The Language of Nature: Design Motifs

The Prince's Foundation School of Traditional Arts China Centre
2019.1.14 - 2019.1.25
Ayesha Gamiet

This course consists two sessions,each could be registered separately.


Painting and Illumination Techniques from the Islamic World 


Islamic Patterns Inspired by Nature

Course Description

In this course, students will learn how to create traditional Islamic patterns, inspired by nature. We will explore the relationship between Islamic and Chinese natural-inspired designs, looking at how the Silk Road ceramic trade facilitated a creative flowering between these two cultures. Students will learn about stylised Islamic patterns and their roots in the natural world. They will experience centuries-old painting techniques from Islamic art, specifically from Islamic manuscripts, and have the opportunity to make their own paints from pigments, including an earth colour, ultramarine blue, and a paint made from real gold - known as shell gold.

Students will learn traditional design principles from the world of Islamic art. The second week of the course will focus on giving students the skills to create their own nature-inspired patterns for a set of ceramic tiles. After developing their designs, they will use painting techniques learnt in week 1 to add colour. We will also take a closer look at connections between Chinese and Islamic art, and the influence of the Silk Road trade on the traditional arts of these two cultures.  

Module Aims: 

  • To explore the cross-cultural links between Chinese and Islamic art with particular focus on nature-inspired patterns (known as islimi). We will consider historical influences, and explore traditional motifs, composition and design, and painting techniques techniques used throughout the Islamic world. 
  • To familiarise students with plant and floral-inspired design, known as islimi, in Islamic art.
  • To explore the relationship between traditional islimi motifs and their origins in nature. 
  • To help students understand how individual motifs are created using various types of symmetry.
  • To introduce students to fundamental elements of islimi composition (spirals, flowers, leaves, design starting point and direction). 
  • To introduce students to manuscript illumination techniques from the Islamic world: 1) historical and stylistic context, 2) regional variations,3) traditional methods and techniques(shell gold, paint making, shading) 4) design motifs (flowers, leaves, animals) 
  • To refine and develop students’ drawing and brushwork skills. 
  • To design and paint patterns for a ceramic item. 

Module Objectives: 

  • Visual resources (e.g. PowerPoint and course handouts) familiarising students with islimi lexicon relating to China and the Islamic world. 
  • Class discussion and opportunities for Q&A. 
  • Practical demonstrations. 
  • Painting and drawing exercises to develop students’ skills, and give them the opportunity to practice what they have learnt. 
  • Drawing from life. 
  • Tutor-led sessions on islimi pattern analysis and construction.
  • Sessions allowing students to develop their own islimi designs independently. 

Expected Outcomes: 

  • A small portfolio of brush and pencil drawings and exercises.
  • Handmade shell gold to be used for gilding illuminated designs. 
  • Handmade paints from pigment.
  • Two illuminated paintings.
  • A nature-inspired design for a set of ceramic tiles, and a plate (time permitting). 

Tutor biography

Ayesha Gamiet

Ayesha Gamiet is an artist, illustrator and art educator from the South East of England.Ayesha's interest in art and culture led her to pursue a BA in African and Asian Art History and Archaeology at SOAS, University of London, and a Master's Degree in Traditional and Islamic Arts at the Prince's School of Traditional Arts. 

Ayesha also holds a Master's Degree in Education from the University of Cambridge. She is a qualified secondary school art teacher with experience of teaching art to adults and children, from primary to post-graduate level.

Ayesha’s teaching experience includes delivering training to new art teachers at the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge; work at the Queen’s Gallery, London; and teaching on the PSTA open program in Cairo, Jeddah, Doha, and Abu Dhabi.