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.

20130607-060125.jpg

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.

20130607-060629.jpg

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!

20130607-061626.jpg

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.

20130607-062136.jpg

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.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.