Mandala Today – An Insight into the Mind Through Art
Each day we have an overwhelming 4 million bytes of information floating in our brains. We can only process about .05% of that (2,000 bytes) in general.
But, according to workshop instructor Theo Windish, an artist and art therapist candidate at Georgia College & State University, through the creative process of mandala drawing we can “have a self-guided tour through our thought process and have a conversation with ourselves, through our art, about what is going on in our lives.”
Theo, who has worked with mandalas for the past ten years and has been guiding workshops for the past two, recently assisted Museum curators develop a (current) exhibition titled Experiments in Animation at the Asheville Art Museum. Theo also works at a school called GNETS (Georgia Network for Education and Therapeutic Support), a school that seeks to help children with behavioral and emotional challenges.
As a new photography and communications intern at the museum, when I entered the studio in which the workshop was held, I had no idea what to expect, what the workshop would be like or what I would be photographing. I was not the only one. Workshop participants ranged from those with no or little experience with mandalas, to individuals with thirty+ years of experience with mandalas.
In addition, while some of participants were artists, or work with art on a regular basis, others said they were not creative and did not know whether they would be able to create mandalas at all. The ‘Manadala Today’ workshop demonstrates how adult programming organized by the Asheville Art Museum is a critical tool for life-long learning through art. The Museum’s studio workshops offer a supportive environment for creativity and inspiration among audiences with wide range of skill levels — even those with little or no prior experience.
As one of the participants remarked afterwards, “I find the process really soothing. The product itself is almost meaningless.” The important part of the workshop was to learn how to release feelings through art, though many of the participants found their finished products to be quite original and inspiring.
As with most creative endeavors, beginning was the hardest part. Rather than jumping straight into the process, Theo had all of the participants “loosen up” by doing hand and arm exercises, leading to participants dancing around waving their arms and laughing. Surprisingly, these actions have not only a psychological, but also physical benefits, as there are actually main blood vessels leading from the shoulders to the brain with very oxygen-rich blood that is thought to be essential to the creative process.
After this interpretive dance session, Theo instructed everyone to take a pencil and scribble on a blank page letting their hand and imagination guide the still-cautious participants. These doodles were supposed to provide inspiration in the event that they hit an artistic road block.
Finally, each participant drew a circle that was about a foot in diameter and began filling it – or the entire rectangular page – with whatever popped into their heads, be it a literal object or just splashes of color.
After an hour and a half of drawing, painting, chatting and thinking, every participant had completed their mandala.
“I don’t really know why I did it like this,” said Elizabeth Rucker upon completing her colorful design. “Experience, faith and my inner-self said to draw my mandala like this.”
As interpretation of thoughts and feelings is an essential part of the mandala-creation process, Theo spent a few minutes with whoever wanted a clarification of their drawing, and explained in general terms what some of the shapes and colors could mean.
When the workshop concluded, each participant left with a beautiful mandala, some insight into their thoughts, and a new creative way to relax and de-stress.