If you’ve ever travelled to the Middle East or Morroco or visited Moorish palaces like the Alhambra in southern Spain, you will no doubt have been mesmerised by Arabic geometric art. Stunning tilework adorn the facades and interiors of mosques, forts and many other majestic buildings with similar designs appearing in exquisite ancient Islamic manuscripts. One of the easiest of these Arabic geometric patterns to draw is the star and cross pattern. It features an eight-pointed star or octagram as it is called in geomtery.
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The star can be used on its own, maybe to frame some calligraphy or a floriated Arabesque design. Alternatively, the star can be drawn repeatedly to form what is known as a tessellated pattern. It is then that the cross can also be seen and the overall design is known as the Star and Cross pattern.
Search for any of these hashtags on Instagram for #islamicillumination or #islamicgeometry and you’ll soon find a wonderful array of artwork from current artists around the world incorporating geometric, calligraphic and biomorphic (intertwined stems, leaves and flowers) designs. These are three important elements found in Islamic art.
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How to draw the eight-pointed star (traditional method)
The star and cross is one of the simplest geometric designs I’ve come across and if you are new to Islamic geometric and illumination, it’s a great place to start. We’ll start with the eight-pointed star, known as an octagram in geometry or khatam in Islamic geometry.
In traditional Arabic geometric art, the designs are drawn using only a straight edge and a compass. There’s something very satisfying and really quite magical about drawing patterns in this way. It’s surprisingly accurate too!
1. To start. draw a circle with your compass followed by a horizontal line through the centre of your circle. No measuring is needed but make sure your circle doesn’t fill your paper. You will need a reasonable space around it as you’ll see if you scroll down a few images first.
2. Using the exact same radius as your original circle draw with the point of your compass in the red points below, and draw two more semi-circles.
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3. Keeping with the same radius, place the point of your compass at the intersection shown with a red dot and draw the arc also shown in red below.