There might be something to be said about this, because it might not have been so easy to determine where the ends of the arms stood in relation to each other.
|Giger's Derelict preproduction painting (work 374: Wreck)|
that bears qualities of an Escher drawing
c) Building the Nostromo like an Escher optical illusion
Because Ridley was an ace sketch artists, he used to do that before he became an art director and got involved in other things such as commercials.
He would go away and scribble on a bit of paper and say "I want it to look like this"
Then Ron Cobb would turn it into a two dimensional work of art,
Ridley would look at it and say "Yeah, that's pretty good, I like that"
It would come to a point where Brian would talk about the design for the Nostromo with Ridley and he showed him a perspective drawing of the top of the tower.
Under what context Ridley needed to see it could be made clearer.
Was it something to do with the refinery towers?
Whatever the reason, the sketch was described to be like an Escher optical illusion in the way of the drawing "Waterfall", but it would seem that Brian was using it as a comparison to point out the confusion about following these concept drawings when trying to build a three dimensional model, and so he wanted to start of with something small that Ridley could add rather than being lost within a paradox presented in the drawing
He told Ridley, "I'll build you a small scale model of the Nostromo and then you can do whatever you want to it. You can always cut it in half, extend it, you know, but if we start with sort of a sixteen foot model, we're never going to finish it."
But the other side, it almost seems as if Ridley was being presented with the Escher drawing as if it was the way to go and perhaps out of that we might want to look at the Nostromo pulling along a vast refinery that might as well be loosely compared to the Waterfall picture.
Perhaps subject of Escher's work at the time was seen to be a strong reference point for Brian going by the interviews with its cons and pros.
Visit The M. C. Escher official website (http://www.mcescher.com/)
Nostromo's refinery with spires that didn't appear in the film
- Regarding Giger's original derelict design
Brian Johnson : "It's a wonderful design, but as it turned out, we couldn't build it. It was like an Escher optical illusion. As a two-dimensional painting it look very logical, but there was not actual way you could build it in three dimensions."(Cinefex 1) ( see also Giger's work from The Design Of The Derelict)
- Building the Nostromo
Brian Johnson:This was at Bray. Bray Studios. What I did here was, because Ridley is- Ridley is an ace sketch artist, that’s what he used to do before he became an art director, and before he got involved in other things – commercials. So he used to go away and on a bit of paper scribble, you know, I want it to look like this. And then Ron Cobb used to turn it into a 2-dimensional work of art. And then Ridley would say yeah that’s pretty good, I like that.
Brian Johnson working on the Nostromo
- Brian Johnson: Right take it right from the word Go, In the script is says Nostromo crosses the star field, erm them a storyboard is produced with the with the sort of directly the idea of roughly the sort of angle he wants, and then drawings are produced of the spacecraft. But what we did on Alien was Ron Cobb did the conceptual sketches (Source: Brian Johnson interview from 1982 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PbIu74g-k1c)
- Brian Johnson: And er I don't know if your familiar with the work of Escher, who does sorts trick optical engravings and drawings, and was around the turn of the century, and Escher has a ... one particular drawing that he does which is of a sort of castellated series of turrets with water flowing round. Only the water has a water wheel and the water flows over the water wheel and drops down to another level. But if your eye follows it around, it goes back up to the same point again, and the thing with conceptual sketches with science fiction movies is that they do the wonderful conceptual sketches, but once you translate them into three dimensions, you've got the Escher... what I call the Escher Quotient cuts in, and it doesn't look anything like the conceptual sketch. (Source: Brian Johnson interview from 1982 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PbIu74g-k1c)
- Brian Johnson:So er we have to, what I had to do, we produced a really small model, and then just a working model and then we sort of added to it and added to it and Ridley couldn't really make up his mind what, how he wanted it, he wanted certain specific ideas, and he kept enlarging on this and time was going on and time was going on and eventually we go to the point where I had to say "okay well, we'll build it full size", and I went ahead and built it full size with my fingers crossed and er, and Ridley came along and did a few more bits and pieces to it. (Source: Brian Johnson interview from 1982 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PbIu74g-k1c)