Painting In A Circle Part Two: Monkey or Armadillo?

As I wrote in my last post, this mandala mural design developed into a theme of Mexican folk art. I say "developed" because I really didn't plan it that way. I don't conciously work in any kind of theme, but it wasn't until I started gathering images that I was drawn to that I realized they were all objects of rich craft traditions from all over Mexico. These images represent the authentic Mexico I love. Their origins are varied with craftsmanship still practiced today in the same way it has been for centuries.

Alebrijes are from Oaxaca. Almost everyone is familiar with the carved and brightly colored wooden animals visually, even if they've never known what to call them. Born in Oaxaca from an artist whose fantastical visions first took shape after seeing them in a feverish dream, the craftsmenship and attention to detail are synonymous with this southern region where many of the indigenous cultures of Mexico still live and thrive.

Paper flowers made their way to Mexico via the Phillipines over 200 years ago, and along with pinatas and papel picado, are a staple of fiestas all over Mexico.

To The Drawing Board

Working with some of the same colors as the previous design, I change a few of the elements to include a different animal image and also add an outer rim of milagros along the edge of the circle.

While I enjoy the merging of this monkey creating a third eye, given the budget of this project, the linear designs on the face seem like details that would be labor intensive and may push the project over.

I meet with my client and we agree on the colors-more blue, purple and orange, less yellow and green. Got it. She is not so enamored with the milagros around the edge and I tend to agree. There is something about them not working for me.

She suggests that even though it is a popular image, she is enamored with the tin hearts that are everywhere in the tourist markets. They are most prevelant in San Miguel de Allende since this small town is known as the "Heart of Mexico," being located in the exact geographical center of the country. I happen to have a few of these laying around my apartment and decide to try one as a center element. While my client had also requested to work an image of agave into the design, I feel the agave does not fit with the overall playful theme of Mexican folk art. Visually and texturally, I feel the paper flower works better as a backdrop for the heart which I paint blue and orange for a bolder contrast than the typical red or pink.

I make a duplicate wedge to illustrate how the design can change depending on which elements to emphasize. Note the difference in the outer edge of each design. Since mandalas have radiating designs, I like to repeat images as they move outward. Here for example I add the flames from the tin heart to the circle around the outside. I like this element as it creates an irregular edge to the circle and adds movement as well. Deciding finally on the playful armadillo head, this little cat alebrije, gifted to me years ago, suggests the painted body pattern.

One of the ways in which I hope that my mandala designs stand out is that I take a painterly approach to them. Even though a mandala is a symmetrical design in which elements repeat all the way around, I don't try to make these elements carbon copies of each other. Each image is slightly different and gives the whole design an added interest when viewed up close. This is one way that my designs differ from digital.

Here, I add the central element to the wedge to get a better sense of how they will fit together. I remind my client that this is a sketch and the final design will be more refined both in image and color.

As much as I like to work out the kinks before starting on the wall, I feel it is concrete enough to move to the next phase: measure out and gesso the mural wall and create the enlarged "wedge" to transfer the design.

Part Three: On To The Wall!

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© 2020 by Linda Laino Words + Pictures.