Artistic endeavors

In addition to quilting, or, for the past few years, virtual quilting, I play around with other creative pursuits. I’ve sewn a few bags, because I hate paying for bags that aren’t exactly what I want anyway. Zentangling, or at least my version of it, is another way I soothe my brain. I’ve also played around with acrylic paint. I’m by no means a great artist, but I found a technique that makes pretty designs and also works like meditation for me. Have you seen the dot mandalas popping up all over Pinterest?

I went about it backward, of course. Normal people would have started with a tutorial, painted a simple, small mandala, then moved on to larger canvases. Nope, I saw a photos, said “I can do that,” and painted a 4 foot long plywood hummingbird with dozens of mandalas.

Hummingbird side 1 by Sandi Walton at Piecemeal Quilts

And then I turned it over and painted the other side.

Hummingbird side 2 by Sandi Walton at Piecemeal Quilts

I figure I had about a hundred hours in the project, which was one of 26 displayed throughout Rotary Botanical Gardens, then auctioned off at the end of the summer.

I did it again the next year, this time on a fish that had nearly twice the surface area as the hummingbird. I used an actual fish as my inspiration, the Queen Trigger Fish on one side…

Fish side 1 by Sandi Walton at Piecemeal Quilts

… and the Clown Trigger Fish on the other side. I thought about just leaving the black section plain, but decided to give a black-on-black mandala a try. It worked, and I love the way it looks.

Fish side 2 by Sandi Walton at Piecemeal Quilts

I try not to think about the time vs sale price comparison, because both the hummingbird and the fish went for around $200 each. It was a donation, I remind myself.

After doing the fish, I finally looked up a video on painting mandalas. Who knew – I’ve been doing it “wrong.” I was just freehanding it, but it’s much easier if you draw guide lines – basically a + and an x through the canvas to help with dot spacing. I decided to pick up some cheap canvases at Michaels when they were on sale, and give it a try.

Mandalas by Sandi Walton at Piecemeal Quilts

Twenty mandalas later, I thought maybe I should try selling them. I took them down to the Gardens and listed them at the gift shop, which offers locally made art and gifts. I’ve even sold a few. I’ve painted canvases from 4″ to 10″, and I have some larger ones when I feel up to it.

This year I’m not doing the art project at the Gardens. It’s a frog, with weird skinny legs, and it costs a lot to participate (did I mention the artist purchase the plywood shapes?). They always go very quickly, so I don’t feel guilty about not getting one this year. Instead, I’m going to paint a gumdrop shape for the Janesville Performing Arts Center’s kids’ program fundraiser. They’re doing Willy Wonka JR and the candy pieces will be on display throughout downtown.



  1. Wow those paintings are really great! Those mandalas would also look wonderful on a quilt I think 🙂

  2. They’re gorgeous! I am amazed at how much detail and work these must have been, but they’re beautiful! My daughter and I were going to take a Zentangle type class at a place in Madison last Mother’s Day, but the instructor had some health issues and we never rescheduled. I’d love to learn how. If you can share the video you watched, I’d be interested.

  3. Wow! Your hummingbird is freaking awesome! So is the fish! I hope those that purchased the pieces realize what a great bargain they got. Art and the work that goes into it is so under rated. People don’t understand how much time and talent these projects take. You did (and do) fabulous work, and I suspect your talent and presence will be missed by the Botanical Garden this year. I wonder how many quilters have multiple talents? I know several that are phenomenal cooks, and some that do embroidery.

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