The simplest definition of a Mandala is that it is a design within a circle. However, Mandalas typically encapsulate deeper meaning to the individuals, religions, and cultures who create them.
Mandalas for me mark change and growth. From the varied pathways of the lines presenting different opportunities in my life, to reminding me to keep growing, adding and take risks. The mindfulness of Mandala making has provided opportunities to create as well as provide time for reflection. After having my own positive experience creating Mandalas, I knew I wanted to provide my students with artmaking opportunities that could offer mindfulness, reflection and create a deeper meaning and connection to their artmaking.
Katie Flowers and Claire Kirk are the owners and teachers at Wild At Art, which hosted the workshop where I made my first Mandala back in the spring of 2017. Wild At Art provides creative wellness and art therapy workshops and retreats within Hong Kong that offer intentional and therapeutic artmaking to facilitate healing, emotional expression, creativity, development, and self-understanding.
The Mindful Mandala unit that I created for my second-grade students was based on the lesson, workshop format, and product produced at the Wild At Art Mandala workshop.
The unit began with a discussion about mindfulness and ways we try and find a sense of calm, peace and balance. From Tai Chi to creating art, students shared ways that they can be mindful of their actions and thoughts. Mandalas have then introduced an opportunity to make mindful marks and building patterns and designs to help them center self.
In preparation for their mindful mark making, students painted the background of their canvases within the first lesson. Using warm or cool color schemes, students radiated a lighter color mixed with a small amount of white from the circle blending the darker colors to the outer edges.
Once dried, I taught the 8 point Mandala formula to students before they began drawing shapes on the directional lines that were prepared for them.
Students draw four shapes on the directional lines North, South, East and West, and then draw another set of four shapes on the directional lines Northeast, Northwest, Southeast and Southwest. In the small valleys that can be created between the shapes, students draw a fill shape that floats inside the valley. Note that this is all the same language I use with the students as it really helps them to visualize the shapes and to place them.
Students then decorate the fill shapes on directional lines before they draw the jumps. Jumps arch over the fill shapes and connect to each directional line. Jumps need to be high enough so as to create a new valley to place another set of eight shapes into, and repeat the formula sequence again and again.
Students created borders, built patterns and embellished lines and shapes to grow their mandalas. The pens that are used are Posco Paint Pens which allow them to layer color and use color to help create unity and further build pattern.
The formulaic and repetitive nature of Mandala making allows for creative decision making within an easy to follow and sequential process. Although students have been given the same materials and instructions, the artwork produced is as different and unique as the students who made them.