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Making Mandalas

Mandala Colored, Aimee N Youngs

Somewhat recently, I discovered Mandalas… oh, I’ve seen them hundreds of times, but just thought they were some sort of funky hippie doily design art.  False!  Mandalas are SOOOO much more than that, and I’m so happy to have discovered them and adopted them into my life.  There is a lot to learn about mandalas that I have yet to know, and I hope to share that journey with you here from time to time.  What I have learned so far is impressive.

The original definition of a mandala is a symbol from Buddhism and Hinduism meaning the universe.  The word “mandala” is Sanskrit for the word “circle”.  But mandalas are not just some ancient symbol or image of the new-age.  Mandalas are a creative healing tool, but you do not have to be “creative” or “artistic” to use them (we are all creative, but that is a post for another day).

Aimee N Youngs MandalaTo the left is a mandala in progress that I worked on.  Start with a circle on the page.  Draw 4 lines through the center, cutting it just like a pizza pie so there are eight equal segments.  One line vertical, and another line horizontally across, like a ‘+’.  Then split those with two lines, like an ‘x’.  Here I split them into sixteenths, but for starters, I recommend eighths.  Then, you may simply start drawing from the center, and work out.  There are endless approaches to mandala making, so you can’t do it wrong.

The way I have been learning to look at it, is that there are two personal approaches to decide your method for drawing.  They can even be combined, but neither should really be planned out….your intuition will assist with mandala making, and if you ever feel stumped, I recommend doing some brief meditation.  In fact, I recommend starting the process with a brief meditation whenever possible.

The first approach you may take is to think about something you are dealing with in life, either something you are worried about, or something you are going through….it can be good or bad.  It can even be several things….the mandala could represent a period of time, such as your childhood, the past year, or just the past week (I often focus my mandalas on what I have been dealing with over the past week, and find the experience very therapeutic).  Or it could be a subject, such as a relationship with another person, or your career.  Think about how this time period or subject makes you feel.  What comes to mind?  How could you symbolize it?

What is fantastic about expressive art is that you don’t necessarily need the words to describe what you’ve been through…..you can symbolize it with a drawing tool.  A note on that: although you see I start my drawings with black ink, you are by no means required to do that….you may use pencil, colored pencils, marker, paint, etc.  Any drawing tool that makes you feel comfortable is the best way to dive in.  Then there is the matter of color…. colors can symbolize feelings, so if you were angry about something, you may draw some harsh pointed lines, and they may be red, or colored like fire to represent your fury.  A calm situation may call for blues or greens.  These are simply guidelines to point out how you may use color, and basic drawing elements to symbolize a feeling.

The other approach I use to mandala-making is very loose and free.  Once you’ve drawn your circle and pizza pie, do a little deep breathing or meditation to clear your mind.  Begin drawing entirely based on your intuition.  Every line, tool, color that you draw should come from a sense of your inner conscience.  Here you definitely want to avoid planning, and really allow yourself to get into a flow state of creative freedom…. I find this method is healing too, but takes a different approach.  There are some days when I don’t want to think about the problem, but need some blessed hours of escape, and this method works well for that.

Well, I hope this is a good introduction to getting started with mandala making.  I highly recommend you look up mandalas on Google images or on Pinterest (here’s one of my boards) to learn how endless the possibilities are of mandala-making.  Here are some samples of some of my mandalas (and some of my students) on Instagram.  Lastly, do not give up after making one mandala if you don’t like the outcome.  Try again.  Within a few mandalas, you will actually begin to love what you are making.