Flower Mandalas

Flower Mandalas

Artistic Processes Wanted: A Call to Artists

Crocus II
Several members of the Art, Healing, and Transformation group have expressed interest in the artistic process, as described by the artists themselves. So, this is a call to all you artists of all persuasions out there (you know who you are!) to let us know how you do what you do, and how it affects you.
As a rough model, I’m thinking, if anyone out there is old enough to remember, of the Paris Review series of interviews with writers on their writing processes. The magazine’s interviewers got down to the finest details of how the writers they interviewed thought about and felt about their work, and also the specifics of how they actually created it. For instance, if I recall correctly, George Simenon, the French mystery writer, wrote each of his books in about six weeks. He began by scratching out the rough outline on the back of a manila envelope, went to his doctor to see if he was physically up to the strain of a six-week writing marathon, then had people bring him in food, drink (and, it turns out, women) as he completed each of his more than 200 novels.
I’ll begin, here, with my own process for the flower mandala images, which is a bit more sedate than Simenon’s. I’ll also start a discussion thread in the Art, Healing, and Transformation group for others to contribute their work and descriptions of their processes. Hopefully, a lively discussion will ensue, and some of the artists who post in the group will wind up as guest writers/artists in the blog.
I begin, first, with selection. I look through the thousands of snapshots I’ve taken of flowers for ones that are in some way odd. Perhaps they are a little bedraggled, or maybe they are wet with dew, or the lighting on them throws strange shadows. I’ve found that these flowers produce more interesting mandala candidates than the many lovely shots I have of more perfect flowers. I think of them as “Ugly Duckling” flowers, and part of my task is to reveal their true natures.
I tend to work on a series of three or four mandalas at once. I open several shots of the same or similar flowers in my photo editor, then I take many pie-slice-shaped triangular cuts of the images and multiply them around, somewhat like a kaleidoscope, until I find myself saying, “Wow.” The “wow” effect is almost exactly the same as when I know I’ve shot a “keeper” in the Real World, only in this case my “camera” is the computer screen. I have an almost instantaneous sense of recognition, usually a feeling of excitement or enthrallment, sometimes a more specific feeling or association.
When I have a basic mandala form I like, I will look at several of the other mandala-candidate images I’ve created (I may have 40 or 50 open at once) and see if there are parts of them that enhance the original. I experiment with merging bits of the secondary images with the primary one. Often, what changes the most is the center. I’m aiming for some motion from the outside inward, or from the inside outward. I can’t really quantify how I get that feel, but I tend to know when I’ve achieved it. Here, the feeling is of internal peacefulness, of literally being centered.
When I have both the outside of the flower and the center basically the way I want it, I usually remove the background, replacing it with pure black, so that the flower mandala stands on its own. This is often a tedious, time-consuming process — and sometimes, as in the image at the top of this post, I leave some of the background in.
Once the background is complete, I experiment with slight modifications of hue, contrast, brightness, sharpness, focus, and other image enhancements, until finally I arrive at an image that feels whole and alive.
On each piece, I spend anywhere from a few hours at once to a sequence of several-hour sessions spread out over a couple of months. The experience, overall, is reminiscent of meditation.
My initial intent was to create all of these images in color, but I’ve experimented with black-and-white and sepia-toned images as well. With the color removed, the architecture of the images tends to emerge more fully.
As I’ve mentioned earlier, most of my mandala images have a hexagram at the center, and often a Star of David. My choice of the Star of David as the organizing shape for these mandalas was initially subconscious, but after I became aware of it, this choice became deliberate. In many traditions, the Star of David, composed of two overlapping triangles, represents the reconciliation of opposites — male/female, fire/water, and so on. Their combination symbolizes unity and harmony. Also, in Hebrew, the name “David,” my name, means beloved. I began creating these mandalas in a dark, unloved place, and I think one thing the work on them did for me was to provide a means to soothe and love myself. From this core of self-soothing and self-love came my desire, indirectly, to become a psychotherapist, which at its best is a job where I am paid to love people in a special, compassionate way that helps them find their own inner light and bring it out into the world.
So… that’s a bit about my process. I hope to hear from you, now, about yours, either as comments to this post or, better, as entries in the Art, Healing, and Transformation group, where you can discuss your process with other creators and appreciators of art.
Thanks for listening —
More anon,
– David
David J. Bookbinder, LMHC
Artistic Process presentations/discussions
Art, Healing, and Transformation group
Flower Mandalas Project group

Request a flower mandala screensaver: Fifteen Flower Mandalas
© 2008, David J. Bookbinder

  • Michael Johnson

    Hi David, I would to like to thank you for providing me with a great deal of inspiration tonight. Film photography is my profession and I greatly enjoy taking beautiful shots that don’t require enhancement, however, I love “playing” with photographs and coming up with something that’s kinda strange, but aesthetically pleasing and artistic at the same time. I’ve known about the mandala process for quite some time, but have had severe depression and anxiety since 2000, and had forgotten about it. About 6 mounths ago I changed doctors, and the very first medication she prescribed for me had me coming back to life within a week! Now all my talents and productivity are coming back and I feel almost human again. Been an artist all my life, had private professional art instruction since I was 7. Getting off topic… I want to start a mandala right now, but it’s 3:40 AM and I’m too doggone sleepy. But I will join the project group, and you can expect some rather unusual mandalas to start arriving, I promise. Thanks for the reminder, my friend, and I hope to talk to you soon.
    God Bless, MichaelJ

  • David J. Bookbinder

    Glad to have been helpful in inspiring you, and looking forward to seeing your work, and hearing from you, in the group. I used to shoot film, too, and really missed working in the darkroom, but now my enlarger lies in the basement and my negatives are in boxes. The realization that once an image was on my computer I could do anything I wanted with it opened up a whole new visual world and let out my closet artist.
    More anon,

  • Marcia

    Simenon is one of my favorite authors!
    As a writer, my mandalas are visual or I should say visual only in my mind’s eye. Stories are told, plots unfold, and characters become real. Often, without my help. It is wonderful!
    Thanks Marcia

  • David J. Bookbinder

    May we “see” some of your “writing mandalas”?

  • durkART

    Thanks for the insight. I’m an abstract artist in Orlando Florida USA, and I love to create Happy Art – using the disco, disco music as my muse. I just uploaded an You Tube movie of what my art is all about. Here’s the site and check it out, it’s my
    artwork. Comments ALWAYS Encouraged and Welcomed. And Peace the WORLD needs more of it.

  • T.K. Pippin

    David and others,
    As a studio artist, poet and song-writer, I receive inspiration not only from the world around me, but also from within. I think these are both important b/c throughout life we are searching, purposefully, for connection. If we cannot see the world through the eyes of a serial killer then how can we understand the serial killer. It is not that we must become him, instead we must find his heart and mind and put ourselves in his place, to try to see what influenced him, what obstacles he endured and what his inner self compels hims to do based on these. So as in art, finding a tree, observing a tree, imagining what it must be like to be that tree, the hardships it has overcome since a sapling to become the large 200 year old oak we see before us. The pleasure it takes in fulfilling it’s purpose of supplying us with air, shade and aesthetic beauty and its desire to live.
    So I might say the first step in my process is to lose myself, forget myself, in order to understand something that I think I am not, but in the end, eventually find in myself. To open myself to what might flow through me.
    The second step would be to put this into action, on paper, through pen and ink, paint and paper, expressing what was conjured within.
    The third process would be to edit, to perfect, b/c being human is to error, and though tedious, it is what makes us more than human, spirit, refined in the fire, to make ready and understandable or challenging for it’s audience.
    The final step is delivery, which I might venture to say, is the most difficult for me, b/c it exposes me and my thoughts, feelings, emotions, soul and even body to the audience. Whether it’s flower mandalas, music, drawings, paitings, poetry, it’s a part of us and we are most protective of ourselves. This fear of nakedness and rejection. It’s funny that what we fear the most, seems in the end to release us into greater freedom.
    Just a note: I find it funny how people around me see art and aesthetics to be almost like a missionary cause, like it should be free, as if, just b/c one is talented at art, she/he should give it away so freely. Like we don’t work for the result that they see, that it is all fun and games and in turn should be handed out that way. It is not. It is so much more and this is where we get the starving artist and those who try to mimic this. The talent of art, in any form, is a gift, just like public relations or teaching or nursing. We WORK, we sweat, we use our time to give something with so much meaning to those who cannot express it themselves and yet we are seen as flighty, far-out, and unimportant. Recent studies have shown otherwise, with sick and dying children in hospitals, those that we’re given rooms painted with big beautiful flowers, plants, and other visuals increase the chances of recovery and survival substantially more than those who are placed in plain white-walled rooms. This speaks volumes of the importance of art in our communities and culture.

  • the color farm

    what a fascinating blog! your flower images are so compelling and vibrant. my husband and i dye mandalas onto silk and i definitely believe that the mandala has an overall positive effect on both us and, based on the comments we receive, on our customers. we sell mostly silk squares as open-ended props for children’s dress-up and creative play and dance.
    we work together to put the mandalas on the silk….he folds, and i dye. we have dyed thousands and the fact that each has been unique is inspiring to really consider.
    examples of our mandalas can be seen at:
    thanks for this lovely site!

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