On Seashells, Spirals, and Solids

Fibonacci Dodecahedron, by Rafael Araujo

Recently, a friend sent me a link to the drawing Fibonacci Dodecahedron by the Venezuelan artist Rafael Araujo. I found it quite beautiful but was immediately skeptical of the words Fibonacci and dodecahedron appearing together. It’s no secret that I am somewhat of a phi detractor. And while I respect Fibonacci, and certainly crave order in the physical universe, I know that phi is not actually everywhere. But after some quick digging, I am embarrassed to admit — but apparently not too embarrassed to publish it on a blog — that I had no idea the relationship of the golden ratio to the platonic solids and I am simultaneous soothed and pleased at this revelation and the art that exists in its name.

Feeling sufficiently chastened and impressed, I reached out to Araujo to chat with the man who harnessed the power of phi so compellingly. Araujo is trained as an architect, but has been doing technical drawing using polar geometry and classical perspective (always by hand!) since he was a teen. Much of his mathematical art is build around spirals, helices, and constructions rooted in sacred geometry, and he keeps a blog on his website where he describes some of his processes for creating the technical mathematical drawings.

Wondering how to draw a perfectly twisting seashells? Wonder no more. Curious what sort of platonic solids you can build using the principles of sacred geometry? Have a look at these. Araujo also posts time-lapse videos of his creations.

Metatron’s Cube, by Rafael Araujo

I asked Araujo what his relationship was to math as he saw it in nature, in everyday life. “I’d like to think that there are a few predictable things in life, meaning that you can calculate them,” but in the end, he says “all is prone to chaos. But, being earnest, there is a lot of math all around us, and that fascinated me.”

Many artists find themselves captivated by the order (and disorder) in the world that can be charted by mathematics. Here on this blog we’ve featured the paintings of Lun-Yi London Tsai, the prints of Tilman Zitzmann, and recently the digital art of David Whyte. Sometimes it’s not obvious to me why I consider certain art to be mathematical art and others not. I’m still trying to figure out what that geometric quality is that tickles my mathematical brain. There’s something about the structure, geometry, and consistency of mathematical art that calls out to me, the viewer. What do you consider mathematical art?

Shell Detail, by Rafael Araujo

Last year Araujo published the Golden Ratio Coloring Book, which renders his beautiful geometric designs in black and white for your doodling pleasure. If you like drawing and want to know more about how me makes these geometric sketches by hand, definitely have a look at his blog or check out Araujo’s YouTube channel, where he posts videos of his images through various stages of completion. It is truly mesmerizing.

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