This month I have been drawn to work on mandalas and mosaics. My daughter signed me up for an art class for a gift, so I’ll be going to a mosaic class. Perhaps my interest began with the symmetrical designs I made out of cut paper for my kirigami month (see No Two Are Alike and Let It Snow). Those were very satisfying patterns to create.
My decision to work on mandalas and mosaics was cemented when I was reading a book on creativity by choreographer Twyla Tharp, “The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life.” One of her creativity exercises was to take out whatever coins you had in your pocket or purse, set them on the table and arrange them in whatever pattern you find pleasing to you. This was what I made:
It became clear to me that I wanted to explore this type of pattern in art, which I will try with tile mosaics in my upcoming art class.
In the meantime, I will experiment both with paper and other materials to create mandalas. According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, a mandala is: “a Hindu or Buddhist graphic symbol of the universe; specifically: a circle enclosing a square with a deity on each side that is used chiefly as an aid to meditation,” or “a graphic and often symbolic pattern usually in the form of a circle divided into four separate sections or bearing a multiple projection of an image.”
Although most commonly found in the art of South Asian cultures, comparable circular and symmetrical designs like the mandala are seen in the art of many cultures, including Celtic and Native American art.
Mandalas are very pleasing to the eye, mostly because of their symmetry, and they do have a meditative quality, which I first found out when I started coloring them. Yes, I was into the adult coloring book craze, but WAY before it was a thing! My interest in coloring as an adult creative activity began when I took a writing process class from author and creative process expert Rosanne Bane at the Loft Literary Center, where I have also taught writing classes.
In her classes and books, Rosanne recommends coloring as a way to relearn enjoying the process of being creative, without the pressure of worrying about a finished product. Her recommendation is to enjoy the activity as a sort of meditation, and not to care about how it turns out. It should be a finished product that you’d be just as happy discarding as keeping. The importance of it is in the act of DOING.
In her book “Around the Writer’s Block: Using Brain Science to Solve Writer’s Resistance,” Bane recommends “Process” activities such as coloring and drawing mandalas: “Any kind of creative play that appeals to you, captures your focus, and allows you to get lost in the doing without fretting about the outcome is a good choice for process.”
In years past, I’ve enjoyed coloring in mandala books such as these:
Because I have a large collection of papers that I have used in making collages (see previous blogs beginning with A Bird by Any Other Name and ending with Juxtaposition of Elements), I decided to first start by taking mandala pages I had previously colored and transforming them with paper collage.
I started with this somewhat unappealing looking picture (what was I thinking with all that pink?), which is an unusual square mandala (a Hindra Yantra of the goddess Durga; a Yantra being a geometric diagram used for meditation in tantric worship):
I began finding papers to cut into some of the shapes and attach to the paper using Mod Podge glue. Some papers I have are craft papers, some are random photographs or pages from old maps or books found at a thrift store.
Finally ending up with my finished image:
The second one I selected was also a square “yantra” mandala:
(Again, with the pink? What was I thinking?) I was eager to cover up this image.
This was described as an astrological yantra mandala, which made me choose some items from an old outer space calendar for some sections, as well as my final background.
My final attempt was more of a traditional round mandala, and I liked enough of the intricate coloring (also very had to cover with paper) to leave some there. Here’s the original (way too much pink):
I began cutting different colored and patterned papers to cover some of the offending pink and other shapes.
Finally ending up with this, where I decided to stop:
My plan for the next couple of weeks, besides my upcoming mosaic class, is to try creating my own mandala design using different shapes of cut-out paper, and to make a mosaic/mandala with other materials — such as the tiles in my class, perhaps buttons, or other materials maybe from my local Michael’s craft store? Suggestions?