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!

Lynne

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

GO! Make Art! Handmade Journal with “Recycled” Cover

Finished Journal 10/20/09 (c) Lynne Medsker
Finished Journal 10/20/09 (c) Lynne Medsker

There are lots of ways to create a journal! Today I am going to share how to make journals using recycled materials for the cover.  Here is an image of the materials before I began (coffee optional!):

materials used
materials used

This is made with pretty basic, simple stuff that everyone has access to!  Several sheets of plain white paper for the pages (folded in 1/2 and trimmed to size), an empty cereal box for the cover (trimmed to size), and a piece of decorative paper.  Although I used writing paper you could use blank sheets of copier paper, lined notebook paper or a variety of other types of paper to create your pages.  You could also create your own decorative cover with paint, markers, cloth, stamps, ink, crayons, tissue paper collage or almost any art medium you chose.  Just be sure it’s thick enough that the cereal box design doesn’t show through – unless you want it to! I used a bone folder to slide & press along the folds and make sure they were nice & flat but there are many household items that would work as well – the flat edge of a ruler, a butter knife – just get creative! The paper for the inside pages are trimmed about 1/4 inch smaller on all sides than the cereal box.  Remember that you are folding them in half so they need to be twice the width! Cut your decorative paper slightly larger than the size of your cereal box.  Spread a thin layer of PVA or clear acrylic gel (even rubber cement, white glue  or modge-podge if that’s what you have) on the outside of the cover.  Center the decorative paper over the cover and smooth it from the center out to the edges.  Turn it over, spread glue around the back edges then fold the excess paper over and secure it with clips.  I used binder clips but clothespins or even paper clips will work just as well.  Wipe away any excess glue that squirts out the edges and then set it aside to dry for a few minutes.

decorative paper added
decorative paper added

While the cover is drying you can create your “signature” (which is the fancy term for the bound-together pages inside your journal). Most signatures use about 10 pages, folded in half, for a 20 page journal.  You can always use less, using more may make it difficult to work with, but not impossible.  Once you have the pages folded and lined up neatly, take a ruler and measure to the center of you fold and mark this spot then add evenly spaced dots outward from them.  Use an awl (or other pointed tool) to make holes through all the pages where you placed the dots.

make the holes to sew through
make the holes to sew through
sewing
sewing

Using a bookbinders (or blunt tipped) needle with a couple feet of thick thread (there is specific bookbinding thread or use whatever you happen to have, embroidery thread or hemp for jewelry making are both good options) begin to sew the signature together.  I left the end threads, tied together, on the outside of the signature so they will be hidden within the binding once it was finished.  Another binding method is to sew your cover on as you bind the signature together – you can even leave extra thread on the outside of the journal and hang decorative beads on it, like this one:

handmade journal, recycled cover (c) 2009 Lynne Medsker
handmade journal, recycled cover (c) 2009 Lynne Medsker

Once the outside of the cover has dried you’ll probably want to glue a cover on the inside for a more finished look.  I used just a plain black sheet of construction paper to line my journal but, just like the outside cover, the sky’s the limit on how you will want to finish yours!

ready for inside cover
ready for inside cover

Once the inside of the cover is dry then line up the signature inside the cover.  Using a small hole punch (or an awl, etc.) make holes through the entire journal.  Insert decorative metal brads.

putting the brads in
putting the brads in

Now that they are in place you’ll probably want to cover the back of the journal where the brads are spread open. I used a strip of the same decorative paper on mine but you could get creative by using ribbon, tape or other items.  Glue and clamp that down until it dries and you are almost finished!

covering the back of the brads
covering the back of the brads

Although the pretty paper and sparkly brads were nice I felt like it needed just a little “something” more.  There are all kinds of options for embellishing your journals from whimsical to elegant.  I have small boxes full of  “treasures” that I collect but ultimately decided to use one of my favorite materials, metal wire.  After bending and twisting it into shape I felt like it need one small focal point.  Back to the treasure boxes to discover the small silver heart.  Perfect!  I attached the wire & heart with some clear acrylic gel and it was done.

last step
last step

So, now that you know how, GO! Make Art!

Lynne

GO! Make Art! is a series of instructional posts to encourage EVERYONE to experience the joy of creativity.  Look for more posts soon!