Introduction to Pattern

Art is the imposing of a pattern on experience, and our aesthetic enjoyment is recognition of the pattern.  Alfred North Whitehead

This week we will be discussing the concept of pattern in art. You’ve already seen the use of pattern in nearly every section of this course so far. Pattern emerges from many figure-ground experiments (think of M.C. Escher); it often makes an appearance when thinking about the mark and the line; and it certainly emerges when using the grid as a central theme. Repeating shapes, colors, and theme can each create a sense of “pattern” in a work of art, which in turn creates a sense of rhythm for the viewer. Disruptions in a pattern should be intentional  since a viewers eye will always be drawn to it.

I’ve included some images for you to look at on the right on one of my Pinterest boards. Many are from well-known artists and there are a few from lesser-known, contemporary artists.

Learning Objectives
  1. Familiarize yourself with the concept of pattern in art and to what ends artists use it.
  2. Show that you can identify works with pattern as a predominant theme in the work.
  3. Create your own work that demonstrates  use of a pattern  in a creative way.
  4. Use Photoshop to demonstrate how an artist’s use of pattern can change the mood or meaning of a work by removing the pattern from the image.

Additional Resources

Pattern and Rythm on  

Artlandia Glossary of Pattern Design.  (sorry there’s a Wordle at the top of the page. It’s still a good resource).

A bajillion free pattern vector files for use in Illustrator.  

 Pattern and Rhythm

Repetition  refers to one object or shape repeated;  pattern  is a combination of elements or shapes repeated in a recurring and regular arrangement;  rhythm–is a combination of elements repeated, but with variations.’ –Lucy Lamp  

The use of pattern creates a kind of visual rhythm that, if used judiciously, can change the mood of a painting. I’ve added a couple of pictures to the right to explain.

Gustav Klimt was fond of pattern and used it to great effect and remarked often that the quilts in his home as a child influenced his use of pattern.  The first image is a famous painting of Edith Bloch-Bauer and you can see the heavy heavy use of pattern to flatten out the body of Edith, drawing your eye to her face and hands as the “reality” of the painting and the golden, jewel-encrusted patterns that surround her act as a kind of “dress” and as a separate, imaginary space that isn’t connected to her at all.

In the image just below that is one that I drew up pretty quickly in Photoshop just so you can see the difference. Is your response any different to the patternless image?

You may  prefer  a painting that has fewer patterns, but what’s important here is that you understand how pattern changes your response.

Pattern in Op Art

The narrator in this documentary clip sounds a bit hilarious, but the use of pattern and why it’s important in modernist art is discussed heavily.

Pattern in Folk Art

Folk art has long used pattern as a decorative method. Folk arts from many different cultures can be a source of inspiration for contemporary artists.

Rhythm in Visual Composition

Photography, like all 2D arts, benefits from the basic concepts we’ve covered in this course so far. Good, short discussion here.

Technical Know How

You’ll need to watch the following videos to understand how to use Photoshop to complete your assignments this week. I’ve started a few YouTube playlists where you can find these videos and more.

Step & Repeat in Photoshop

Suuuuuuper great tips here that I wish I had known 5 years ago.

Creating an “Inception” Image in Photoshop

This is a pretty cool tutorial. I challenge all of you to create something like it!

Using Adobe Capture CC (Mobile)

Do yourself a favor and learn how to use the Mobile Adobe apps, especially this one for creating your own patterns for use in Photshop and Illustrator.

Make a Seamlessly Repeating Pattern in Illustrator

What it says on the box.



This week, find images that exemplify the concept of “pattern”.  You must link to the original source (as original as you can find) for each pin and you should provide context and an explanation of why you think each image is illustrative of this  week’s concept. Put this explanation in the notes field of each pin. 1-2 sentences will suffice. The original artist must be identified.

Choose images that reveal  the use of pattern as a primary and crucial part of the work.

⊕ For this week, create a Pinterest  Board called “Pattern” and add 20 images to that board using the guidelines above. Submit your link in the form below.

Share and Discuss

As always, talk to your classmates about what you’re doing!!

Emulate and Create


Choose an artwork  you like by another artist that heavily features pattern as an element. Do a similar exercise to the one I did with Klimt’s painting of Edith Bloch Bauer. Paint over, obscure, or otherwise remove the pattern element to experience how the image changes.


Choose one of the following:

1. Draw a simple object on paper and use Adobe Capture CC to create a pattern brush. Then, create a 1200px x 1200px image that shows your pattern repeating multiple times. Share either a Photoshop (.psd) document with me or an Illustrator document (.ai) rather than a .jpg.

2. Using the “step and repeat” process in the first video under Technical Knowhow, create an object more complicated than a square in Photoshop and then use “step and repeat” to create a 1200px x 1200px image displaying your repeating image.

3. If you’re using something other than AdobeCC, figure out the best way to create your own unique patterns and work them into an original piece of your own.