Drawing starts with lines. Not too soft. Not too hard. (2B pencils work best.) Follow the history of pottery with a pencil in your hand:

Some 20.000 years ago people living in far-from-comfortable conditions endeavored to adorn their vessels. In a freezing climate (still Ice Age), changing often their homes, busy to fulfill the most essential need — food — people on the territory of today’s Southern China made simple vessels. The discovered shards show horizontal lines, probably cordage impressions. These may have resulted from the production process. However these first vessels  show us a concern with the look. The vessels could have been left simple or with irregular pattern, couldn’t they? 

We think that doing art comes after satisfying basic needs. It is a pleasure that one can afford only when reaching a good life standard. Yet, the pre-Neolithic artefacts discovered by archeologists (that is artefacts dated before the foundation of permanent settlements) prove that ornaments were part of the lifestyle, no matter how good or bad the life was.

Drawing Earliest Pottery Patterns

Lines and dots appear on those early shards of pottery discovered by archeologists in Southern China, in the Xianren Cave, on the Dayuan River. (You’ll remember the name Xianren because it means “immortal.” The 8 Xianren feature in Chinese stories and on artefacts).  The geometric patterns of lines and dots show us that those people appreciated the same beauty as we do today. Those archaic ornaments look beautiful even today. What makes them beautiful? A couple of rules that please people all over the world. One of them is SYMMETRY. Other is REPETITION.

Try the Xianren pattern until you get confident. It is a bundle of 5 paralel lines rope-pressed in clay. Horizontal, vertical and oblique. Shorter bundles and longer bundles (until you reach the entire length of the page). The grouped dots are also incised in the pottery. Pay attention to the equal spacing between dots.

Start with short paralel lines. Lengthen them until you reach the paper’s length. The line shouldn’t be drawn out of many connected segments. It is just one. You won’t control its direction in the beginning. No worry, just trace another line overlapping the first. No need for erasers. After some tracing, start controlling the direction by trembling a bit the line.

pottery pattern Xianren
Lines and dots. Xianren pottery.

Go on with Siberian pottery patterns. In the freezing Far East Russia, not far from Lake Baikal, at Ust-Karenga, archeologists discovered 12.000 years old pottery. It was the ending of Ice Age and the beginning of sedentary cultures.

Herringbone patterns (1) and (2). Draw a horizontal construction line (that is a light line that helps your drawing). Trace oblique up and down lines. Intersect a bit the lines on the construction line, so that the endings appear lengthened. This is an architectural drawing trick that makes your drawing look like a pro’s one! The same with pattern (2).

Siberian pottery. Horizontal herringbone.
Siberian pottery. Horizontal herringbone.
Siberian pottery. Vertical herringbone.
Siberian pottery. Vertical herringbone.


Zigzag patterns: use 3 construction lines. Intersect the lines and leave the endings free over the intersection point.

Siberian pottery. Zigzag pattern.
Siberian pottery. Zigzag pattern.

Comb pattern: delimitate a rectangle with construction lines. Start in the middle with a bundle of 5 or 7 parallel line. Curve them a bit. Continue with another bundle. Cover the remaining area between the two bundles with paralel lines. Go on. The closer the paralel lines, the better.

Siberian comb
Siberian pottery. Comb pattern.

Composition: Symmetry and repetition with zigzags and dots. Use construction lines. Here are 4 steps to compose geometrically:

Siberian composition
Siberian pottery. Composition: dots and zigzags.

Draw several times each pottery pattern until you trace lines with confidence.

Happy drawing until next posting!