Friday, November 20, 2015

Tips & Ideas for Drawing Mandalas

As I wrote at the beginning of the year, one of my goals for 2015 was to draw a mandala for every week of the year.  And while 2015 has not been the best year for me, I have been successful with drawing mandalas.  This has been the second year I've done a challenge like this (2014's challenge was collages), and I think it's a good way for me to get better at something and to develop my unique style.

Using some of the mandalas I've drawn this year, I've decided to compile this post of my tips and ideas for drawing mandalas.  Maybe I'll even help to inspire you to give it a try yourself.

Getting Started

All you need to draw a mandala is a piece of paper and something that can make a mark on that paper.  It can be a ballpoint pen, gel or felt-tip pen, pencil, marker, crayon, paintbrush, or anything else you can think of, as long as you feel comfortable using it.  If you like, you can add pens, pencils, or markers in different colours, but this is not essential.  As for the paper, you can again use anything that you feel comfortable with and that will work with the mark-making tool you've chosen.  (I've used index cards for my yearly challenge.)

To start drawing the mandala, I've found that it's easiest to start in the centre of the page and work outwards.  I usually start by drawing a small circle, star, triangle, or square in the centre and then creating a design that radiates outward from that central point.  But if you can think of a different way to start your mandalas, feel free to do that instead!

Ideas for Drawing Mandalas

Mandalas with four (top) and five (bottom) lines of symmetry.

Build a collection of shapes and symbols that you can use again and again.  If you look closely at the mandalas in this post, you will likely notice that I used the same few shapes in most of them.  These shapes include circles, semi-circles, dots, triangles, and petals.  This makes drawing mandalas easier because I can break every one down into the same few shapes that I'm already very comfortable with drawing.

Play with symmetries.  Most of my early mandalas had four or eight lines of symmetry.  I've found that these mandalas can look rather square and boring, and that mandalas with three or five lines of symmetry often look more interesting and dynamic (see examples above).  If you tend to always use the same symmetries, try drawing mandalas with different symmetries and see how they're different.  (Though keep in mind that since I draw freehand, none of my mandalas are going to be perfectly symmetrical.)

A large (and nearly monochromatic) mandala that spills off the page (top) compared with a small, compact mandala.  Both of these mandalas have smooth edges compared with the two spikier mandalas above.

Play with the overall shape of your mandala.  While most mandalas are round, they can be large and sprawling so that they fill the page or they can be small and compact.  They can have smooth edges, or they can be spiky with bits that radiate off to the edges of the page.  Try them all.

Try different mediums.  Try different pens - fine-tipped pens, broad-tipped pens, gel pens, metallic pens, felt-tip pens, brush pens.  Or try pencils, paints, pastels, or crayons.  I draw most of my mandalas with a variety of pens (including Staedtler Triplus Fineliners, Faber-Castell PITT Artist Pens, ultra-fine point Sharpie Markers, and Sakura Gelly Rolls), but sometimes I like to try something different.  (For example, here is a mandala that I created partly with watercolour pencils.)

A colourful rainbow mandala (top) and a black-and-white mandala with a bit yellow (bottom).

Play with colour.  My early mandalas usually did not contain much colour, but now they tend to be very colourful!  Try mandalas with a few colours, no colours, or a whole rainbow of colours.  Also, I usually draw my mandalas with a black pen and then add colour, but it can be interesting to start by drawing the mandalas with a coloured pen - it can give them a very different look.

Embrace imperfection.  If you make a mistake while drawing your mandala (such as by drawing a line where you did not intend it to be, or colouring in a part that you wanted to leave plain), simply repeat the mistake throughout the design.  The mistake then becomes a part of your mandala and no one will ever know the difference.  Also, don't worry about using compasses or straight-edges to create your mandalas.  You can use them if you want to, but I think the imperfection of mandalas drawn freehand is more interesting.  If your circles and lines are wobbly at the beginning, just persist, and over time, with practice, you will get better.

Most importantly, have fun!  I used the word play a lot in this post, and that was intentional.  Drawing mandalas should be fun, not stressful.  There are no rules, and your mandalas don't have to look like anyone else's mandalas.  Just relax, and have fun with them.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the advice! These are very beautiful... I've wanted to start making mandalas on a regular basis too, but they seem intimidatingly time-consuming. How long does it take for you to draw one of these?


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