Today’s post is part of a new series I’m planning of monthly updates on my drawing practice.
This blog was started, 8 years ago now, as a journal of me teaching myself to draw and paint.
Since that process never ends, I thought it would be nice to come full circle and start doing that again – once a month.
I hope it’s going to help you to see the kind of things I spend my practice time on, and what I think I get from them. I hope also that it’ll give you some ideas for things to try.
Like a lot of us, I have to fit my drawing practice around a busy life – two young kids, a day job and running a small business on the side.
So I know it’s not easy to fit in regular drawing practice.
I have found that I can do it though, with some carefully managed conscious habits.
For May 2015, my drawing practice consisted almost entirely of drawing mandalas.
Why draw mandalas for a month?
I know that drawing mandalas might not seem like the most obvious kind of drawing practice for a realistic artist to be doing.
After all, mandalas are abstract.
But let me tell you why you might want to think again about that.
Drawing mandalas can:
- Stretch your creativity – start in the middle and grow out, with no – or at least, little – initial plan. It can be challenging to do that at first, especially fora methodical planner like me. But once you get used to it, ideas will come that you would have never thought you had within you. And if you’re lucky, one or two of them will be beautiful.
- Help you overcome procrastination – it’s much easier to get started on something that you view more as a doodle that serious practice
- Promote the flow experience. The calm, unhurried approach lends itself to a meditative state of mind. I found myself drawing mandalas on the train on the morning commute, and an hour’s commute would seem to pass in minutes. That experience of stepping out of time for while is a sure sign of right brain mode.
- Help you develop your design skills. Although drawing a mandala might seem like doing a random doodle, all the time you’re drawing you’re dealing with spacing and proportion. Especially if you take the same design and repeat it a few times, trying to improve on the one you did before each time. It’s great design practice
And they’re just plain good fun to draw.
Now, I probably would never have done this practice if it wasn’t for the drawing community at Creative Triggers. These people never cease to amaze me.
Every month, we have an informal drawing challenge. Lately, we’ve been choosing the challenges collaboratively. The members of the community themselves have been suggesting subjects for the monthly drawing challenges.
It’s taken things in directions I would never have chosen if left to my own devices, and that has challenged me in the best possible way. There have been a few drawing exercises I might not have done otherwise that I’ve found great value in. Gesture drawing and blind contour drawing are good examples.
So is drawing mandalas. As soon as I started drawing my first one, I was hooked.
The Symbolism of the Mandala
A mandala is full of resonances.
The centre of the circle represents our inner world. When we’re balanced and calm, our centre is clear and uncomplicated. The complexity of the outside world is represented by the increasing complexity of the mandala as it spreads out from the centre.
So, a mandala can express calm in the centre of a complex world. That sounds very much like something I’d like to be able to achieve. My world is certainly more complex than I’d like it to be. How about yours?
Carl Jung is largely responsible for introducing mandalas to the west. He used to have a daily practice of drawing a mandala as a way to externalise subconscious thoughts. He thought that they were particularly useful during times of great personal change, and used them as part of his psychotherapy. He thought that the circle symbolised unity, the unity of the self.
My Drawings for Mandala May
Here’s a few examples of what I came up with as part of my Mandala May drawing challenge:
The first one was kind of shaky, I had no idea what I was doing:
Some of them were downright strange:
A few drawings into the series, I began to find my feet:
Sometimes I based them on observational drawing. This one is a pine cone (seen from the top) with some medieval-inspired decoration:
Occasionally, I came up with a less obvious idea. I do believe this kind of drawing can stretch your creativity, if approached in the right way:
This one is based on poppies: open flowers, unopened buds and leaves. I drew a lot of poppies last summer as part of another monthly drawing challenge – draw something outside every day for one month. Having drawn so many poppies so closely, I find I have a lot of detail about them internalised now:
Towards the end of the month I was producing pretty complex designs:
Oh and by the way, once you start on this stuff, you’ll start seeing mandalas everywhere. And I mean everywhere. Here’s one a friend of mine and I came across during one of our regular coffee chats. Cake mandala anyone?
How to draw a mandala
There really isn’t a set way to do this. But if you want to try it, here’s some simple instructions to get you started.
- Start in the middle by finding the centre of the piece of paper – symbolically, your personal centre.
- Draw a small circle.
- Then draw a simple ring of pattern around it. The pattern could be composed of anything: flower petals and leaves work well for me. Abstract shapes work well too. One Trigglet (the name we affectionately use amongst ourselves to describe members of Creative Triggers) actually drew one based on engine parts.
- Once you’ve done your first ring, draw another around it, and proceed out from there. Nothing could be simpler!
Sometimes I found it useful to mark out a circle that would be roughly the size of the mandala first. This also allowed me to practice some measuring by eye at the same time – yes, that’s hardcore drawing practice, right there!
Here’s a video from Creative Triggers showing how to draw a circle
What drawing mandalas for a month gave me
At the end of a month of drawing mandalas, I’m feeling good about the fact that I’ve practised drawing every day.
I’m feeling happy that I’ve tried something new, and found it to be valuable practice. In fact, I find that I learn more from the members of Creative Triggers than I they learn from me.
I’ve discovered more connections between meditation and drawing.
Mostly, though, the Mandala practice has helped me stay in touch with my drawing every day, in a low-pressure and enjoyable way.
The centre of a mandala is a calm place, a place of clarity, of thought and repose, of relaxed focus.
Drawing a mandala every day for month may help you to find some of that clarity and peace too.
It may help you to find your centre.
Thanks for reading,
P.S. If you want some help getting into a regular drawing habit, and some inspiration for projects to keep you interested, and a community to support you and keep you connected to your art, have a look at Creative Triggers.
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