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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Still lifes, Foreshortening, and Nature Booklets

Drawings of blue ceramic bowls with mini ‘Zen’ gardens, Zebra or flowering Echeveria succulents, and stacked Killiney beach stones, geological treasures from Ireland. The Irish beach stones have such elegant and surprising patterns.

The Zebra cactus and succulents were the best thing to draw because I like drawing plants that have leaves growing into the direction of the viewer. For drawing such perspective you need a technique called foreshortening. Think about the figures of God, angles, and saints in Michaelangelo’s Sistine Chapel.

God by Michaelangelo

Michaelangelo mastered the skill of foreshortening effortlessly. One can do the same with flowers and plants, actually with everything that is three-dimensional. Like my tulip having one petal opening towards the direction the viewer.

Tulip in Oil Paint; Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Back to my still-life drawings. This tiny ‘Zen’ gardens survived our international move and are waiting patiently for ‘Spring comes, and the grass grows by itself‘ (Lao Tzu).

Stay safe & stay warm!

Love,

Paula

Round Blue Pot at Etsy  & Oval blue flower pot at Etsy

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My booklet ‘Birds, Butterflies, Fish & Botany’ is very low in price at the moment on Amazon.co.uk. Seize the opportunity! You won’t regret buying this booklet with 13 of my drawings and texts. My art friend Sybille recommends it especially for those who need to stay home due to being ill as my booklet takes the reader outside admiring Birds, Butterflies, Fish & Botany.

Judy BarendsThe same counts for a book made by my art friend Judy Barends. She recently published a lovely book with her watercolour artwork. Thematically there isn’t much difference between Judy and my work, as we both find great pleasure in drawing and painting Nature’s treasures. However, when inspired, Judy grabs for her watercolours, and I open by box with my coloured pencils or oil paints. Judy’s text are poetic and mine are more like stories; both our booklets are observational nature journals. For Judy’s book, go to her website.

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

 

Mandarin Duck Cards & Studio Candy

img_4848I lived some months near a duck pond in Ireland and that increased my appreciation for these capable birds. Yes, capable. We tend to think ducks are hilarious and silly, like geese, but ducks are threefold capable; they can fly long distances, dive deep, and can spend days on water. Mandarin ducks are perhaps the most loved ducks because they symbolize friendship, loyalty, and love. You send a Mandarin Duck card to somebody to invite or celebrate a long-lasting friendship, loyalty or love. Mandarin duck drawings and prints are my best selling items of my Etsy shop. It is a nice to make art that celebrates love and friendship.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Artist, Author & Expat

‘Birds, Butterflies, Fish & Botany’

P.S. The cards come with a full coloured inlay, a seal sticker, and on its backside a decent sticker that says my name and website.

P.S. I promised eye-candy? Here is a corner of my studio. It was easy to set up. Not so easy is setting up a studio exhibition of my drawings as there are too many and I prefer to keep them safely stored in my portfolio case. So, if you like to see my work, pop over to my Etsy shop or browse through my website. I remember deleting a fast amount of my work after discovering copies on other sites, still this website shows that I love to capture Nature’s beauty, mainly birds, butterflies, koi fish & botany.

 

For the sole purpose to inspire you…

For the sole purpose of inspiring you, I like to show you what dropped in my mail box from Japan; two lovely packages with beautiful Sashiko threads. I chose these colours for representing Earth and Ocean. The earth being dressed up in autumn colours and the ocean with different hues of blue and green.

You can travel the world by car or plane but you can also travel through the world of crafts. I wrote in a former blogpost that I can’t exactly remember how I ventured into the world of Sashiko. But by dwelling in the world of Sashiko, I noticed how beautiful some Japanese hand-dyed threads are. I come across a lot of thread that I can’t order because I can’t read Japanese. However, these threads I found at the Japanese Amazon and they will soon assist me in creating a Sashiko display that is both experimental and (hopefully) decorative. Before you think, ‘Paula has traded her pen and pencils for needles’. No. Certainly not. Please, return soon for more creative updates and inspiration.

Love from Paula

P.S. Being back in the Netherlands, I designed a new, bilingual name card. I also re-activated my Etsy shop. It needs some tweaks but it shows that I am back again after a long Irish sabbatical. Visitekaartjes.jpg

 

 

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.

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’

Embroidery as Art

What makes embroidery art? What is required for embroidery to become a masterpiece? I have read a few books on embroidery but I haven’t come across a reflection on this question. As I am rather new to embroidery, I can only use my fine art (painting) knowledge.


A work of fine art is mostly appreciated for technical and artistic exquisite execution (skill and artistic talent). Having said this, there are many works of art that are regarderd masterpieces because of social, political or purely creative qualities.

For a beautiful piece of embroidery some criteria are similar to painting; technical skill, colour-choice, composition, originality of concept/theme, and quality of materials. Don’t underestimate originality; it is enjoyable and valued to see artisans using their your own source of inspiration. Their artwork reflects their life and their conflict or love for their life living in a certain place and time. Such inspiration creates a unique and uncompromising style or signature.

Blue Tufted Ducks by Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Returning to the question ‘What makes embroidery art?’ Embroidery demands an equal amount of skill as painting, drawing, woodwork, and ceramics. For all artwork counts that more skill leads to increased quality and value.

‘Blue Ducks’ & ‘Green Ducks’ in the series of Tufted Ducks by Paula Kuitenbrouwer.

I used gold thread & various blues plus freehand-stitch, pekinese-stitch, french-knots & openchain-stitch. I always use my own designs, based on my coloured pencil drawings or oil paintings. Occasionally I use my sketches for making lino-prints too.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Artist, Author & Expat

‘Birds, Butterflies, Fish & Botany’

@mindfuldrawing on Instagram

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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