By Owen Curtsinger, Contributing Teaching Artist
In today’s drawing project, we will be making a mandala and using shapes and lines to explore pattern, repetition, and color. Some religions like Hinduism and Buddhism use mandalas as spiritual symbols; some folks in those religions create very big mandalas to focus their spiritual attention. But no matter what religion you may be, mandalas are a beautiful and creative way to focus your attention!
- Ruler or straight edge
- Colored Pencils
But wait, what exactly is a mandala? Good question! A mandala is a geometric display of different patterns and symbols arranged in radial symmetry. Wow! Let’s look at this example of a 19th-century Tibetan mandala to unpack what that all means.
“a geometric display of different patterns and symbols arranged in radial symmetry”
So first of all, you may notice that this is in the shape of a square. Then you can see a big circle inside the square, and then a square inside the circle, and on and on and on. These geometric shapes make up a geometric display. You may see some symbols that are important to the Buddhist religion, like the gods sitting on their altars, and if you look closely, some deer sitting under a wheel. These and other images are repeated around and around the circles and squares, making them a pattern. OK, one last thing, you may notice that no matter what side of the mandala you look, it will look the same as any other. You could turn it on its side and it will mostly look the same as if it were turned right-side up. This is radial symmetry, and you can also observe this in sunflowers, starfish, and most importantly, pizza.
OK, let’s make our own mandalas. First we need to make a few circles. You can use a compass if you have one, but if you don’t, look around the house to find some circular objects of different sizes to trace (bottle caps and jar lids work well!). Let’s make about three circles.
Now draw some lines going all the way through the center, as if you were slicing up a pizza (now I’m getting hungry!). A ruler is recommended, but just find some other sort of straight edge, like a book spine if you don’t have a ruler.
Now we’re going to work inside just one of those pizza slices. You’ll notice that your pizza slice has three sections. In each separate section, make a different shape or series of shapes and lines. Be sure to make your designs simple enough that they can be repeated all the way around the entire pizza. Here’s what mine looks like:
Now fill in every pizza slice with the exact same series of shapes and lines that you made in the first one, turning your geometric shapes into a repeated pattern displaying radial symmetry! Go slowly and try to make it look neat and tidy.
You’ve finished your mandala! Excellent! But what would a mandala be without color? You may color the shapes and patterns any colors that you wish. I chose to color mine while keeping in mind a past lesson that I taught about the color wheel.
That’s it! Hopefully drawing and coloring your mandala brought you some peace, calm, and focus…I know mine did!