Mandala For Mindfulness

Mandala Workshop

These look great, don't they? But how on earth do you get to these from a blank page? We were stumped too, so some of us got together with our new friends from Funky Pigeon and invited Helen of @journalwithpurpose to show us how to produce these beautiful pieces of artwork.

When you say 'mandala' you put the emphasis on the first syllable: MANdala rather than manDAla. Which actually sounds much better anyway, more tuneful (or am I thinking of mandolins - the musical instrument, not the monkey. Or is it actually a mandarin monkey? Or am I mixing all those up with a pangolin, which is neither a monkey not a musical instrument? Oh dear. Back to mandalas…)

Mandala Workshop

Anyway, mandala means 'circle' in Sanskrit, and that's basically what mandalas are - circles. But that description doesn't really do them justice. The circles have circles within circles, and carefully-constructed lines and angles, which are all skilfully woven together to create intricate pieces of art. Sounds very mathematical, and - actually - they are: art and maths in perfect harmony! At least that's the modern meaning as we know it. In Buddhist and Hindu religions, which is where mandalas originated, they are spiritual and ritualistic symbols representing nothing less than the universe.

We enjoyed learning how to construct mandalas so much, we thought we'd pass on our knowledge in the form of a step-by-step guide. Anybody can do them - you don't need to be arty necessarily, although obviously it's an advantage when it comes to dreaming up new patterns and colours to use - and you don't need much in the way of equipment to create them (and what you do need doesn't cost much: conducting a dawn raid on a child's pencil case will do, but it's probably better to have your own stuff!)

    So, let's do it! For this particular design, you will need:
  • A few sheets of paper
  • A compass. Not something that points north, but one of those metal things with a pointy bit and a pencil. Try the Maped 360 Agility - it's fun to use, as well as practical
  • A ruler. KUM's wavy edge ruler would produce some interesting results, but a standard one will do
  • A pencil. One of the harder grades is best, as they make fainter marks and are easier and cleaner to erase
  • An eraser. One with a fine point or edge is ideal, something like the Tombow MONO fine eraser or Faber-Castell's Perfection Eraser Pencil, or choose from the Kokuyo range
  • A black fineliner or drawing pen. Plenty of choice here, particularly from Staedtler, Faber-Castell, edding and Derwent
  • Amy. She did all the artwork here, so we definitely needed her. But she's not necessary where you're concerned, although I'm sure she'd consider it if you invited her round and offered her a cup of tea and a biscuit or two. But creating mandalas yourself is the whole point of this blog, so it's probably best if you leave Amy here to get on with Cult Pens customer service stuff!

    Anyway, this is what you do:
  1. Using your compass, draw a circle and lightly mark the centre in pencil with a dot or a small cross
  2. Without changing the diameter of your compass, place the point on the circumference of the circle (anywhere will do - ours shows a red cross where Amy began hers) and create an arc within the circle
  3. Now place the point of your compass on the circumference of the circle where the first arc intersects (marked with a red cross) and draw a second arc
  4. Moving anticlockwise around the circumference, place the point of your compass at each intersection (where each arc meets the circle) and draw an arc…
  5. … until you have created a flower-like effect. Don't worry if the pencil marks extend outside the circle - this is where your eraser comes in!
  6. Now reduce the diameter of your compass, place the point in the centre and draw further, concentric circles within the original one
  7. You can create…
  8. … as many as you like!
  9. Take your preferred black fineliner or drawing pen
  10. Carefully draw over the pencil lines
  11. Then erase any still-visible pencil marks
  12. Start filling in the sections with different techniques - lines or dots or grids and so on. You can use a ruler or just do it freehand until you have your final mandala (see above). Well done - give yourself a pat on the back!

There are countless ways of using this basic technique to create other designs: all the other mandalas in this blog were created in the same way, but just got different final treatments. The most obvious thing to do is use colour, and fineliners are best, particularly for the tiny little sections! Staedtler's triplus range is perfect; or try Schneider, or even the Pilot G-Tec! Your eraser is also a very handy tool, and not just for getting rid of rogue pencil marks. Try erasing different sections of your mandala before going over your design in pen - you could end up with something similar to the blue mandala.

And there are, of course, many different basic designs. Another one involves using a protractor - yes, one of those semicircular things you last saw in Mrs Jones's maths class in 1985. The Oxford maths set contains one, just so you know. And that sounds daunting, but it's really not. It's just useful for marking out a circle into exact divisions, so that the resulting mandala is perfectly precise.

These geometrical designs can be as simple or as involved as you like - a quick gallop through YouTube land or Instagram shows some mind-bogglingly complex creations, which all - yes really! - started with a few simple circles and lines. If you like colour - use it! Because of their many components, mandalas really make you think about which colours to use, and where to use them for the best effect. On the other hand, sometimes just a bit of black is all you need.

Mistakes? Ha! Be canny and incorporate them into your design - nobody will know. A bit of serendipity can only be a good thing.

They're a great way of relaxing: they require just enough concentration to focus your thoughts but not enough to start your blood pressure rising. You could - depending on its level of intricacy - keep adding to the same one over several sessions, resulting in a growing feeling of accomplishment.

The possibilities for mandala creation are legion. Use shimmering or sheening inks and a tiny paintbrush instead of fineliners for colour. Fill the sections with illustrations, wise words, quotes or bits of poetry instead of patterns or block colour. They can have a practical purpose too: journalers like Helen use them as life and habit trackers. But for many people they're simply a fascinating - and creative - way of passing the time. Or a great excuse to invite a few friends in for an educational, creative hour before the pizzas for lunch turn up - which is exactly what we did!

15 April 2019

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