This tutorial demonstrates my process for designing and drawing celtic knotwork.
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.
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 “integrity”.
* 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.
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.