As you probably already know, if you read my blog or follow me on facebook, I have a bit of a thing for mandalas. I’m currently on my second round of “Mandala Magic” with the amazing tutor Julie Gibbons, and I can’t praise it highly enough. I’m also very into living in tune with nature, and following the seasons; one of my goals for 2016 is to celebrate each festival, or Sabbat, as we travel through the Wheel of the Year. So I decided to combine these two things, and have given myself a project of creating a mandala for each Sabbat in 2016.
The first one of course is Imbolc – one of my favourites, not least as it falls on my birthday! Imbolc is the Sabbat that celebrates the beginning of Spring; it falls halfway between the Winter Solstice (Yule) and the Spring Equinox (Ostara). The earth is awakening after the long winter, the days are getting lighter, the sun is returning, new life is awakening …. it feels like such a hopeful, joyful time! If you want to read more about Imbolc and its traditions, I highly recommend this excellent article.
So, I thought it would be nice to blog about each of these throughout the year as I make them – I figured some of you might enjoy seeing the creative process!
It started off with research – I read lots of articles about Imbolc and made notes in my journal, so I could decide what symbols, colours and words I wanted to use to capture the spirit of the Sabbat. (The page on the left here that I have glued into my journal is from the Earth Pathways Diary).
Then it was time to plan how my mandala would look. This is a mandala I made last year, and I had the idea in my head to do something similar. I liked the idea of the petals to symbolise new life sprouting from the earth. But I wanted to incorporate other Imbolc symbolism too, so I decided to sacrifice this one and use it as a rough practice guide! If you look closely you can see my pencil squiggles over the top, experimenting with fitting in snowdrops and candles within the green petals.
Time to think about words! I love the combination of words and image together, so I plan to incorporate words into all my mandalas in this series. It was back to my journal to brainstorm the words I wanted to use. I picked out these as the words that most spoke to me and evoked the essence of Imbolc. Then I did some experimenting with various lines before coming up with something I was happy with (although it did change slightly again before the final version!). I experimented with how I would write it and fit it around the edge of the mandala (you can see these squiggles above too!).
Then it was time to put pen to paper and make a start. I decided to go with snowdrops, which to me are always the first sign of early spring. I also added a stylised Brigid’s Cross in the centre of the mandala. I drew out the mandala in light pencil using my straight edge and compass to get the basic outline. I drew one snowdrop freehand, and then used tracing paper to transfer it to the other 11 petals, in an attempt to get them all more or less the same size and shape. I drafted the writing around the edge and went over the snowdrops and the cross in fine pen, to accentuate them.
The next step was to finalise the wording and go over it with pen.
Now for the fun part – the painting! I tested out the colours I wanted to use on some scrap paper. I’m using watercolours – I decided on plain green to get the bright green of the snowdrops, while the rest are pearlescent watercolours, a recent purchase which I am very much liking. They have a lovely soft glow to them.
Once I’d finished adding colour, I decided to accentuate with some dots. I love the look of this technique, but it’s quite tricky to get them right! You can see in the top mandala that I had a go at this last year, but the dots are too big and very uneven in places. So I practiced for a while before I started putting them on my Imbolc mandala. Then with much trepidation, hoping I wasn’t about to ruin hours of work, I made a start. Thankfully the practice had paid off and the dots turned out pretty well I think. They are not all exactly the same, but that to me is part of the beauty of a hand made piece of art – those little imperfections! (well, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!).
So here is the finished mandala!
I’d love to know what you think ….. next up will be Ostara in March, so I shall be mulling over ideas for that mandala for the next few weeks. I shall endeavour to stay away from bunnies and eggs!