Drawing The Patterns

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 repeats in the Sections chapter (page 91), so that most areas will be fillable by one or more of them.

So we start with an area which, in the case of this example, will be four by three, the classic Pictish proportions.

Next we divide up each of these squares into an equal number of smaller boxes. This number can be just about anything, but 4 or fewer is generally too small, and the more you have, the more complex the pattern. In this example we will divide them by 8, giving us a rectangle of 32 by 24.

As we have seen, the corners are always formed the same way, so we may as well start with them. All you have to do is decide which corner is to be which, and what size to make the large triangle. In this case we will have the large triangle corner in the top right (and bottom left) and the 'branch' corner in the top left (and bottom right), and the horizontal and vertical sides of the triangles will be four units long.

The corners, as we have seen, are merely the triangles from the horizontal and vertical edges put together, so by cutting the large corner triangle in half we get the triangles that are repeated along the edges.

This takes us to our next step - deciding on the size of our repeats. We are now left with an area of 24 by 16. The length could be divided into repeats of 4, 6, 8 or 12, while the height can only be divided into repeats of 4 or 8. To keep it basic we will divide up the area, both horizontally and vertically into repeats of 8, giving ourselves a square repeat pattern.

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In general it is best to keep the repeats as close to a square as the numbers allow, as this gives the more traditional key patterns. The greater the difference between the height and width, the harder it is to work out a pattern to fill it, and the more likely that there is no key that could fill it. To see why this is, we must understand that the diagonal nature of key patterns, and that the 'backbone' of the key forces the repeat to be almost square. The exception to this is when a key does not quite repeat itself horizontally.

A lot of keys move up or down 1 unit when repeated so, to get a proper horizontal repeatable section, the key must be repeated until it is on the same level as it started. For instance, if it drops 1 unit with each return and the vertical repeat is 8 units, then the key must be repeated 8 times before it is on the same level as it started.

Vertical Repeat

But to get back to drawing our 8 by 8 pattern. We have seen before that the large corner triangle is just the vertical and horizontal triangles from the repeats stuck together, so we can now use this the other way. By cutting the large triangle in half we get the vertical and horizontal border triangles, which we can now place in the same position in each of the repeated edge sections. In other words, as the large triangle is in the top right-hand corner of the pattern, it meets the left-hand edge of the repeated sections along the top and the bottom edge of the repeated sections along the right. The other sides are exactly the opposite.

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The other thing that we know about the large corner triangles is that they are on the end of the 'backbone'; so we can now add these into each of the repeated edge sections:

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Now it is time to work out the other 2 corners. We know that there is a 'branch' line coming in diagonally from the corner, as there is in all key patterns. Using the '1 unit away' rule, we know where the 'branch' ends and, once we have drawn it in, we can see which other points must have lines going to them.

Celtic Culture Patterns

And so, as with most other key pattern corners, the end of the 'branch' can be made into a T-junction, and 2 smaller triangles can be joined to the larger ones.

These smaller triangles and the 'branch' can now be repeated throughout the pattern, completing the edges.

Celtic Patterns

But there is a problem with this - the 'branches' touch the triangles along the edges. The only way to solve this is to chop the corners off the triangles like this:

Celtic Spiral PatternCeltic Culture Patterns

So we now have the edges sorted out, so it is time to fill in the middle. This is done in much the same way, because, as we saw earlier, the edges are just cut-down versions of the larger central repeat section. So to start we simply copy the 'branches' to the same position in the central sections.

First with the top and bottom 'branches', which meet up to form the 'backbones' of the keys.

And next with the 'backbones' from either side, which are extended until they are 1 unit away from the lines that we have just drawn.

These lines do not give us any idea of which way they turn at their ends, but we will come to that soon, as what we have so far gives us a very solid base from which to build up the complete keys.

The first step is to extend the short lines from the copied 'branches' until they are (you guessed it) 1 unit away from the next line. Note that the 'branches' along the right- and left-hand edges have to be made into T-junctions, and the new lines extended so that they make similar lines in their sections.

Now we have to turn a corner, and there is only one way to go. So we draw these lines until they too are 1 unit away from the next lines they would meet. We would keep this up, always turning in the same direction (not that there is an alternative) until the last lines are only 1 unit long. These have to be the ends of the keys. But in this case the lines that we have just drawn are only 1 unit long, so this is the key finished.

Now we have to create the keys that go the other way, the ones made from the extended 'backbones'. This is just as straightforward, as there are really no alternatives here either. So first we turn a corner and draw a line from the end of the 'backbone' to 1 unit away from the next 'backbone'. Note that along the top and bottom edges, these lines have to emerge from the tetrahedra (the triangles with their corners cut off) in order to fit in with the repeat pattern in the other sections.

Celtic Culture PatternsGeometric Patterns VectorPattern Drawing

So there we have the complete pattern. All that is left to do is make the outside border, by drawing lines along the ends of the 'branches' and it is all done.

But wait a minute, I hear you say: what about the '1 unit away' rule? The ends of the keys are 2 units apart with no obvious way of bringing them closer. In fact, this is not a problem, and is found fairly frequently in traditional key patterns. The Celts, with their usual ingenuity, found several ways of dealing with this, and we will be looking at them in later chapters.

The Pattern Celt CivilizationCeltic Key Patterns
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Responses

  • kalervo
    How to draw celtic designs?
    8 years ago
  • lidya
    How to draw celtic triangle patterns?
    8 years ago
  • xavier hughes
    How to make easy all over pattern drawing?
    2 years ago

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