Friday, December 5, 2014

Mandala Evolution

Over the past six weeks I've been experimenting with forms and tools to create mandalas, or circular designs, during a 100 Day "Mandala Challenge" started by artists Kathryn Costa and Megan Warren. This may seem like a stretch to relate to suburban natural history, but it does, because ultimately, my images are inspired by forms I find in nature. Today I paused to look at how my drawings had morphed depending on tools I used, color palettes I chose, and the basic shapes that each drawing began with. 
At first I was inspired by a formulaic approach suggested by an accomplished mandala artist who has been practicing mandala art for years, Maga Merlina. This is my very first mandala using a tutorial she posted on her website. Maga Merlina's work continues to amaze me, because for me it is so hard to draw a circle freehand!

Nine days later, my forms, shapes and tools (a set of gel pens and a yellow highlighter) hadn't changed much. I was learning to appreciate  how the mandala drawing practice helped me to focus and to let go of trying to make my drawings "perfect." A little bleed here and a little coloring outside the lines did not matter when looking at the whole.
After three weeks, I started to experiment with incorporating natural forms into the mandala formula. I also invested in a set of graphic artist fine point pens. In this one, I was inspired by a desert marigold flower blooming in my backyard. I decided not to color it because it seemed just right in black and white!
A few days later, I discovered the joy of using brush markers, which changed my color palette quite a bit.  In this one, I was inspired by an evening primrose flower.  
During an on-line Mandala Magic course offered by Scottish artist Julie Gibbons, I learned a new formula based on the patterns of lotus blossoms.   I like this methodological approach because it is very simple, but offers endless variation depending on how you choose to color your design.
By Day 34, I decided to combine the original formulaic approach with the lotus design and a floral center. I also discovered that I really enjoy working with colored pencils, which expanded my color palette dramatically! Still can't draw a circle. :(

Something snapped the next day and I went back to a very basic mandala form, the spiral. This was partly because I was trying to draw while traveling in a car, so it was too bumpy to do anything very detailed. But in the process I realized, my own style was beginning to emerge, which is much more organic. I felt a new sense of freedom and creativity blossoming!

Rapid metamorphosis continued to happen over the next few days.  I created this mandala based on the shape of a thin crescent moon. This was also made while traveling in a car, but I really LIKE the organic, not-at-all "perfect" lines and shapes.

Today, which is day 45 for me, I created a mandala in black ink, colored pencil, water color and metallic marker inspired by the leafy rosette of a winged buckwheat I photographed in Canyonlands, Utah last weekend. 
The entire process fascinates me for so many reasons. It is teaching me better focus, to experiment and to notice patterns in the natural world around me. But it is also teaching me to appreciate how we all evolve in the way we think and do things. Sometimes we change very slowly. Sometimes we have leaps of awareness. Sometimes we combine information from many sources to create new realizations. This is also very much like the process of biological evolution, which combines and recombines genetic material to create new and completely unique lifeforms over the millennia.