Monday, July 28, 2014

Ms. Moffatt's Meditative Mandala Masterpieces - A Review

Last fall, on the way home from Bonnie's Zentangle certification seminar in Providence, we had the good fortune to visit the studio of my friend, and master childrens' book illustrator, Judith Moffatt! Her studio was charming and highly distracting as every inch was covered in pictures and framed artwork. She's illustrated a gazillion books using her distinctive cut-paper style illustrations and she teaches at RISD.

We met at a childrens' book illustrators' art exhibit at Mill Brook Gallery about three years ago. Her art was cut-paper, my pieces were all Zentangle related. Our correspondence after that was all about Zentangle and I loved her resulting tangled images.

So it shouldn't have been a surprise when we were seated on her studio couch, that she asked if we wanted to see her newest creations. It's so hard to explain... we were surrounded by framed pages from her books... pieces of colored papers so tiny they had to be placed with tweezers... whimsical children playing... and she shows us these exquisite pen and ink mandalas with tangles and mermaids and flowers and birds...!

Bonnie and I were gobsmacked into silence. Just the sound of drool dripping. (Ick.) But, seriously, these drawings were so beautiful we wanted to grab them and shout out to the world "Whoa!!" And Judy tells us they are her secret work and we can't say anything. BUT, she is working on a coloring book with some of the drawings and she'll let us know when it's ready.

.... IT'S READY!!

And she sent me a copy to play with!!

Lilah and I have spent the past three days, in our pajamas, coloring. If you'd like to see our masterpieces and our review of the Mandala Coloring book, continue reading on after Judy's description and art.

© Judith Moffatt
Judy's description of the coloring book:
It took me a year to create the 9 Mandalas in this 20 page book. Each spread has an ink drawing of a Mandala on the right hand side, and a description of the inspiration for the Mandala with some of the symbolism explained on the left hand side. Two pages in the front teach about the best way to choose colors, what a Mandala is, and how I create my own type of Mandala. The front and backs of the cover are full color heavy stock (100 lb. paper) and the pages are a great quality white paper (80 lb.). Recommended for kids who have outgrown their juvenile coloring books to adults. A great way to relax.
Book is a nice portable size: 8 1/2 by 10

© Judith Moffatt
One tip I give my friends: if they are buying my book as a gift, include a package of Crayola twistable colored pencils. Pack of 18 only $2 at Target and they are pretty darn good!

© Judith Moffatt
Moon mandala © Judith Moffatt

My moon Mandala is one of my favorites and the Loves Garden Mandala makes a great wedding gift (I also sell Giclee prints on Etsy).

Loves Garden mandala © Judith Moffatt
 Judy's blog is a great place to learn more about her cut paper art and her current projects.
 and you can get the Mandala coloring book on her Etsy shop  -  MsMoffat

7/29/14 Note: You guys are amazing! Judy sold out of the coloring books - thanks to you-all. But she will have more by next week, so do not fear. :-)

If you are interested in seeing more, read on to see what Lilah and I discovered.

Lilah learned right away that markers are not the right tool for this book. Although the colors look great on this paper, they bleed through and ruin the next page...

If you like to use markers, I suggest you make a copy of the page to work on. We ended up making a few copies of certain pages so that Lilah and I wouldn't fight over them!

It is also a good idea to slide a clean sheet of paper under the drawing you are working on so that color from other pages doesn't get transferred to the back of the page. If you are planning on using the finished pieces as gifts - cut the pages out of the book before you start coloring.

Colored pencils are the perfect medium for this paper - we used Prismacolors - and coloring was a dream. Keep the pencils nice and sharp so you can color the little details.

Lilah had a heavy hand with her application, but her color choices were inspiring.

Rolling River mandala - colored by Lilah B.

And she loved recording her choices on the color palette for each image.

When she finished the piece, above, she looked over at the Sun mandala I was working on and made comparisons etc. between our works. I explained that I had been practicing all my life and had learned some little tricks.

I showed her how to vary the amount of pressure put on the pencil to achieve lighter and darker areas with the same color (red ring, blue backgrounds, and body of fish)...

And how to outline an area with more pressure, then ease up in the center space (the orange face in the middle).

And her favorite - how to blend two colors together! I start with a darker color, like orange on the fat end of the sun rays. It is darker (more pressure) at first, then I ease up as I spread into the ray. I go back over the whole section with a lighter color, like yellow, and blend it all together. I did the same thing on the blue rays - starting with a nice deep blue, then going back over with a light blue color, but pressing harder.

Lilah watched carefully, then applied these tips to her second page, the Moon mandala. She varied her pressure and blended colors...

Wow. That is quite a transformation!

And she taught me about choosing colors fearlessly...

... and knowing when to stop!!  Did you know that it is OK to stop coloring, even if all the spaces aren't filled yet?

I chose bright colors for mine.

But I insisted that I LIKE to fill in all the spaces...

Sun mandala - colored by Sandy B.

...although I agreed that leaving some spots white looks very nice.

While waiting for our lunch at The Foothills, we passed a story-picture back and forth. It was funny to watch it develop... it started with Lilah drawing a smiling face that was divided in half, just like those from the mandalas, with detailed eyes. When I embellished her simple seagulls so that they looked like they might be attacking the sun - Lilah changed the sun to be a pig (from Angry Birds). And then there were more birds, and bombs, and a story, and we were applying skills from Comic Camp...

Sun-pig mandala-comic - by Sandy and Lilah B.

And then we came home and colored some more!

I picked the color palette - fearlessly.

And Lilah decided we would each work on the Mother Nature mandala.

"Nice blending, Lilah!"

"Nice white space, Mom!"

Mother Nature mandala - colored by Sandy B.

I love to color. I had forgotten. If you love to color too - you'll adore this little book. There are nine mandalas and they are just the right size to work on comfortably. I enjoyed learning about the symbolism of the images too. My advice, if you plan on using this with your kids, grandkids, or students, is - get more than one copy! My... ahem... "our"  copy is quite beat up now. [Each book is only $8 and the shipping is very reasonable the more copies you buy. Click here for more info.]

Oh - and one more useful tip! If you mount your finished mandala on black cardstock or black matboard, you won't see any shadows of text from the back of the page.

I plan to bring the book with us on our adventure next week - I still have seven more mandalas to color!

Minou and Lilah both find mandalas to be very relaxing.


  1. Happy-happy, joy-joy! I love how you and Lilah teach each other and share the experience. Looks like a great book, and I appreciate your practical tips and all the photos. Thank you, Sandy!

  2. Awesome - thanks for sharing this wonderful artist....and you are a very entertaining writer :)

  3. Thanks for the review and the coloring tips. Going to order a copy right away. Beautiful work - I also am going to check out her website. Thanks for sharing :)

  4. I think I need this book!
    And I absolutely love reading about your artistic collaborations with Lilah. Thank you for reminding me that my kids can be a source of inspiration as well.



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