Category Archives: Resources

Books & Tips on Islamic art and pattern-making

If you’re interested in learning more about the styles, compositions, colours and the techniques used to create some of the most beautiful examples of Islamic art around the world, then this list of books may help you on your journey. I have been asked a number of times for recommendations regarding resources on Islamic art, particularly pattern-making. To this end I have compiled the following list of books on the topics of Islamic art & Architecture, Islamic geometric patterns and Arabesque patterns which I have personally found helpful or inspirational. However, I would encourage everyone to try and attend practical workshops and courses where possible, as learning through a teacher is really the best method for learning Islamic pattern-making techniques. I have included some general tips at the bottom of this post.

[Note: this list is a work in progress. I will be adding to this list when I can and will also try to add my mini reviews (as seen in my instagram posts). Any suggestions are most welcome so please get in touch if you have any suitable recommendations. Most of the books listed are in English unless otherwise stated. I have provided Amazon links so you may see what the books look like but do shop around, as you may find better prices elsewhere]

Quick Links:

Books on Islamic Art & Architecture (general)

Islamic Arts (Art & Ideas)
Author: Jonathan Bloom
Publisher: Thames & Hudson Ltd
ISBN: 071483176X
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Islamic Art and Architecture
Author: Robert Hillenbrand
Publisher: Thames & Hudson Ltd
ISBN: 0500203059
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Making Sense of Islamic Art and Architecture
Author: Adam Barkman
ISBN: 0500291713
Publisher: Thames & Hudson
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Islamic Art in Detail
Author: Sheila R CAnby
ISBN: 0714124281
Publisher: British Museum Press
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 Arts & Crafts of the Islamic lands: Principles Materials Practice
Authors: Khaled Azzam and The Prince’s School of Traditional Arts
ISBN: 0500517029
Publisher: Thames and Hudson Ltd
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Books on Islamic Geometric Patterns

Drawing Geometry: A Primer of Basic Forms for Artists, Designers and Architects
Author: Jon Allen
Publisher: Floris Books
ISBN: 0863156088
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Geometric Concepts in Islamic Art
Author: Issam El Said and Ayse Parman
ISBN: 0905035038
Publisher: Scorpion Cavendish Ltd
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Islamic Design – A Genius for Geometry
Author: Daud Sutton
Publisher: Wooden Books
ISBN: 1904263593
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Islamic Patterns: An Analytical and Cosmological Approach
Author: Keith Critchlow
Publisher: Thames and Hudson Ltd
ISBN: 0500270716
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Islamic Art and Archtitecture – The System of Geometric Design
Author: Issam El Said, Eds. Tarek El-Bouri & Keith Critchlow
ISBN: 1873938454
Publisher: Garnet Publishing Ltd
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Arabic Geometrical Pattern & Design
Author: J Bourgoin
ISBN: 0486229246
Publisher: Dover Pulications Inc
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Islamic Geometric Patterns
Author: Eric Broug
Publisher: Thames & Hudson
ISBN: 050028721X
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Islamic Geometric Design
Author: Eric Broug
Publisher: Thames & Hudson
ISBN: 0500516952
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Arabesques – Decorative Art in Morocco (available in English, French, and possibly Arabic)
Author: Jean-Marc Castera
Publisher: ACR Edition
ISBN: 2867701244
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Books on Islamic floral patterns (Arabesque/Islimi/Tezhip/Tezhib/Illumination)

Türk Sanatinda – Tezhip (Turkish)
Authors:  Ilhan Özkececi and Sule Bilge Özkececi
Publisher: Yazigen Yayinevi
ISBN: 6058565715
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Türk Sanatinda Desen ve Kurgu (Turkish)
Author: Prof. İlhan Özkeçeci
ISBN: 9786058565760
Publisher: Yazigen Yayinevi
View on Babil.com

Rumi Çizim ve Teknikleri (Turkish)
Author:Sabiha Bayhan Koç
ISBN: 9758069284
Publisher: Ilke Kitap
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Türk Tezyini Sanatlarinda Desen Tasarimi: Cizim Teknigi ve Cesitleri (Turkish)
Author: Inci A. Birol
ISBN: 975644441X
Publisher: Kubbealti Nesriyati Yayincilik
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Motifler Türk Tezyini Sanatlarinda (English and Turkish)
Author: Inci A. Birol
ISBN: 9757663077
Publisher: Kubbealti Nesriyati Yayincilik
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The Illumination Models – Eslimi and Khataei Decorative Designs (English and Farsi)
Author: Mohammad-Reza Honarvar
Publisher: Yassavoli
ISBN: 9789643064396

Instruction & Application of Margins in the Illumination (English and Farsi)
Author: M Eftekhari
Publisher: Yassavoli
ISBN: 9789643063658

Symbols of Iranian Illumination & Carpet Designing (English and Farsi)
Authors/Diagrams: Mohammad Reza Honarvar, Ardeshir Takestani
Publisher: Yassavoli
ISBN: 9789643062279
View on www.iranibooks.com

Buying Books Online

If you are looking for a specific book it is best to put the title of the book into the Google search bar and then click on the ‘Shopping’ option just below this. The results shown will be shops and websites that have the book listed. Listings include those on Ebay, Amazon, Abe Books and many other online book shops, allowing you to browse in price order. For the rarer or harder to attain books, you may need to add the name of the author.

Books that are rare or harder to get hold of require a bit more detective work, but I suggest doing the above search every once in a while, as books appear for sale in the most unexpected places and at surprisingly exexpected bargain prices to boot.

For Turkish Books I have used the following two websites with successful postage to the UK:
www.turkishbooks.com (English & Turkish)
www.babil.com (Turkish only – but can use google translate to assist in alternative language).

Tips for pattern-making:

  • Try and attend a practical class, course or workshop. The traditional method for learning arts has been through an experienced professional/master, producing the work and training their apprentice. There is much merit to seeing an artist in action and being shown the way in which tools should be used in order to produce the best results. Being taught directly is immensely useful.(If you are looking for classes/workshops in London you may find courses offered by Art of Islamic Pattern and the Prince’s School of Tradtional Arts immensely useful. Also workshops offered by Ayesha Gamiet in Windsor. For a further list of workshops and teachers around the world please view recommendations by by Esra Alhamal on her blog: http://www.islamicillumination.com/blog/islamic-pattern-teachers
  • Do not be put off by books in different languages. If the book contains useful diagrams and graphical examples then you won’t need to worry much about the text.
  • Even if you have no one to teach you in a class-like environment, there are an increasing number of online tutorials and videos to also view. These include videos on YouTube and those by Eric Broug on his educational website: School of Geometric Design. There are also an increasing number of artists on social media sharing videos and tips with their followers. Here is an example by Ambigraph on his blog: Analysis of a Geometric Pattern from the Alhambra Palace
  • Try looking at as many visual examples as possible, including artefacts, architecture and prints. Examine these and look for what they have in common. When a flower or motif is drawn in a particular way, using a particular colour or combination of shapes and compositions this is a distinctive style. When specific materials and tools are used, these become part of the technique. Practice drawing these yourself, first by tracing, then by copying, then by customising, and then attempt to draw your own. Even if you feel you need a lot of practice, then keep practicing. The mantra ‘practice makes perfect’ is not just a saying, it’s a fact!
  • Reference nature – look at real life examples of plants and flowers and try and re-draw these, whether in a realistic form or in an abstract or stylised form.
  • Tracing is your best friend. Many Islamic patterns contain symmetry and repetition. This means you can draw one section and use this on top of a basic grid/layout to then re-trace a design in repeated form. The repetition looks more appealing due to the consistency this generates in the design. Remember to also keep elements proportional as this will make the whole composition look more harmonious.
  • Try and access books such as those mentioned above or look for resources online as these will also help you to pick up skills in pattern-making.
  • And remember to take your time. An artwork cannot be rushed. Patience is a virtue (again, not just a saying).

If there is anything more specific you would like advice on I am happy to answer questions. However, I cannot guarantee an immediate response. Hope this helps!

Geometric Design – online tutorials

Geometric Design for Beginners is a series of tutorials available on Tuts+ providing instructions for producing your own geometric patterns. Posted by Joumana Medlej, these are step by step instructions designed for beginners but continue on to more complex patterns. Easy to follow and a convenient resource for working at your own pace. Read more here: Geometric Design for Beginners

 

Qur’anic Illumination – Flash animation showing construction example

I’ve just come across the Tradigital website (an Arabic publishing studio associated with the Thesauraus Islamicus Foundation and Islamic Art Network) where I have found a very helpful animation of how one Qur’anic illumination pattern is constructed. The design is based on 6-fold geometry from which a 12-pointed star pattern is produced.

Watch the animation here: http://www.tradigital.de/specials.htm

The speed of the animation is quite fast but after watching a few times you could probably give the pattern-making a go yourself using a compass and ruler!

A quick note to say that the Islamic Art Network also has a photo archive of architectural sites in Cairo that may be of interest: http://www.islamic-art.org/PhotoArchive/PhotoArchive.asp

TED-ED Lesson on Islamic Geometric Design by Eric Broug

Here’s a quick (just over 5 minutes) video lesson on Islamic geometric patterns – a brief history, some core principles of how they are created and an array of examples both demonstrated and from real architectural sites around the world.

This lesson was made by Eric Broug, a world famous author of Islamic pattern-making books who also runs workshops. Have a look at his website here: http://broug.com/

And join his Facebook group for daily examples of artworks being created by members or being sighted and shared from various locations around the world: Broug Ateliers for Islamic Geometric Design

 

Islamic art – Interactive learning for adults and children

For an in-depth view of the history and aesthetics of Islamic art alongside thousands of examples of artworks visit the Discover Islamic art website: http://www.discoverislamicart.org/

Areas of the subject are split by smaller topics based on time periods, dynasties and decorative styles. You can also search through the databases and collections from various museums around the world

Discover_Islamic_Art_Virtual_Exhibitions_-_2015-06-27_12.53.27

Discover Islamic Art website: http://www.discoverislamicart.org/ by Museum With No Frontiers (MWF)

Something that might appeal to a younger audience is the selection of interactive games that have also been produced as part of ‘Learn with MWF': http://www.discoverislamicart.org/learn/index.html

Learn with MWF

Learn with MWF: http://www.discoverislamicart.org/learn/index.html

The overall design of the page and elements does not shout ‘children’s fun learning’ (my experience in web design and usability kicking in here) but it has the potential to be an effective and engaging learning tool. The above game ‘Where Would You Put Me?’ encourages the user to try and match the object name with the picture on the right of the screen.

Learn with Museum With No Frontiers: http://www.discoverislamicart.org/learn/exe1/index_en.html

Interactive game ‘Where Would You Put Me': http://www.discoverislamicart.org/learn/exe1/index_en.html

Once you have correctly labelled each object (even I had to guess a few of these as the images are not clear until you open them up individually, and neither is the font used for the text), you are taken to the next stage where you can group objects according to the environment they would have been found and used in. The four categories provided below are Mosque, Palace, Fort and House:

Interactive game Learn with Discover Islamic Art

Interactive game ‘Learn with Discover Islamic Art': http://www.discoverislamicart.org/learn/exe1/index_en.html

In summary this is a great way to engage a younger audience and helps familiarise children with objects found in many museums’ Islamic art collections.