Awaken Your Creative Spirit With a Mandala

Learn how this ancient art form and meditation tool can help you get warmed up in the studio.

Lisa Argentieri made a New Year’s resolution to make a painting a day. She also wanted to begin practicing mindfulness. A creative exercise by Betsy Dillard Stroud gave her the means to do both. Now Lisa ends each day by creating a watercolor mandala, providing her with a daily check-in with her creative spirit and a much-needed quiet moment to reflect on her life. Here she details the what, why, and how of creating a mandala.

What is a mandala?

“The word mandala means ‘circle,’ ” says Lisa. “First adopted by Hindus as a spiritual tool, mandalas are used for meditation purposes and to promote healing and other positive states of being. They can be used to symbolize an individual’s journey through life.

watercolor mandala
Why did the idea appeal to me?

“I had made a New Year’s resolution to make a painting a day, but was having difficulty finding a subject that didn’t bore me and sticking to a routine. Luckily, I happened upon a book by artist Betsy Dillard Stroud, which not only suggested using a mandala as a creative exercise to loosen up before painting, but also included the additional challenge of making exactly 100 brushstrokes within the circle. Every application of paint would need to be a continuous line or shape and count as one stroke. Wetting the paper with water also counted as a stroke. I realized that creating a series of mandalas would satisfy my resolution, offer an opportunity to reflect and meditate, and serve as a visual diary of my emotions.

watercolor mandala
How do I go about creating a mandala?

“To increase mindfulness and contemplate on the day’s events and challenges, I chose the end of each day for this exercise.

watercolor painting

“When I paint, I must be alone, without any distractions (cell phone, music etc.). I begin with dry watercolor paper and draw (with a compass or by tracing a plate) an 8-inch circle on the paper. I then squeeze out fresh watercolor paints, instinctively picking out colors that reflect my mood at that moment. I find relaxation as soon as I start this preparation stage. Mandalas are known to help manifest one’s desires and sometimes I would paint with a goal or wish in mind. Reflecting on the day, I would instinctively reach for a color and make a shape within the circle. The whole process of painting these mandalas is therapeutic and hypnotic, as I don’t know in advance what they will look like until they are done. I get so lost in painting them!

watercolor painting

“Traditional mandalas are very symmetrical and intricately designed. I wanted mine to be unique and random. Watercolor seemed the perfect medium to achieve this. I’m having a lot of fun with this series and love seeing how these paintings look the next day after drying.”

watercolor painting

Lisa Argentieri is an internationally recognized, award-winning watercolor and acrylic painter from New York.
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