Whether lockdown has been good to you or you’ve struggled in a coronavirus world, it’s fair to say 2020 has been a strange one.
But one artist is seeking solace by turning to mandalas, which aim to heal through art.
In much the same way that adult colouring books have seen a huge surge in popularity recently, creating mandalas helps people to forget their troubles while also improving motor skills and vision by requiring the two hemispheres of the brain to communicate and consequently sharpening logic skills with the challenge of staying inside the lines.
Chatting exclusively to Uspire, Leicester resident Olivia Mendoza spoke about her ‘Oasis in the Chaos’ project and how it came to fruition.
Olivia said: “The beginning of lockdown felt utterly overwhelming.
“The relentless reporting of death rates in Italy and Spain and how it was coming for the UK too, this weird dichotomy of inevitable and uncertain.
“It was confusing, scary and the news and social media made it feel extremely chaotic.”
She continued: “My art practises have always been about silencing negative thought patterns and finding the stillness within, so amidst the chaos of coronavirus it felt really important to me to continue my own practise and share it with others.
“The name ‘Oasis in the Chaos’ just came to me, I didn’t overthink it. It was literally about finding some space and peace amidst the pandemic mayhem.”
Quizzed about what mandalas mean to her, Olivia explained the methodical approach of drawing one is a meditative practise which can help shut out both inside and outside noise as people get lost in the beautifully intricate and hypnotic patterns.
Olivia said: “They are created by a series of seemingly random but repetitive lines, loops, swirls and dots. What initially appears as just a doodle unfolds into a gorgeous kaleidoscopic, symmetrical pattern.
“Tiny imperfections don’t matter as when viewed as a whole, it looks perfect. It seems to create order amidst chaos and transforms frustration into relaxation.
“It really is a magical process.”
With a background in face-painting and alcohol ink craftsmanship, switching practises during a time of uncertainty was daunting even for someone with artistic genes.
And Olivia revealed that even when a new idea arrives, it’s not always easy to implement.
She continued: “I’ve been told by a friend who knows about spirituality that I am ‘high fire’. In that, I am frequently flooded with so many ideas but actually seeing them through is another story. I love ideas, but implementation can be hard and requires perseverance.
“There is always an obstacle I didn’t foresee or a new skill that needs to be learned. I could allow these to defeat me, and often come close to giving up, but my mantras of ‘keep going’ and ‘perseverance furthers’ (from I Ching philosophy) help me stay focused.
“I have an amazing support network of other self-employed women who always cheer me on, and I aim to practise self-compassion and gentleness with myself.
“Not everything goes according to plan or gets finished in the time I think it should, but I’m learning that that’s okay.”
While someone who excels at putting pen to paper may adapt easily to new projects, we asked Olivia how she’d encourage people who feel they’re not gifted to get involved.
This colourful creator is adamant that anyone and everyone can draw a mandala!
Olivia said: “I promise. It’s essentially just a series of lines repeated, so I would encourage everyone to have a go.
“It’s such a relaxing and wondrous process, and you will be amazed by the results. People who don’t consider themselves creative always adore the practise once I’ve shown them how. It’s meditation and art all in one, so you get to relax and create at the same time.”
Olivia said that being in quarantine with her chronically ill mother, while undertaking all care needs as they had to cancel external carers at the beginning of the pandemic, has taken its toll emotionally with the experience being overwhelming and exhausting.
She confided: “I haven’t had the mental capacity or head space to explore other forms of creative art in my studio. Making my mandalas, however, has been the perfect antidote to all this upheaval and displacement. It’s kept me creating gently and kept me grounded.
“I can draw whilst cocooned in my bedroom, surrounded by my indoor jungle of plants and pink walls. I have seen how creating art can really be a comfort. It doesn’t always have to be about creating an end product or an exploration of something deeper.”
Now, Olivia is hoping other people will get involved – whether alone, with a friend, or even with the kids – by simply visiting Art To Heart to download a template.
You can also visit Olivia’s YouTube channel to see her in action and watch tutorials.
With incredible success stories from people who have tried the practise – including feedback saying “it really does provide an oasis in the chaos” and parents noticing that colouring-in the mandalas has improved their kids’ concentration – what’s not to love.
If you’re still not sure, remember the old saying ‘it’s the taking part that counts’, as art is clinically proven to impact the immune system by reducing stress and elevating mood.
So, grant yourself a timeout and relieve the monotony of lockdown with something new, then share your creations online with the tags #oasisinthechaos and #artothearthealing.
Good luck, and happy de-stressing!
For more info and inspo, check out Olivia on Instagram: Art To Heart.