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.


at  Etsy and at Paula Art Shop



A glimpse of a few exquisite prints

Pumpkins with Butterflies, professionally glued onto a passe partout, without frame. 45 Euro, excl. shipping.  Size: 40-50 cm. Light fast print on high quality art paper.

‘Tulip Heads Three Graces’ professionally glued onto a passe partout, without frame. 35 Euro, excl. shipping.  Size 30-40 cm. Light fast print on high quality art paper.

‘Autumn Butterflies’ professionally glued onto a passe partout, without frame. 45 Euro, excl. shipping. Size 40-50 cm. Light fast print on high quality art paper.

Click images to enlarge.

 Paula Kuitenbrouwer at Etsy


Sketch Succulent Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Succulent Sketch, click on photo to enlarge, Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Oak leaves paula kuitenbrouwer

Oak leaves, Paula Kuitenbrouwer. Click on photo to enlarge.

Grass paula kuitenbrouwer

Grass, Paula Kuitenbrouwer.

Is there anything more joyful than a new sketchbook ? ❤


Common Kestrels with Nest (Falco tinnunculus)

.Common Kestrels, Falco tinnunculus, copyright Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Test torenvalk foto 2 005

Falco tinnunculus, copyright Paula Kuitenbrouwer

I have drawn a spring-bird scene, showing a female common kestrel, who has just landed on her old crow’s nest. She is inspecting her eggs. The male is relaxed and sits close to the nest. The male common kestrel has a blue-grey cap and blue-grey tail, whereas the head cap and tail of the female is brown.

Have you ever seen a common kestrel? You will be amazed how cute they look. It is the combination of their round little heads and their big, dark eyes that makes them look adorable. But are ‘cute’ and ‘adorable’ words we use to describe a bird of prey?

Common kestrels were hunting birds for royal ladies in medieval times. Kestrels were considered to be of little use for serious falconry, and that is because they weren’t thought of as fantastic hunters. Kestrels hunt exclusively for mouse-sized mammals, insects (like dragonflies), beetles or small reptiles.

High court ladies wouldn’t mind when their bird caught a dragonfly, a beetle or a vole. If a bird prefers to chase a dragonfly over a delicious rabbit, or catches a clumsy beetle instead of small, tasty bird, this allow us to describe kestrels as cute, and surely very cute by comparison to birds of prey that hunt for hares, pheasants or even apes.

Available at Etsy, click here.

Pumpkin Fall Autumn Harvest Halloween Fine Art Card

Autumn 2012 copyright by Paula Kuitenbrouwer

On show, my Pumpkin, Fall, Autumn, Harvest, or Halloween drawing. Cards are printed too. Let me explain you the theme and composition. This year I’ve combined garden birds, two Parus major ‘chickadees’, with fall fruit: pumpkins, apples, and acorns.
Last summer I’ve been hoping to find a Stag Beetle. I couldn’t find one, so I was happy to draw one. It slowly makes its way to the acorns and apples.

The chickadees in our garden give us constant delight and inspiration: they are dominant, noisy and funny. I can’t stop looking at their wonderful colours.

At the end of our street, there is a pumpkin patch. It is so nice to see the orange spots growing bigger every time we drive pass it.

Acorns…well, they keep us awake at night because they fall on our roof. When it is windy, we run to our front door with our hands covering our heads, afraid to get bombarded by them.

I’ve aimed for a diagonal composition. The Stag Beetle guides your view from down-left to up-right, to the last upright leaf of the big orange pumpkin. Normally I would put big objects in the back, but I liked the large orange pumpkin to dominate the drawing. The small green one offers depth being positioned behind the big large pumpkin. My signature is hidden in one single straw.

I wish you a lovely autumn season.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Pumpkin compositions by Paula Kuitenbrouwer


Eurasian Collared Dove

Doves, copyright Paula Kuitenbrouwer, photo Thomas Kluck

Two doves grooming each other.

Original with coloured pencils.

An ideal original drawing (inquiries or print for an engagement, wedding, or Valentine’s Day.


Prints at Etsy and Amazon Handmade.


Pheasant Feather

Pheasant Feather, copyright Paula Kuitenbrouwer, photo Thomas Kluck


This is my ‘Token of Appreciation Card’. The feather runs diagonal from the left down corner, symbolizing an increasing line of a line graph to the left upper corner. This shows good performance, increased productivity or knowledge.

The card of appreciation makes employees feel proud. The card is printed on fine art paper and shows the tiniest detail.

Don’t underestimate the power of appreciative gestures.

This card is excellent to give to your employees, students, volunteers or graduated family-members or friends.

The cards made from this drawing are of high quality; it is like the feather is lying on the card instead of printed on it.


Paula Kuitenbrouwer sells original drawings, exquisite fine art cards of her drawings as well as reproductions. See Purchase in the header for what is available as well as the price list. In case you like to commission Paula, contact her at