Lion’s Paw Mandala


This pentagonal mandala is a small gouache painting, painted in one sitting in 1993.  It is a visual polyrhythm – my attempt at bringing opposing elements into harmony.  I started with questions: how do you integrate an earthy background – textured like coarse animal fur – with the coolness of purples and blues?  How do you relate straight lines and angular shapes to a flowing curve?  How might a border change as it meets different colors?  How might a color field change when it’s bisected by another  shape?

These “visual physics” constantly occupied my artist’s mind as I gingerly pushed the boundaries that ruled my art.  I was studying the uncanny, enigmatic art of Paul Klée; and of Matisse, who broke every convention under the sun.  I was immersed in African rhythms.  I was reading Buddhist teachings, pondering Eastern philosophy, and contemplating the intersecting layers of human consciousness.

And I had a vision of a footprint that was set in the earth like a fossil, yet paradoxically invoked a sense of motion:  the print of a lion’s paw – powerful and mysterious, primal and transcendent. But this was no ordinary lion, as I had eaten some psilocybin the day before I started this painting.  The image was pulled from the deepest depths of my unconscious.  It was instantly familiar to me, as if I had known it all my life, even grown up with it.  And yet it brought to bear completely unknown elements.  Where did this vision come from?  I wondered, as the mandala kneaded its coarse, hairy background like a newborn nursing cub.

Lion’s Paw Mandala was on the wall of my bedroom for many years.  It remains one of my personal favorites – and one of my most strange and quizzical paintings.





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Dancing Imps


This monoprint is one of my earliest works of art that I still have – stashed in an old portfolio somewhere in my basement.  It measures about 9″ wide.  I created it almost forty years ago!  I was around twenty years old at the time, and had just started studying printmaking at the Art Students’ League of NY.  This simple monoprint, however, would have been done at home, as I was able to run it through the little wrought-iron table-top press that I clamped to the kitchen table.

Sometimes images are printed to create multiples.  In fine art printmaking, the press is used to create visual effects – using pressure. A monoprint is, as the name suggests, a one-of-a-kind original print. Essentially, it’s a printed painting.  Thus the painting has the appearance of a linoleum block print, but the printing plate isn’t carved.  The ink is simply applied to the plate (either metal or linoleum) with a brush. Then printmaking paper is placed on top, and paper and plate are passed between two heavy rollers.  The ink is pressed into the paper, and this is the result. In this case, the black paper shows through like thick outlines.

What was I thinking when I created these two funny figures?  I have no idea.  But I was young and in love, living with my future husband in a top-floor apartment of an old farmhouse near the Hudson River.  Evidently we were feeling quite carefree!  Unlike many (or most) women who grew up in the Baby Boomer generation, I did not feel oppressed.  I did not feel disadvantaged for being a woman, and nobody told me I couldn’t reach for the stars and fulfill my potential as I saw it.  I felt quite liberated – and still do.

I’d like to start creating some new original prints.  A monoprint would be ever so relaxing after the tightly polished work I do as an illustrator.  In my spare time . . .



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Midnight Seraph


I just painted this little creature a few nights ago, all in one sitting – a rare and spontaneous treat, and a welcome break from working on long term projects.  It was nearly midnight when I found a small blank canvas down in my basement.  Its compact shape, just 12″ square, begged for an image – a single, striking, geometric shape to dwell in the center.  I brought it upstairs and propped it on the kitchen table.

The next thing I knew, a little seraph flew out of my woodstove, where a small fire burned, pushing back the damp autumn chill.  It had three pairs of wings – one pointing downward, one sideways, and one upward.  The little seraph hovered like a hummingbird, fluttering its wings, beckoning to be painted on the canvas.

The moon was nearly full, and the night was still.  I watched the seraph in my mind’s eye. My boyfriend was away, and my daughter was at a friend’s house.  I had to get up early the next day – but not that early.  So I did what I used to do on a regular basis in my younger years: I stayed up half the night painting.

Then I did something I’ve never done before: I turned the canvas 45 degrees, making it into a diamond.

My seraph was pleased, and quickly settled into its new home.

I have always loved seraphim, those mythic creatures that act, along with angels and cherubim, as messengers or consorts to the Eternal One.  These magical creatures dwell beside the throne of heaven, singing or hovering in exaltation.  Some seraphim are said to have eyes covering their entire body, which they cover with their middle set of wings.  That would be quite a painting!  But it would require many more sittings than this little seraph, who is rather without a body.   My midnight seraph offered itself to my imagination as a simple creature, flesh-colored, as if of varied skin tones.

By 3am I was finished, and the seraph was content.

I have to admit, I was kind of tired the next day.  But it was worth it.  I’m definitely  not the first artist or writer to burn the midnight oil.  And I certainly won’t be the last.

If you’d like a poster or a greeting card of this painting, you can order it in my webstore, or contact me here.  The original will be on view in the forthcoming holiday art exhibit at the Woodstock Jewish Congregation.

A good week to all!

D Yael Bernhard
Author / Illustrator of
THE JEWISH EYE 2018 / 5778 Calendar of ArtNew!!
LOVE IS – a unique crossover book for all ages
THE LIFE OF AN OLIVEExplore the life of a 2000-year-old olive tree
JUST LIKE ME, CLIMBING A TREE: Exploring Trees Around the World
NEVER SAY A MEAN WORD AGAIN – A Publisher’s Weekly Starred Review;
winner of the Sydney Taylor Award and National Jewish Book Council Award
THE DREIDEL THAT WOULDN’T SPIN – A Toyshop Tale of Hanukkah
WHILE YOU ARE SLEEPING – A Children’s Book Council Notable Book
A RIDE ON MOTHER’S BACK – An American Bookseller Assoc. Pick of the List
– and more!


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