2D UNIT VII: Compositional Strategies

Project VIIA

 Mandala (from a project by Dana Fritz)


--To gain experience with radial design as a compositional strategy.

--To understand the historical and cross-cultural significance of symbols and mandala designs.

Project Overview Your challenge is to plan and execute a mandala, based on a radial composition, derived from your own vocabulary of symbols.

Project References


o personal research in books and on the internet
o "The Mandala as an Art Form," (ch. 3 from Mandala) by Jose and Miriam Arguelles
o Excerpt from Black Elk Speaks by John G. Neihardt (ch. 17 "The First Cure")

Natural mandala designs (iris of the eye, sea urchin, snowflake, cross-section of a twig…)

See also:
--Hindu Sri Yantra
--Chinese Mirror
--Celtic Knots
--Cathedral Rose Windows
---Navajo Sandpaintings
--English Knot Garden Designs
--Tibetan Sand Mandalas



Mandala: a symbol of the universe in a radial design; a visual image for meditation and psychology; a natural and cross-cultural design phenomenon.

Mandala is a Sanskrit compound word of Manda, which means "essence," and a suffix la, meaning "container" or "possessor." Thus mandala means "A Container of Essence" or "Sphere of the Essence." Mandala is also a Sanskrit word for "circle." From this etymology, the mandala shares a common characteristic of having a center or axis and directional headings.

other words: radial, concentric, organic, geometric, cultural context



o Bristol or illustration board (no less than 14" in one direction, no more than 24" in one direction)
o any 2D media (colored pencil, paint, collage, photocopies, fabric, ink, etc.)


1. Before coming to class, review the thematic concept of Identity as found on the website. Also read the discussion on Compositional Strategies for Unit VII.


Research mandalas in the library and/or on the Internet. Keep in mind that mandala designs are a cross-cultural phenomenon. The following website is a good place to start because it has links going in many directions: <http://www.abgoodwin.com/mandala/centerc.shtml> (Center of the Circle)

Make some sketches for your own mandala design.
Collect materials and images you might use in the final piece.
Remember to use a radial design with concentric shapes. Consider dividing your page into quadrants.
Include contrast of organic and geometric shapes.
The outside shape of your piece can be a circle, a square or a rectangle.


Create a mandala design that serves as a diagram for your universe, your world view. The visual content of the piece can be literal or symbolic, realistic or abstract. Consider carefully the implications of your work and be prepared to take responsibility for what you present.

Critique Ideas


When you have completed your composition, divide into small groups and exchange artworks with another group from the class. Within your group, work together to respond to each print in turn. Consider the following

1. Describe the techniques for creating radial designs your fellow artists used and explain how various effects were achieved.

2. Point out any personal symbols the artist used to indicate a particular meaning.

3. Discuss ideas the artwork seems to communicate. After some sharing of interpretations, attempt to state the message of the composition in one sentence. (This artwork is about. . .)

4. Explain how the shapes, symbols, or other elements of the composition support its message.

©1999 Dana Fritz, Assistant Professor, Department of Art & Art History, University of Nebraska, Lincoln

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