Duck Block Print

We moved to a newly built ‘green’ house in our area and we are delighted with it. Old houses look more romantic but often inside they are full disastrous surprises. New houses are like; ‘What you see is what you get’, which often is an increase in comfort.
Of course newly built houses are often standardized and therefore the Austrian-born New Zealand artist and architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser comes to mind. During our time in Vienna, I admired his architectural philosophy which I like to summarize as a passionate objection against standardized and predictable buildings that offer very little room for personal decisions regarding your lifestyle and interior design (those two are interrelated). You certainly too can remember looking at a flat or apartment building and noticing all the bluish lights from televisions radiates from the same corner. Houses generally have sleeping rooms on the second floor; the kitchen en living on the ground floor. Attics are often after-thoughts; they can’t be used to their full extend. In other words; an anonymous architect decides for you where you cook, sleep and store your suitcases and in such way, forces a lifestyle upon you.
A modern way to escape this dictatorial way of living is living in a multi-purpose loft in which you can sleep in your kitchen, have your work-station where-ever you want it to be, and walk in a beeline from your dressing-room to your front-door without hitting a wall. Nobody is deciding for you how you live. With one big open space you are free to arrange and rearrange your interior, your lifestyle, according to new demands, new insights and new ambitions.
That is impossible in our newly rented house, but its design is okay and comfortable. My family is  happy with this house that lies in a well designed park. The park has a duck pond which led to my creative impulse to make a lino block print with two preening tufted ducks. I hadn’t done block printing for ages and it was a fun thing to do trying to remember how the positive and negative imaging works.
I am still unpacking the last boxes and trying to find extra time to ‘Marie Kondo’ our home. Reading Marie Kondo’s book, I thought she stretched her message unnecessary over too many pages. Her well formulated ideas could have be penned down on a few powerful pages only. Where Marie Kondo states ‘Keep only what you love’, Dominique Loreau’s ‘L’art De La Simplicité‘ deals differently with simplifying your life. Loreau promotes to keep an eye on quality; upgrading in order to simplify your life. We often feel guilty consumers when we buy something expensive. We think it is smart to save money despite our knowledge that today’s products have inbuilt flaws that drive us to consume more and more.




One Line A Day Book

Dear Reader,

A few years ago I started keeping a record of all outgoing letters, postcards, gifts and Christmas/Yule cards. I recenty lost my postal notebook which puts you at a risk of receiving the same postcards twice, making you think that my aging process has sped up considerably.

I began recording outgoing post some years ago when we were moving house around Christmas time. This caused an untimely extra load of work which led to a bunch of good friends receiving two Christmas/Yule cards and others nothing. (One can only execute so much perfect logistics).

Luckily, I found a cute, pink ‘Mum’ gift in Avoca the other day. In this book you pen down one line a day for 5 years. I have tried that before and failed. However, knowing the layout of this book, I thought it might be perfect for listing outgoing post. The bonus of this book is that I see what I have sent a year, two years, even 5 years ago, assuming that I won’t aloose this cute, greyish-pink outsourced part of my equally pink-greyish brain.

So, dear friends, should you receive the same gift, the same post-card, the same booklet from me, rest assured, I haven’t lost too many neurosynapses and I will be back on track soon.

Do you keep track of your outgoing post? I advise you to do so as it is a fun thing to do. Add to this the complete failure of social media to stay in contact with friends without being hacked, targeted, or influenced by political, power and money-hungry data-companies and we all realise that returning to our beloved ink-pens and (preferably personalised) stationary is not only wise but also joyful.




A talisman is an object, typically an inscribed ring or stone, that is thought to have magic powers and to bring good luck.
I am participating in the Illustration Friday Challenge
with my take on the theme Talisman.

Shamanistic Art by Paula Kuitenbrouwer at

Drawing of Lascaux Art, Prehistoric Art, Shaman Art,
Lionman Statute & Venus of Willendorf

At Etsy &

Do you believe in the magical properties of a talisman? I think that we all do that; certainly not only those who visit Catholic Cathedrals and churches were we keep bones (or mummified parts) of saints. We touch stone slabs of tombs, why? Is there energy inside such stones that with which we long to reconnect? We have a history of kissing rings to plead loyalty. We collect charms for our bracelets; Dublin has two Pandora stores in its high street! We keep memorabilia of our grandparents as if they continue to life in these objects. We feel as if we bury our ancestors twice over when we discard their old furniture, clothing or letters.
Do I have a talisman? Sure, I have. It is an object that belonged to my grandfather who died in a German concentration camp at the end of 1944. The fact that I have it, after my mother, my grandfather’s oldest daughter, kept it safe, surely shows magic powers because not many personal possessions were kept in concentration camps and made it back home to family members (as a death certificate) by post at the end of WWII.
About the quality of a talisman to bring of good luck,  I am not sure. We, modern Facebook drama peoples, are terribly short-sighted. Many things would bring us good luck, wouldn’t they? Like cars, nuclear arm race, and social media. Well did they? We often think that when all seems to fall apart that we experience bad luck. Closer and wiser thinking shows us that many small personal dramas are just transition periods. Therefore, I leave the ‘good luck’ up to historians, gods or angels as they aren’t caught up in typical human, short-sighted and dramatic perspectives.
Just refuse to grow disappointed in your talisman. Its best magic of it is making you doubt what good luck actually is. Is it clinging on to the wrong things? Is it personal growth (that also comes with growing pains), is it spiritual growth that comes with hard earned wisdom?
Perhaps you had a talisman and you discarded it because you mistook its magic?  Perhaps you have discarded magic along with it? Perhaps a tiny pebble in your drive way is a talisman, but you would never know because we are opinionated what is good and bad luck and have lost our faith in magic. Perhaps the best thing about a talisman is to believe in magic that is larger than our limited thinking skills and to test our definitions of ‘good luck’.

Enchanting Oxford

Fading Face in Oxford House Facade

My daughter and I flew to Oxford to enjoy a few days of architectural beauty and intellectual inspiration. My husband couldn’t join, which didn’t feel good but it felt so good to be back in the UK. We had postponed visiting the UK being put off by  Brexit plans. However, I have come to the reassuring thought that youngsters have different plans for our future and will set up a world with less nationalism, less divide, and no racism. Next generations have grown up in a time in which man-woman, foreign-native, heterosexual-homosexual and lots more old-world labels don’t matter much anymore as these labels do not shape their social-political thinking. They are educated on climate change, ecocide, multi-cultural tolerance, and plastic soup. They will address urgent topics that we have postponed to take proper care of.

Oxford’s beautify honey-coloured buildings intensified the wintry sun rays.

Back to Oxford. Oxford was enjoying a few days of early spring. My daughter and I cycled through town on our Donkey Republic bikes. We visited places of historical interest, Waterstones’ book-cafe, the meadows where we enjoyed seeing early snow bells, and the splendid roof cafe of the exquisite Ashmolean, University of Oxford’s museum of art and archaeology, founded in 1683. At night, I enjoyed listening to relaxing city sounds; steps of by-passers, groups of chatting students, and the soft rumbling of passing trains or overflying airplanes. ‘I want to live here’, I thought. I know that some judge the Cotswolds as too sweet, unreal, or fairy tale like but I can’t have enough of it.

Oxford’s architectural beauty and intellectual vibrancy were delightful. The early spring sun rays, intensified by shining on the honey coloured stones of Oxford’s grand buildings, warmed our soul. I thought winter (and the flu season) were finally over, not knowing  that 2 weeks later storm Emma would bring us 40 cm of snow and turn the Emerald Island completely white.

The exhibition in Bodleian Libraries, on ‘Designing English’ -English Graphic Design in Early Literature-, showed us the amazing quality of Oxford’s precious treasures. Oxford energized us. My daughter and I flew back to Dublin with new books, loads of inspiration, and a determination to return as soon as possible.

Celebrate human excellence by being creative. Add something inspiring, something good and something beautiful to this world. Meanwhile keep your soul nourished with art, literature, and music.



And always feed your birds. They need you because there aren’t enough insects.

An early sign of spring; bird on nest.



You must have heard about how unhealthy a sedentary lifestyle is. ‘Sitting is the new smoking’, apparently. Health statistics do not improve enough, on the contrary! There is an obesity crisis and sitting 8 hours per day looking at your screen is seen as one of the main contributors. ‘We sit ourselves to death’, is said.

I tend to agree because I feel that sitting slows me down, although I am the kind of person who constantly takes a break from sitting but doing small home keeping tasks between studying, writing, drawing, reading and embroidery. I fill up the washing machine, pour tea, provide our garden birds with sun seeds, and run in panic outside to hand over the waste bins. But this isn’t enough and thus I have ordered the above standing working station. It is made of bamboo and it looks nice.

How will this change my work? Which tasks will I do standing and which sitting? Would I be able to write while standing as Medieval monks working on their illuminated manuscripts? (Over) weight will disappear without going to the gym or minding your food intake, such is promised. Shall I keep you posted on my new working station and how I will find a new way of working?

How do you work? Have you acted on the ‘standing is healthy’ message? I am eager to learn how artists work out their standing-sitting balance.


P.S. I have ordered it at Aliexpress.  It is made of bamboo and shipping was free. It just takes a few weeks to arrive. I will stand next to our mailbox in our garden, waiting patiently.




What is the most interesting name of your favourite colour? Helioblue Reddish (Polychromes of Faber Castell), or Prussian Blue (Polychromes, Faber Castell) or Terra Verte (oilpaint Winsor and Newton), or Hyacinth Violet, No 40 by Pentel_or Anthraquinoid Pink No 571 Luminance by Caran Dache? Or a nameless nr 4251 multi-colour of DMC’s embroidery strand?

Mine is Blue. Many colours blue. Ultramarine, Cobalt and Lapiz Lazula are among the most favourite.


On my desk…

Are you, like me, still trying to put 2005 resolutions into effect? Having confessed this, I am never behind with reading. I have always read and I never have stopped reading. Which books are currently on my desk? Well, study books, leisure books and life-style books.

My study books are related to my course ‘Who were the Celts’, at Oxford Department for Continuing Education and these books are hugely interesting. Academic books are worlds that take you on a journey. You find yourself updated, upgraded and transformed when you close them. You work yourself through decades of academic research which is a luxury. I didn’t have to become an archeologist to read about latest findings! Many well-educated archeologists are getting their hands and knees dirty from working at digging sites and I can comfortably sit in a lazy chair and read about their findings.

The Quest of the Shaman by Miranda Green is next on my list and also I am trying to find some answers in ‘Farming in the Iron Age’. The books by Barry Cunliffe were essential to the Celtic course and are now full with scribbles and notes that I used for writing the required two essays for passing the course. I am a huge fan of studying at Oxford Department for Continuing Education (ODCE).

Although I have gained inspiration for months and months ahead by studying the Celts, I am already eyeing the next course at ODCE.

For leisure I have read about Beatrix Potter, a lovely and beautiful book given by a kind friend. This books isn’t about our youth-time favourite bunnies but about the artist and her artwork goes well beyond her successful children’s books.

My father and I read in ‘Historopedia, the Story of Ireland from Then till Now’ during Christmas. The ‘now’ doesn’t interest me much, the ‘then’ all the more.

And yes, I have fallen prey to all those pretty, small leisure books with tidbits of pleasurable wisdom: Hygge, Lykke, Lagom, Ikigai & currently Simplicite. They fit in your handbag and can be read anywhere and at any time.

‘Indoor Edible Garden’ is one of my ambitions. I am growing sprouts and micro-greens and I am learning a lot! I can now feed the family 2-3 rounds of self-grown vegetables per week, which is such pleasure because I know they haven’t been sprayed with pesticides.

Drawing and painting? Certainly. The creative well never dries up.  However, 2018 is a sabbatical year for study and for working on long-term plans. That is what ancient studies do to me; they make me think in longer stretches of time.

What about you? What are your plans for a creative 2018? What is your current favourite book?

Stay happy & healthy,


Bird Reflection

For a few days I noticed an old goldfinch sitting quietly at our bird feeder. I grew a bit worried as it didn’t fly away as goldfinches do when two-legged mammals approach. Upon studying the bird, I noticed it was healthy but old. I gave it some extra food and wished it was just a passing illness, but I knew better. When it disappeared, I checked the garden for a dead bird but couldn’t find it.

A few days later my husband found it, near our garden chairs, it was dead. It had been sitting against the wall of our house. I picked it up (with rubber gloves on) and saw it had died peacefully some days ago. The feathers were still beautiful.

We had many juvenile goldfinches at our feeder this summer making; they had at least two nests this summer. And as they have such a good Nyjer-seed restaurant in our garden, granddaddy or grand-mommy decided to die in our garden. The way it curled up against the wall of our house was touching. There is something about the way animals die. They die without fear and with full acceptance when they aren’t in pain, at least so it seems. How a tiny bird offers a moment of reflection….

I hope you all are well and enjoying a steady flow of inspiration.


P.S. I am currently painting with yarn. I will soon return to paiting with pigments too.

Faustian Bargain? Reclaim your penmanship

Penmanship is the art or skill of writing by hand.

In a modern day Faustian bargain, we trade our ink pens for ergonomic keyboards, and with that we offer our handwriting, something that expresses so much of ourselves. We trade our need for solitude for digital connectivity, and with that we offer our mental health. I could go on, but let me return to penmanship.

01c934cc-e3bb-472c-a09c-aee75238d474I have noticed how my handwriting, which was always elegant, has started to look like I am writing all my to-do- and shopping lists whilst commuting by train. This has saddened and annoyed me so much because I don’t like losing a skill or under-preforming. Add to this our collective ‘I have had it with computers, data-grabbing companies and digital involvement‘ statement, and what follows is a rescue plan springing into action. More in this a bit later.

There is a movement trying to win back our old fashioned ways of living and lost skills. We love to return to our kitchens for slow-cooking. We find ourselves buying typewriters again, sewing machines, and pots for growing our own herbs. We collectively sign up for yoga and mindfulness workshops. We start weaving, knitting, embroidery and calligraphy all because we have enough! Enough of the feeling that we become more dull with every new smartphone and every year that passes using the internet. There is hardly any joy in internet use anymore. It doesn’t feel like a museum or library anymore but as the annoying evil eye of Sauron or like a Harry Potter Death Eater.img_9395

As a result we collectively start to withdraw from the internet and we reclaim our peaceful and more creative lives, in which our bodies are involved in our actions, by exercising our handwriting, growing our own sprouts, make our own cloths and weaving our own blankets.

About a year ago I bought a notebook and penned down my first alphabet since a long, long time ago (it looked disastrous). Followed by my name (over and over again), longer sentences, to-do lists and words that entered my mind. My handwriting improved very quickly. So fast, that I kindly advise you not to say that your handwriting skills are beyond repair. They aren’t, but training is most likely needed. Do it! And I assure you that it feels like the ‘New Yoga’, like a celebration or a joyful meditation.


Update on one of my former Sewing A Mandarin Duck posts: