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"A Method of Drawing Celtic Knotwork - Weaves"
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Author: Sidney_Eileen, Contributing Editor

A Method of Drawing Celtic Knotwork - Weaves

by Sidney Eileen




When I start any new Celtic Knotwork piece, the first thing that I think about is theme, and then overall form. The theme of this piece was set by a club contest, where I was assigned meerkats for my knotwork subject. I decided to create a round outer boundary to the design, and placed within it two meerkats and three spirals. The lower spiral represents the mounds and rocks upon which meerkats will stand and gaze about, while the other two spirals balance the design.
Basic Principles

In my way of thinking, there are three primary design purposes for knotwork. It can provide a boundary or embellishment, like on the edge of a painting or surrounding text on a flier. It can define a shape, as when a knot is the form of an animal, plant, or other subject. Third, it can fill space, any space that is available. It is the third use that I will be describing here.

The Perfect Weave
  • An ideal Celtic Knot will have an even number of crossings. That is, at no point in the weave will a single chord have two overs or two unders in a row. This is what I refer to as the knot having ďintegrityĒ.

  • If a chord is continuous and uncrossed by any other elements, it will always have integrity.

  • If a chord is continuous and only crossed by other continuous chords that are not crossed by any other elements, it will always have integrity.

  • If a chord is continuous and crossed by another single element an even number of times (two, four, six, etc.), then it will PROBABLY have integrity without additional work.

  • If a chord is open (the ends do not meet), then it MAY OR MAY NOT have integrity without additional work.

For Celtic Meerkats, I chose to draw the surrounding knotwork with continuous chords that are not crossed by any other elements. I know this will result in a design that will automatically resolve itself with integrity. There will be no points in the final design where a single chord will have two overs or two unders in a row. No matter how large or intricate the design appears once it is done, this is the simplest kind of knotwork to begin with.

Chord Shape

For my own knotwork, I tend to create designs that are rather freeform. I never work from a grid, but I will use the occasional guideline to keep the design even and balanced.

The final shapes of the chords as they change directions should be consistent and fluid, no matter what style of shape you decide to draw your own knotwork in. I usually follow curves that remind me of sine and co-sine curves, or basic curves from fractal art, like the curl of a sea shell. I find that these kinds of curves and transitions are very pleasing to the eye, and easy to follow. They are also very versatile, allowing me to change the direction of a chord with ease.

I would strongly suggest that any student of Celtic art take the time to study the curves of the natural world, like sea shells, ferns, and flowers. Take the time to look through fractal art and decide what kinds of curves you find pleasing and why. Look through European art and Celtic art books, with a particular eye to bronse-age jewelry, arms and armor, and stone carvings. The forms of knotwork vary greatly from place to place and time to time. The Vikings created vastly different knotwork from the Irish medieval illuminated manuscripts, and both vastly differ from the Celtic art found in archaeological sites throughout Europe.
Drawing the Celtic Meerkats

To start the Meerkats, I created the outer boundary and the outlines of the three spirals with a compass. I drew the centerline of the bounding circle with a ruler.

The creation of spirals is a subject worthy of itís own tutorial, so for the purposes of this tutorial, I will simply note that I created them all with the same spiral design, all turning clockwise, titled to balance the overall design with a difinitive bottom and top.

I was not completely confident of the shape of meerkats, so I spent some time looking at various photos before placing the stylized meerkats in the design. I decided to use two meerkats, back to back along the center line to reinforce the horizontal balance of the design and further solidify the upward direction.

A full discussion of zoomorphs is also a subject worthy of itís own tutorial, so I will note that I used spiral designs to define the placement of the shoulders, and create definition of the abdominal region. The legs and tails weave over each other. The face and paw shapes are directly inspired by the Book of Kells.
After drawing in the focus elements, I was left with a significant amount of space. This is what I will fill with Celtic knotwork.

I decided to create a double-line for the larger portion of the design, and plan to later weave another chord through the spaces that are left.

To balance the large spiral at the bottom, I created a double-line arch over the meerkatís heads. Crossing that, I drew two more double-lines, ensuring that I will not create a design which is unable to smoothly transition through the most narrow part of the space. I carefully eyeballed the lines so they would mirror each other along the centerline.
Next I joined the centerlines of the three parts I had created, forming a balanced weave that will evenly fill the space above the meerkats.

I filled in the rest of the two chords, and continued down through the narrow space. At this point I chose to follow the outermost line of the chords because it would come the closest to all bounding edges.
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