Celtic Knots : Colours and Shadework Art

Celtic knots. Fascinating as they never end. On a personal level I absolutely love all things Celtic and therefore it should come as now surprise that I finally got an activity into the classroom.

Art is a great way for students to display their individuality and improve their skills. This is a lesson I first conducted with a grade 1/2 composite class. I had some already very talented artists in the class...but admittedly there were many others who could not colour in the lines. Interestingly some of the students insisted on using one colour (or sometimes just the two) for all their artwork (they all did 3 different designs in total) and some work I saw was so abstract even the student couldn't explain it.

In my class we always focus on a country for a week. We study the people, language and culture. I chose to look at Celtic knots when we focused on Ireland (however it is important to teach your students that the term "Celtic" is not exclusively Irish and that the Celts artistry reached much farther than that).

The first step in completing this activity is to get some templates of Celtic knots. (With grade 6/7s I have a step-by-step art project they complete in which they draw the knot and shade - I'll blog about that one at a later date!). The reason I use templates for this is because the activity is focused on shading techniques and not drawing ability. Please remember to choose the simpler designs - I know the more complicated ones look awesome but at this grade level the basic ones are more appropriate and will take 2-3 x 45 minute lessons to complete.

I found a fantastic collection at Marcel's Kids Crafts that are all free to download.

A large selection of knots is available free at CLKER.

You'll find another template I used on Top Images that is also free to download. (Just checking on this as the site appears to have been taken over by spam so I’ve disabled the link for the time being)

If none of those take your eye - do a web search and you will find a large array of designs.

I had already revised the primary and secondary colours with my students so it was more a matter of demonstrating the shading techniques (and having examples partially done as examples and reference points - this is very important).

Focus was on three styles...

1. Use one colour to shade from dark to light.
2. Use two colours to shade with one colour on each edge
3. Use two colours to shade with one colour on the edges and the other down the middle.

Students were required to complete all three techniques and their results were presented on an A4 piece of black card that had been folded. The were given the choice of which knot designs and colours they wanted to use.

The results (as you can see yourself) are very varied. Some nailed it, others lost patience or just didn't listen.

Examples from left to right: grade 2, grade 2, grade 1, and grade 1
Background from left to right: grade 1, grade 1, grade 2, grade 1, and grade 2

Examples from left to right: grade 1, grade 1, grade 2, grade 2, and grade 1

I use this activity towards the end of term one or early term two. They make for a brilliant display and even the students who didn't get it quite right enjoy the art at least!

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