GO! Make art! Making a Mandala

As I was preparing to go to an artist’s internship this week at a high school a few hours north of here I decided it would be fun to take photos of the steps taken to create a mandala. These were used to go along with the verbal instructions for the students and I thought some of you might be interested as well.

Drawing and coloring a mandala can be a highly enriching personal experience in which you look inside yourself and find the shapes, colors and patterns to represent anything from your current state of mind to your most deeply-desired wishes.  Many different cultures around the world use mandalas in their spiritual practices as tools for meditation and increasing self-awareness. I am sure there are several ways to make these images, this is just what I found easiest after I read about how to create them. Let’s begin:

Start with a square piece of paper. I like the feel of a thick, smooth bristol but there are many types of paper that will work. Experiment to see which you like best! The first step is to mark off a border around the outside of your paper, at least 1/2 an inch on each side. I often just use the width of the ruler I am using to make it quick & easy. I learned the hard way that if you don’t leave a plain border around the edge you can’t mat/frame the image without loosing the outer part of the design!

Step 1, making a mandala (c) 2010, Lynne Medsker

After you’ve done that the next step is to draw a line diagonally from corner to corner, both directions, so you can find the center of the paper. You will have four triangle shaped pieces. Following that you’ll want to divide each of those in half with lines that dissect your square in the middle going both directions. You’ll end up with 8 “slices” when you are finished. For smaller pieces this will be all you need. If you are making a much larger mandala (over 10 inches or so) you may want to divide these in half again, finishing with 16 “slices”. You will want to make all your marks fairly light as they will need to be erased later!

Steps 2 & 3, making a mandala (c) 2010, Lynne Medsker

For the fourth step we will be using a compass. (If you don’t have a compass you can measure out from the center and make marks in a circular pattern and connect them by hand.) The point of the compass will go in the center of your paper. Start by making a small circle around the center. I find it a lot easier to hold the compass in place and turn the paper instead of trying to turn the compass! After your first circle make a slightly larger circle, repeating this process until you reach the outer border. For smaller pieces you’ll want around 5 or 6 circles of varying sizes, for larger pieces you will want more. These are guidelines to use for making your mandala design.

Step 4, making a mandala (c) 2010, Lynne Medsker
Step 4, continued, Making a mandala (c) 2010, Lynne Medsker
Step 4, complete, Making a mandala (c) 2010, Lynne Medsker

Now we begin designing! Using a fine-tip permanent marker, start in the center of your grid and begin to make the same marks/designs in each section, turning & repeating until that circle is full.

Step 5, Making a mandala (c) 2010, Lynne Medsker

Then begin moving outward to enlarge the design.

Step 6, Making a mandala (c) 2010, Lynne Medsker
Step 6, continued, Making a mandala (c) 2010, Lynne Medsker

Repeat this process until you are happy with your design. Remember to just relax and let the design flow…this is just a very organized way of doodling! 🙂 Don’t spend too much time thinking about it.

Step 6, continued, Making a mandala (c) 2010, Lynne Medsker
Step 6, continued, Making a mandala (c) 2010, Lynne Medsker
Step 6, complete, Making a mandala (c) 2010, Lynne Medsker

Once you are pleased with you design you will erase all the pencil marks before you begin to add color to your mandala. My preference is a white “Magic Rub” eraser, it seems to do a nice clean job of erasing without leaving smears or smudges behind.

Step 7, Making a mandala (c) 2010, Lynne Medsker

Now it’s color time! You can color your mandala with many different types of materials from markers, to pencils, to paint – whatever you are comfortable working with. I have been using gel ink pens on mine, they are easy to use, bright & sparkly. At first I seemed to use the entire array of colors on each piece but I find myself selecting a smaller group of colors to work with lately. For this piece I used black, silver & pink. Begin in the center & work your way toward to outside to help cut down on any smudging of still-wet ink. Again, this is a time to just let it flow and go with your instincts instead of having a meticulous plan. Although if you are only comfortable with a meticulous plan, well, hey it’s YOUR mandala, do it  how you please!

Step 8, Making a mandala (c) 2010, Lynne Medsker
Step 8, continued, Making a mandala (c) 2010, Lynne Medsker
finished mandala, Making a mandala (c) 2010, Lynne Medsker

The best thing about designing your own mandala is that you have the freedom to choose whatever shapes and colors that you feel express your sense of self and your view of reality. Your mandala is yours, and you have the freedom to use your creativity to create a mandala drawing that is uniquely you. Once you’ve learned the basic steps you can try new designs, colors and ideas each time you draw a new mandala.  I find them to be a soothing & relaxing form of creativity. I hope you enjoyed learning how to create them as much as I have! Now it’s your turn – GO! Make Art!


P.S. Be sure to check back tomorrow – I will be featuring some of the fabulous designs the students did in class!

2 thoughts on “GO! Make art! Making a Mandala

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