Going beyond predictable performance practice

Decades back, I read a remark that most people dare not to accept their greatness. Today such quote would provoke criticism because currently there are too many inflated egos grabbing power and money. If it wasn’t for the middle class, the mediocracy, the sane and well balanced mass, and the majority of people who ‘Stay Calm & Carry On’ that we are still sailing through epic well-fare inequalities without revolt. So, bravo for this ‘middle’ group. However and despite of living through this inflated ego era, the quote recently inspired me to run an experiment as I applied in solely on art practice.

I know what I am good at in my studio. But what would happen if I would go beyond choosing the comfortable or predictable performance practice? What if I, after feeling inspired, would dismiss my first impulse to work, hit a pause button, and dwell a day or two on the question of how can I work with this idea on a next ‘greater’ level? And with the next level I mean higher quality of tools, larger in size, and/or more daring in execution (the latest prerequisite/demand being the most difficult to imagine). Well, it has been fruitful to run such experiment. It has resulted in opening my oil paint box that had been closed for over 2 years. The smell of the tubes and the well-known names of the classical palette…mmmm! And touching a large white canvas, already seeing with my mind’s eye a primarily lay-out (the size of the canvas scares me). The ‘next level’ might still not be something great, instead it probably is still very modest, but the process of lifting up yourself to a higher and more daring level has certainly given much joy and has nourished my creativity.

Paula

 

My booklet at Amazon.com & Amazon.co.uk and, of course, Etsy. I can not add a lovely art card to your order when you order at Amazon, however I will add on one should you order at Etsy.

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Drawings the Elements of Life

What do you think are the elements of life? In classical thought, the four elements earth, water, air, and fire as proposed by Empedocles. Aristotle added a fifth element, aether; it has been called Akasha in India and Quintessence in Europe. Feng Shui works with five elements and I planned to draw all of them. But first I had to interpreted them artistically.

The result is 5 large drawings of Wood, Earth, Water, Metal, and Fire. I have tried to make the elements engaging.

For Water, I have drawn a cut through that shows water in a pond. As water is so minimal visible, it is the lotus growing in the lotus pond that shows indirectly the element of water.

For expressing Wood element, I have drawn a cut through, showing the growth rings.

For Earth, I have drawn a layered cut-through showing soil and dirt (and burrowing bunnies). But as I have a great interest in prehistory, so I have incorporated how we use earth element, as dirt, since prehistoric times, for making ceramics and building stone walls.

Expressing Fire wasn’t that easy. The best and most effective way to express fire was to set my art paper on fire. However, effective that expression would have been, it would be short lived and showing the most destructive quality of fire, and not leaving me with a drawing! Thus, I have drawn flames and fiery petals of red tulips presenting the element’s passion and dominant red colour.

Metal was a delight to work on, artistically, because I wanted to feel like a blacksmith. I drew a metal and shiny teapot with white-washed and golden decorated tea cups. I worked with Derwent metallic coloured pencils using Bronze, Gold, and Silver. It works! Even the small prints show a metallic shine that communicated the metallic element.

After having drawn Metal, Wood, Water, Fire and Earth, I mused long and hard over how to to draw Air, or Aristotle’s’ Aether or Quintessence. Maybe one day I will try but for now, these are my Feng Shui elements and they seem to be in perfect harmony.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer at Etsy

At Esty these 5 element drawings are for sale as originals. They are perfect for decorating a Feng Shui Consultant Office.  I have them available as little art prints too for helping Feng Shui teachers to educate the Five Elements. Contact me in case you need bigger art prints.

 

Abstraction in Sashiko and Iron Age Art

Sashiko, Japanese traditional pattern stitching, is an interesting geometrical challenge. Equally interesting is discovering the meaning of the old Japanese patterns; some refer to nature scenes. Like ‘Linked Plovers or Chidori Tsunagi’:

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‘Wind blowing Grasses or nowaki’,

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‘Diamond Blue Waves or hishi seigaiha’.

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With the help of transparent geometrical templates bought Aliexpress, I copy and design the Sashiko patterns on paper and later transfer them to fabric. What I also like about the stitched geometry of Japan is the level of abstraction of the designs. Iron Age artists mastered abstraction; think about the Uffington White Horse in the UK.

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As I love using details and details in details, abstraction is a great challenge to me. Which lines can you erase and still have a flower, bird, or horse? Which lines are essential? And how does a geometrical design help the human brain to perceive abstract images and connect them to our life?

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

 

My Inspirational Cabinet

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I am setting up my studio. My inspirational cabinet shows some of the treasures that I found on the beach, woods, or meadows. On display are my precious deer skull, an ox horn (bought), a sheep horn from Manx (Isle of Man), an unknown horn, shells, Killiney beach stones, fossilized wood (gift), grey washed beach wood, and bits of old iron.

I found that rusty part of a vehicle on a farmer’s track in the Wicklow Mountains (🇮🇪) and decided to, very appropriately, use it as a frame for Raffaello Sanzio’s Putto holding Vulcan’s tools. Vulcan is also known as Hephaestus, the Greek god of blacksmiths.

Also on display is my ‘cave painting’ art print with the Venus of Willendorf and the Lionman. Did you know the Lionman (Löwenmensch) isn’t per-se male? The name Lionman is a word contraction of Lion & Human. I wrote an essay on prehistoric hand stencils, which you will be able to find here. ‘Dead’ treasures can still be beautiful and some clearly haven’t lost their quality to inspire. Without being Gothic, I think that much inspirational energy seems to be stored in nature treasures. Drawing inspiration from nature doesn’t always have to come from flowers or fluttery butterflies. Do you agree?

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Artist, Author & Expat

‘Birds, Butterflies, Fish & Botany’ 

at Etsy

N.B. After having taken a long Sabbatical with my Etsy for studying at Oxford Department of Continuing Education, I yet have to update my shop. However, the good news is, my shop is online again. Should you like to purchase my booklet, art prints or original drawings, please contact me. By Christmas, I will have my shop neatly organized again.

I will keep you posted on a very pretty Mid-Winter, Yule, or Christmas drawing that I have in mind. I might turn it into a card too, like my Celtic Wild Boar card. You can watch the process of designing my Celtic Boar card here.

P.S. To my loyal online art friends, I am very sorry for having neglected your updates. I just moved the last box out of our apartment. My studio is coming along pretty well. You haven’t fallen from my radar. I am just still very busy with getting settled. I am longing very much for routine and returning to drawing and painting, and staying in touch with you all.

King Eider Duck (Somateria spectabilis) Drawing & Embroidery

Good-day to you! I am a King Eider and this is a coloured pencil drawing made by Paula Kuitenbrouwer. Paula is currently preparing an international move, thus her pencils are disappearing into big boxes. As she is rather creative and doesn’t like to put her creativity on hold, she is using my portrait and that of my beloved wife as an embroidery design.

Forgive me my vanity, but don’t I look handsome? And doesn’t my wife look adorable? Paula has done me great favour by expressing my black plumage in a contemporary style. Over the next few weeks, Paula will finish the feathers of my wife. In a way she is painting two portraits, one with coloured pencils and one with a needle and thread. While Paula is busy, we swim in Arctic waters and showing people how ‘King’ we are.

King Eider Drawing & Embroidery
King Eider Drawing & Embroidery: copyright Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Paula Kuitenbrouwer
Artist, Author & Expat
‘Birds, Butterflies, Fish & Botany’

Feng Shui Hoop Display

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Five Elements Creatively Approached

Last year, I drew all Feng Shui’s elements. To help you remembering my drawings, I add a small compilation of my work.

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Paula’s Feng Shui’s interpretations, showing its Water, Wood, Metal, Fire & Earth element. Copyrighted.

My 5 large, circular, artistic compositions that are now decorating one wall of our living room. I wrote a booklet about this creative process named ‘Feng Shui, A Creative Approach‘. After I had framed my Five Elements, I felt that this project was too inspiring to bring to a close. With our rooms already carefully evaluated on a harmonious representing of the Five Elements, I still wasn’t ready to leave this subject behind me. I printed small prints of my drawings and gave them to various friends. Sybille, a long and very creative art-friend delighted me with framing these mini-prints. (Click here to see her display of the mini-prints). For myself I printed my drawings on fabric, using Spoonflower. I framed the fabric prints with hoops. Somehow, they were begging for more creativity. I gave in eagerly, of course, and looked for nice embellishments to add to the hoop. Thus, I created an engaging hoop-sized display of Water, Fire, Wood, Earth & Metal.

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Feng Shui 5 Elements, Creatively Approached by Paula Kuitenbrouwer at http://www.mindfuldrawing.com. Copyright Paula Kuitenbrouwer 2018.

For Feng Shui’s Wood- element, I added a wooden button and a small wooden stick. I added a metal coin, a beautiful one to the fabric showing my Metal-element interpretation. This coin was in 2017 design for the Isle of Man £1 coin features two birds – a Falcon and a Raven. These birds are symbolically associated with the Island and feature on the Coat of Arms.

Adding an embellishment for Feng Shui’s Fire-element offered a challenge. Yes, of course, I could set my hoop alight but that would result in a very short-lived representation! It took me some time to find a solution. Ashes, perhaps? No, ashes are represented by Earth’s element. Artificial flames? No thanks, too kitsch. In the end, I opted for adding Red Dragon Beads, Dragons breathing fire and these beads showing interesting carvings. I attached them to a loose string, causing some movement. After all, fire is in constant motion, unless water that be still. Equally, I faced difficulties with adding a truthful water-element as an embellishment. After all, I can’t have a soaked and dripping piece of artwork hanging on my wall, but the dripping inspired me. Thus, I added watery looking, droplets decoratively to the hoop. Earth…what to do with Earth? Rubbing in my artwork in with dirty soil? No, of course. It seems better to add Feng Shui’s jewellery for the Earth element with terra-cotta coloured gemstones. All in all, this project resulted into an interesting and engaging display of Feng Shui’s element, artistically approached.

Have you ever wrapped your creative mind around Feng shui’s elements? As I hold a MA degree in Philosophy, I am interested to dive deeper into creatively expressing elements. Feng Shui covers 5 elements, but ancient philosophers wrote about more elements: Air and Aether. Air & Aether certainly pose a near impossible artistic challenge! I will keep you posted.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Artist, Author & Expat

‘Birds, Butterflies, Fish & Botany’

Ma, a Japanese aesthetic principle, in my three bird drawings

I’d like to show three paintings in which I have incorporated Ma, a Japanese aesthetic principle. Ma is described as ‘an interval in time and/or space’, thus referring to empty spaces, vagueness or abstraction. Empty spaces, in which nothing seems to happen, are full of possibilities. How do my three birds deal with Ma in their portraits?

Ekster by Paula Kuitenbrouwer

For my portrait of Magpie, Korea’s national bird, I added orange colour to compensate for a magpie’s black and white plumage. To stay close to her Korean habitat, I decided to position Magpie on a colourful and fruit-bearing persimmon branch, heavily laden with pumpkin-shaped kaki. Magpie is content with her portrait, and so am I.

Crow Kraai by Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Setting up a composition for a portrait of Carrion Crow was a little harder. Negotiations with this proud and cheeky bird were tough. I talked him into sitting on a mountain ash branch, but initially he didn’t agree with my decision of pushing him a little to the rear.

‘You are an indigo blue-ivory black bird’, I explained by pointing out that humans don’t like black things. I explained that I could trick humans in loving his plumage by adding the rich palette of colours of an autumn Mountain Ash.

‘This branch has fresh green, bright orange and deep red, and will charm viewers in loving your monotonous black feathers. And if I use a diagonal composition, I can guide the viewer along the branch, climbing up from deep red, through the bright orange to sap green. After such a colourful journey, people don’t mind a bit of solid black. But to do that, I told Carrion Crow, I have to push you a little to one side, but that is okay. Reluctantly, Carrion Crow agreed.

Sparrowhawk by Paula Kuitenbrouwer

My Sparrowhawk demanded to sit high and mighty on the top branch of a proud pine tree. The world of humans doesn’t interest him. He soars above it, looking down on our wars over oil, mass migration and our overheated, overpopulated world.

Sparrowhawk knows he has this intricately textured and awesome coat of feathers, which makes fashion designers drool. Not much is needed next to such an eye-catching bird; two almost evenly-coloured pine cones complete the portrait. Sparrowhawk sat down just long enough for me to make a portrait, and, without so much as a ‘thank-you’, flew off to his own world, soaring high above ours.

Back to Ma.. In all three bird portraits you’ll notice considerable emptiness. My birds seem to look into this emptiness. What do they see? A suitable partner? Prey? Are they guarding their hidden nests? Are they exploring new horizons?

Ma is for you to fill in with your imagination, with your story-telling, your ornithological knowledge or poetry. But Ma can also be left open. We don’t need to fill in empty spaces with projections, trauma, words or sounds. Ma offers a thinking pause or escape from our train of thoughts.

Magpie, Carrion Crow and Sparrowhawk understand Ma naturally. We are enchanted when we see a bird resting on a tree branch and we long to be like them: resting in Ma, accepting the here and now.

Paula

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Lotus Plant Drawings: Botanical and Symbolic

Two Lotus Prints

Lotus Plant’ & ‘Lotus Pond with Tortoise’

by Paula Kuitenbrouwer

In preparation for the upcoming birthday of the Buddha, I have drawn two different views of a lotus plant. Much venerated in Buddhism, the lotus is one of the ‘Eight Auspicious Symbols’. It is also a delight to draw, as the textured leaves and petals of the plant encourage the kind of finely-detailed observation and drawing work that give richness and texture to an image.

For my first drawing, ‘Lotus Plant’, I researched and focused on all the interconnecting parts of the plant. Most drawings and paintings of the lotus concentrate on the flower itself; the next part, the stem, is submerged and thus often merely hinted at. And the roots, although many of us will be familiar with them as edible parts of the plant, are rarely depicted in art, since they grow deep in the muddy bed of the pond.

For a Buddhist, this concept of living in three mediums – mud, water, air – signifies a progression. The soul journeys from the muddiness of materialism, through the water-world in which we live and experience our daily, day-to-day lives, and thence beyond, to enlightenment in the ethereal world of light and air. That these parts are all connected, roots to stem, stem to flower, is reflected in my drawing.

My ‘Lotus Pond with Tortoise’ shows the flowering plant, partly in water, and blooming just at the surface. A tortoise, resting on a rock, looks up at the lotus. Such a bright and beautiful flower is an inspiration to all who see it, tortoise as much as human.

In Asian culture, tortoises are sacred. The longevity and tenacity that they symbolize seemed to me to be a wonderful way to celebrate what the birthday of the Buddha means. We need to live long and work hard to reach enlightenment. And if the ageing process is enlightenment in slow motion, as John C. Robinson describes in his book ‘The Three Secrets of Ageing’, then my combining of the symbols of enlightenment with those of longevity expresses this process.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Available at Etsy as prints and original drawings.