Shapes and optical illusions at the West Tisbury library


“I really have a fascination with geometry and geometric shapes,” says artist Rob Chaunce. “I’m especially drawn to repeating patterns and three-dimensional designs.”

Currently, a selection of Chaunce’s drawings and paintings that are built upon repetitive geometric shapes — some presenting optical illusions — are on view at the West Tisbury library.

The artist’s process involves tessellation — the covering of a surface using one or more geometric shapes with no overlaps and no gaps. Chaunce displays his mastery at presenting depth of field in two-dimensional drawings, using careful shading to represent light and shadow. However, his images are not just marvels of illusion, they are also very aesthetically pleasing complex designs.

Some of the images are intended to fool the eye through well planned shading of patterns made up of three-dimensional block figures, the viewer can switch their perspective back and forth from one direction to the other.

Chaunce cites M.C. Escher, the 19th-century Dutch artist as an influence. Escher famously played with perception — creating optical illusions and “impossible objects.”

The West Tisbury-based artist and organic gardener sometimes looks to sacred geometry for inspiration. “A lot of the faiths use geometric patterns in their work,” says Chaunce, who also mentions designs associated with specific cultures like Celtic knots and traditional Moorish tile work.

Fractals — recurring complex patterns that are self-similar across different scales — are another point of interest for Chaunce. He mentions that these patterns can be found in nature in things like snowflakes and ferns.

“I’m inspired by nature,” says the artist. “I’m attracted to all the patterns that you see in flowers, the way trees branch out, the way rivers and deltas shape themselves.”

A love of nature, as well as a search for a creatively inspiring environment, motivated Chaunce to move from Eastern Pennsylvania to the Vineyard full time in 1992. He and his wife Wendi own and operate M.V. Edible Gardens. They design, build, and maintain organic edible gardens for clients on the Island.

“A lot of people have lost the knowledge of how to grow things,” says Chaunce. “They feel intimidated by it. We’re trying to make fresh organic local food accessible for people.”

When he’s not working on gardens — his own or others, Chaunce enjoys the alternately challenging and relaxing process involved in his artwork.

“There’s a part that’s logical and mathematical,” he says. “The initial drawing stage is the really focused intellectual part. Once I’ve laid everything out and start coloring it in and shading I go into cruise control and I find it very meditative.”

Chaunce, who plays the guitar and drums, also creates handmade guitars, focusing on interesting wood grains. “Once I finish a typical piece of art I’m done interacting with it,” he says. “When I finish making a guitar it’s just the beginning. Now it has a lifetime of being played.”

Drawings and paintings by Rob Chaunce will hang at the West Tisbury library through the end of April. More of his work can be viewed on his website,