Full disclosure: I was given a copy of this book to review. To be perfectly honest, I probably would never have seen the book if it didn't arrive in my mailbox. As you know, last year I went on a massive studio purge and since then I not only don't buy new books, but I don't even shop for them. I do admit that I love books and I'm not opposed to adding to my library, but there is no longer a book store convenient to home - in addition, it seems that my last few out-of-the-way trips to look at books left me frustrated that there were less and less actual books in the store. You gotta love that as an alternative you can visit Amazon, who offers you a preview of contents, a nice deal, and great shipping options. For more on the book I'm going to talk about, or to order, click here: The Mandala Guidebook: How to Paint, Draw, and Color Expressive Mandalas by Kathryn Costa.
I'm not sure of the exact date that I "met" Kathryn online, but I know it was through the Creativity Crusades I hosted back in the day. Kathryn participated in many of the challenges with her own personal flair and was always a generous and thoughtful commentor to other crusaders. For my review, I've decided to interpret this book as a prompt, as though she is hosting a challenge, and see what happens when I run the information through my own filters, and make it my own. You can scroll down and see the results.
I love that in the bio section of her book she describes her passion in three words "create and connect". That's a perfect summary of her creative journey as she's been a constant source of encouragement and inspiration through several blog platforms - CollageDiva, True North Arts, and most recently 100 Mandalas. She intentionally creates from the heart and deliberately and genuinely makes connections within the art community. My impression of Kathryn is that she would feel like an instant friend should we ever get to meet in real life. It did not surprise me to learn she had authored a book on making mandalas - sharing her verve for the unique topic, with user-friendly teaching methods, vibrant illustrations, and authentic encouragement to discover personal style and ultimately, joy, from plugging in and applying the process in your own way.
I've always been intrigued by beautiful and intricately drawn mandalas. I also resonate with mandala-like structures created from natural materials, and have been mesmerized by watching videos of mandalas formed by patterns of colored sand. As a person who had never tried drawing or designing one of my own I decided to read through the book, gather all the step-by-step instructions into my mental vault, then have a go myself. Kathryn breaks down the process with clear illustrations and offers many wonderful examples of her own, plus a gallery of mandalas created by guest artists. She has a gentle yet enthusiastic voice that walks you through options for designing, embellishing, and adding color to mandalas with many demonstrations, and invites you to dig even deeper moving from decorative to meditative.
Before committing to paper, I had an opportunity one afternoon to mess around with temporary mandalas. I filled a basin with sand and sprayed with water so the surface would hold designs I marked with sticks and embellished with stones. It was really a pleasant practice to try something, then wipe away all evidence, and try again. Eventually I grabbed a few more tools - circle cookie cutters, a stencil, and other mark-making devices. I documented compositions made in minutes - such a quick and easy introduction to building off a circle. Next, I went from nature basics to high tech - and manipulated some of my artwork into digital mandalas. It was addictive to work on an axis and move elements around then experiment with color. The results are also below. I always have a takeaway from play on the computer - this time I recognized that I'm not into the coloring part. I'm more interested in the fine lines of design. So I moved forward with pens and paper.
I had to laugh - in chapter one, page 13, Kathryn admits to being a "recovering perfectionist". I can relate. Since I'm educated as an architect, my initial approach was to get out the templates, protractor, compass, ruler and triangles, with the intention of creating precise, perfect circles and segments on graph paper. I did use these tools with pencil for a preliminary layout, then set aside and free-handed everything with black and white pens. I didn't even use the graph paper! I love the results on kraft and the imperfection proves that they were conjured up by hand, not machine. The wonky black lines kinda bugged me until I started highlighting with the white pen and then the tension washed away and I finally began to enjoy myself. Not only that, but I also couldn't stop! I will definitely be carrying on with this simple interpretation.
If you have considered jumping into mandala making then I recommend seeking out Kathryn's book. It's a wonderful introduction to the unique art form. Thank you Kathryn, for prompting me to try something new. I can't wait to get back to discovering additional ways to work with black and white starting from a circle and a few basic shapes. Maybe I'll even venture into color!
Visit Kathryn's site: 100 Mandalas and again, the link at Amazon: