Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Yellow Flamewheel

The brilliant hot colors of the yellow orchid in this mandala reminded me of photographs of the sun's surface. The seething cauldron of thermonuclear fire that is our sun inspired me to create a spiral flame design and incorporate it into the mandala.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Cicada Treeflower

This botanical mandala, created from begonia foliage, reminded me of a green sunflower. I was inspired to include the silhouette of a lovely maple tree that I photographed last winter.
Then I noticed that it seemed to be ringed by a series of winged insects, perhaps cicadas. One of the fun aspects of creating mandalas is the serendipity. Like a Rorschach ink blot, fantastic images seem to appear from time to time.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Crows Contemplate the Pleiades

One cold evening last winter I was out admiring the night sky. The air was crystal clear and even the faintest stars were visible. My favorite star cluster, the Pleiades, was brilliant, and appeared as a jewel in the heavens.
Then I heard some rustling in the nearby trees and saw some crows at roost. I wondered if they have any sense of beauty I was witnessing. I know birds are aware of the stars; many use them to navigate. But perhaps I tend to anthropomorphise.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Autumn Butterflies

I love the rich coppery browns in the foliage of this heuchera, as well as the interesting geometric pattern that is unusual in my botanical mandalas.
The colors had an autumnal feel. I decided to draw butterflies and paint them with the colors from the foliage.

Monday, December 13, 2010

African Warrior

Whenever I visit the Smithsonian I always try to go to the National Museum of African Art. It is a wonderful space with huge galleries on three levels, all completely underground.
The collection of sculptures is extensive and many are stunning in their artistry.
I made this drawing from a photograph of a wood carving of an African warrior, and positioned it so the mandala would provide an elegant crown. I designed the frame based on the colorful fabrics of the region.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Fern Fantasia

I generally create my botanical mandalas to serve as a canvas to which I add my drawings. But every so often a mandala stands out on its own and needs no embellishment.
I liked the elegant structure of this mandala created using Japanese Painted Ferns. My only artistic contribution was to add jewel elements using the colors of the stem and to edit the outer edges so it would stand out against a black background.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


Recently, ravens have moved to our hilltop. They tend to prefer higher elevations, and 1800 feet seems to provide them with a hospitable environment.
I have been observing the crows in our woods for many years. While similar in shape and coloring, the ravens are dramatically different in size, call, and behavior. They are much larger, with a deep throaty call, and rather than flock, they are often in pairs.
With their huge size and obvious intelligence, it is no wonder they play a large part in Native American culture.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Autumn Greenman

A few months ago I did my first greenman mandala. I used leaves that I took from the botanical mandala itself to piece together and create a face. Although it was fun, and I did like the effect, I found the technique did not allow me a range of colors to work with.
To create a leaf man using autumnal colors I had to draw and paint this face from scratch. However, I was able to use only colors that I found in the original mandala to paint the face.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Vernal Equinox

The green of this oval mandala reminded me of spring. In early spring many the low lying shrubs and plants burst into lush foliage while the trees are still bare. The nights are often crystal clear and ablaze with stars. Some of my favorite constellations are high in the evening sky and I included them in this piece.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Astrolabe Mandala

Last year I got interested in medieval navigational instruments, particularly astrolabes. Their forms were intricate and exotic. I drew several of them for my "Dreamscape" series, using whimsical interpretations. Because they are generally circular I decided it would be fun to include one in my mandala series.
The constellations along the ecliptic were critical to navigation and usually inscribed in the instruments. I included them along the edge of this mandala created from artemisia foliage.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Winged Scarab Mandala

Whenever I visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC I find myself drawn to the Egyptian section. I love the designs and motifs that are both esthetically pleasing and mysterious.
The Scarab was considered sacred and linked to Kephri, the god of the rising sun. It is often depicted rolling the sun across the sky.
I drew this scarab amulet using complimentary colors from the purple orchid in this mandala. I added some bevel shadowing to make it more jewel-like.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Orchid Sunburst

This botanical mandala, made from yellow orchids, reminded me of a sunburst motif that I had seen in India. It was stunning on its own and didn't need much embellishment, so I added a few simple flame motifs drawn with some beveling to complete the piece.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Seashore Mandala

As the weather turns colder my mind turns to delightful times spent at the beach last summer. I decided at the time to make a mandala with a seashore theme, but didn't get around to doing it for several months.
But this botanical mandala, created from a hydrangea blossom inspired me. I photographed the hydrangea in one of the beach house gardens and was reminded of my project.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Scorpius Ascending

One of the most memorable moments of a recent trip to Costa Rica was a painful encounter with a scorpion. I reached down to pick up a sock on the floor and experienced a stunning jolt. It felt like the sting of a thousand hornets. My thumb was numb for several days.
Despite the pain, I continue to be fascinated by scorpions. I find they have a certain menacing beauty. And one of my favorite constellations is Scorpius. I always look for it on the southern horizon on summer nights.
I created this oval mandala from an artemesia, and decorated the lower edge using a photograph of the actual culprit that caused me so much pain.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Featherfern Zodiac

As an avid sky watcher I follow the night sky from season to season. The constellations of the zodiac are as familiar as old friends, always in the same place on the same month each year.
I have made several mandalas using the symbols of the zodiac as design elements. But this fern mandala had natural "windows" in it that invited me to draw the constellations as well as the corresponding symbols.


Monday, September 27, 2010

One Hundred Butterflies Mandala

I have been playing with butterflies in my mandalas and I decided to include several. Then I remembered that I have a number of butterflies drawings that I made for an earlier project, so I decided to include many. One hundred seemed like a nice round number. I colored each one individually using variations of colors derived from the orchid mandala.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Featherwheel Mandala

This botanical mandala reminded me of a Native American warrior shield that I once saw. It was adorned with feathers that surrounded it. In keeping with this theme I added only a few simple geometric elements to complete the work.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Spiral Tree Triskele

I have been having fun drawing spirals. I decided to draw a tree form spiral. I liked the image, but it didn't work very well to incorporate in a mandala.
Then I realized that I could make it into a triskele or triskelion. The triad symmetry works very well with the twelve-part symmetry of my botanical mandalas. I chose a white orchid mandala for this project.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Pink Sun Mandala

This botanical mandala, created from a photograph of begonia leaves, reminded me of a sunflower. I liked the form of the mandala so much that I decided to add only a few images to decorate it, including a stylized sun symbol in the center.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sunmask Mandala

Years ago, while living in Canada, I developed an interest in Canadian Aboriginal art. I am particularly interested in the works native peoples of the Pacific Northwest. The stylized sculptural depictions of nature are very distinctive. I seek out examples while in museums, or in my travels to the northwest.
My favorites are the masks. Of these I am drawn to the sunmask and its mandala-like motif. I drew this mask on an orchid mandala, and used the colors of the orchid in the mask.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Dancing Shiva Mandala

A visit to India last year presented a wonderful opportunity to learn about Hindu culture and religion. The many gods and their stories were fascinating and enchanting.
Of these, I was most intrigued by Shiva. Destruction and creation are two sides of the same coin, one cannot exist without the other. This ancient wisdom is reflected in our modern understanding of nature.
Nataraja is the depiction of the god Shiva performing the cosmic dance that destroys an old, tired universe and thus makes preparations for the god Brahma to create anew. Of the many wonderful images I saw, I chose this ancient bronze statue that I photographed to create my mandala. I drew the traditional circle of flames that surround the dancing god of destruction/creation.

Frame Style

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Celtic Spiral Mandala

One of the most fascinating places I visited while in Ireland a few years ago was a megalithic passage tomb called Newgrange. Like an underground Stonehenge, the alignments with the heavens were calculated and precise in this 5000 year old structure. Only the light from the rising sun on the winter solstice could reach down the long passage to the inner chamber.
I remember the remarkable triple spiral carved in a stone at the entrance. Over time this Neolithic design was incorporated into Celtic motifs. I used the spiral triskele as a central element to this botanical mandala, and added some Celtic weave designs.

Frame Style

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Pink Flowercircle

This mandala was made from pink begonia flowers. I thought it was lovely in its basic form, so I did not add a main image theme like I do with most of my mandalas, nor did I add a frame. I did decorate it with some jewels and a circle of glyphs that I created.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Dragonfly Wheel

Dragonflies are wonderful creatures and they are an excellent design feature to incorporate in my botanical mandalas. Like butterflies, their symmetry is easily recognized when viewed from the top and are also an attractive and pleasing form.
The intricate,lacy wings were a fun challenge to draw.


Sunday, June 13, 2010

Rex Begonia Zodiac

One of my favorite subjects for my botanical mandalas is the begonia. The variety of colors, the variegation, and the detail in the veins, all combine to give fascinating and intricate symmetries.
This begonia mandala inspired me to include the symbols of the zodiac and frame the mandala with a variety of astrological symbols.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Crow Wheel Mandala

I always enjoy watching crows when they come to forage at the bottom of my bird feeder. Their interactions are fascinating and suggest an intelligence and social structure that is complex. The form of the mandala also allowed me to draw a circle of crows in flight to surround the pair.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Bear Mandala

When I think of bears I think of their beauty, majesty, and their power.
But I also think of their playfullness. I was once at a zoo watching polar bears play. One threw a beachball across the moat directly to me. I caught it, and the bear stood there looking at me expectantly. Of course, I threw the ball back to him. He skillfully caught it, then resumed playing with the other bears.
While I was touched by this interraction I was nevertheless glad for the moat.
When I drew this bear for my mandala I thought of the bear's significance in Native American culture, so I included some symbols that I have seen on petroglyphs.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Hydrangea Treecircle

The deep blues of this hydrangea mandala suggested the night sky to me. I drew a circle of winter trees to set against the stars. I also included a small circle of my glyphs in the center. The blue of the hydrangea is lovely, but a bit monochromatic, so I added a circle of jewels in a complimentary color.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Butterfly Circle

Butterflies are one of my favorite subjects to include in my mandalas. The symmetry and subject is ideal for pairing with my botanical mandalas.This mandala had the perfect form to include a circle of butterflies. I chose the color to compliment the foliage, and included a circle of matching "jewels".

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Burning Bright

While going through some old photos that I took at a zoo I came across one that brought back a chill. Although I was perfectly safe, I distinctly remember the intensity of the tiger's gaze and disarming enease I felt. I can only imagine the surge of fear one would feel encountering a tiger in the wild.
But more than fear is the sense of beauty. I am reminded of the lines from William Blake's poem:
Tiger, tiger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night.
The mandala is a featherleaf maple in autumn. I used the colors from the mandala to paint the tiger. It is the Year of the Tiger in China and I included the Chinese symbol for tiger.

Frame Style

Monday, April 12, 2010

Sea Turtle Mandala

Turtles are wonderful animals. As a boy, I had a pet box turtle that I enjoyed for months befor releasing him back in the garden where I found him. For years I thought of turtles as lumbering, awkward creatures. So when I first saw a sea turtle swimming I was astounded by its grace. It seemed to glide, almost as in flight. I have been enchanted by them ever since.
Drawing this turtle was a fun challenge. I found the scale patterns on the head and limbs are intricate and lovely as well as the unique coloring of the shell. I hope I captured the lovely grace of the sea turtle.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Chinese Dragon

After a recent trip to China my mind was filled with wonderful images. One of my favorites is the dragon. Depictions of dragons were everywhere in decorations, in art, and even architecture. The dragon is the legendary creature of Chinese mythology and has become the cultural symbol of China.

In ancient times the dragon was the symbol for the emperor and no one else could use the image. Over the years this changed and only the five-clawed dragon is the emperor’s symbol. Four-clawed dragons can be depicted by ordinary people. I decided I needed to create a dragon for one of my mandalas. I love the designs on Chinese bronzes, so I made the frame for this mandala with a motif that I created using a variety of bronze vessels for inspiration.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Green Man mandala

One of my favorite architectural ornaments is the Green Man. Also known as a foliate head, it occurs in a variety of cultures, but most examples are European. I find it somewhat ironic that although primarily pagan, it often adorns churches and cathedrals. One of my green foliage mandalas suggested a face, so I created this green man using the same leaves as I used to make the mandala.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Pygmy owl

A few years ago I spent several delightful days hiking trails among the sauguaros in the Sonoran Desert of southern Arizona. I also got a chance to visit the wonderful Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.
In the outdoor wildlife section I encountered this charming pygmy owl. Its curious gaze intrigued me and I was able to get a great photograph to include in this mandala.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Blue Morpho

The flash of brilliant metallic blue always surprises and delights me. It was one of my favorite sights while hiking in the primary rainforests on the Osa peninsula, Costa Rica. And when a blue morpho would encounter the occasional shaft of sunlight that managed to get through the canopy, the blazing iridescence was astounding to see. Their erratic, wobbling flight is attributed by the locals to their diet of fermented fruit. But the luminous dance is a joy to watch.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Snowflake Mandala

Last weekend, during "Light in Winter", Ithaca's science and art festival, I attended a delightful lecture on snow crystals. It was by Kenneth Libbrecht. I have his book and it is filled with many wonderful pictures of snowflakes.
I have always been fascinated by snowflakes. Their beautiful radial symmetry make them a natural subject to incorporate into a mandala.
Years ago I made a number of drawings of snowflakes for a project. I used an old book of snowflakes by William Bentley. It contained thousands of photographs of snowflakes by the Vermont farmer. Made nearly a hundred years ago, this collection of microphotographs was an amazing achievement.
I was glad to find my drawings, and made this mandala using one of my favorites.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Gecko Song

While staying in Costa Rica, we were enchanted by a delightful little gecko. It would appear from time to time clinging to the bedroom wall of our beach hut. Over the days of our stay, we noticed a mysterious chirping. Not bird, not insect, it would sound anytime, day or night. Only near the end of our stay did we finally find out that it was our little friend. I miss the song of the gecko.

Friday, January 15, 2010


Just back from Costa Rica and my mind is filled by creatures of the jungle. One of my favorites is the frog, and it has a very recognizable form when viewed from above. So its symmetry works very well with mandalas. The frogs of Costa Rica come in many sizes, shapes, and colors. But to me, the loveliest are the tiny poison dart frogs, which come in astounding bright colors.