Travel Mandalas Logo
Travel Mandalas
by Sean Whitehill
Travel Mandalas Logo
Travel Mandalas
by Sean Whitehill

About Sean Whitehill

I was born in Melbourne, but my mandala story began about 8 years ago when I moved away from the city to Tasmania to pursue a career in adventure guiding, specifically multi-day treks. This work led me into the red centre of Australia for a couple of winter seasons, where I worked on the Larapinta Trail and was filled with inspiration by the natural world. I also experienced significant social isolation there, and so I started drawing. One picture followed another and soon I realised that if I did one drawing for each of the 12 sections of the Larapinta, I could create a calendar at years end and use them as Christmas presents. By the time you've drawn 12 pictures, you've created a habit!

Guiding is seasonal, which allowed for extended travels in my off-seasons, and very soon I was as passionate about culture as I was about nature. And so the mandalas kept flowing.

In March 2020, I was travelling in Central America when the world closed due to COVID—19, and I felt good enough to stay on indefinitely in Costa Rica. I was there for 2 years, and although I did not envision being gone for so long, it was an incredible opportunity to focus on my art, to create a series of drawings about Costa Rica, and to free the many drawings that had been lodged only as ideas in the back of my mind. It was a wonderful, creative time and one I won’t forget.

Why Travel?

I was brought up pretty sheltered. In school, I was a bewildered teen. As a young adult I drank and hung out with the 'wrong' crowds. I had simply grown up believing that life happens in a particular way, and that those ways will just happen. I was stuck on the idea that school happens, then university happens, then you find love and get married, that you buy a house, have children and then live happily ever after.

It wasn't until I was already in my mid-twenties that it started to dawn on me that this is not necessarily the case, that other factors are involved, that these things do not simply 'just happen' but need to be earned... but it also came with an understanding that I had some power to choose my own path. When I travelled barriers fell, misconceptions dissolved, illusions were eroded and cultural acceptances multiplied as my interest in different places, people, lifestyles and customs grew.

It's a fascinating world we live in, and travel is a gift. International travel is not accessible to everyone, but we can all travel one way or another, we can all open up our spheres and expand ourselves by taking ourselves to new places, into nature, by talking to people from outside our 'usual' circles, by watching others with open hearts and minds. We should all be travellers, always...

Why mandalas?

I drew a lot as a boy, until school gathered me up and told me 'that's nice dear', and pointed me in more functional, reliable directions. I came back to it as a young adult, mostly while travelling, preferring patterns and images in circles with which I seemed to have an affinity, if not yet as 'mandalas'. I tried a more conventional life as a landscaper for many years, which was not without its good times and happy memories, but a part of me was flatlining. Guiding and travel helped with that, but I also found myself with time and space between trips, so when I picked up my pens and pencils again in that winter season of 2015, it seemed natural to pick up where I left off, creating images in circles.

Life is as uncertain and busy as it's ever been, and we all need to find peace in some amount, one way or another. We all want to feel balanced, healthy, with a certain stillness of mind and clarity of thought with which to better go about our lives. In the West, many have taken to calling this 'wellness', and lets be honest, whether we're cynical about some of that or not, we all want to feel well. Whether it be through religion, exercise, sport, music, yoga, reading, meditation, art... you name it. For an artist, what better format to represent this desire in ourselves than through the balanced symmetry of a mandala?

As a mandala artist, designer, illustrator, it's a great pleasure imagining and work-shopping my images... but the carrying out, the repetition of chosen images as pattern is a meditation in itself, and one that helps me feel like my best self.


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