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?
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.
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.
My sparrow-hawk 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.
Sparrow-hawk 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 Sparrow-hawk 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.
@mindfuldrawing on Instagram
Crow Drawing is sold.
Commissions for other themed Ma drawings are open.
I invite you to have a look at my portfolio on Etsy and Instagram. You might like to watch the videos of me drawing in Etsy and Instagram too.
Herculus in Utrecht City Centre, drawing by Paula Kuitenbrouwer, Statute by Ton Mooij.
Boogpoort Utrecht/ Historical Gate Utrecht by Paula Kuitenbrouwer
Working on Desborough Iron Age Celtic Mirror; adding a golden border.
Desborough Iron age Mirror, framed. Paula Kuitenbrouwer
Mandarin Ducks with Lotus, watercolour Paula Kuitenbrouwer
Bruntenhof Gate drawing Paula Kuitenbrouwer
Mandarin ducks, classical graphite drawing by Paula Kuitenbrouwer
Crossed Bison Lascaux by Paula Kuitenbrouwer
Harris Hawk by Paula Kuitenbrouwer
William Morris inspired floral drawing Paula Kuitenbrouwer
‘Ode to All Oak Trees’ copyright by Paula Kuitenbrouwer
Paula’s Butterflies Mugs
Postal Stamp design by Paula Kuitenbrouwer
Common Teal by Paula Kuitenbrouwer
Ex Libris Pet Commission by Paula Kuitenbrouwer
Wood ducks or Carolina Ducks Art Cards, by Paula Kuitenbrouwer
King Eider Drawing & Embroidery: copyright Paula Kuitenbrouwer