My go to book on Celtic design is George Bain’s book, Celtic Art: The Methods of Construction (Dover Art Instruction) published by Dover Books.
I spent some time doing a Celtic spiral study based on the steps illustrated by George Bain. As Celtic spirituality is rooted in nature, I reached for earth tones: terra cotta, goldenrod, bronze green, and avocado. As I drew spiral after spiral, I began to get a feel for the patterns and how they are constructed.
For my final composition, I wanted to pulled together a variety of Celtic spirals. I started with the large circle in the middle and then drew the three mid-sized circles with their companion smaller circles. As I constructed the designs in each circle, I referred back to my spiral study and looked to George Bain’s book for other variations and decorative elements. It was fun to interconnect the various circle designs. I added a cool gray which appears blue to compliment the other colors that I had been working with. It is so rewarding to construct my own Celtic composition.
When I designed this mandala, I was thinking of the quote by John O’Donahue, “May you experience each day as a sacred gift woven around the heart of wonder.” I watched A Celtic Pilgrimage With John O’Donohue [DVD] as I worked on this mandala. Well actually I listened to it. I have watched this movie so many times. My husband and I always feel relaxed and spiritually nourished after watching it. The Celtic landscape as O’Donahue presents it is magnificent. I highly recommend it!
To practice my knotwork, I created this pattern of six trefoils linked within a Hexagon. Check out this excellent video by David Nicholls to learn how to create this design. It looks complicated, but I found it really easy with David’s expert instruction. WATCH VIDEO
Some design tips:
- Mechanical Pencil: The fine tip of a mechanical pencil is ideal for making delicate, detailed drawings.
- Pentel Click Eraser: This eraser is in the shape of a pen and it makes it easy to erase small areas. It also does a bang up job cleaning up pencil marks.
- Larger Eraser: There is a lot of erasing in drawing in this style. For larger areas I like my Paper Mate Black Pearl. I rub it across the surface in circular motions.
- Markers: For these illustrations I used alcohol-based markers – a combo of some Prismacolor Markers and some generic illustration ones. Experiments with what you have on hand. You can also color your artwork in with colored pencils, acrylic paints, watercolors, etc.
- Charcoal Pencil: To create a sense of depth I used a black charcoal pencil and blended with a blending stump.
- Bristol Board: This is my favorite medium for illustrations. It has a smooth surface and handles a variety of mediums.
- Videos by David Nicolls: Be sure to check out these videos to learn how to create Celtic inspired knotwork.
- Videos by the Celtic Goldsmith: More how-to videos to check out.
Books to Consider:
- 101 Celtic Spirals
Courtney Davis, Blandford Press, 2005
- Celtic Design A Sourcebook of Patterns and Motifs
Iain Zaczek, Studio Editions, 1995
- Celtic Art: The Methods of Construction
George Bain, Constable, 1951
- Great Book of Celtic Patterns: The Ultimate Design Sourcebook for Artists and Crafters
Lora S. Irish, Fox Chapel Publishing, 2007
- The Lindisfarne Gospels
Janet Backhouse, Phaidon Press, 1981
- The Book of Kells
Bernard Meehan, Thames and Hudson, 1994
- The Book of Kells
Peter Brown, Thames and Hudson, 198
- Celtic and Anglo-Saxon Painting: Book Illumination in the British Isles 600-800
Carl Nordenfalk, Chatko and Windus, 1977
I want to encourage you to do your own study. Search YouTube and Pinterest for tutorials. Look at excellent examples of Celtic design. In your study it is okay to copy for that is how we learn. When it comes to creating your final composition however, I encourage you to take various design elements that you’ve learned and combine them in your own unique way. I have to tell you it is the most rewarding feeling to design something that is wholly your own. I want you to have this awesome experience. If you are inspired by someone else’s work, be sure to give them credit. Above all, have fun exploring the many possibilities within this beautiful craft.
100 Mandalas Design Team
I invited several artists who live in various places all over the world to join me here on 100 Mandalas. They sent in some beautiful examples of Celtic Mandalas.
“Circling the Celt”
I have always had an affinity for all things Celtic, it is part of my heritage with my father being born in Dublin. I am particularly inspired by the The Book of Kells . I was recently introduced to the YouTube videos of David Nicholls, this has made a big impact on my understanding of the creation of celtic knots. This mandala is the result of my practice.
Medium: Unipin fine liner, Derwent Artist pencils in shades of green and grey to highlight.
Megan Warren, Western Australia
Megan is passionate about writing, art journaling, photography and creating mandalas – she is particularly interested in the health benefits of creative expression. She blogs at Four Ravens.
Wow, I found this theme challenging ! Number one: I am not fond of intricate and complicated designs because my hands are very shaky. Number two: I went completely out of my comfort zone and decided to do a black and white design. COLOUR is what I am all about and my designs always seem “unfinished” to me if I don’t put colour in them. However, once this design was completed I was so thrilled with the results – I may just make some more black and white mandalas.
Medium: white cardstock and various black markers.
Angella de Jager, South Africa
I am a self taught artist and have been a professional arts and crafts instructor for the last 15 years. I fell in love with creating colourful mandalas last year! angelladeedesigns.blogspot.com
Untangle and Fly
There are times in life when you feel tangled up…but you must always remember… only you can untangle yourself and fly…
Medium: acrylic paint and sharpie on 140 wt. watercolor paper
Patricia J. Mosca, New York, USA
Patricia Mosca is an artist and the author of “Permission Slips for your Heart and Soul,” her mandala style journaling has been seen in several national magazines. Painting mandalas and interpreting them allows her to listen closely to the whispers of her heart. http://soulfullyjournaling.blogspot.com
Medium: watercolor and ink on paper
Maria Mercedes Trujillo A., New Zealand
I enjoy playing with colors, I make art for fun and to feed my soul. You are welcome to follow my creative journey at www.magamerlina.com
This mandala is a symbol that represents the complex relationships within the family and the sense of unity and interconnectedness.
Neomi Mor, Israel
Neomi Mor is married and a mother to three adult children living in Israel. Until recently she worked as a banker. Today Neomi is a student in naturopathy. She enjoys traveling, good food, books and interesting people, but above all, enjoys painting mandalas.
“Time Before and After”
This mandala is about standing at a crossroads between ancient times and modernity, between the wish to stay connected to the past and the desire to progress without forgetting what the past offered to you.
Materials: Unipen fine liner 00.2, Sharpies (love them!! – yello, orange and red) and the water colour pencils Faber-Castell that my son Benjamin gave me for Christmas.
Fabienne Tossi, Switzerland
Fabienne Tosi is a freelance translator living in Geneva, Switzerland. She’s both French and Swiss and her interests outside of her work are to raise awareness about dangerous games to save young people and to accompany people nearing the end of life. She discovered mandalas through meditation.