Patterns in Art Challenge

Skill Level : 1 Beginner

Medium : All Mediums

Subject : Challenges

Tutor : Nolan Clark

Class Length : 9 minutes

Avg Rating : No Ratings Yet

Silver Level or Higher Class

Class Description

In this challenge tutorial you will learn how to use patterns to create interesting artworks.

Latest Reviews

No Reviews Yet

Welcome to Online Art Lesson’s first art concept tutorial and challenge.

In the series we are going to combine a tutorial and an art challenge. You will start off by learning one of the basic art concepts, then at the end of the tutorial I am going to challenge you to create an artwork using what you have learnt.

We will kick off the first of our challenges by learning about patterns and how you can use them to create awesome artworks.

Short Class Video

Become a Patron to join the challenges.

View Patron Info

Challenge Tutorial


If somebody mentions the word pattern then you would tend to think of an image like this where each part of the pattern is identical:

scale pattern example

There are however many more ways that we can use patterns to make incredible works of art.

So let’s start by looking at the definition of a pattern:

Definition of a Pattern

a pattern is an arrangement of repeated parts or decorative designs

The key here is the word repetition.

In order to get a pattern we need to repeat something in such a way that the repetition becomes noticeable to the eye.

Traditionally we think of patterns as being man-made, and we do enjoy creating a good pattern. Usually to decorate something like these ties:

collection of ties forming a pattern

To make something look neat, like this shop:

storefront with windows creating a neat pattern

and sometimes we create patterns inadvertently because that is the best and most practical way to do it. An example of that would be the repetition of the office building on the other hand An example of that would be the repetition of the offices in this building:

highrise building with windows forming an inadvertent pattern

Nature on the other hand, we tend to think of as random and in general it does appear that way.

flowers in a meadow forming a random pattern

However if we really start looking around we will find that there are plenty of patterns in nature.

How about the petals on this flower?

flower close up with the patterns forming a pattern

or the wings on this butterfly:

butterfly on a flower showing the wing pattern

These are classic examples of patterns in nature. Look around and you will find thousands more.

Regular vs Irregular Patterns

repeating patterns with one repetition highlighted

Patterns don’t however need to be perfect copies of each other to be a pattern.

Look carefully at the pattern above and you will notice that we actually have two patterns.

The scale effect is a perfect repeating pattern, but each scale is a pattern formed by increasingly smaller arches forming an irregular pattern.

Here is a typical irregular pattern you will find in nature:

landscape showing an irregular rock pattern

We have a pattern of rocks, yet each rock is a different size, shape and direction.

So how do we still recognise this as being a pattern and how can we use these patterns to make our artworks more interesting?

Methods Used to Form Patterns

The most common method to create a pattern is :

1) to Repeat Shapes

repeating patterns formed by shapes

Other methods are:

2) Repeating Objects

repeating pattern formed by bricks in a wall

Like the bricks in a wall

3) Repeating Directions

pattern formed by repeating shapes of a shadow

Like the lines on this cupboard.

4) Repeating Changes

square spiral forming a pattern

In this pattern each line changes direction and gets gradually longer and longer forming a pattern.

5) Using a Central Point

cathedral roof showing a pattern radiating from a central point

All the patterns in the dome radiate outward from the central cap.

6) Repeating Colours

jelly beans forming random coloured patterns

7) Repeating Images

pattern formed by repeating watermelon slices

8) Even Repeating Brush Marks

pattern formed by repeating painted dots on a canvas

Each brush stroke in this painting is identical.

Using Patterns to Convey Emotions

We can use patterns to make our artworks more interesting by varying whether we repeat the pattern at regular or irregular intervals.

This allows us to create different effects, atmospheres and even emotions in our artworks.

Regular Pattern Emotions

repeating snowflake pattern on a light blue background

Keeping our pattern regular gives it a more structured and formal feel.

There is a sense of order and calm in this artwork.

Irregular Pattern Emotions

irregular snowflake pattern

When we use irregular patterns however, we can create a busy, energetic effect. Sometimes even conveying chaos if the pattern is irregular enough.

Irregular Pattern Formations

Now let’s take the different methods used to form a pattern and create irregular patterns with them.

1) Irregular Shapes

irregular sized triangle pattern

Notice how chaotic these repeated shapes look.

2) Irregular Objects

irregular object pattern formed by rock wall

The irregular pattern formed by the randomly shaped rocks in this wall gives it a rough and organic look.

3) Irregular Directions

irregular direction pattern formed by tree branches

Each branch on the tree is heading in its own direction to form fabulously flowing patterns.

4) Irregular Changes

irregular pattern formed by horizontal lines

Each of these lines are changing, but none are changing the same, giving the artwork and abstract feel.

5) Irregular Central Point

irregular pattern formed by different sized circles around a central point

All these circles are converging around a central point, but not radially like the spokes of a bicycle. Can you feel the tumbling effect it creates?

6) Irregular Colours

randomly coloured tiles

These tiles are all random colours, yet they all still work well together.

7) Irregular Images

random images drawn in the same style forming a pattern

In this artwork each image is different yet they’re still form a recognisable pattern.

Paintings with Pattern Formations

Now that we know how to identify the different types of patterns let’s see how they can we used in actual paintings.

Piet Mondrian abstract painting

In this painting by Piet Mondrian he has used irregular shapes and colours to create paintings that have become classics.

Andy Warhol pop art painting

Andy Warhol famously used patterns of regular images combined with irregular colours to create his pop art prints.

Roy Lichtenstein abstract portrait

Roy Lichtenstein used irregular changes and shapes to create his artwork entitled “Woman with flowered hat”.

Here are a few more paintings with patterns in them. Look at each of them to see if you can recognise which methods were used.

You can also click the images to follow those classes if you wish.

rose petals forming a pattern

How to Paint a Rose in Oil

orange cells forming a radiating pattern

How to Paint a SLice of Orange in Oil

bamboo stems forming a pattern

How to Paint Bamboo in Acrylic

Breaking the Pattern

Now we come to something that can really make your artworks stand out, and that is to break the pattern.

This can be done in many ways, but the idea is to add an unusual element to your pattern.

When you look at a pattern your brain is soothed by the repetition.

It likes to look at patterns because that is how it operates.

We recognise everything we know because our brain has memorized each item’s pattern.

Mona Lisa with purple hair to break the pattern

That is why you immediately notice when somebody has coloured their hair a different colour. That colour differs from the pattern your brain has memorized.

In other words the minute you break the pattern, your brain takes note and pays extra attention to this break in the pattern. It then tries to figure out what is different from the pattern it has stored in memory.

By the same token if you break the pattern in your artwork, then that’s break becomes the focal point of the artwork.

Here is a classic example:

Row of greyscale apples with one red spot colour apple to break the pattern

Paint the artwork in monotone then add a dash of colour to the focal point.

You can however use any of the methods already mentioned to break the pattern.

bed of roses with heart cushion to break the pattern

In this example the pattern of flowers is broken by the heart shaped pendant.

Your Challenge

Your challenge is to create an artwork that has a pattern in it using one of the methods from this tutorial.

The pattern can be regular, irregular or even a combination of both.

Then you must break that pattern in an interesting way.

Are you up for the challenge?

I know you are!

Create your artwork and then post it in the comments below. (Become a Patron to join in)

Good luck, I look forward to seeing your artwork.

Learning about patterns and how you can use them to create awesome artworks.  art concept, art challenge, art tutorial, art basics

About Nolan Clark

Read more about Nolan Clark

You May Also Like

Follow Us on :