A Geomantic Mandala: progress report

By way of explanation, I found this post from several months ago, which was supposed to be a progress report on a now-finished piece of artwork. I don’t THINK I’ve already published it, but it showed a little bit of my methodology, and how I go about doing my work as an artist — especially on pieces like mandalas.


I’m working on this new art piece — I’ve BEEN working on a new art piece — for several days now as a break from my school work. One of the challenges I’m facing as a teacher these days is that being a designer requires my visual acuity and hand-eye coordination… But it doesn’t engage me as a writer. If I go too long without writing something, those skills fade; but if I go too long without drawing or creating, those skills fade. There’s a need for careful balance neededtokeep both skill sets.


In the meantime, there is this mandala. I’ve been studying Geomancy, which is this renaissance-era divination system. And I’ve been doing a little renaissance-style astrology, and a little alchemy. These things are great for designers — no, really, I’m not kidding — because all three require deep engagement with materials, mathematics, geometry, history, hard science, and experimentation. Too much of the work is solo, for my taste, so I’m sharing a bit of my process here.

A mandala (or as I sometimes call them, a rondel, to use an antique and outmoded European word for a circular piece of artwork [or maybe its an invented word of my own, from European roots?]) is a circular or square shape which carries symbolic information visually encoded, usually for meditational purposes. And I want to make a rondel that encodes a bunch of what I’ve learned in a way that’s both useful and beautiful. Shouldn’t be hard, right?

Eight hours of drawing sixteen-pointed stars and filling in various information about the geomantic signs and figures, and I still don’t have a layout. that’s when I turned to Dave Gray’s work on visual thinking, and the book on Post-It Notes. Good stuff!


I recorded the data about each each of the geomantic signs that I was trying to get aligned with each other — planetary correspondence and astrological sign and so on — and created a paper database. And then I began shuffling the papers around to different parts of the roundel. Fifteen minutes of work unlocked the placement of figures around the edges of the mandala — and another fifteen minutes placed the Royal and Behenian Stars, and the names of the stages of Alchemy.


It’s not going to be perfect. It’s not even completely right. But it is evidence of the way in which design principles, and computing, and simple tools like Post-It Notes, can make daunting tasks (if not easier), then at least more quickly resolved.

There’s still a lot of work to do on this mandala (or rondel). There’s still a lot of chances to ruin it — a misplaced pen or a misdrawn line or what have you. But a goodly amount of the intellectual heavy lifting may be complete, at least for the moment, at least for this design. Can this design be improved further? Sure — I’d be surprised if it couldn’t. Another designer may well discover a deeper order to this information, and find an even more pleasing way to arrange it.

But it’s important to show both the work, and the process of working. And I hope that this progress report is both inspiring and interesting.

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