Teaching Mandala Art

For the last year I have been teaching Mandala Art at a local senior center. My ‘students’ range from 55 to over 80 years of age and all but a few are women. The majority have never had any art training and many were reluctant to even sign up believing they had no talent for this kind of thing.

Within a few weeks they are drawing simple geometric mandalas and in a few months are creating complex designs and color palettes accented by freehand drawing. They are amazed and delighted as they discover they are indeed artists and have a great capacity for creativity. As their confidence grows, so does their daring and experimentation.

What I am most proud of in my students is their willingness to try something new, to try something they see as challenging. The other thing I find most admirable is their unqualified support for each other. There is no criticism of another’s efforts, no competition except with oneself; instead I see kindness and encouragement for all the members.

Here are some of the guidelines I give them about designing and coloring mandalas:

  1. When designing a mandala first set the basic structure or underlying grid before adding circles, ellipses, or secondary lines.
  1. It doesn’t matter whether you design a mandala from the outside in, or the inside out.
  1. To break preconceived ideas, close your eyes and pick a color to use. Or, pick a color and then blindly pick a shape to color.
  1. Use a color on the outer levels and then repeat the color on the inside. One shape should be big(ger) and one small. This repetition of color will cause the eye to move in and out of the mandala design.
  1. Use both hot and cool colors but have one predominate.
  1. White is a color and helps to give ‘space’ to other colors.
  1. There is no such thing as an ugly color.
  1. If you have trouble choosing colors, start with the smallest shapes first.
  1. Hot colors and vivid/dark colors are dominant. Light and pastel colors recede.
  1. When in doubt, use a lighter shade of a color first. You can always go darker; you cannot go lighter.
  1. Use the color black at the end of the coloring and use it to accent or correct the design.
  1. After the mandala is completed, go over all design lines in black. Use varying thicknesses of line.
  1. There is no such thing as a mistake; there is an opportunity to go into a new direction.

“A GREAT PAINTER will know a great deal about how he did it, but still he will say, “How did I do it?” The real artist’s work is a surprise to himself.” 

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

A few examples of my current work:


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