Activity: Find Patterns Everywhere!

  • Grades: All Ages
  • Subjects: Art Activities

A pattern is a kind of design that repeats colors, shapes, objects, lines, or symbols in a predictable way. Sometimes, in a complex pattern, it can be hard to discover where the repetition begins and ends. Patterns are not limited to works of art. They can be found everywhere, including nature and everyday objects. You can probably see a pattern from where you are right now! In today’s activity, let’s start by examining the following artworks with our eyes peeled for patterns.

Black-and-white photograph of a groom and a bride wearing a gown with a gathered bodice, sweetheart neckline, sheer veil, and train, posed in a domestic interior.
Charles Teenie” Harris, Groom, and bride wearing gown with gathered bodice, sweetheart neckline, sheer veil, and train, posed in domestic interior with oriental rug and bold leaf patterned curtains, possibly for Hurt and Sammons wedding, another version, 1946, Carnegie Museum of Art
An abstract woodcut on paper with a brightly colored background and seven horizontal lines cutting across the artwork.
Donald Judd, Untitled, 1993–1994, Carnegie Museum of Art
photograph depicts row houses along a slope. A vacant lot is in the foreground of the image.
Zoe Strauss, West Homestead Homes, 2013, Carnegie Museum of Art

Discuss with These Questions:

  • Look at the three artworks provided. Where do you see patterns? Describe what is being repeated to create the pattern. Which are simple patterns and which are complex patterns?
  • Look around your home. What patterns do you notice?

Get Creative: Search for Patterns and Create Your Own Pattern

Materials needed: paper, pencil, crayons, colored pencils, markers, or paint

  1. Sitting wherever you are with your paper and pencil, look around for some patterns. Make a list of everything you see that has a pattern of repeating colors, shapes, symbols, or lines.
  2. Now, go on a pattern search. Look in your kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, and any other spaces you’d like. Don’t forget to look in your closet or dresser drawers. Clothes are often decorated with stripes, polka dots, or repeating images like floral prints.
  3. As you walk about, make sure to stop in a couple of different places. Take some time to sketch your favorite pattern. What do you like about it? What makes it your favorite?
  4. Count the number of patterns on your finished list. How many did you find?
  5. Which patterns were you most surprised to discover? Why?
  6. Are the patterns you found like the Judd artwork, featuring one repeating element with even spaces in between? Or are they like the draperies and carpet in the Teenie Harris photograph, with multiple shapes repeating in a more complex way?
  7. Now flip your paper over and try creating your own original pattern. What will you repeat? Have fun with the repetition of colors, shapes, objects, lines, or symbols! Challenge yourself to cover your entire page with the same pattern. Maybe you can use your patterned paper to wrap a gift for someone special!