Day 1 Supplies:
20 x 20 canvas or canvas board
Raw Umber (any brand)
Linseed or Walnut Oil
Basic 2" brush for glazing
Palette (round or square - whichever you prefer) or
Palette Paper (grey - not white)
Workable fixative spray
First: Drawing the circles
I had seen the mandalas from other students at different stages. The main consistency between them was how uniformly the circles were drawn. I'd wondered how so many different students got the same symmetry - now I know... My instructor, Dina. Using a compass, a template, another mandala and some graphite, she drew the circles on the board for me. She explained how mandalas are all about repetition as she drew one circle after and over another. We used spray fixative to set the graphite lines - put on enough thin layers of fixative until you rub your finger over the lines without them smudging.
Another trait I'd noticed about other students mandalas was that their canvases were often dirty - smudges and fingerprints all around the edges. I told myself I was going to have a clean canvas by being very careful. As you can see from my final image, I gave up on that dream early on...
Second: Glazing the canvas
Oil down your palette board so that it's easier to clean. I didn't have a palette yet, so I used palette paper instead. I'd never even seen anyone use a traditional palette at Otis, so this was a surprising step for me to learn.
I squeezed out a little walnut oil and raw umber onto my palette and began mixing them in the middle with my 2" brush. The amount of each depends on how dark you want to take your painting. The more walnut oil used, the more transparent or lighter the paint will go on. Walnut oil also helps the paint spread better so it was tempting to use a lot of it.
The goal is to cover the whole board with a glaze of walnut oil and raw umber without erasing the lines. Dina set the shade by starting the glazing for me. I then tried to match how dark she got it and covered the whole board. This step was pretty easy - finishing by brushing over the whole board in the same direction to line up the brush strokes.
Third: rubbing the painting
I repeated the process and was surprised at how hard it was. My hands were not maintaining steady pressure on the canvas and that made it blotchy and uneven. I also tended to over-shoot the lines with the edges of the t-shirt. Dina said it was normal but I was disappointed that I'd not done better. It's not a process where you can go back and correct too many mistakes. I repeated the process as Dina put fingerprint dots on each of the starting points to guide me.
When all the corners were done I used a wadded up t-shirt rag to rub out all around the mandala. I was told I could rub as much or as little as I wanted but just to be careful around the edges of the outermost circle. On the center I was to take it all the way down as white as I could. You can see that the paint had already started to dry and I wan't able to get it all off.
I only had an hour to finish the whole painting - the rush was due to the fact that this was actually my second attempt to do a mandala. My first attempt was on a canvas I primed with cheap acrylic gesso. It soaked up the walnut oil and paint very fast to the point where we could barely rub it off. Cheryl Kline was kind enough to give me a new canvas board to work on so I wouldn't have to go home and start again the next week. "Once you're here, you don't leave", she said. I was glad in the end that I didn't wait till the next week.