Mandalas - an age old art form finds new life in today's society

by Fred Showker

monk-the-sand

Wonderful gift idea ONCE UPON A TIME, I had the pleasant occasion to view a sand mandala being painted by the monks from the Drepung Loseling monastery of His Holiness, The Dalai Lama in Tibet, India. I was wrapped in awe as I stood watching the painting unfold -- receiving a real-world lesson that art isn't just for the eye of the beholder -- but for body and soul as well.

Drepung_Monastery_monks I arrived near the ending ceremony of the mandala which the monks had labored over for nearly two days. Each color in the mandala is made from natural pigments fused into the sand. The painting takes life as each of the color areas are painstakingly placed by hand -- loose sand, with no other mechanical aids. I had thought they were using tools of some kind, or at least a raised pattern to keep the sand enclosed in each detailed shape, but they weren't. You can imagine how tedious and demanding the art is just by looking at the minute detail of the painting.

details_of_sand_paintings

The tradition of sand painting goes back perhaps as early as 18,000 to 13,000 BC, predating the migration of people from central Asia to North America. This could explain why sand paintings of some Native American cultures so closely resemble the sand paintings of the Buddhists. It's an exquisite art form, and is considered to be one of the highest art forms in the tradition of the Buddist religion.

As I watched the slow but persistent progress, it occurred to me what a stark contrast this is with digital world. We deal with pixels and shapes much in the same way these young men pour their enerties into the placement of sand in the painting. Yet, somewhere in that comparison -- between an art form steeped in antiquity and the hustle-bustle pace of today's digital art, something has been lost. My digital camera couldn't even capture the detail nor the true feelings evoked by the process.

The next time you use your computer to generate graphics -- or your digital camera to capture a scene -- think about the thousands, millions of grains of colored sand. Have an appreciation for what's going on behind the scenes in that computer: the millions of instructions and math processes that are running just to bring your "digital" art to life on the monitor. Yet also have an appreciation for the traditional arts, and what it took to get us where we are today!

Make your art not just for the eye... but for body and soul as well.

Now, feed that modern urge to be removed from the stress and troubles in today's society. They're saying that adult coloring is becoming known for it's theraputic value -- and, of course

Mandalas could be the key

And, thanks for reading

Fred Showker

      Editor/Publisher : DTG Magazine
      +FredShowker on Google+ or most social medias @Showker
      Published online since 1988


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This article was originally published at : http://www.graphic-design.com/design-bookshelf/mandalas/index.html


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