Making Other Variations

As has been mentioned several times in this book already, one of the hallmarks of Celtic art throughout its long history was the constant experimentation with, and embellishment of, basic design elements. Unlike most of the Celts other favourite decorations, key patterns do not lend themselves easily to freehand improvisation. There is, of course, a very good reason for this and this is that, unlike all other traditional Celtic designs, the key patterns that developed with the coming of...

Repeat Sections

Key Patterns

Key patterns are, to state the blindingly obvious, made of sections of the same pattern repeated over and over to fill an area. To work out what size the repeated section is, all you have to do is to measure from a specific point on a key to the same point on the next key vertically and horizontally. For instance Then using these as the height and width, we can draw a rectangle enclosing part of the overall key pattern This can then be extracted and repeated vertically and horizontally to...

Mirroring The Edges

The Pattern Celt Civilization

If it is the edges that give these key patterns their Celtic feel, then this variation takes it one step further. This variation, done to a huge range of different keys, is found just about everywhere that key patterns are found. The reason is obvious - they are very easy to make. This may be one reason for their popularity, because the time in which key patterns were popular was the time that the skills and understanding needed for Celtic art were being lost. The basic knowledge of how to...

Info

The following pages show each of the nine sections needed to make each of the seven most basic key patterns. The nine sections are preceded by a full-page image using that pattern on its own, then followed by the four inside corners which are used for drawing boxes within the key patterns. The complete pattern image shows the smallest version of the pattern with that page's section highlighted. This is mainly to let you skim through this chapter and choose the pattern you want. The outline...

Fourline Spirals

Celtic Key Patterns

The four-line spiral or swastika was a common variation in the past, and as such is a major variation in its own right. The spirals differ fundamentally in that instead of using the S-curve lt T p gt , they use the H-curve which is almost, but not quite, the S-curve reflected across its 'backbone'. The keys alternate in direction every column or row in just the same way as the S-curves do. The difference lies in the fact that the keys interlock with 4 others, rather than 2. This also affects...

Creating Key Borders

Draw Celtic Key Patterns

Now we come to probably the most common use of key patterns - narrow borders. These are to be found in just about every Celtic manuscript in existence, and most likely in the hundreds that have been destroyed or lost. Even the most primitive of the manuscripts - such as the Book of Deer - which contain little of the decoration we think of as Celtic, still have key pattern borders. These make the greatest use of the Celtic edging, as they consist of little other than top and bottom edges put...

Key Pattern Rings

Circle Divided Into Equal Portions

Although there are not many examples of key pattern rings technically known as 'annular' key patterns left, this is one of the more attractive uses of key patterns, combining as it does, the straight lines of the key patterns with circles. All the lines curve slightly, but the overall effect is not lost. The sweeping curves of traditional Celtic art can be seen tugging at the rigid, relatively modern form of decoration. They are, however, relatively easy to draw. It is best to start with an...

Drawing The Patterns

The Pattern Celt Civilization

Now that we understand the basics of key patterns, we may as well learn how to draw them. The first thing we start with is the area that we want to fill. As key patterns are almost always used to fill an area with decoration, the area that they need to fill is usually defined before starting to draw. In my experience, the illustrations in this book are the first time I have had to start with the pattern rather than the area. This is why I have tried to include a variety of proportions in the...

Thickening The Lines

Thin Patterns

So far we have only dealt with key patterns in their thin line form. Traditionally, more often than not, they were drawn in their thick line form. This brings out the balance in the pattern as the background has now become a pattern of lines of equal thickness to the lines of the keys. Usually the keys are drawn or painted in a dark colour, almost invariably black, while the background is in a much lighter colour. This enhances the balance for the viewer because, when drawn the other way round,...

N

To simplify this we can write it as a basic formula, where x is the length of the first line and y is the length of the second line x, y, x 2, y 2, x 4, y 4, x 6, y 6, and so on, until the 'backbone', which is x a y b 2 i.e. two units longer than the two previous lengths added together. And it gets simpler. The second line must always be 2 units long in order to separate it from the last line of the interlocking key. So in the above equation y 2, so it can be rewritten x, 2, x 2, 4, x 4, 6, x...

Curved Key Patterns

Square Pattern

The last variation is a new, but rather obvious, one. As the keys are simply square S-curve spirals, why not go back to the basics and get rid of the square All we have to do is take any key in this case 1237 and make the square ends round. From here on it is just a case of transposing the curved keys onto the square pattern grid. Working out what the edge triangles become is a bit harder but, with judicious use of the '1 unit away' rule and a bit of averaging and smoothing, we have it. The...

Another Variation

Celtic Key Border Patterns

There is a second way of thickening the lines which creates a pattern that looks very different. This variation gives the rarer form of key pattern, although it is the form that gave the pattern its name - the key. In line with being described as an S-curve, this can be described as a J-curve or a y-curve. The patterns are intriguing because at first they look very similar to the S-curve, but the more you study them the harder it is to see the connection. This connection is very simple -1 line...

Creating The Corners And Edges

Pre Christian Celtic Art

So far we have only been learning to draw the keys themselves, in fact, only the central repeat section. You can fill an area just using these sections, but there are two problems first, there are no examples of a key pattern being drawn or carved this way in traditional Celtic art, although this in itself should not stop you experimenting with it. Much more importantly it is just plain messy. Traditionally there are two ways of finishing off the edges the easy way and the not-so-easy way. The...

Circular Key Patterns

Radial Lines

There are two ways of drawing key patterns to fill circles, one very rare in traditional Celtic art, the other fairly common. Strangely, the easier of the two is hardly ever seen, while the more common is slightly more complex to draw and the end result is less obviously a key pattern. We will draw the easier of the two first. As with all these variations, it is always best to have an idea of what the basic rectangular key pattern looks like. In this variation we are only going to need the...