Energies Flow: A Self-Drawn Mandala in Oil Pastels

The past couple days have been much, much better. I really needed Friday to recuperate. Since then I’ve been calmer and more cheerful. I’ve only had a couple moments when I felt overwhelmed by my emotions, and one of them was when I let myself get too hungry. I’d call the past 2 days good days; I’ve enjoyed spending time with my fiance and my best friend and I’ve been able to remain emotionally engaged. Relaxing and playing fun games have helped as well. 🙂

Tonight I felt like drawing and my carbon pencils both need to be sharpened, so I pulled out my oil pastels instead. I created a mandala by making 5 overlapping circles with a purple pastel. This created a flower-like shape where the circles all overlap; I colored the center yellow, the small inner petals purple, and the large outer petals pink.


Next I finished coloring the inner circle clockwise from the upper right: blue, blue green, green, and blue green again – to create a kind of transition from the blue to the green and back again. Come to think of it, that’s kind of like the seasons.

The blue in what remains of the outer four circles represents the sky and freedom. After filling them in, I colored with silver above and below the circles. The red triangle at the top of the page seemed to form on its own and felt kind of ominous. I remembered the “invasion” from the Web Mandala and wondered if impulsiveness and anger were threatening the balanced and beautiful flower I had created below it.

Next I added the purple on either side of the 5 overlapping circles to represent spirituality. It’s holding them up in a way. I colored green at the bottom, providing a nice firm ground to stand on. I thought about green’s connection with growth and recovery, especially as I colored over the silver.

I wanted to color yellow between the top of the flower and the red triangle, but I was concerned about getting the yellow pastel dirty from the darker colors. After debating about it for a short while, I decided it was worth the risk to express what I wanted and needed to express; I could always try and clean the pastel later. (It cleaned quite easily.) As I colored, the yellow mixed with the red to create orange.

So I put yellow – inspiration, intellect, and imagination – as a boundary between the flower and the “invading” impulsiveness and anger (red) and created orange: energy, ambition, joy, courage, and strength. … yeah, that sounds about right.

Finally, what’s the fun in using oil pastels if you don’t smudge them? This was a lot harder than I expected: my tissue fell apart, so I tore out the next page in my sketchbook and used strips of that instead. I tried to follow the flow of energy around the 5 circles and while the colors didn’t blend much, I think I added a nice sense of movement to the image. One of my favorite parts is on the left side where green accidentally got smudged in the middle of the purple area.

There’s always a risk of messing up the image I just created with so much care, so I tend to feel a bit wary of smudging my artwork. But it seems to work out and maybe giving up a little bit of control over the final product – taking that risk – is good for me. In this case, I like the movement and the way different colors mix. No aspect of my experience is “pure.” Everything is mixed with and colored by all my memories, hopes, fears, and simultaneous experiences.

Web Mandala

I have a wonderful book by Heike Owusu titled Classic Mandalas: 74 Designs from the World’s Traditions to Color & Meditate. Each odd page has a coloring-book-style mandala with a brief description, and at the back of the book there is a guide with information about what different colors can mean. In the past I’ve found coloring the mandalas to be very enjoyable and relaxing, so I decided to try one this evening.

The Web Mandala (p. 81) is made with lines radiating out from the center and intersected with other diagonal lines to create a variety of geometric patterns. As soon a I looked at the mandala, I saw a star radiating from the center outward with a square pillar descending from each corner of the image, almost like an outside force pushing in. It looks kind of like an alien invasion, actually, from the perspective of one of the ships.

I decided to color it to reflect what I saw, but as I was coloring I thought about how all the different individual shapes that I was assimilating into one could have been different colors, and if so what patterns might have emerged? Well, good thing I decided to make a copy of the image instead of coloring straight in the book! I can always try re-coloring this mandala in a different way.

For now, though, this is how I see it:

Web Mandala 2012-12-13

From the inside, out: the green represents life, hope, willpower, growth, well-being, and determination. The yellow represents joy, inspiration, intellect, imagination, and possibly fear of enclosure. It was the first color I chose; I tend to like to have yellow near the center of my mandala. The black represents revival, renewal, dignity, and being unconquerable. The very small amount of purple in the mandala – which is ironic because purple is the first color I was drawn to when I pulled out my crayons – is meditative and refers to individualism, spirituality, and magic. It can also mean sorrow and melancholy.

The blue that dominates the mandala refers to security, balance, calm, peace, freedom, limitlessness, idealism, and unselfishness. It can also refer to emptiness, boredom, and paralysis. The red and orange closer to the center of the image represent energy, ambition, joy, activity, courage, strength, and warmth; they are what drive growth (green). But the red and orange invading from the corners of the image represent hatred, impulsiveness, and rage.

Finally, it is notable that I used grey in this mandala because I hate grey. It makes me feel depressed. Coloring with the grey felt awful and I hate how much of the image it takes up. I’m going with the negative (or undesirable) interpretation of grey. It represents: destruction, lack of movement, fear, loss, threatening, loneliness, compulsiveness, and aversion. I colored beginning with the upper right corner and moved clockwise to the upper left corner, where I could not bear to make the entire area grey. The last thing I colored was the green triangle in the upper left corner, representing determination and recovery.

Maybe the grey pillars aren’t invading. Maybe the star burst is driving them away!

Right now it’s hard to tell. They’re both very prominent in the image. It’s like the battle could go either way.

While searching for informative links, I stumbled upon a PDF with mandalas to color in. That could be a good way to get started, for anyone who wants to give this a try!