Prior to 1980, my studies of knotwork patterns and zoomorphic
designs were primarily focused on the work of the Bronze Age Eastern
Europeans; then, I met and married a man whose mother claimed
a long line of Celts in her lineage. Few experiences in my life
have had a stronger creative input than the artwork that this
remarkable woman introduced me to. At first, simply copying the
designs took considerable effort, but by 1985, I had spent many
hours studying the traditional patterns. My own work incorporates
the traditional rules of Celtic knotwork design combined with
elements of my own Slavic heritage and my love of animals.
Before I began to design zoomorphs, my work consisted of drawings
and paintings of animals and plants as well as portraits and nudes,
both male and female. Pieces such as these are still a common
element in my work. Alongside traditional studies of animals,
I have drawn on my Slavic heritage to produce a collection of
animal studies in the Russian Lacquerwork style, familiar to most Americans as Palekh boxes.
The pieces are first drawn on the paper in India ink and allowed
to dry sufficiently overnight. Then the first layer of color is
applied in flat colors of permanent ink and when they are dry,
subsequent colors are washed over the top to define the spaces
clearly. If gold leaf is to be added, it is applied to the painting
a day after the inks are dried. Colored pencil and/or was transfer
is added last and blended into the existing color scheme as an additional highlight.
My education in the arts has come by way of my own curiosity
and experience. In 1972, I was fortunate to meet Aggeak Quakjuk,
a prominent Inuit artist, and studied the Inuit perspective in
art with him for two years. Russian was the focus of my study
in college, but in 1986, I conveyed that to my advantage and won
a grant to study a Jagiellonian University in Cracow, Poland.
The focus of my work there was "Pre-Christian Elements in
Eastern European Folk Art."
Although I am not a native to New England, I lived in Vermont
and in the Greater Boston area for nine years, and my work there attracted the attention of the New England Arts Council. I was
one of twenty-six artists invited to show at the Helen Day Museum show of New England artists. Recent shows include the North Texas Irish Festival where one of my pieces was selected as the best in the traditional category.
Knotwork designs are found in artwork of many cultures both past
and present, including ancient Greek and Roman art, Arabic art,
and Russian art. Perhaps the cultures most associated with development
and elaboration of the knotwork motif are the Celtic and Norse
cultures. Elantu is noted for creating new knotwork designs that
follow the traditional rules and incorporate both traditional
and modern themes. She has won several awards in international
competition for "Best Traditional Knotwork Design" because her
work follows these rules.
The most important rule is the over-under rule. Each thread of
the knot pattern is supposed to go over the first thread and under
the next thread or vice versa. The thread is never suppose to
cross over or cross under two or more threads at the same time.
The illustration below gives you an idea of how the over-under
rule is applied in a knotwork pattern.
Keywork is the process of filling the background of an image
with patterned drawings. Many examples of older Celtic designs
include keywork patterning in the design. Elantu usually includes
keywork of various patterns in her knotwork designs. The illustration
below provides an example of keywork patterning.
The Celts and Norse often used zoomorphic (animal form) designs in their artwork. Elantu builds her knotwork designs around zoomorphic and human figures. She has the knotwork threads weave in and out of the outlines of the zoomorphic and human figures. Elantu likes to work with odd numbers of figures in her designs. She particularly favors multiples of threes and fives. It is considered to be much more difficult to make an odd numbered knotwork design work out correctly without violating the over-under rule. It is much easier to work out even numbered knotwork designs.
The Celts often included dots around the design that served to delineate the knotwork as a whole. Elantu has incorporated this design feature into many of her knotwork designs.
Links to specific images:
Knotwork Designs ~ Mandalas
Tarot Images ~
Plants and Animals