Saturday, October 23, 2010

Mandala update

Well, it's still not complete. But I wanted to share the progress here. This was last week at Yosemite. You'll see my traveling Art Camper! I spent several days in this lovely spot right across the Merced river from El Capitan.  One day a fox trotted right by the van!  It was such a lovely and tranquil place to set up my art studio for a day!

This is the first stage.....
My wonderful picnic area!

A little closer look....

A close up look, but it's still a long way from completion!

Here is the (lengthy!) critique I wrote for my art class:

Chris Flynn                                                                               Critique
Pattern Painting – Motif Decorative

Design:  My first idea was to create a large mandala, using four 15” cradle boards that would hang together, maybe ½” apart.  “The economy of paper” rang in my ears, so I decided to paint the mandala on paper first then adhere to the boards (if good enough).

Working it out: I had planned to do a photo transfer of a Madonna I painted earlier this year, placing her head towards the center of the circle, directly on the prepared wood surface. Unfortunately, the transfer process looked yucky on paper. Instead, I carefully traced the head, painted each quarter, then placed them together. (Actually, I played around with the image in Photoshop, and loved the happy accident that inspired her being a Black Madonna.) Unfortunately, the veils didn’t match up, so I painted over all four, matching veil points, which created the four point star in the middle. 

Liking my photoshopped image, she seemed to want to stay a Black Madonna… but I loved adding in the blue, green, and aqua glazes to contour her face. Almost left her eyes red, but I am happy with the “piercing” quality that turned out. I also liked the way not painting her hair allowed the red to form another pattern, that of an arch. I repeated that arch along the outer circle both in the upside down looking tulip and the church-like arch the stamped image sits under.

I drew three concentric circles using a string, to balance and place the objects. I let myself be ok for overlaps.

I had planned to paint the main circle a bright red and cover it with the new “Renessance Gold” by WindsorNewton. And, that turned out yucky too.  I didn’t want to go to the expense of gold leaf, plus it’s not a mixed media piece, so instead, I layered at least three glazes of Cad Red, mixed with Glaze Medium. I love the thickness of the underpainting.

The Ren Gold never met any of my expectations, so I switched to Yellow Oxide, nice and deeply saturated. Still, the halo didn’t pop the way I wanted so the Hansa Yellow helped as an accent.

Painting her face and both placing and painting her hands was the most tedious part. For some reason, all the little images, dots and dashes, circles and triangles, turned into a mindless meditation. I was sitting in a day-use picnic area along the Merced River at Yosemite. Squirels bombed me with acorns all day, and a beautiful fox trotted by! I’d just pick up one section and lay in what ever color or design appealed to me.  Wasn’t happy with the green shapes along the outside, plus the little stamped image was lost, even though painted in turquoise. So adding the hansa yellow highlights, circles and outlines, plus painting more Cad red shapes, seemed to make those images pop more too.  I played with the colors by standing way back and imaging what would balance the piece.

Hours and hours later… I still feel it’s not as done as I’d like. What I would like, is tiny painted designs that have symbolism and meaning that all hang together to create a meditative mandala. What I’ve learned is that my hand shakes too much, and I’m lousy at painting a straight line, let alone a defined perfect design!  If I stand back and blur my eyes, I like it…. But when I look up close and remember what I wanted to do, I see a shaky hand that has trouble with definition.

Symbolism: Well, the Madonna was actually taken from a painting I did, inspired by a Catholic Holy card of Mother Mary. I don’t think she minded morphing into a black Madonna. Her hands, in the second circle, all reach out, as though reaching out to the world. In between her hands is a triangular shape that represents the womb, representing birthing of creation, humans, creativity, etc. (It could mean allot of things I guess!)

I created the outer circle using the Buddhist praying person stamp, representing adoration, surrender, love, peace, etc. It was happenstance that I thought to put an arch over each one… Then blending a lighter purple at the tip of the arch seemed to give it a spiritual, temple-type feeling.

Lots of little “V”s all point towards the center, reminding us where we need to focus. Although there are a line of “V”s also radiating out from the Madonna’s circle, reflecting her love for us.

Opps… this is probable WAY TOO MUCH info! I can get carried away with symbolism. I like my paintings to mean something I guess. 

Thanks for sticking in with the loonnngg read! You’re the BEST!

PS… (sorry) I worked on this in class, at home, at the beach in Pescadero, and two full (6 hours or so) days at Yosemite.


  1. I enjoy reading the symbols in a painting.. I do a lot of it myself..Love your blog. Redwoods are on my "list" to see.
    Doreen from Mandala Oasis

  2. Chris, I love that mandala! And the shots of Yosemite are so beautiful! What an awesome and wonderful journey you are on!
    Sweet blessings


Thanks for your comments!
Sweet Blessings and Big Love to you