View Full Version : Celtic Knots 101 - Spirals

12-23-2006, 07:06 AM
Ok, no I'm not really ready to get this thread up and running yet. But in the interest of letting anyone who wants to play along to gather supplies, I thought I'd go ahead and post. That and I'll feel reaaallllllyy guilty if I take too long getting back to this. So! Here's the shopping list:

Compass - doesn't need to be big & fancy. Although better quality tends to pay for itself in the long-run.

Protractor - I prefer one that's a full circle. But use what you've got handy or can find easily. Once you're thoroughly hooked on the spirals you can upgrade. :evil:

Ruler - Once again, doesn't need to be over-the-top. But if you can, get one that's see-through.

Sketch paper/drawing paper - nothing fancy. Just pick something that'll take a lot of erasing.

graph paper - won't be using this a whole lot, but you may want some handy to work out a pattern before trying to bend it.

Pencil, Eraser, and , um, that's it!

Not too esoteric or out there as far as supply lists go...

Couple of books you might find handy (not needed to participate):
Celtic Design: Spiral Patterns by Aidan Meehan
Celtic Designs from the British Museum by Ian Stead & Karen Hughes (this one may be out of print, so check the used market or your library)
Celtic Art: The Methods of Construction by George Bain


12-29-2006, 12:06 PM
Actually, I'm breaking this tutorial into 2 parts. I've gotten a little long-winded... :rolleyes:

Regardless, the supply list is the same.

01-06-2007, 08:46 AM
I'm getting the examples together for spirals, so in the meantime, here's a little bit to get y'all started:

For the record, I love spirals. From a simple, single band curling to the truly wild & almost frantic energy of the really detailed triskeles. With the spirals, you're drawing pure energy. They show up in archeological finds from all over the world. They were used to portray everything from the divine feminine to the path our souls take when we pass from this world to the next. For our purposes, we'll be focusing primarily on two styles. The earliest, the La Tene style, is found on artifacts from the iron age. The second is the High Kells style, which clearly grew out of the first.

The La Tene style is easily identified by it's loose & fluid movement. It meanders. It wanders, tightens, loosens again, and slips away to the next element. The High Kells spirals are almost frantic, very tightly wrapped, highly detailed, and almost overwhelm the text they were meant to illuminate. An argument can be made that the differences between the two show the difference between the artists' world-views. First is the older, pagan perspective of seeing the chaos of the natural world & trying to move in harmony with it. Then come the monk/scribes with the Christian perspective of man having dominion over the natural world (following that metaphor, it almost appears nature is winning :lol: ). While I think that does have something to do with it, I also strongly suspect that the advancement of humanity as a whole & technology comes into play here, too. Better tools mean you can do *more.* And I bet it's a zillion times easier to do major detail on vellum than in bronze or on stone!

So to get you familiar with some of the artifacts & give you an idea of the general feel for things, give these websites a gander:

Celtic Art & Culture Image Search (http://www.unc.edu/celtic/imagesindex.html) -- under the period pull-down, look at both the La Tene & Insular La Tene collections. Actually, it's all really cool, but those are the ones you'll find the most helpful for this. And if you have the time, give the entire site a wander thru. Very cool project.

Artwork from the Book of Kells (http://celtdigital.org/CeltArtKells.htm) -- Not terribly inclusive, but the images are really nice sized.

And do a google images search for "book of kells". Bazillions of hits, some really good detail images.

Have fun! Hoping to be able to really get this rolling by the end of the weekend.


01-10-2007, 09:31 AM
Ok, so I missed the weekend deadline by a bit... sigh. Anyway, here's the real start of how to do spirals:

To start with, let’s look at some very basic spirals. Obviously, you can have as many bands wrapping around each other as you want, but those are the ones you’ll find the most useful.


Spirals are usually joined in two ways, “S” curves and “C” curves. An S curve is usually used if everything is rotating the same direction. C curves are usually used to join spirals if they are rotating in opposite directions.


Here’s a few more examples of things you’ll want to become familiar with (note that these are how I think of them, I haven’t found a definitive description yet. Each book calls them something a little different.):

A. Single Spiral with a comma end
B. Double spiral with pointed ends & a pinwheel center
C. Double spiral with club ends & an elongated pinwheel center
D. Double spiral using pointed & comma ends with a trumpet termination
E. Two single spirals joined with an “S” curve, using a trumpet termination to change direction
F. And just for fun, a triskele & knotwork


Look at example D above. At first glance, it appears to be a single spiral, with a fairly thick line separating them. Watch what happens when this gets stacked with another:


The trumpet terminations give you a graceful place to adjust the angles and allow what *appears* to be the dominant element (fatter spiral) on the upper portion morph into what defines the dominant element on the lower. We’ll play with that some more later (and hopefully not get lost in the process!)

Ready to try some of these? I should get the next part up this afternoon.

01-10-2007, 05:38 PM
So let’s start off doing two simple, single clockwise spirals joined by an “S” curve:

Use your ruler & divide your sketch paper in half with a midline. You’re going to need 7” overall for this, so close to the middle of your line (doesn’t need to be exact), make a tic mark. Now measure up 1/2" & make another tic mark. From that 2nd tic mark, measure another 1 1/2”. And one more tic mark 1 1/2" past your last one. Now go back to the first tic mark and make tic marks at the same places going down your midline. Here’s how mine looks:


So measuring from your first tic mark along the midline with your ruler, you’ve got a tic mark at 0, 1 1/2, 3, 3 1/2, 4, 5 1/2, & 7 inches. With your compass, set the point at the 1 1/2 mark. Draw a circle 3” in diameter. Now, down at the 5 1/2 mark, draw another 3” circle.


Next, if we think of the 1st circle like a clock face, draw in a curved line (don’t bother with the compass, just use your judgement) from 9 o’clock to the tic mark between the two circles. Then draw another from the tic mark to 3 o’clock on the 2nd circle. This is your guide for the “S” curve. And because I forgot to scan between these steps, take your ruler and make tic marks every 1/2 inch inside of the circles. These will be the guides for drawing in the spiral itself.


Now draw in a curve from the midline at 12 o’clock on your top circle to the 1st tic mark inside of the circle down at 6 o’clock. Make it as smooth and half-circle like as you can. If you want to use the compass, go ahead, but I find I spend an awful lot of time trying to correct how curves meet when I use it for this stage. If you use the compass, your midpoint will be at 1 1/4, instead of at 1 1/2. And because I forgot to scan between steps, draw in another curve from the same tic mark at 6 o’clock up to the 1st tic mark inside of the circle at 12 o’clock. Once again, try to make it as much like a half-circle as you can, with about 1/2 inch (the space between our tic marks) between it and the outside line of the circle.


Guess what’s next… Another curve from the 1st tic mark inside of the circle at 12 to the next available one down at 6 o’clock. Once again, try to make it as much like a half-circle as you can, with about 1/2 inch (the space between our tic marks) between it and the path you’re drawing.


And one more time from the tic mark you just used up to the next available at 12 o’clock. Don’t worry if it isn’t perfect. That’s what erasers and practice is for.


And lastly, one more curve from the tic mark you just used at 12 o’clock to your midpoint. Voila! Not too terribly hard, right?


So… ready to draw in the 2nd spiral? We’ll follow the exact same steps, only starting down at 6 o’clock on the circle & going up to the 1st tic mark at 12 o’clock. Etc. Here it is with the 2nd spiral completed:


Now let’s fill in the “S” connection. From the 9 o’clock position on the outside edge of the upper spiral, draw in a slightly curved line to 3 o’clock on the 1st inside line of the lower spiral.


Do the same from the 3 o’clock position on the outside edge of the lower up to the 1st inside line at 9 o’clock on the upper spiral.


Erase any compass lines or guides you don’t need, and there ya go! So now what? There are a few zillion different ways to embellish these. We’ll get to those later.

Next, we’ll tackle a fairly simple triskele. Hopefully, I’ll have that up in the next few days. And as always, post or pm me if you have any questions (or catch any errors!)


01-16-2007, 05:08 PM
This is taking me *forever* to get done! I keep getting too complicated, too fast. Hubby is enjoying my frustration & keeps saying “the best way to really *know* something is to try to teach it.” Durn him…. Grrr. Right. I think I’ve finally got it. If I do go too fast, please speak up!

Ok, on with Triskeles.

Triskeles, three banded spirals, were used repeatedly in both the La Tene period as well as the High Kells. And that probably explains my, um, thing about threes. We’ll start off fairly simple. And while working on the demo for this, I realized there is one other tool I find really really handy: A circle template like this one (http://www.dickblick.com/zz554/76b/) at Dick Blick. Most office supplies and craft stores sell them as well. You don’t *need* it, but I hate drawing smaller circles with a compass. Mine goes from 2 1/4” down to so teensy I can barely fit a pencil in it. The other thing to remember when working with spirals, there aren’t rules like there is with knotwork. Just about anything that is pleasing to the eye goes! Which is part of where I’m struggling with the demos. I tend to let the spirals evolve on their own. The only things to pay attention to is initially dividing the circle & keeping everything going the directions you intended. Ok, enough about what I neglected to tell you at the outset…

First off, let’s do a simple triskele that curls inward with club ends. So create a midline & draw in a 3”circle. With your protractor, make tic marks at 120 & 240 degrees (if your protractor is a half-circle, make tic marks at 60 & 120). Using your ruler, draw in a line from the tic mark *just before* the lower part of your midline (120 degrees) to your center point. Repeat on the other side of the lower portion of your midline (240 degrees.) If you’re working with a half circle protractor, use the tic mark at 60 (the one just past the midline on the upper portion) to line your ruler, but draw in the line on the lower portion only. And erase the lower part of your midline. Here’s mine:


Now, on your guidelines, make tic marks every 1/4 inch. Just like on the single spiral I showed, these will guide the path of your curves.


So starting at the center point, on the *right* side of your midline, draw in a curve up to the 1st tic mark. Repeat on your other lines. I like to turn the paper as I go, just to make sure I’m drawing everything on the side of the lines I mean… And to lessen confusion, let’s call the lines A for your midline, B for the line at 120 degrees, and C at 240.


On you’re A line (midline), draw in a curve from the 1st tic mark (the one you just used) to the *2nd* tic mark on the C line. Repeat around (C to B, B to A).


So one more time, draw in a curve from the 2nd tic mark on the A line to the *3rd* tic mark on the C line etc.


Now obviously, we could repeat these steps until we reach the edge of the circle. But just for fun, let’s mix it up a wee bit. So from the 3rd tic mark on the A line, draw in a curve to the *5th* (skipping the 4th tic mark) on the C line. And repeat.


Because we changed the width of the bands, let’s put trumpet/ovals in. On each line draw an oval shape.


With me so far? On your A line, draw in a curve from the inside point of the oval (3rd tic mark) to where the C line meets the original circle. And repeat.


Let’s add a little bit of interest to the center before we move on. Because I usually just eyeball this and can’t figure out *how* to describe it, we’ll draw in one more eeensy little tic mark. Grab your ruler & a magnifying glass & make a tic mark on your lines 1/16” from the center. Now draw in a *slightly* curved line from the original half-circle on your C line, passing through that new tic mark, to the original half-circle on the A line. Here’s mine:


And a detail if you need it:


And that’s how you do a club end. Before we finish this off completely, let’s talk about stacking & repeating this. Through the miracles of photoshop, here’s one possibility (repeated & joined):


And another (rotated, repeated, & joined):


And another (rotated, flipped, repeated, & joined):


Just like with the knotwork, the key to making spirals that look *hugely* intricate & difficult is developing a basic unit, in this case our fairly simple triskele, and rotating, mirroring, & repeating in an unlimited number of ways. The first two use really sloppy (sorry) S curves to join them. In the third example, the triskele is rotated, mirrored, & joined with equally sloppy C curves. And yes, there’s lots of blank space that just screams to have something more done to it. We’ll develop that sort of thing in a bit. But for now, let’s go ahead and finish off this one.

On your A line, draw in a curve from the outside point of the oval (5th tic mark) to where the C line meets the original circle. Repeat around & darken your original circle if it’s getting faint looking. And erase your A, B, & C lines, which I forgot to do before scanning.


So that’s it. Just to give you something else to think about, watch what happens when I thicken & darken the lines.


Getting some ideas? Hope so!

Ok, up next, another fairly simple triskele that curves outward. I should have that posted later this evening.

01-17-2007, 07:32 AM
Ok, this time, we’ll look at doing a triskele that spirals from the center toward the outer edge.

So let’s stick with the same size circle as the previous example. So 3” in diameter, divided into 3. On your lines, make tic marks every 1/4 inch. Once again, we’ll call them A (midline), B (120 degrees), & C (240 degrees).

On the *left* side of line A, draw in a half circle from the outside edge to your midline. Repeat on lines B & C. You should have a super simple triskele that is rotating counter clockwise.


On the *right* side of line A, draw in a half circle from the outside edge of the circle to the 3rd tic mark. Repeat on B & C.


Still on the right side of the line A, draw in a half-circle from the 1st tic mark to the 3rd. And repeat (for this triskele design, just assume I mean to repeat each step for each line).


Now draw in a *full* circle using the 2nd & 3rd tic marks.


Notice how there’s a spot where the curve of the inner half-circle departs from the small circles we just drew? Erase the part that they share like this:


So now you should have this:


And that, ladies & gentlemen, is how to do a comma end. Notice that in order to create a comma, you also create a point in your negative space. That can be fun to play with. But we’ll do that later. Right. Focusing. Not getting too hard too fast. On to the next step.

Back to the left side of the line. Draw in a half-circle from the 1st tic mark to the 4th.


Extend that curve past your A line so it meets with the peak of the big curve on line B.


So at this point, you could very easily erase your guidelines & the curves that cross into the interior area & call it good.


But that would be … simple. And I seem completely incapable of leaving it like that. So let’s ratchet this up a bit. In the spaces outside of the triskele, add in triangle-ish shapes that follow the curves. I tend to do them about 1/8” away, but it can be as fat or as skinny as you want. And let’s do the same thing *inside* of the triskele. Here’s mine:


Now what? Well… we could easily leave it like that. Adding texture or color. Or we could go a step or two further… Draw in small circles at the points of the outer trianglish shapes (here’s where that circle template comes in handy) Don’t worry about making them perfect.


Now connect the circles with S curves. If you draw them with the *left* side of one circle connecting the *right* side of the next one, it’ll continue the clockwise rotation. And it looks pretty darn cool just like that. But I simply *cannot* leave well enough alone!


So eyeball where the center of your little circles are, draw in a dot. Add a curve connecting the dot to the *opposite* side of the circle from where your S curves come in.


now erase the parts of the circles you don’t need.


And here I’ve repeated the above steps in the center.


Can we go further with it? Of course! But I’ll let *you* play with it. This triskele is straight out of the La Tene period. And it can be repeated & stacked & joined with others like the previous example. I’d love to see what y’all come up with!

01-17-2007, 09:35 AM
Sick of triskeles yet? Let's do one more that is *almost* to High Kells...

So, Just like before, establish your midline & lets do a 4” circle. Divide into 3. So that should look pretty familiar by now. The next step is figuring out what you want to do with it. Something to keep in mind, the way I do spirals I allow them to evolve. I hardly ever start with a good plan of what needs to happen. It’s also a good idea to do each step on all of the lines as you go. It’ll lessen confusion about what needs to go where…

That being said, take your ruler and on the A, B, & C lines you’ve drawn, find their midpoint. Should be at 1” in this example. Compasses back out, and starting with your A line, draw in a half circle on the *right* side of the line. Repeat on the B & C lines. (Save me the typing & assume that for each step, ok?)


Ok, got your ruler handy? Measuring from the midpoint, make a tic mark at 1/2 inch on each of your lines. Now using it as a guide, draw in a half-circle on the *left* side of your line. It’ll overlap the big half-circles a bit.


Now draw in another half circle, also on the *left* side of the line, from the midpoint to the 1” tic mark.


And once again on the *left* side, draw in a half-circle from the 1/2” mark to the 1” mark. You should have a bat-wing looking thing at this stage.


Now, back to the *right* side of the line. Draw in a half circle from the edge of the circle to the 1/2" mark (middle of the batwing). You can use the compass (or a template) if you wanna, but eyeballing it is just fine.


Ok. On the *right* side of the A line again, draw in a curve from the edge of your circle to the 1” mark on the B line (end of the batwing).


Still on the *right* side of the line, extend the line you just drew & curve it back toward the A line. Aim for half-way between the two tic marks, but don’t take the curve all the way to the A line. Here’s how mine looks:


Remember the original curves we did in step one? Firm those up, but just to where they meet the first inside hump of the batwing on the next line. Erase the part that you don’t need. See how you’ve got a small, ovalish shape? Here’s mine:


Now in that same little section of the batwing, draw in two more ovals. The books *do* agree on calling the motif we just did a lotus. I’ve also darkened my original circle. It was starting to get lost in the shuffle.


Ok, so now the original lobes of the triskele are starting to look a little blank & uninteresting… Lets fix that. On your lines, mark halfway between the outside edge of the circle & where the lobe curls, should be about 1/2” from the edge of the circle. Now draw in a curve from the endpoint of the curl to your tic mark.


Continue that curve around to where the ovals of the lotus meet. This will create a new lobe. Erase the lines you don’t need inside of it like this:


It still seems a little awkward… So one last thing should take care of that. Let’s add in one more oval/trumpet end to the very outside lobes. Take your ruler & lay it along your original lines. Make a tic mark on the *opposite* side of the circle from your original tic marks. Like this:


Using the tic marks & where the lobe has developed a point, draw in an oval. Also, erase your guidelines & call it good!


So now what? At this point, you can leave it as is. Or you can fatten all of those lines. Or a combination of the two. On this one, I would definitely fatten the line that is acting as a stem for the lotus. And for our original 3 lobes. And the little triangle shape that continues past the large trumpet. And erase where the lotus petals meet in the absolute center (1st image). And here’s some ideas of how to treat it (apologies for my less-than-stellar photoshopping).


Hmmm… looking at the black & white version, if I were going to go that route, I’d probably go ahead & thicken up the lines that would finish defining the large trumpet & smaller lobe. So lets see what you come up with!

To take this the rest of the way to High Kells, add knotwork in any blank space you can find. And then use it as a base unit in a much *larger* triskele (hint: if you want to try it, your overall circle will be *at least* 8" in diameter 8 1/2 might be better still... & it'll be easier to join them with S curves if you orient it so the A line of this one is pointed to the center of the larger circle. I may try it a little later & post mine... )

Post or Pm if you have *any* questions!

Next, we'll tackle a La Tene period border. I hope to have it up in the next few days.


01-18-2007, 12:30 PM
Tess, Another awesome tutorial. You may think you started off slow, but you picked up steam as you progressed through the lesson. More to try!
- Chris

01-18-2007, 12:55 PM
Great tutorial! I'm going to start trying these right away. Thanks, Tess.

01-19-2007, 06:53 AM
You may think you started off slow, but you picked up steam as you progressed through the lesson.

Thanks, Chris. Truth be told? that last one was what I came up with 1st for an "easy-get-your-feet-wet" demo. :rolleyes:

Alecto, it's great to have you along! Looking forward to seeing what you come up with! :wave:

BTW... if anyone is trying to work that last triskele as part of an even larger triskele, the new circle *does* need to be *at least* 8 1/2" in diameter. Got distracted playing with it... Should be posting what I did later today. The La Tene border? um... :o sometime after that? :D


01-19-2007, 10:19 AM
So if anyone is curious, here’s how I’ve taken that last triskele & created a larger one:

The overall circle is now 8 1/2” in diameter. 8” would have created an overlap, and I didn’t feel like messing with the original design enough to make that work well. And because it will be *much* more complex than the original design, I went ahead and divided the circles into 6 segments, instead of only 3 (on the protractor, tic marks every 60 degrees).


And like I suggested before, I rotated the design so that one of the original guidelines (doesn’t matter if it’s A, B, or C ‘cause they’re all the same) is oriented towards the center. And I did trace this. I know in some areas of art tracing & projecting is frowned on & considered “cheating.” In my opinion, all bets are off when it comes to the Celtic stuff. I feel darn lucky to get it right the first time, much less repeat it accurately enough for it to look decent a bunch of times! End editorial. I didn’t include where I had thickened lines at this stage ‘cause what worked well when it was a single design might not look right once there are three of them & I’m trying to join them.


Here you can see where I joined them. Instead of doing just S curves, I decided to use the larger ovals as a good place to bring them together. I also enlarged them & expanded the arcs of those areas a bit, just to make it flow better.


So now comes the pacing & muttering stage while I try to figure out what would work where. Once I’ve got it I’ll post!


01-19-2007, 03:11 PM
It's definitely coming together now... You can see in the lower two circles where I've fattened some lines & created shapes within the the design. Didn't do the top one yet so you would have a frame of reference for what I changed.


And of *course* ya gotta put knots in... Here you can see what I'll use as my repeat unit. Anyone care to count how many triangle knots I used? :D I'm liking this enough, I think I'll transfer (trace) what I've done so far and develop a larger piece with it. I'll do it as a WIP, kinda as a quick intro to doing a carpet page.


I promise, I'll devote my *full* attention to that La Tene border soon. Really. Honest. I promise. :angel: So let's see how y'all are doing with these!


01-25-2007, 06:56 PM
I gotta stop looking at this stuff, I dont have the kind of time this is inspiring. That last one is just absolutely top shelf. bling. :D


01-26-2007, 09:03 AM
Fantastic job Tess. I love the added knots. - Chris

01-26-2007, 01:45 PM
Thanks Bob & Chris! Looking forward to seeing y’all tackle something similar… no pressure, though! Really. None at all…

I’ve reconsidered how I want to do that larger triskele as a carpet page. I decided it would be helpful for y’all if I limited myself to things that have been covered in the tutorials… sorta like a review before the midterm exam. That being the case, La Tene style borders need to come first.

Spirals & borders from the La Tene style can appear *very* random, but they all follow a sense of rhythm & design unique to Celtic culture. Unlike the knotwork, there aren’t hard & fast “rules.” Which can be very freeing and very frustrating all at the same time. The unifying element to all La Tene period decorations is a curved connection between circles. Within that, there’s also an intriguing tendency for the negative spaces to become the dominant elements when you least expect it & then fade back into obscurity.

Just to get our feet wet, let’s do a series of “simple” (hahahahaha) S scrolls. And for speed, I’ve returned to using graph paper. Obviously, you can rule your own on plain paper, but I’ll take any shortcuts I can find right now. If you do decide to rule your own, the important lines would be a horizontal midline shared by *all* of the circles & then a vertical midline that divides each circle into 4. Draw in six 1” circles, with 1/4 between them. When you do the circles, make sure you’ve got some breathing room between them & the edges of your paper (like more than 1/2” or so). These things have a tendency to … expand.

First we’ll connect them in pairs. Draw in a guideline for your S curves from the bottom of the 1st circle to the top of the second. Now we’ll mirror it, so top of the 3rd to bottom of the 4th. And then the same as the 1st pair, bottom of the 5th to top of the 6th. Here’s mine:


The first & second pairs are the repeat unit. I threw the 3rd pair in to help you see how the overall pattern will look. When I did that first pair of spirals connected with an “S”, we did one spiral & then the other, connecting them as a last step. When doing a border, I find it much easier to start with the connections. So that being said, flesh them out so the inside of one circle becomes the outer edge etc. Like this:


On the opposite side of the midline from where you started to flesh out the “S”, draw in a small circle that touches the midpoint of the larger circle and is about 1/4” away from the outer edge of the circle. (if you’re using a template, it would be 1/4” in diameter, but eyeballing it is just fine, too.) And for this demo, assume I want you to repeat the same steps on all of the circles…


Now draw in a half-circle that connects the outside edge of the small circle (not the midpoint of the larger circle) to where the “S” connection is coming in.


Still with me? Doing ok? This time, draw in a half-circle from the midpoint of the small circle to about half-way between the edge of the small circle and where the “S” connection is coming in. It should echo the curve of the last half-circle you drew (unlike my 1st one there… didn’t catch it until I was on the next step. Whoops) and straddle the midpoint of the larger circle.


Draw in a half-circle that connects the little half-circle you just drew to the outside edge of your larger circle. It should be on the opposite side from where the “S” connection comes in.


Before we go any further, let’s clean this up a bit. I’ve erased part of the small inner circle & the small curve that entered it. This creates a point in our S bands & commas in the negative space. I’ve also darkened the parts of the original circles that create the largest part of the S, and erased the guidelines we had originally created for connecting them.


So now what? Well, like usual, I’m gonna encourage you to think of what we just did in terms of repeating & rearranging & fiddling to see what you can come up with. Here’s a few options:



Mirrored & off-centered


Or, use just one of the “S” to repeat & mirror


Or change the orientation of that single “S”, mirror & repeat:


Or… anything else you can dream up! Next up we’ll connect those S’s…

01-26-2007, 01:50 PM
Ok, so let’s go back to what we were working on before I got distracted... It looks pretty good as-is, but can I leave it alone? Nope. There’s a bunch of ways you could connect these together. Feel free to play with them anyway your heart desires! Here’s one way you could do it:

Draw in curves that follow the S from the inside point to the *vertical* midline of the next.


Connect those open ends with a straight line. For the ones on the ends, draw in a straight line that extends about 1/4” beyond the last curve. This is the part where they expand…


Now let’s draw in a curve (again) from the inside point to the inside point of the next, allowing it to flatten out once it’s even with the previous steps. For the corners, let the lines extend so it’s even with the previous step. Wow, this is hard to describe. Which is why I’m so *glad* my scanner is working! This creates a “c” curve and nicely boxes in the space between the original Ss.


So go ahead & box in the ends with straight lines. And let’s draw in lines to connect the curves. You should have some interesting little triangles left.


So from here there’s gobs of ways to add detail, but before we do that, let’s look a little closer at what’s going on. Other than the original Ss (shown in red), we now have 4 distinct & defined areas. You can either emphasize it, like I did here with color, or play it down by treating them the same. If I’m creating a border, I tend to de-emphasize that sort of thing ‘cause playing it up too much could easily draw the eye away from what I’m framing.


So in this step, I’ve added little triangles that echo the lines of all those curves & break up the open spaces some. Which defines some *excellent* spaces to add knotwork… hmmm… Instead of triangles, you could draw in ovals, or circles, or “random” shapes or … like I said, no rules to speak of!


Anyway, this is as far as I’ll take this one. For now. Hope you’re getting some ideas of your own! I’ve got a couple more borders to show… I’m thinking I’ll be able to get those up this weekend. Let me know if you’re needing any help!


01-27-2007, 12:01 PM
Tess, a lot of your photo's did not come out. If you need any help let me know.

01-27-2007, 02:07 PM
Tess, a lot of your photo's did not come out. If you need any help let me know.



Ok, so here's where I quietly freak out a bit... Sending you a pm Charissa.


01-28-2007, 08:02 AM
Ok, is anyone else having trouble viewing the images I posted? They come through just fine on my computer, hubby's laptop, and a very tolerant friend's (oddball phone conversation: Hi, it's me. Could you look something up on the web for me? Yah, know you're on dial-up still. That's what I want to check... :lol: )

Anyway, I've got a couple more borders I want to post, but don't want to do it until I'm sure everyone can see what I'm talking about...


01-28-2007, 01:00 PM
I dont think I am missing any of the pics. it all looks good on my machine.

01-28-2007, 01:15 PM
Thanks, Bob!


01-28-2007, 05:51 PM
Tess - pictures came through great on my old machine - and look great! Helen - soon to freeze in New Bern, North Carolina!!!!!!!!!

01-29-2007, 07:03 AM
Coming through fine for me Tess:thumbsup:

01-29-2007, 07:50 AM
Must have been a WC glitch of the moment then... :rolleyes:

Thanks for checking, everyone! (including you cp lurkers. you guys are the best!)

So once I've stuck the boy-o on the school bus, I'll get the much-promised new demos up.


01-29-2007, 04:09 PM
I bet you were wondering when I’d throw something involving threes into the mix… Well, wait no longer.

This type of border is what I think of as a meander. It really strongly reminds me of how water in a stream moves over & around rocks. Not quite as frantic as rapids, but definite paths and currents… This particular one is based on a decoration found on a helmet dated between 400 & 200 b.c. in France. If you go to the UNC site (http://www.unc.edu/celtic/imagesindex.html), search for image #216295. It’s the topmost band you can see clearly in their image.

So to get started, let’s do a row of six 1/2” circles, 1” between them. Now under that row, do another row of six 1/2” circles, centered on the spaces between the upper row.


Now let’s join them up in 3’s, using “s” curves. Draw in a curved line from the bottom of your 1st circle to the top of the next one on the top row. Still on the first circle, draw in another curve from the bottom again to the top of the 1st circle on the lower row. Now connect the bottom of that circle to the top of the 2nd circle on the top row. Skip to the 2nd circle on the bottom row. Connect it (bottom to top) to the next circle on the lower row. Now connect those two to the circle centered between them on the top row (should be the 3rd.) Repeat what you did with the 1st group of three on the next group (connecting two on the top to one on the bottom). And then repeat the 2nd group of three with our final grouping (two on the bottom, one on the top). Here’s mine:


Next step is joining the triangle groupings to each other. Draw in an “s” from the 2nd circle on your top row to the 2nd circle on the bottom row. The curve will come off of the top on the *opposite* side of the triangle points and connect on the *opposite* side on the lower as well.


Now we’ll draw in a long “s” connecting the 3rd circle on the top row to the 4th on the bottom. Once again, it should join up on the *opposite* sides of the circles from the triangle points. This is your repeat unit. Like before, I included the 4th grouping to give you an idea of the overall pattern.


So now join the 3rd grouping to the 4th just like you did the 1st and 2nd. See the pattern? Short curve to long curve to short to long etc. This alone can be really nice in a piece. Shading & texture to give it a little bit of interest, etc. But for this demo, this basic outline will act as “bones” for the overall border, rather like we did with the running borders demo. So here’s mine:


Draw in smaller circles inside of all of your circles. Likewise, draw in triangle shapes that echo the lines of the of your “s” curves.


So now, following the outer contours of the design, draw in a line all the way around the elements. Try to keep your spacing fairly even.


And it could very easily be left here, erasing the original lines, and adding color and/or texture. But lets take it just a couple of steps further. Go ahead and erase the bones of the design so you can see the next part a little more clearly.


After you’ve done a few of these, you’ll probably develop some shortcuts for laying out this kind of design. I’ve got several, and they’re almost instinctive now. Which means I’ve had a devil of time figuring out how to describe what to do when.

Got your erasers handy? Following the outer contours of the original triangles, erase part of the circles.


Draw in lines to connect the inner circles to the outer bands.


I did this next part as a progression, then realized it was too small in the scan to really see what’s happening. So here’s a detail view of the progression. Remember to do all the steps in all of the circles & watch the direction they’re curling. This is the part where I tend to rotate things the wrong way…

A: draw in really tiny circles inside of where the curl is starting to happen
B: half-circles to connect the outside line of the curls to the *opposite* side of the tiny circles. Make sure the half-circles *don’t* touch the inside lines of the curls.
C: Little curves to connect the tiny circles to the inside lines of the curls.
D: Erase the part of the little circles you don’t need anymore & clean-up the bands if you need to. You might also need to slightly enlarge the circles or correct some angles.


So now what? Well, this stands really really well all by itself. And this is where the original artisans left it (although their bands are *much* skinnier). But here’s an idea of how you could take it a bit further:

Box it in & add shapes that follow the contours of the meander/path/bands. A few of those shapes (the rectangle bits) seem a little awkward, & if I was using this in a piece I’d probably divide those into two trianglish shapes… Or work small, single “s” spirals into them. Or… I’ll let you figure it out.


Ok, I’ve got one more border design to show that George Bain claims is out of the Book of Kells.

01-29-2007, 04:25 PM
So George Bain (in “Celtic Art – the methods of construction”) claims this border design is from the Book of Kells. I’ve poured over all of my books on the subject, & can’t find it anywhere. Granted, he had the benefit of getting to study the Book of Kells in person. So I guess I’ll take his word for it. If you have his book, you can find his version on page 65 (third one down). Now, ‘cause I have a really hard time following directions, I’ve changed it *slightly.* The major difference is I’m putting points in the center & I’m making it rotate clockwise. Ok, maybe the difference is more than slight…

Anyway… lets do six 1 1/2” circles in a row. Divide them into three sections, like we did before for the larger triskeles. If you’re using graph paper, you can pull out your protractor etc. if you really want to. At the size we’re working, I just eyeball it. And on graph paper, a line that crosses from the top corner of one box to the bottom corner of the box next to it is pretty close to right. Make four tic marks on all of your lines at 1/8” intervals (at 1/8, 1/4, 3/8, & 1/2) from your outside edge.


Remember the A, B, & C lines? On the right side of your A line, draw in a half-circle from the midpoint of the circle to the 1st tic mark (the one 1/2” from the outside edge). Like before, repeat each step for all of the lines. And in all of the circles.


So now draw in a curve from that tic mark on the A line to the next available one (3/8” from the edge) on the C line. Then C to B, and B to A.


Repeat until you run out of tic marks, but don’t connect it to the outer circle quite yet.


We’ll do triangle knots in between the circles. Here’s a quickie refresher on how (better walk-thru in the triangles & pretzels tutorial, btw):
1. draw in curves to connect each corner to the next
2. Create your overs. (remember to keep them all running the same way!)
3. lines to define the unders.
4. erase & clean up.


Here’s mine so far:


Go ahead & take the curves of the triskeles all the way to the edges of the circles. And while we’re at it (should have had you do this in the last step) work smaller triangle knots at the ends of the borders.


Got your erasers handy? Erase the points of your triangle knots that easily lead into one of the bands of the triskeles. On your top row, it’s the points that point down & to the right. On the bottom row it’s the one that points left. For the left-hand edge of the border, on the top row it’s the one that points right, and on the bottom row you don’t need to erase anything. On the right hand side of the border, on the top row it’s the one that points down, on the bottom row the one that points left.


Now join the knots to the bands of the triskeles. You may need to adjust the size of your knots here & there. Here’s mine:


Before we finish this up, let’s look at what happens when you add color to this. The knots are acting as “S” curves to connect the triskeles & also acting as a really nice way to tie off the ends of the bands.


So now lets add some interest to the centers of the triskeles… on your A, B, & C lines, draw in little curves from the midpoint to the top of the curve of the bands. The guidelines should make up part of the curves. Here’s a detail ‘cause my description isn’t so great:


And here’s the full thing:


That’s pretty much it. Erase any guidelines you don’t need and call it good!

There’s five bazillion other things I could show, but the idea fairies are flying at me thick & fast at the moment. Need to try to pin some of them down… Anyone know if flypaper works so I can save ‘em for later?

Let me know if anyone needs me to explain something more clearly. And really, I’d love to see how y’all end up using this!


01-30-2007, 02:27 PM
Just thought I'd let y'all know... It looks like the issue with the images was with Charissa's (sassybird's) computer. Thanks to everyone who checked in!


02-04-2007, 05:57 AM
Dear friends i?m just joined to this great site, it's really fine find new people interested in calligraphy and illumination. I've been working last months in the well known spirals of kells specially in their scale and one stroke lines that it's obvious that were not made only free hand. I'd like to show you some examples of them for you to see and hear your opinion.I developed a method that allow you any size, turning left or right and one two three or four coil and one stroke line.I always thought that no one author gave solutions to one of the great problems of the book ofhttp://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/04-Feb-2007/100523-red.jpg http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/04-Feb-2007/100523-P2030001red.jpg http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/04-Feb-2007/100523-PC120012red.jpg kells. I'm sorry for my english, I know that it's not fine. See you

02-04-2007, 02:22 PM
Just visited your web site - the English version would not come up - but went to Spanish and worked fine and your illumination/calligraphy work is absolutely beautiful. Certainly hope you WILL share your method of developing the designs and welcome to WetCanvas! All my best, Helen in North Carolina USA!

02-04-2007, 03:21 PM
Tess, The tutorial keeps getting better and better.
Josep, Awesome miniature work!
- Chris

02-04-2007, 03:58 PM
Tess... I can't thank you enough for this wonderful tutorial. I don't get into the Calligraphy forum as much as I would like but thankfully RoseQueen is always in the background picking up on what I miss. Thanks so much Diana.
Diana suggested I made this a sticky and I agree wholeheartedley.
Thank you so much for doing all the hard work Tess. You are going to inspire a lot of people in the future. Much respect from me ... and hugs as well:wave: :wave:

02-05-2007, 07:11 AM
Josep! Welcome to wet canvas! :wave: The miniature size of your spirals is *really* amazing & impressive! I'm glad you've decided to join in the conversation.

Thanks Chris (cpm).

And thanks again, Chris! (Jakeally)


04-10-2009, 03:43 PM
Hi! I'm new here and this is my first post *tries to stop knees from knocking together too obviously* but I just HAD to say, this stuff is FANTASTIC!!

I'm a financier by profession (I hope no one throws eggs at me for that; I've just started out so the economy's not my fault!) but I LOVE calligraphy... I wish I could pursue it as a profession! Veering off track again, but yeah, as I was saying, I was making some new designs and looking for something inspirational in the background or on the borders and this is perfect. I had no idea Celtic knots are this (dare I say) easy. The tutorial's fantastic. I still haven't achieved the neatness that's in your work, but I think the observer can now identify the basic shape of the knot (which is a huge improvement going by the rubbish knots I was making before)

Thanks, Tess!

Bright Eyes
04-10-2009, 03:53 PM
Welcome to the forum Tess! I've just taken up pen, ink and calligraphy myself. If you look through the calligraphy section you'll find a whole lot of great information. There is also a weekly challenge for everyone to participate in (although I haven't yet because I'm still at the bottom of the chain with my calligraphy skills) to keep you busy and motivated. And the people here are really helpful and friendly!

04-11-2009, 08:30 AM
Hi, Specs!
I'm really glad to hear you've found the tutorials helpful.
If you have any questions, just shout! :wave:

I'm not here in the Calligraphy forum as much as I'd like to be these days, so if you post a thread of your own & want to make sure I see it, feel free to send me a pm and give me a nudge!

04-11-2009, 08:34 AM
Thanks for the warm words of welcome!

I'll give you a shout out if I mess stuff up too much, thank you. :) Its encouraging to know someone will be there with expert advice.

04-11-2009, 11:08 AM
Its encouraging to know someone will be there with expert advice.

dunno if I qualify as *expert.* :p More of a "I feel your pain/been there-done that-got the t-shirt". :lol: :lol: :lol:

Looking forward to seeing your experiments!

04-12-2009, 07:40 AM
Hi Stranger! :wave: We've missed you around here! Hope you are happy and healthy and have yourself all tied up in beautiful knots! Have any show and tell for us??

If you have any questions, just shout! :wave:

I'm not here in the Calligraphy forum as much as I'd like to be these days, so if you post a thread of your own & want to make sure I see it, feel free to send me a pm and give me a nudge![/quote]

04-12-2009, 11:27 AM
Hey Tess...this is soooo interesting. I'm going to have to sit down and study this one.

06-01-2011, 02:09 PM
I'm From Holland.Since a short time(my english in not very good.i'm sorry for that)i'm Slaved to drawing a sort of what's showing on this site.I think it's very wonderfull.And i'm filling my free time with drawing pretzels,triangles,borders and everything.
Very nice and amazing only watching this.
Thnx grtzz Mo

07-22-2011, 11:53 AM
Tess, these are absolutely phenomenal. I cannot even believe my eyes. What have I been doing with plants and flowers this whole time when this exists! So much to try and so little time before my summer is over....ahh! Thank you so much for this tutorial - it is incredible for you to share.

08-04-2011, 09:08 AM
:wave: Hi Laura!
So sorry! I completely missed your post. :o

I'd love to see what you're coming up with. :)

08-19-2011, 01:03 AM
Amazing amount of information! Thanks

08-19-2011, 09:34 AM
I hope you'll post any work you do, marybe! :wave:


03-18-2012, 08:53 AM
Wow! Easiest spiral tutorial I've found. Thanks!

03-18-2012, 11:56 AM
Glad you found it helpful!
Hope you'll post what you come up with. :)