I'm REALLY excited to share the story and the process of this new custom painting I finished recently!
I started working on this one way back in November 2018. It's for a patron, Ryan, who wanted a Mandala to celebrate his Irish heritage. I was really stoked to do it, because my family also has a lot of Irish roots. I had a special feeling about it right from the idea phase before I even had the canvas. We had quite a few conversations about it, and what it meant to him.
Ryan studied Celtic history in University so he showed me some of his old textbooks, and I found there were a lot of cool parts of Irish history I wasn't aware of. He told me stories about his family, and especially his Grandfather. It felt humbling to be hired to create something that would honor his Grandfather, and in essence the roots of all his ancestors. Hopefully it will even be something that will get passed down in his family and help connect future generations to their past too. Then - I got the 20 x 20 inch canvas, and it was time to start.
The first phase for me when creating a Mandala is to paint the pattern. I was asked to make it very detailed, with lots of Celtic knots. I'd never really done a lot of that sort of weaving in and out with a pattern before. I was a bit nervous about how it would turn out, but, I got to it and the pattern come together beautifully!
Ryan even asked me to add pattern to the sides of the canvas. I'd never done that before, I usually paint the sides of my canvases black. So I added pattern to the sides too!
Next was the long part - coloring it in. Slow and steady as the saying goes! Coloring in my Mandalas is the longest part. Sometimes I need to do a second coat on some parts, and that adds more time too. But for this one, it was all about making it the most amazing piece of art I could. Ryan had asked me to use some metallic colors in it, so I used gold, and silver - and of course some emerald green!
Ryan had shown me some pictures from the "Book of Kells", an ancient manuscript created around 800AD that was decorated with lots of Celtic knots. Some of the colors, like the reddish orange, were inspired by those pictures.
And here's the side view. Having the pattern cover the sides is something I was a bit nervous about doing, I had to take it slow. I did 2 sides at a time,. I had to wait for the first 2 side dry completely before I could do the other 2. I always had to have at least one side resting on the table I work on.
After it's all colored in some people think my Mandalas are done - but far from it! The next phase is to go over the outline again. I use the outline to tighten up the design, and it adds a lot more contrast to my Mandala paintings. Doing the outline is one of my favorite parts, it feels like a focused meditation and I get really into the moment as a creator. I also get excited because I know they're starting to get close to being done. Here's how it looks after the outline is finished, can you see how much of a difference it makes?
And here's the side view. It's sorta hard to get good light for these side view pictures, either the sides are not well lit, or my shadow gets in the way lol
Ryan wanted this piece to be super detailed, so after I finished the outline, the next phase was adding dots and details. The dots and details add another layer of contrast, and I think they make you want to get closer. At first it takes your eyes a second to even adjust to them all before they come into focus. Then, I hope you're drawn in to the center and back out.
For me that's sort of the idea behind a well done Mandala. Something that you can look at, and clear your mind. Your eyes focus on the center then wander out to the edges, then back to the center in a cycle. It can almost feel like your mind is breathing in and out. Or maybe it's not your mind, it's your soul.
Then I added some more details to the side too. I think the sides being painted and all the details really brought the piece to another level.
Normally this is where I'm finished a Mandala. I'd varnish it and sign it, and be done. But, not for this one! Ryan really wanted something extra special. And I hope I what I did next achieved that something "extra" he was looking for! I added another special layer that's almost invisible with the lights on. Can you "spot"any differences?
The real secret comes to life when the lights go off. It takes on a whole other dimension! I used glow in the dark paint, and I was careful to blend it in as well as I could with the pattern so it would barely show under normal light. It's the first time I've done a glow in the dark layer on top of a painting. I'm sure it won't be the last! To me it almost feels like it turned the piece into some sort of ancient Celtic magic spell. That's why I chose the name for it "Éire Draíocht" - it means "Irish Magic".
With the sides also done in glow in the dark paint, in a dark room it almost appears to pop out of a wall. It's certainly one of my favorite pieces I've done. It gives me an amazing feeling of accomplishment to look at it and know that I've "unlocked" a next level of possibility for my art going forward. And I'm stoked that Ryan really likes it too!
Ryan asked me to go all out and to create something that's beyond what I've ever done before. Something to honor his family, his heritage, his ancestors, and possibly his descendants. Like I said at the start, I felt something special about how it was going to turn out right from the very beginning. I still feel that way at the end! Big thanks to Ryan for trusting me with this task. And, if you enjoyed reading this and like the painting, let Ryan know what you think in the comments!
I want to take this opportunity to wish you all a Happy St Patricks Day! I'll leave you with this traditional Irish blessing -
Want your own custom Mandala? To make it happen, send me your ideas and inspirations for it, and your budget range you're comfortable with. Just fill out the little form @ https://www.nexusvisions.com/custom-orders