Teaching Kids How to Draw Mandalas


This week I taught a mandala workshop to my daughter's 7th/8th grade class. We sat around a huge table in the art area - 8 kids, 2 teachers. 50:50 boy:girl ratio. The goal? Art for the front of their lockers, a tradition at our school. My workshop cheat sheet included about 15 steps which I thought I could do in 2.5 hours... but reality never goes as planned, does it? 

First, an ultra-brief history of the mandala as a symbol and art form, importance in Bhuddism, Hinduism, Native American culture... passed around 6-7 moleskines + journals filled with mandalas. I couldn't believe how many mandalas I found in my old journals {earliest = 2008}! The kids paged through the books and I showed examples of lines you could make after that initial center (no matter if it's a circle, square, dot, X, etc).

It was my daughter's idea to each start with an index card and draw a center and work collaboratively. We passed our starting index card to the left and added something to each card, one by one. We worked quickly, with black Pilot G2 Gel Pens which are inexpensive with a nice flow of gel ink. The mandalas on the table in the photograph were created in this collaborative fashion. We were all surprised at how different they turned out! The kids were so engaged, it was really neat.

On large paper, we practiced drawing a bunch of different shapes, different petals coming out from the mandala in different ways, how to build outward. Finally, we passed around watercolor paper for the "final" mandalas that would decorate their lockers. We took a break to stretch and walk around outside, looking for inspiration from nature.

So we all sat around the table drawing. This was the best part! I asked the teacher if she could put on some music, so she put on Pandora - so there we were drawing to Jack Johnson and Jason Mraz. When "I'm Yours" played, the kids were all humming along. It was the best. 

After drawing for about 20 minutes, I asked them to take a break and hold up their drawings and share 2-3 things they liked best about their work but not to mention what they didn't like. After the first guy shared his mandala, I asked the others for their impressions. The kids were really super cool with each other and could see things in each person's work that the artist might not have seen. Like how one mandala looked like you could fly into it like superman. One looked like a magic carpet. Another looked very Dr. Seussical. One was very open and airy with tiny details. Later in the day, the kids colored their mandalas with colored pencils and hung them on their lockers. I need to stop in and take a photograph!