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  • Writer's pictureAdam Millward

The Story Of The Painting That Took Me Over 500 Hours

Have you ever heard of the idea that it takes 10 000 hours to "master" something? I keep track of how long each painting I do takes me, partly because it helps me set the price fairly - but also because I want to reach 10 000 hours painting Mandalas and become a Master Mandala Painter! So far I'm at about 7800 hours. Back in 2016 when I was almost at 5000 hours, I decided to do a big painting with the most detail I'd ever done - plus a little something special! I was thinking of it as my "Half Masterpiece"

I got the blank canvas as a Christmas present from my parents for Christmas 2015. It's 48 x 48 inches. At the time I'd only done one other painting this size before. I was excited to see what it would turn into!

The first step to creating one of my paintings is to create a pattern. For me it's the part I find the most fun. I never really know what they'll turn out like when I start with a small dot in the middle. I made the dot in the middle of this one as the clock struck midnight on New Years Eve to start 2016. For this one just creating the pattern took me almost a month. I do all my work freehand, I never use geometry tools or a ruler. In some places where the lines are thicker, it was to make corrections in the symmetry as I noticed them.

After the pattern is done, the next step is to color it in. That's always the longest part. For this one it took me almost 2.5 months coloring it in, 2-4 hours a night just about every night. Part of the reason it takes so long is it needs 2 coats of paint in some places, so that adds to the time it takes. I've always loved earth tones, so I went with those colors. I sort of wanted it to show a connection to nature.

Once the pattern is colored in, the next part is to go over the outline again.It tightens up the pattern, and I use different colors to add extra contrast between sections. When I finish this part, I know I'm starting to get close to the end.

The next part was to add all kinds of details! I have a lot of fun doing the details, it's probably the least structured part of my process. When I get to the details, I feel a bit like I'm playing compared to coloring it in, which can be more like a test of patience than super fun lol I spent almost 100 hours on them. The dots & details add another layer of contrast, and make your eyes want to search the whole piece to slowly take it all in. Sometimes deciding what details to add can take a while. I stare at it, and wonder if I should do dots, or shapes inside shapes, or lines. In the end I go with whatever ends up exciting me the most, and slowly and steadily the details give the piece a lot more energy and motion.

The dots and details invite you to get closer. As you get closer you notice even more details your eyes couldn't focus on from farther away. Smaller dots where you only saw solid color. Color gradients in some of the detail dots. After I finished the details, I varnished it with a clear varnish. My hope is it awakens something inside you and gives you a nudge towards spending more time on your own passions - life is short!

It still amazes me that somehow from doodles on post-it notes that I did during many years spent working in call centers, I've been able to create a career as an artist, and inspire people all over the world. It makes me feel so awesome to look at my Half-Masterpiece and get lost. I get a deep sense of joy and accomplishment that I never really felt in my call center career. I decided to name it "Passion & Faith" to represent the passion I have for creating these paintings, and the faith I had to have to quit my call center career to do art full time.

But - I wasn't done yet. There was one more special thing I wanted to do to take it to the next level.

Working in the dark with only a black light on, I created a second "secret" Mandala using a special UV reactive invisible ink

This was the most intense part! One mistake, and I would ruin the piece. I couldn't "erase" the invisible ink if I made a mistake or there were any drips, the ink would just smear. I couldn't really paint over it either. There was already a layer of varnish on the painting because I didn't want to use the ink directly on the paint, in case there was any type of chemical reaction. So if I did paint over any mistake, that type of "correction" would stand out from close up, and be an obvious fix.

Slowly and steadily, with careful patience and dedication, it came together. It took me about 45 hours to do the "secret" Mandala. Then I added another layer of varnish to seal in the UV reactive ink, I painted the sides to finish the canvas, and signed it on the back. All together the piece took me right around 520 hours.

Now it's the main attraction in my showroom, and almost everyone who sees it in person is blown away by it. I feel inspired by it every day, it reminds me what I can do when I'm patient and persistent.

After I finished it, I had the design made into table cloths, in 2 sizes. You can also use them as wall hangings, decorative throws, to sit on for meditation, or even at the beach or a picnic etc....

When you buy my art, and products featuring my designs, you help me keep creating things like this. Thanks to everyone who's supported my work along my journey so far! -Adam

Visit for all my art and merchandise that's currently available

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