Patterns in Art

Patterns of Nature by Jeannine Cook

I am finding that patterns are becoming more and more fascinating to me as I function as an artist.  I suppose I have always had a love of nature's order and patterning - in seed pods, striationson tree bark, flower petals and leaves, in the way shadows fall on surfaces, how rocks are distinctively formed, how sands get ridged and shaped by water or wind. 

Patterns in the Sand

Patterns in the Sand

Now, however, I am more and more aware of the amazing power of patterns - in life in general and in art in particular.  Take a look at a fascinating website on the Fibonacci Numbers and see how marvellous all these patterns are.

 Romanesque cross between broccoli and cauliflower

 Romanesque cross between broccoli and cauliflower

I think my newfound passion for drawing in metalpoint on a black ground has fuelled my interest in patterns, for somehow this medium seems to lend itself readily to the seeming abstraction of patterns.  Living as I do in beautiful natural surroundings also helps me suddenly see new patterns which excite and inspire. Artists of all stripes seem to respond to the diversity of nature's patterns, from draughtsmen to photographers.

M.C. Escher’s 1938 woodcut entitled “Sky and Water 1”

M.C. Escher’s 1938 woodcut entitled “Sky and Water 1”

My small drawings of nature's patterns are often of tree bark and wood grains.

Jacaranda bark - silverpoint, Jeannine Cook artist

Jacaranda bark - silverpoint, Jeannine Cook artist

Rings of Time: Wood grains - silverpoint, Jeannine Cook artist

Rings of Time: Wood grains - silverpoint, Jeannine Cook artist

Eucalyptus bark - silverpoint, Jeannine Cook artist

Eucalyptus bark - silverpoint, Jeannine Cook artist

The rewards of looking closely and attentively at nature to see these myriad complex and magical patterns are endless.  History is full of artists who have found patterns to be a wonderful source of creativity - just think of Van Gogh, for a start!

Detail of Vincent Van Gogh's  Starry Night , 1889, Image courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art, New York

Detail of Vincent Van Gogh's Starry Night, 1889, Image courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art, New York

Patterns that have implications by Jeannine Cook

Well! I blogged about patterns yesterday, but nature is supplying the basis for some patterns that I - and countless other air travellers - could do without. The Icelandic volcano with the unpronounceable name is supplying Spain with its own art form of patterns.

Icelandic volcano eruption, (Image courtesy of Imgur: The magic of the Internet)

Icelandic volcano eruption, (Image courtesy of Imgur: The magic of the Internet)

How about tomorrow's predictions, courtesy of the British Met Office's Volcano Ash Advisory Centres? The airports are juggling flights, and I have already had one flight to Spain cancelled, so the patterns made by volcanic ash drifting who knows where are of considerable interest! El Pais, the Spanish daily newspaper, is full of lovely designs, none of which bring much comfort. Perhaps I had better find another type of subject about which to write in the art world. I seem to have been inviting the fates with the choice of patterns as a topic!

Patterns by Jeannine Cook

In my previous post about William Herschel, I mentioned that his ability to scan the night sky was helped by his knowledge and familiarity with music and more especially with sight-reading. Underpinning both skills was the honed ability to recognise patterns, and thus note any difference in those patterns, especially in the stellar nebulae.

In the same way, patterns are frequently a very important part of art-making. Nature is full of such examples, from alto-cirrus clouds to ripples on the water, from a millipede's many footprints in the sand to the distinctive feathering on a bird that flashes from tree to tree.

Tree bark offers a magical multitude of patterns, each distinctive to the tree species. The silverpoint, watercolour and sequins I used to depict The Life Within seemed appropriate for the live oak bark I picked up on a walk one day. Shaped by wind and rain, sun and shade, the tree's bark is a wonderful indication of the energy and resilience of that tree.

The Life Within, silverpoint, watercolour, sequins, Jeannine Cook artist

The Life Within, silverpoint, watercolour, sequins, Jeannine Cook artist

A walk along any beach yields countless examples of nature's patterns in shells. This silverpoint I did of an Angel Wing came from Sapelo Island. Its patterns show how nature reinforces the delicate shell to withstand the sea's relentless tossing and pounding. For an artist, it is endless fascination and a considerable challenge to draw!

Angel Wing shell, silverpoint, Jeannine Cook artist

Angel Wing shell, silverpoint, Jeannine Cook artist

Patterns play a huge role in many approaches to art. One type of work that I have always found powerful is Australian aboriginal art , in which their visual and Dreaming worlds are united. Patterns reach an apogee of complexity, beauty and subtlety in these paintings. . Dots, dashes, stripes - they become the ultimate collection of patterns, even though they are in truth symbols of their sacred Dreaming world. This is especially the case with the art produced from 1972 onwards in the North West Territory at Papunya, when the tribal elders began to paint on Masonite and later canvas, rather than on rock faces and sand, as they had done for the last 20,000 years.

MAWALAN MARIKA, Sydney from the Air, 1963, National Museum of Australia.

MAWALAN MARIKA, Sydney from the Air, 1963, National Museum of Australia.

Another version of patterns in art was sent to me the other day by a fellow silverpoint

and graphite artist, Cynthia Lin, . It was the announcement of a current collective exhibition, Observant, at New York's  ISE Cultural Foundation, in which her large-scale graphite drawings of skin are featured. This is one of her works, entitled Crop3 DSnosemouth (detail), 2008, graphite on paper, 66 x 71".

Whether realistic or abstracted, patterns are the underpinnings of most art. It is fun to observe nature's patterns and even more fun to incorporate them in art.