Wednesday, December 10, 2008

All in Knots

Celtic Knot 15I've started working through this how-to book on drawing Celtic knots (and other aspects of Celtic design, such as spirals, keyforms, animals and letttering--though I haven't gotten to these sections yet). The book is called Draw Your Own Celtic Designs, by David James, and I found it for a few bucks at a used book sale. I love impulse purchases like this, as they always seem to lead to something new.

I find myself becoming obsessive about the work, longing for a free hour or two to sit and pass the time drawing. I absolutely love working on these knots. They're so soothing and relaxing, almost meditative. There are a few simple principles of design when you're first putting down the pattern (patterns I'm still decoding and mastering), and then after that it's almost hypnotic repetition tracing and retracing and weaving the lines together.

You get this weird kind of trust about it because it's almost impossible to actually see how all the lines interconnect, especially as the patterns grow increasingly complicated. When you're working on one part, your focus narrows to the intricacies of that (for lack of a better word) "moment," and the whole of the thing kind of lapses out of sight for a while. You follow the curve of each line, and it's almost impossible to keep its entire path in mind at once. Yet, if you're faithful to the pattern and careful in the detail, when it's finished it's this coherent, intricate, balanced whole that you perceive all at once as something complete in itself.

Celtic Knot 14/11

There is certainly a metaphor here. But I'm not going to bother delineating it. Suffice it to say, the work is enjoyable and comforting, it keeps my hands busy and my mind sharp, yet rested. It's a good exercise in maintaining focus and cultivating patience. I'm looking forward to the exercises in the rest of the book, and I may have to find one or two more to see what other approaches might be useful. Eventually I hope to begin creating my own designs, and working on more elaborate drawings as well as possibly dragging out my simple wood-burning kit and seeing what kinds of plaques and decorative boxes I might be able to fashion. I love craft projects!


  1. When I first took up knitting, I would occasionally see something in a knitting pattern that made no sense to me, so I would attempt to do what I thought was right instead of what the pattern said was right. Invariably I would end up with a mess that needed to be unraveled. Now when I get that temptation, I say to myself "trust the pattern!" and it generally comes out okay and I eventually see how it all fits together. (I have developed a number of "knitting mantras," some more printable than others...)

    You're right, there's a metaphor there. Hm.

    Your knotwork is beautiful!

  2. I have been wanting to learn how to draw Celtic knots myself for some time now (I plan on getting a book out of the library over the winter break). Now after reading your post, I am even more eager to learn. I have also used drawing (usually of mandalas and other designs) as a form of meditation.

  3. I've been recently considering trying my hand at this too. both Celtic and Nordic knot-work. Not sure whether to do it digitally or on paper though. I'll have to see if I can find any online tutorials.

    I find the symbolism to be very cosmic. The interconnection of all things, the Web of Wyrd and all that. Also reminds me of the undulating and interweaving 'serpentine' lines on of some versions of the Assyrian Sacred Tree (of Life)

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  5. The pattern does makes some confusing factor that trick the mind and sight.

  6. Some wonder if they should become writers and others artist. Some want to teach while others learn. IMO the answer for you is YES! Do it all...You can bundle a 21st century Druid book right now by all your spot on posts on the subject. Very good stuff.