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  • Writer's pictureVidya Shyamsundar

Following My Thread

Everything I was making was a part of me. Despite self-doubt, lack of confidence, and limited beliefs about my work, creating art fascinated me.

Our life is a conglomerate of short stories linked to each other. I wanted to revisit those stories to find my common thread while I was going through a creative block last year.

Over many months of pondering and introspection, I finally found the underlying truth that connects my art to life.

In 2013, I took a class on decoupage, which was my first exposure to art-making. I instantly connected with the acrylic medium and the tactility of paper, glue, and paint. I enjoyed working on different substrates such as ceramic tile, plastic, glass, wood, and metal. And creating from imagination captivated me.

A few months later, on one fine morning, a delightful thing happened. I started drawing patterns on paper, which reminded me of my mom’s traditional mandala drawings on the threshold of my childhood home. As a child, I neither had an interest in making mandalas nor did she ever force me. But, my mom’s innate flair and her ability to make a perfect symmetry of symbols and motifs with spontaneity and grace mesmerized me. So, when I picked up that paper and meticulously designed mandalas, I felt I had reunited with my childhood.

But, soon enough, the beliefs I had about mandala art began to shift, and I steered away to explore other subjects.

I enjoyed researching and studying the historical analysis and ornamentation of ancient art, their influences and similarities, based on the book, The Grammar of Ornamentation by Owen Jones. It ignited my curiosity to combine decoupage techniques with my interest in adding intricacies to my paintings.

Shortly after, I found a book on creating paintings using alcohol inks. I was intrigued by the fluidity and unpredictability of the forms and shapes created when the inks reacted with each other. The fast-drying nature of alcohol inks provided a challenge, but I was drawn to the abstraction and ambiguity of my colorful imaginary landscapes.

While I learned so much by experimenting with different mediums and subjects, I painted mandalas whenever possible. It never left me. I never left it, either. There was a mysterious feeling I experienced when I painted mandalas which I never felt with anything else.

At the beginning of last year, with the help of my mentor and coach Teresa Haag, I decided to take a break from art shows. I took my time to understand why painting mandalas helps filter my experiences and emotions.

The same year, I also signed up for the Find Your Joy course by the U.K. artist, Louise Fletcher, which I found transformational! It helped me uncover those wisdom nuggets and how mandala art intertwines with my art practice and life.

There I began my new journey. I started making art that I wanted to make. I never rushed to attain a result. I wrote my thoughts, journaled my ideas, and experimented with materials without intention.

The year 2023 marks the beginning of a new series of work depicting instances that were significant to me from childhood to motherhood. I painted self-portraits with mandalas to narrate my stories. I felt vulnerable, but it was freeing.

Beyond the calmness and meditative feeling I experienced while painting a mandala, there was something more. This series helped me uncover the underlying message I wanted to communicate through my paintings.

Being a woman and a mother with the various roles we hold within our family and community, it's challenging for us to put ourselves first. We often spend more time nurturing others than nurturing ourSelf. We push our limits to bring structure and harmony to our family. We constantly toggle between order and disorder, and do our best to maintain our sanity.

That was it!

That's the truth.

Using mixed media on wood boards, I paint mandalas to find my inner peace, filtering through the flow and friction of order and disorder we experience in our daily lives.

Ideas for my new body of work, Nurture yourSelf, found its way!

I look forward to discover how my work unfolds as the years pass.

Nurture yourSelf , Mixed Media, 8" x8" x 2.5"


This short YouTube video, Advice for Artists, 5 Ideas from Brian Kershisnik, was published eight years ago, but makes great sense. Enjoy watching!


Thank you for your time!


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1 Comment

Aug 09, 2023

it was a fantastic read on how you gravitated towards mandalas ❤️

hugs and love gaurangi

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