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One of the hidden parts of Art Deco is locating point. Rather measure from one place to another, and winding up with some weird number that somebody can't realistically measure, drafting relies on using geometric relationships to locate intersection points. Using a very well known set of procedures, you can mechanically solve geometric math problems. Done by a well trained draftsman, these points will meet across a page with literally pinpoint accuracy. (As draftsmen use callipers, which are literally pins in sticks, this analogy is quite literal.)

If you know how to locate points geometrically, you can recreate the relationships in existing work. You can also more accurate recreate the feel of Art Deco by understanding that points don't exist at random. Geometry determines your important points for you.

Art Deco takes this one step forward, creating shapes and patterns with geometric boundaries. You've seen many examples of such shapes. What you may not realize it that many relationships are created by these shapes, even if you don't see them.

I took one set of typical Art Deco blocks and determined their width based on other shapes giving us guidelines.

Note that pure circles are extremely strong, so they are used sparingly. Ellipses and spirals are used far more frequently.

I am very satisfied with the image. It explains more than I can. You will note many familiar Art Deco patterns in the image.

Example - Matching Curves.png

The issue with patterns with that draftsmen used pencils to create what they wanted. They could take a curve and draw just want they wanted, over and over again. For them, that sort of thing is trivial. If you are using a vector art program, you can do the same, but the process can be far more labor intensive, depending on the complexity. This is especially true for wallpaper patterns.

One point that I can't emphasize enough is that there are no random points in Art Deco. Every point must be located through some mechanical means, either directly measuring or geometrically locating.

Return to: Art Deco 101

Douglas Milewski is a fantasy writer who liked drafting class too much. In his recent artistic struggles to produce art deco for his own covers, he found no internet sites dedicated to the technical underpinnings of the art. Seeing a niche that needed filling, he has documented his hard learned experiences. He doesn't claim that he's right, and would very much appreciate it if someone more competent would save him from his own folly.