Katherine Parrott

Anchors and wings

 Artist, writer, photographer and creative coach. Original mixed media artwork, fine art prints and art products.

Welcome to the Creative Mandala #InstajoyProject

Hello there gorgeous mandala maker! If you've found your way here, you're underway on our wonderful week of mindful creativity. I've created this blog specifically for our Creative Mandala #InstajoyProject. It is where my instructions for making mandalas will sit as I felt they were too long for one email, and I wanted you to get all of my best tips at the beginning of your week! In the meantime, click the video below to watch my welcome to you all. It is so wonderful to have you here!

How to make a mandala

Get ready to create

You're about to enter your creative cave... so spend a few moments centring yourself, letting the events of the day drop away, and relaxing. I spend a few moments making sure my environment is conducive to creativity: I clear the space so I have room to work, and often light a candle. You may like to listen to music, or work in peace.

I have also got accustomed to asking my loved ones to give me time to create. I tell them how long I'm going to be busy for, and ensure my son has an activity in place that will keep him occupied for that time. I explain that having this time makes me a happier, healthier person.

I like to set an intention each time I create. To do that, be quiet, still and listen.  Take a couple of deep, slow breaths: breathe deeply, right into the base of your torso. Think about what intention you would like to bring to making your mandala today: let it appear from your unconscious and feel free to go with whatever comes up for you. Write your intention on a piece of paper, and place it where you can see it while you create.

Here are some ideas if you feel unsure, or haven't set intentions before:

  • I let go.
  • I am free to make marks on the page without fear.
  • I give myself permission to have this time.
  • Play, enjoy, create!
  • Creativity is divine self care.
  • Release, relax, create.
  • I do this for joy.
  • I trust my creativity.
  • I am open to this new experience.
  • Have fun!

Preparing your paper

I start with a blank piece of paper - plain paper is fine, or because I'm going to experiment with watercolour paints this week, I used a heavy 300gsm watercolour paper.

Choose a round object to draw around (or use a compass if you have one. I really must get one, as they would make the process of marking out my circle and guide lines much quicker!) Today I drew around an old china plate that belonged to my grandmother!

NB: Use a pencil to mark your circle and guide lines, so that you can rub out them out later. I have only used a pen in this example so the marks were more easily visible for you.

Remember that the bigger your circle you start with, the bigger your mandala will be. If you plan to use intricate detail like some of my mandalas, a larger size will take longer to make.

Find the centre of your circle. I do this by measuring the diameter across my circle, finding the mid-point and then measuring the midpoint from a couple of different sides of the circle, so that I'm sure I've got the middle correctly aligned from all edge points. I usually mark it with a little 'x.'

Next , place a ruler across the circle, with zero lined up at the left hand edge of the circle. Starting from the middle of your circle, mark intervals at which you will make additional guide circles. The intervals need to be equidistant either side of the centre. e.g If the middle of your circle is 9cm, and you want your first guide circle to be 1.5cm away, make a mark at 7.5cm and 10.5cm.

Work your way out, choosing distances that feel right - there is no right or wrong. Smaller spaces between circles lend themselves to a more detailed design. If you want to be looser and larger, use bigger gaps between guide circles. I like to use a combination of thinner and thicker gaps, this allows me to make some big shapes and some small detailed areas.

Write these intervals down on a piece of paper so you can use them again.

Turn your design 90 degrees, and using your ruler, make further guide marks using your measurements. I find it useful to make these marks in an even pattern (as if I am dividing the circle into half, quarters and then eighths. This helps me design evenly once I start drawing my mandala.

As you make more marks, you can see the guide circles appearing.

Draw in your guide circles by joining the dots once you're comfortable you have enough marks to draw an accurate circle.

Create your design

You are now free to create your mandala design. I work in pencil at this stage, often creating large parts of my design before I use a pen to go over my pencil marks. Start at the centre of your circle. I often start with a simple, small circle, just so that I have made a mark on the page. Tune in to your intuition and see what shapes you are compelled to make: there is no right or wrong.

We will each have our own unique style of making mandalas. The shapes and lines I am drawn to will be different from yours. So at this point, I won't give you step by step instructions. Just let your style unfold. Here are some tips:

  • Start with broader, larger shapes, and add more detail if you wish as you go.
  • Refer back to the intention you set at the beginning if you feel stuck.
  • Release any attachment you have to the result of your mandala - attachment inhibits our creativity.
  • Focus on releasing, relaxing and playing.
  • Think about where you can draw inspiration from for shapes: architecture, flowers, plants, the ocean, geometry, bird and animal life.
  • Google is your friend if you need help: do an image search for 'mandala' and take inspiration from others if you need to. Avoid copying their designs, just take note of what shapes, lines and colours others use. Don't spend too long here, just a flash of inspiration and then back to your own work! You can also google zentangle or henna images for inspiration.

Try to keep moving without too much time spent thinking. Allow yourself pauses to consider your next shapes, or to compare options for your next steps, but stay loose and free. I often trial two shape options/ideas  in pencil, then choose which I like best.

Once I feel confident in the elements I've drawn so far, I go over them in black pen before going on and completing the next stage in pencil. This helps me make some definite decisions (otherwise sometimes my brain would keep questioning and thinking of other options!) Once it's on the page in pen, it's permanent!

Colour, colour, colour (or color, color, color!)

I usually complete my whole design before I begin colouring in. But sometimes I start colouring before I've completed the design, to help me make decisions and keep moving forward. It's up to you: just listen to yourself and trust.

Keep going until you are finished and you feel your mandala is complete: you'll know when that is. Take a moment to step back and admire your beautiful creation!

Reflect on the thoughts and feelings that came up while you were making it: you may wish to jot notes in your journal. These may include things you said to yourself as you were creating (positive or negative), great ideas you had, reflections on your intention or something that's going on for you in your life. You may find you feel different now, to when you began.

Check if your creative session has any lessons for you to take back into life as you emerge from the creative cave. If you wish, set an intention to take into your life from your creativity.

And now share!

A huge part of the #InstajoyProject is sharing the experience and the joy of creativity with others. Take a picture of your mandala and share it on Instagram, Facebook or both.

  • To share on Instagram, use the hashtag #InstajoyProject and tag me @katherine_parrott so I can see your post
  • To share on Facebook, request to join our closed #InstajoyProject group if you haven't already, and then post your picture there.
  • I'll be hanging out in both groups to encourage and comment. Please feel free to share thoughts and reflections as we move through the week.

I can't wait to see what you make!

All images and content on this site are © Katherine Parrott, unless otherwise advised