Tag Archives: arabesque

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!