Keeping a Pandemic Diary

OLD DIARY LOST AND FOUND

During our series of lock-downs, de-cluttering has become a beneficial home bound activity. I found an old diary that I had forgotten about. Being in full de-cluttering mode, I was about to throw it away. But before I knew, I sat down reading a few entries. Surprisingly, I enjoyed reading my own musings. That is interesting because when I was young I read A.S. Byatt’s warning against diary whining which instilled a fear to keep daily notes. But encouraged by my old diary entries, I decided to start a lockdown diary assuming that years from now I -again- would find it interesting to read back about how we lived during this unusual time.

A Home Bound Life

I bought a New Romantic 1980s Paperblanks. But soon after, I felt again apprehensive to keep a diary, afraid that my writing would be irrelevant, a waste of time. But then, how can one expect grand and compelling entries when one is living a lockdown life? I opposed the self-sabotaging thoughts by remembering Etty Hillesum’s diary. I also remembered Brother Lawrence, a monk in the 1600s, who wrote on mindfulness whilst being confined to a monastery. (Not that I compare myself to Hillesum or Lawrence). I concluded that a diary does not have to report an epic and sweeping life. A home bound life amidst a clear and present danger that shakes our society, like the 2020/21 pandemic, is equally of value.

An old diary entry that I found at the time we were travelling abroad: ‘Exotic lands offer challenges and strangeness, a feeling of anxiety and excitement. Against the background of a new landscape we project ourselves as vulnerable, which results in a sense of awe and wonder. We dwell in new landscapes testing ourselves and feel an urge to settle and domesticate the land in order to feel free of anxiety, to feel safe. When we explore new lands, we feel so vulnerable and lonely that we search for gods or goddesses in pools, on the tops of mountains, in caves, near old trees, like prehistoric peoples did. We do all this to feel less naked, less exposed, more at home. We create sanctuaries but the land itself and all that comes with it was sacred before we arrived. We set up altars, shrines, and hang flags in trees. We feel a need for divine or ancestral support when we feel exposed to new horizons’.

My Mandarin duck stickers for an additional splash of colour
Nothing Grand or Epic
Now I write an entry almost every day and instead of writing epic and sweeping reports of meeting remarkable people, being chased by Ceberus, surviving Odysseus’ ship-wrecking storms, or discovering a new Lascaux, I report progress on drawings, on the joy of reading, and the small pleasures and setbacks of a lockdown life.

Should you have doubts whether or not to record your lockdown or pandemic life, please take my advice and do it because it is fun. Like me, you might find pleasure it in and it might be of use as a primary source for further family members who wonder what the Covid-19 pandemic felt like ‘back then’.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

At Etsy

at Instagram

Nearing a decade of Mindfuldrawing

In 2012, I set up a website named ‘Mindfuldrawing’ and over time I have added and deleted many posts. Several times I came close to deleting everything out of frustration with stolen artwork, difficult updating processes, and customizing challenges. Years later I can say ‘good’ that I took away posts that weren’t visited often enough to be of significance. What stayed were valuable articles that are frequently visited from all over the world. My website matured to something that goes beyond an artist portfolio; there are written pieces on art appreciation, essays, art musings, freehand and commissioned artwork.

Art Musings

Frequently visited are my articles on paintings, like ‘Guido Reni (Bologna 1575-1642) St Joseph with the Infant Jesus’, or ‘The Soul: Painting the Unpaintable’, or illustrated reflections on principles of Asian art; Ma, a Japanese aesthetic principle, in my three bird drawings. I have been asked how to look at art mindfully, on which I have replied to read children and middle-school student books on art. Young people are taught to look at art with an open mind; adults are told in which period art pieces fit.

Artwork by Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Prehistoric Art

I posted many musings on Prehistoric art: ‘Crossed Bison of Lascaux: Art Study Through Drawing’, ‘The Woman or Mother of Willendorf’, essay on ‘Prehistoric Hands Invite and Confirm Communication with the Dead’, on ‘Prehistoric Women Figurines‘, and on ‘Ochre’. I wrote a light-hearted, fictional story on a ‘Prehistoric Dinner Party’. Academic essays are ‘How Interpretations of the Ritual Nature of Stonehenge Have Changed over Time‘, my essay on ‘Lady Vix, A Bardic Storytelling of the ‘Celtic of the West’ Model’. My Celtic Art Project shows how the studying prehistoric art inspired me to design Celtic art myself. I also gave the Sorcerer of Trois Frères, Ariège, France a face, drew the shamanic healing of the Inuit sea goddess Nuliajuk and tried looking into the beautiful and fascinating Iron Age Celtic Desborough Mirror.

Artwork by Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Commissions & Freehand Artwork

Sometimes I was allowed to publish privately commissioned book-plates of which some are situated in past times, Medieval times, or the Jugendstil period. Other times it was requested to keep commissions private.

Utrecht’s Monumental buildings by Paula Kuitenbrouwer

William Morris

I felt very inspired by William Morris. He was such versatile artist and worked relentless on bringing nature inside people’s homes. This inspiration resulted in large, decorative paintings of ‘Trellis’, ‘Abundant Acanthus‘, ‘Ode to Oaks Trees’, and ‘In Praise of Plants’.

Lastly, there are many Mandarin duck drawings and aquarelles, because people, like me, love these sweet and colourful ducks. It is said that mandarin ducks attract love and loyalty. Since my return to the Netherlands in 2018, I discovered two couples in nearby parks and estates. Therefore, I can confirm that mandarin ducks do attract …well, lovely mandarin ducks. 

Invitation

I like to invite you to my website. It isn’t a sleek, frequently updated website. Instead it is a calm and thoughtful little place of the Internet like one of those tiny, intimate window seats inside an old library where you can snuggle up for a few hours of mindful reading and viewing art.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

More portfolio overviews are at Etsy & at Instagram

Inspired by Kumamoto’s hanging scrolls

Book Find at a Mini Library

Have you come across mini libraries in your area? I came across one and found this highly inspiring book ‘The Floating World’ on Japanese hanging scrolls from Kumamoto’ published by Rijksmuseum/Waanders. I took it home and next day dropped off two books because that is how these street libraries work. These free, mini libraries are particularly important now that we are in a lockdown and most libraries, galleries, and museums are closed.

Grateful

I was so grateful! I learned so much from the book. It was such an aesthetically pleasure to study its many colourful illustrations. Consequently, I decided to design a hanging-scroll with traditional Sashiko wave patterns and floral designs. For the floral patterns I use the cute ‘Japanese Style Labels, Stickers & Tapes’ by Pepin Press. I do not copy; I do not enjoy spending time copying. By just leafing through these books I sense a reservoir of inspiration that will last for ages.

The Tenchi area is filled with an irregular wave pattern that will be done in traditional Indigo blue; Ichimonji is filled with floral patterns showing lots of chrysanthemum flowers, pieces of dark, curvy wood and white, small daisy -like meadow flowers.

Regular Updates

I will post regular updates of my work on my hanging scroll. What I aim for is a perfect composition of the painting within the Ichimonji (border), Chûmawashi (another decorative border), and for Tenchi (the background border). I am glad to know these names now. What I do not know is the name of the previous owner of my book. A huge thank-you to the anonymous person who left this book on a table in Utrecht’s shopping mall Hoog Catharijne. You made my day (well weeks, most likely years). May you enjoy the books that I left on the table. To all: put a table outside with books that have to make room for new ones. But take care; I read funny column named ‘Ikje’ in our Dutch @nrcnl newspaper that one person didn’t grab the concept of street libraries; he/she took the bookcase and left behind stack of vintage books.

Adding a Koi carp inspired by a postcard showing a wonderful embroidered gold work koi carp on indigo blue fabric.
Three koi carp are symbolizing a family; they are close, dynamic and in harmony. Copyright Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Return here so now and then and enjoy new updates photos of my work in progress. I will add many fine details in the borders. I am undecided yet about the main painting. Perhaps this could become your commission and you like me to add doves, mandarin ducks, trees or fruits in the main section?

Indigo blue and many colours green plus a splash of bronze for the waves.
Still work in progress.. but progressing well.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

P.S. I checked the book-table two days later and my donated books were gone.

Commissions for your MA-Bird or your Kumamoto inspired Hanging Scroll with symbols of your family are open.

At Etsy

@mindfuldrawing on Instagram