Well gosh, it only seems like yesterday that I was making my Imbolc mandala but before I knew it Ostara was not only here, but gone! What with our gallery opening on March 20th I was a little distracted, and then had some problems with the mandala which meant I had to start over, so it ended up being a week late. Never mind, it got done in the end and I’m actually really pleased with the end result of this one 🙂
So, as before, the process started off with some research. During the course of this I learned that the reason hares are connected to Ostara as a symbol of fertility is that they are one of the only animals who can conceive while carrying young …. fascinating, the facts you uncover!
Ostara is the Sabbat that celebrates the Spring Equinox. Day and night are equal, and from this point forward the days are longer than the nights. It’s a joyful, energetic time of rebirth – new life is appearing everywhere (here in Galloway there are super cute wee lambs everywhere you look!), buds are blooming, plants are awakening and the light is returning. If you want to read more about Ostara and its traditions, I recommend this excellent article. You can also find more links on my Pinterest board. Of course, many Ostara traditions and symbols were incorporated into early Christianity which is why we have things like the Easter bunny and Easter eggs, neither of which have much to do with the meaning behind the Christian festival of Easter!
I decided I wanted to use the hare as one of my symbols, and also incorporate eggs and flowers … and I also wanted to show the idea of balance and harmony with night and day being equal. I settled on the yin/yang symbol for the whole mandala to go with this idea and decided to make one half night, with a moon gazing hare (I have a bit of a thing for moon gazing hares) and one half day, with sunshine, crocuses (always synonymous with spring for me!) and a nest of eggs. This was my initial – very very rough! – sketch.
I had a bit of trouble coming up with words this time around, partly because I felt that I should keep to the same format as the last one with the “I am” statements – but they just didn’t seem to flow for this, so in the end I went with completely different wording!
Enough research and doodling, time for the fun part to get started! Watercolour paper, pencil, ruler and compass to start off …..
I made the yin/yang symbol within the square, and went over it in black pen, and roughly sketched in the design.
Time to start painting …. and this is where it went a bit wrong, in two ways! First of all I was using light paper (150gsm) and I hadn’t pre-stretched it. So the paper rippled quite badly when I started putting the watery paint down. Secondly, my painting was not accurate enough and you can see below that I have dribbled blue paint into the sun ….. now in acrylics this wouldn’t matter but with watercolours you can’t get away with it! Blue paint plus yellow when I paint the sun = green splodges!
I persevered with it, however, as I had invested quite a few hours already! But being the perfectionist that I am, I think I knew deep down I was going to have to start over. I finally gave up when I added the sun’s “rays” in paint and decided they were far too heavy and thick. This one was resigned to a practice run, time to start again!
You can see how badly the paper has warped in this photo …..
And here’s a close up of the sun – nope, just not good enough! Note to self – more accuracy required!
So, quite literally back to the drawing board for take two. This time around I used masking fluid. It was my first time using this rather fabulous stuff so I experimented on some rough paper first (thankfully I had the discarded mandala to use!) Masking fluid is latex fluid which you can put on to your paper before you start applying paint, and will protect the paper underneath. I carefully applied it first to the moon and then to the sun, before painting in the night and day skies.
Here’s the whole thing so far, I’ve taken the masking fluid off the moon but not the sun yet.
Next steps ….. I painted the moon with my favourite pearlescent watercolours to give it a lovely silvery glow, and painted the hare, sun and crocuses. I’ve used a fine black pen to add detail and emphasis too.
Time to add some grass …… I also added some of the silver paint to my hare’s ears, as if they were catching the light from the moon.
Stars added (with dots of paint and silver gel pen) and sun rays too – I learned my lesson from the paint last time and used a fine gold glitter gel pen this time!
Somehow I managed to not take any photos during this part, but I did also paint the tree, nest and leaves! Finally, it was time to add the writing around the edge. I decided to use a technique I’d experimented with before – block writing with watercolour filling in the gaps. I used my discarded mandala to practice the writing and pick the colours I wanted. You can see my masking fluid practice run here too!
The writing is a fiddly process. First of all I drew guidelines in light pencil. Then I sketched in the words – sometimes this just works straight away, and other times it requires a few attempts to get them to fit in!
Then I very carefully went over the letters in permanent black ink.
Then it was time to add paint – a fairly painstaking process, trying to make sure I kept the sequence of the three colours correct and quite fiddly to be accurate in the small spaces. I did make a mistake and leave out a green block at one point – let me know if you can spot it!!
Once the paint had dried I rubbed out all the pencil guidelines to give the finished mandala. Whew! Got there in the end!
Despite it taking me an age and having to start over, I’m really happy with this one. Next up will be Beltane on May 1 and I will pretty much need to start researching that one straight away – can’t be late this time as I’m off on my West Highland Way adventure on May 3rd! In the meantime ….. may Ostara bring you harmony, abundance and joy. xx