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Charles Gilchrist Mandalas: Gallery #2:

The Four Corners Suite
and The Creative Process
by Charles Gilchrist


Many years have passed since the production of the “Four Corners Suite”. Those years mark an intense period of personal growth and that kind of gain gives a particular overview. Now I can focus on the thirteen mandalas and clearly see through time to the precise moments of their conception.

It was an extremely powerful experience to say the least but started in a very ordinary way. Just a tiny flash of mind. Within seconds, perhaps a minute, that little spark grew into a giant experience of creative inspiration and realization, far beyond the ordinary.

That little thought was like a small electric shock of knowing, and as my attention focused, I felt a welling of emotion and a quickening of my senses. My mind sharpened and raced. Somewhere in those slow motion seconds, “The Four Corners Suite” was realized as if given to me by a consciousness outside and far above me; as if an angel had blessed me with a clear plan and a new assignment.

Those moments, as the root concepts of “The Four Corners Suite” were crystallized, felt like pure grace. The vision was crystal clear and the power of that experience continued to motivate me through the eighteen months required to complete the project.

Nothing Becomes Something?

Having had this kind of mystical experience before does not minimize the magic. I am still amazed . . . in awe of the creative process. Somehow, a miraculous germ idea ignites at our core and a simple human being (like you or I) is given the will and the energy to create something tangible . . . something real and of value. These time/space realities we create, seem to come directly out of the giant mystery of void. Somehow, NOTHING becomes SOMETHING?

Two Heads

This creative process we are living in, is filled with magic and mystery. For me, It is a two headed mystery. On the one hand, I can see that a major part of my being is a transcendental mystic artist; a mad hermit filled with the magic and wonder of life's subjective forces, living in and for the joy of creation. This part of my being exists beyond time/space, and limited only by imagination. I can also see that another being exists on the other side. He is mortal and filled with desire. He was born and will die. He is limited by the practical realities of the three dimensional time and space he lives in. This part of my being is a student of logic and cultivates an utterly rational, linear, and scientific mind. That time/space mind knows there are always laws and principles at work.... ALWAYS! That mind knows SOMETHING, CAN NOT come from NOTHING!


For us, at our best, these two realities exist as a dynamic paradox, but without serious, damaging conflict. We two beings have learned to cooperate and the shooting war is over. For us, the universe of cause an effect is a reality, and so is magic. We know that somehow God's miraculous works are accomplished within the unchanging principles of his/her universe. Under and in back of what we call magic or miracle, is really just God's principles at work. The subtly of this cause and effect is beyond our sight and so we call it magic. We are blessed every day and (at the same time) SOMETHING does not come from NOTHING. It is an incredible wheel of perfection, working beyond our finite comprehension.

Resting in this overview of balance between the left and right, is a huge advantage. And now, contemplating “The Four Corners Suite” and remembering those precious moments of its conception, lets me lift the veils and see back through the ripples of cause and effect.


A year before, I suddenly found myself in a black hole of despair. It was a horrible! It was especially painful because a short time before, I had been experiencing a creative peek . . . on a sublime mountain, pouring out volumes of fresh work and blindly happy in the effort. And then, almost over night, I lost everything.

Suddenly, I had fallen to the level of a homeless beggar. Money gone.... studio gone.... credit gone.... home gone.... and loving wife gone! All gone and lost forever. My old friends and family were thousands of miles away and I couldn't go back, so beaten. In my dark self-pity, I believed my quest had failed and my beautiful dreams of living the life of a full time serious artist were shattered.

Hiding Out

I was desperate and broken, but in the end I did what any good beggar would do. I limped back home, and threw myself on the mercy of those friends and family I hadn't believed I could face. Thank God, they saved me.

I remember hiding in small dark rooms, licking my wounds, and morning my losses. I remember believing I could never love again and art was forever dead.


And then, as if by magic and out of nowhere, something happened. In the early hours of an anonymous spring darkness I arose in a dreamy fog and began to grope around in forgotten boxes of miscellaneous stuff. As if with a will of their own, my hands dug in a box and found a small block of watercolor paper, and in another, a half used bottle of black India ink. I could find no brushes or pens.

As an automation, I lay the first sheet on the floor, soaked it with water, and dripped ink in the pools on the surface. The ink exploded and reticulated in random patterns. I continued (barely lucid) one after another until all the paper was stained with blooms of slowly drying ink.

My body had done its work. It hadn't needed my mind. I went back to bed hardly noticing, still in a semiconscious stupor and beyond curiosity. The grace in that moment slipped by.

Ink Blobs From Within

The dried, ink stained pages were strange and trippy. At first they merely amused me as I conjured up a vision of comic Freudian shrinks. There they were, all standing in a beautiful gallery, intently studying my ink blobs. All passionately debating in thick accents; each desperately trying to get to the bottom of this madness.

Working Again

I kept putting the collection away but would always return to add a little ink here or some graphite there. Before I realized what was happening, I was a working artist again. Evidently, my need to make art was not REALLY dead.

Months flew by as I poured all my creative energies into the twenty odd sheets of ink blobs. It was no surprise they had all turned into mandalas. I had been working in that sacred geometric discipline for over ten years. The expanded stains were each contained within the squared circle and each made reference to the cardinal points.

Blues The Healer

They were classic mandala but they were not pretty or spiritually uplifting. On the contrary, a dark and brooding mood saturated the little black and white pieces. Their music was sardonic and jaded. They were the bleeding blues in harsh veils of gray. I was face to face with my own dark shadows.

For months I had been, and was still filled with the black lead of self pity. I was still lost in agonizing guilt and hopelessness — but I was working. Even though I was still very low, the process of making Mandalas was slowly teaching and healing me again. And, I began to remember the mountain I had fallen from.

Alchemical Epiphany

And then again, and out that mysterious nowhere, another miracle — that fabulous moment when a tiny germ of light flickered in my dark mind. That little light grew and welled into a powerful quickening, and a benevolent voice reminded me of the alchemical possibilities. The pain I had been embracing began to dissolve and my mind soared. My consciousness had been spontaneously polarized from loss and pain into joy and celebration. By God's grace, my leaded mind had transmuted into gold and within a minute, “The Four Corners Suite “ was conceived.

Once again, My internal guidance system had saved me. My forgotten guardian angel had given me a new plan and a high goal.

It was simple. The assignment was to reinvent the black and white series of moody Mandalas — to recycle the power — to re-express the dark emotional and aesthetic energies of the first series, but at the opposite pole. To find and release the light in that black and blue hole. The personal goal was to turn my fears into courage, my losses into abundance, and my hate into love.

Alchemical Experiment

I duplicated the original circumstances of the first series and the alchemical experiment began. I laid a fresh sheet of watercolor paper on the floor and soaked it with water. This time, I dripped COLORED ink into the pools on the surface. Again the ink exploded in random patterns. I continued (now hyper lucid) until all the new paper was filled with colorful blooms of slowly drying ink.

From the moment this alchemical experiment began, I was moving forward again and my dark moods dissolved into a celebration of rebirth. Once again, I was working in bliss. Working within the ancient, healing discipline of classical mandala. The dynamic stillness I consistently experienced in this open-eyed, meditative process continued to center and heal me and I rediscovered the mind of abundance.


It took eighteen months to complete “The Four Corners Suite” as a limited edition. The prints are full of light and color and hope. They are lively, and at the same time, quiet and balanced. The thirteen small mandalas proved to be very popular and for years, I have benefited through the sale of numerous signed and numbered prints. That creative, alchemical experiment is responsible for getting me back on my feet both financially and emotionally.

My rational mind can not begin to fathom the incredibly subtle forces of the creative process but I have proof beyond doubt that it IS a magical reality. I believe the thirteen mandalas of “The Four Corners Suite” to be truly talismanic. For me, they hold some of the healing energy I experienced in their creation. They are magical objects holding positive vibrational energy. They are Gold transmuted from Lead. All you need is the tiniest spark of faith and they can move you, as they moved me, toward your own golden possibilities.

Charles Gilchrist © 2004
Updated 2012

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