Saturday, February 28, 2009

Vertical Mandala

Having been away a long time, before beginning to create a mandala watercolor painting, I felt the urge to place my watercolor paper vertical. This was unusual as all previous mandalas have been painted horizontally. I laughed! I had dramatically made some changes in my life and my spacial orientation wanted to change with it.

I began this mandala similar to the previous four painted in my studio; the colorful line snaking across the center of the circle. I talked about this line symbolically representing me and taking form since my mother's death. In the last painting the shape began to sprout branches, but this time a human shape appeared to me. Yes, I was floating! Yet, from my hand vibrant, abundant life was blossoming (nearly overwhelming by its size and weight). I thought I was floating in water, but instead the water turned into clouds and I added the peaceful ocean scene below.

Needing more support, the mandala image became embodied by the suggestion of hands lifting it to the sky. I am open, receiving, while gently being held.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Watercolor Pencil Mandalas

Although I have been painting with watercolors for about twenty-seven years, using watercolor pencils is a whole new experience.

It is drawing with colors. I found with my set of thirty-six pencils plenty of color options and no need to mix colors. The final mandala looked soft and light before I added the water. Using a small brush, I basically painted over each color individually, allowing a little bleeding and mixing of the colors.

This was totally different!

When I paint with watercolors, I look for the happy accidents that occur through the bleeding of colors. I wonder with more experience using watercolor pencils if my approach will change???

First mandala:

"Urchin by the Sea"

Second Mandala:

"Calle by the Ocean"

The portability of this medium and easy set up makes it ideal for travel. I plan to create more mandalas on my next trip to Mexico at the end of March. Until then, I am heading back to the studio to paint with watercolors.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Watercolor Pencils

What a GREAT portable art medium!

I just returned from 10 days in Mexico..........FABULOUS!!!
Best of all I managed to find time to create two mandalas paintings while sitting by the ocean listening to the sounds of the waves crashing as well as being visited by dolphins.

I cannot expound enough about the simplicity of carrying along a set of watercolor pencils, field watercolor pad, a couple of brushes, and some water.
You can literally set up anywhere!

Here is the spot I chose.

See the flat area overhanging the water? That is where I painted. Nice, huh?!

I will post the mandala paintings as soon as I find a day in Olympia, Washington that it is not raining or snowing. I hope I do not have to wait until Spring! I did photograph the paintings while in Mexico, but total sunshine washed out some of the color........can you believe, too much sun!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Mandala Insights

Hooray for Fridays! It is my day in the studio and I was looking forward to creating another watercolor mandala painting before I slip off to Mexico to pamper myself.

Mountains and a body of water appeared in my mandala today in addition to the free flowing image that has threaded its way through my previous mandala paintings. The image has been my starting brush strokes which seems to take me into the painting. Landscapes and especially active bodies of water accent the last three mandala paintings.

Today it came to me that the floating image is a self-image; amorphously taking shape. In the third mandala I was budding and in this mandala I am reaching out, growing and branching. The first mandala I am enmeshed in emotions and blurred, and the second mandala I am small and thin barely there. I see myself transforming as I continue to process loss.

In addition, the background of the past three mandalas have watery feelings which give each mandala a floating quality. Again I return to the symbolism of the ocean and a returning to the much meaning!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

More Mandalas

I have been enjoying creating watercolor mandala paintings this past week as a barometer to my emotional well-being. Usually I create a mandala in one painting session and sometimes add the background color the next day.

Exception; I repainted the background on this mandala after living with it for a few days. At first I wanted a yellowish glow which is not so apparent when posted on an earlier blog, but the painting called for blue. I like it much better.

What do you think?

On another note of blue, I found myself contemplating the depth of the ocean and all the symbolism associated with the ocean in relation to Mother Earth. I thought about the deep connection with my mother.

Here is the mandala which came out of this meditative painting session.

I have yet to understand the floating orange image, but I know it will be revealed in due time.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Art with Hospice Patients

Today I had the pleasure of facilitating artistic expression with one of my Hospice patients. This gentleman had been a sculptor most of his life creating portraits in clay.  A very fascinating individual!

I contemplated whether to bring in clay or not as sometimes it can frustrate people who were experts at their crafts.  Many times I find myself sharing how artist change styles to help lessen the desire to create as they had done in the past.

This patient immediately began to manipulate the clay and a broad smile spread across his face. I have noticed when people hold and work clay in their hands that they are inclined to talk freely.  In the art therapy world, clay is considered a "loose" medium;  meaning less control as opposed to pencil or markers. I have always wondered if it also meant a loosening of verbal exchange because that is characteristically what happens when clay is present in my sessions.

My sculptor friend insisted throughout our time together that the most important part is the base for everything else is built upon that.  I could not help but think of that as a metaphor for life, and this gentleman is imparting his wisdom to me at the eve of his lifespan.  Like a sculpture, the key to who we are as a person is at the very foundation.  We build upon that base to become the best person that we can be. Thank you, Paul.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Signs of Spring?

About this time of year the stores tease us with colorful flowers to lift our spirits. I am definitely a "sucker" to buy. I could not pass by the primroses without loading a couple in my basket. Eagerly, I planted them in pots and set the primroses on the deck railing so that I could enjoy the vision of spring from every vantage point.

It looks like the ground hog was right! To my surprise this morning my beautiful primroses were wearing snowflakes. And the daffodils look rather charming with dapples of snow.

Still a lovely picture of spring, wouldn't you agree?

Monday, February 9, 2009

Art Speak

I have been creating mandalas in watercolors to assist me in processing the recent loss of my mother. I find that during the meditative process of creating a mandala that thoughts and visual images appear. In my second mandala painting the shape of a hummingbird appeared.

The hummingbird happens to be my totem animal, and I took notice of what it might be telling me. According to Native Americans our fellow creatures, the animals, exhibit habit patterns that will relay messages of healing to anyone astute enough to observe their lessons. When you call upon the power of an animal, you are asking to be drawn into complete harmony with the strength of that creature's essence.

It is said that hummingbird conjures love as no other medicine does, and that hummingbird feathers open the heart. Without an open and loving heart, you can never taste the nectar and pure bliss of life. To brother and sister hummingbird, life is a wonderland of delight - darting from one beautiful flower to another, tasting the essences, and radiating the colors. Hummingbird sings a vibration of pure joy.

I am honored by the presence of hummingbirds; this winter as I was painting and a hummingbird showed up at the window, at my mother's funeral reception a hummingbird joined us, and while I was painting the second mandala in the series processing the loss of my mom this hummingbird image appeared.

Having just finished reading art therapist, Shaun McNiff's book, Trust the Process, I will re-frame from adding meaning to this mandala. Shaun believes that it is important to contemplate images with the attitude of withholding judgments or explanations of any kind. He says the interpretation of art can be approached as a tantric discipline that reflects upon visual qualities. He asks, "Why is it that we fell the need to respond to visual communications verbally?"

What do you think?

Sunday, February 8, 2009

What is a Mandala?

Mandala is a Sanskrit word meaning holy or magical circle. I first learned about mandalas in a dream work class I took for the art therapy curriculum. Psychologist Carl Jung began drawing circles and designs and noticed that they somehow corresponded to his inner situation, feelings, impression, and thoughts. He concluded after some study of the matter with his own drawings and also the drawings of his patients that these circular drawings were therapeutic, first to draw, then to look at. Jung finally arrived at the conclusion that the Self, the wholeness of the personality, is reflected in the mandala. He felt that the mandala that a person spontaneously drew in any given moment was a gentle reminder, or urge to live out that person’s potential, something he called the person’s total personality which he called individuation. He felt that attention to the symbols the unconscious gave in response to queries for deeper meaning could enhance and speed personal growth and understanding.

How I Create a Mandala Painting

When I have a dilemma or when feeling a need to get in touch with myself I create a mandala. I created my first mandala as a project for the dream work class in 1989 and have been making them ever since. Some days I choose to listen to music while creating mandalas and other times I prefer the silence and sounds of birds or wind outside my window. In the process of creating a mandala I find that a meditative state naturally occurs.

My first Mandala to help me process the recent loss of my mother has two versions. As I began painting the flowing line across the page, it reminded me of an iris which was the flower I chose for the funeral spray. I played with the image as I painted while listening to meditative music. I thought of nature as I quickly painted the background, but was not thrilled with the results. I was drained and decided I would return to the painting the next day.

First Version

Second Version

I felt the need for a dark, earthy background which is challenging to obtain with watercolors. Persistently, I painted the background twice drying the paper between applications. In this version the mandala stands out with no distractions and feels important. The role my mother has played in my life. Psychologically speaking it is very symbolic of the spray of orchids on Mother's wooden casket.

I will continue creating mandalas as my healing process..........