Traditional Designs


If you read about the lives of famous artists, you will find that most of them learned by studying the works of those who came before them.  Even modern artists like Picasso spent hours in museums, looking at and copying the works of earlier painters, to learn how they did what they did.  They knew that before they could create art of their own, they needed to master the basics of their art form, be it painting, sculpture, architecture......

Pysankarstvo is the same.  It is not enough just to learn how to hold a stylus, how to write an line, and how to dye an egg.  You need to learn the building blocks of the art: how to divide an egg, how to place motifs, how to sequence your dyes, and how to choose your color palette.  The best and easiest way to do this is to study and write traditional folk pysanky.

Taras Horodetsky’s and Oleh Kirashchuk’s work points out the importance of being well grounded in traditional design. Both of them began creating traditional patterns, and, only after they had mastered those, did they move on to art pysanky, their own original works. They were well grounded in color and motifs, and, quite simply, how to put together a good design, before they struck out on their own.

There is a lot we can all learn from the traditional pysanka. If you look at the eggs in Manko's book, you will find a wealth of designs and motifs. The folk pysanky she shows were written in the late 20th century, but most are ancient designs copied from much older pysanky in museum and private collections.  These pysanka patterns, passed down over generations, have been perfected, with unity of design and color and theme, in a way that few beginners (or even those of us who have been around a while) can do themselves.

Simplicity of design, no superfluity of colors, and unity of design and color are things we can all take away from the traditional pysanka. I find that, since I have been studying and copying them, my work has improved tremendously.  I only wish these sorts of resources had been available when I first began making pysanky, instead of only so much later on in my career.....

Suggested sources:

Facebook: Traditional Ukrainian Folk Pysanky

My Google Drive pysanka folder

Books in print:
    Vira Manko’s “Ukrainian Folk Pysanka
    Ferenchuk’s “Pysanky of Our Grandmothers” (Bukovynian)
    Maryna Verkhova’s “Pysanky of Podillia

And, of course, the contents of the my web site.

NOTE: Illustrations on this page are from Mytsyk and Fusyn’s “Pysanka” (pysanky from the Cherkasy region), and Kulzhynsky’s Descriptions of a Collection of Folk Pysanky (pysanky from the Poltava region shown below)

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Learning from Folk Pysanky