I have visited various wetlands throughout the Lower Mainland over the last few months to sketch, make colour notes and take reference photographs for this mandala. The design itself has gone through a number of iterations. Showing the selected species in a way that provides an interesting and interconnected design has been both a joy and a challenge! I have learned so much during this process, not only about wetlands in general and the important species who live there, but also about conservation organizations and volunteer groups doing incredible work to save these ecosystems in our area. This is the final design I have decided to move forward with.
I placed the beaver in the centre of the mandala to show it is a keystone species for wetland environments. Endangered species included in this design are: the Western toad, red-legged frog, Western painted turtle, blue dasher dragonfly, and the northern water shrew. The great blue heron has been recently added to the blue list (vulnerable species). The broadleaf arrowhead, also known as wapato, is a plant of cultural importance to First Nations communities of the Lower Mainland. Cattails are important for wetland ecosystems. They create wildlife habitat, shelter for birds, food and cover for fish and for the insects they eat as well as helping stabilize the soil. Other species I have included are: the sandhill crane, marsh wren, rough-skinned newt, spirea, anise swallowtail butterfly and various water insects/invertebrates. This final design is based on a triangular format. Triangles represent balance, harmony, equilibrium and strength and I feel it works well for this mandala both symbolically and from an artistic point of view. Now, the painting process will begin!
This image shows an earlier version of the wetland mandala in progress.