A mandala (Sanskrit: मण्डल, lit, circle) is a spiritual and ritual symbol in Hinduism and Buddhism, representing the universe. In common use, "mandala" has become a generic term for any diagram, chart or geometric pattern that represents the cosmos metaphysically or symbolically; a microcosm or small universe in itself.
I am back after two weeks of travel and I hope this post finds you well, rested, relaxed, and being creative! Wondering what professional artists and educators do during the summer? Part of the time I have that is my own I spend time with other like minded artists and educators doing things like getting feedback, sharing ideas and our current work, and discussing topics that are important to us. What do professional artists talk about? They talk about things like: new techniques and media and subject matter we share a passion for. We also spend time together drawing, painting and hiking in the great outdoors, making music, and dancing...just generally having enjoyable, creative time together.
Why is this essential? Because even though creating art often demands many hours of hard work alone pursuing your own personal vision and ideas, one cannot remain positive, and sustain your own growth and creativity in a vacuum. You have to have feedback and input to reenergize and restore your creative spirit. It is also valuable too to try new things. This can inform your work in surprising and wonderful ways. It's all about balance! New people, new conversations, and new places can go a long way to help. That is why I belong to three professional artists groups: The Guild of Natural Science Illustrators, Silk Painters International, and the Maryland Federation of Art.
This is past week I spent in Asheville, NC with the Guild of Natural Science Illustrators. While there I presented a paper I am writing on the American Artist, William Hamilton Gibson, but, I will discuss more about him in a future post, so stay tuned. I also gave a workshop on silk painting in order to share a medium that I have been discovering in a deeper way over the past three years. Most importantly, I got input! There was an amazing portfolio sharing from over 70 artists. All are currently working as illustrators, animators, and fine artists. I also attended lectures by current working artists that were inspired by the natural world, as well as astronomy. I will be sure to include links for you to explore their work as well. There were also presentations of new media and techniques and round table discussions about art education, how drawing can help humans learn, and professional practices including everything from how to use social media to promote yourself as an artist to best business practices for artists...all good stuff!
By far one of the highlights for me was the community mural. Over 70 artists at the conference worked together to create a 15'x5' mural of three mandalas, each representing different aspects of the flora and fauna of the mountains of Western North Carolina. Each piece of the mandala had a pre-determined design and subject so that in the end it appeared as a unified whole, but each piece was hand drawn and hand colored by individual artists and then all the pieces were assembled, digitally scanned and high resolution printed and mounted for permanent display in the Asheville Museum of Science. Fun! Here are some pictures below to give you a sense of the scale and process.
Your fearless art teacher at a portfolio sharing event.
Here are the Guild members working together on their respective pieces of the nature mandalas. I learn so much during this time about new techniques with colored pencil, watercolor pencil, as well as mixing the media of watercolor, colored pencil and ink...a conversation and demo to look forward to when we return to school!
I focused on using colored pencil with a soft blending technique, especially because I was illustrating a butterfly that had a great deal of white in its wings which require subtle shifts in color and value. You also have an image here showing you how the pieces were laid out and the mandala assembled on large tables.
Here are some details of my work in the assembled mandala of insects and flowers. Note my colleague, Charles, work with the squirrel. He use colored pencil and ink in his piece and added the squirrel for some visual interest. I really loved his work!
Above are the three completed mandalas on display in the Asheville Museum of Science. There was a fun opening for the work with an ice tea and dessert buffet. It was a wonderful evening to celebrate all our work and nice to think the work will be on display helping create exicitement and interest in the natural world for years to come!