Finding the inner artist


By Janice Lindsay, Contributing Writer

Janice Lindsay reflects on finding her inner artist.
Janice Lindsay

An artist friend gave me a card that says, “We are all artists even if we don’t know how to draw.” The quote is from an 8-year-old, who apparently discovered his inner artist several decades earlier in his life than I went looking for mine.

I’m a writer. My natural palette holds words, not paints. I love words. But they’re so black and white. Each letter has an unchangeable shape. To make sense, words must march together in orderly fashion. And, as much as I hate to admit this, words can’t express every thought that begs to be expressed.

I envied my artist friends who work in colors and shapes with joy and confidence. They create beautiful paintings and drawings expressing one idea after another.

A few years ago, I acknowledged that something inside me was bursting to be expressed, not in words but in forms and hues. My fingers longed to stop tapping on keyboards for a while and to play with color and shapes on paper.

I can’t draw. (Artists might tell you that anybody can draw, but they’re just being polite.) I don’t know composition or color theory or other arty subjects I never heard of.

But one day I happened upon a coloring book of mandalas made for grownups. The book said, “You really need me. Now.” Coloring. I could do that. 

I hadn’t thought much about mandalas, but I learned that traditional mandalas are a guide to contemplation and meditation. Most often associated with Eastern religions, they appear in other faiths as well, for example, the famous rose window in the cathedral at Chartres. They’re circular, representing the universe, and usually contain repeating patterns that draw someone into thought, both in making the mandala and in viewing it.

So I happily set about coloring. But I unhappily grew bored following someone else’s designs. I began to decorate them with tiny circles, zigzags, diamonds, and swirls, to make them more interesting for my brain and fingers.

Then it occurred to me: Do I have to follow somebody else’s designs? Could I create my own?

Maybe I can’t draw, but I know how to use a compass and a ruler. And stencils! I can trace shapes as well as anybody. My husband, before he became an engineer, had been a draftsman. He still had his templates of interesting shapes. He gave them to me. I was on my way.

Mandala drawing by Janice Lindsay
Drawing by Janice Lindsay

I’ve made about a hundred mandalas. Most are in color, a few in black and white. Some turn out pretty well, some are duds, like the orange monstrosity I titled “Oops.”

Two mandalas celebrate the birth of my two granddaughters. One was inspired by button collections from my mother and grandmother. One has elephants I traced from a picture in a dictionary. One is designed around half of a small broken chip clip, used as a template. One is made entirely with the shapes of Christmas candies. Mandalas might encourage a search for meaning, but meaning doesn’t always have to be serious.

Would a discerning artistic eye consider my mandalas to be art? Does it matter?

Inside each of us, something personal is bursting to be expressed. We should pay attention, let ourselves be drawn to those forms of expression that speak to us. Why does someone choose to paint, or play the ukulele, or cook gourmet meals, or create a family scrapbook? 

And does a person choose her form of expression? Or does the form choose the person, as the mandalas seemed to choose me? Who knows? Does it matter?




As luck would have it. Or not. (

Crows know (