Graphite Art is Soulful Art: Artwork and Reflections

Let’s focus on some recent colourful artwork, and afterwards discuss some graphite artwork.

Who does not feel enchanted by koi carps? The way that they gracefully slide through their watery world makes us believe that they represent our thoughts and feelings. These large, but ever so elegant, soft-finned koi carps swim in freshwater; they appear and disappear, come and go from all directions, like our thoughts during meditation. The more the koi carps feel relaxed whilst being watched by you, so our thoughts slow down during meditation as we do not engage with our thoughts, but observe them manifesting and disappearing. Koi carps stand for prosperity and success. Their hardy nature has also led to koi being associated with longevity.

Graphite Artwork in Progress

I have been working on large graphite drawings. Whilst the world around me bursts into colour (it is spring here), I find myself turning to graphite artwork more and more. Somehow Dutch 17th century artists, working with graphite, ink and chalk, have me under their spell. I can not get enough of their soulful art. The funny thing is, I love colours! If the world would fade before my eyes and represent itself as monochromatic, I would cry my heart out. Yet, when I study graphite artworks by 17-18th century landscape artists, one has to admire their beautiful artwork. We see a drawing more clearly when the it is reduced to its essential lines, textures, light and shadows. Like a philosophical essay: one selects a subject (like a scene or scenery in drawing), adds perspective (like an architectural artist), focuses on an essential aspect or subject (as an artist does), and makes it clear what part of our complex world should receive our moral (in art, our aesthetic) attention.

Work in progress. Under -layers in graphite. The outside border shows oak-leaves. The inside border will hold my brothers name, date of birth and death in Latin numerals, as well as a Latin text that I find suitable for remembering my brother’s life. The passionflowers allude to my brother’s academic passions which will be worked out in the centre of this large drawing.

I am also working on an In Memoriam drawing for my late brother. I like to share a few observations. First, this is a self-assigned task which I haven’t done before. I had to let the first weeks of grief pass because I needed a calm mind to assemble a composition that celebrates my brother’s life. As soon as I had worked out a composition, I noticed that I had postponed working on it. To my surprise, I found myself somewhat deliberately delaying working on this large drawing that will eventually become a prayer-card, a remembrance note card, and an Ex Libris. Why, I asked myself? I am a far stretch from a procrastinator; procrastinating is just not me. Then I knew. I do not want this drawing to be finished, at least not any time soon. I want to stay with the drawing, as if sharing -in mind and in spirit- moments with my late brother.

I know myself well enough; this drawing shall get finished as I will offer it to those who want to have a remembrance card or Ex Libris with my brother’s name on it because this is not about me, but about remembering my kindhearted brother. Yet, I now understand more profoundly why artists add ‘unfinished’ symbols to their artwork: an open book, a broken off branch of a tree, or an open door, to name a few. As long as I am transforming my grief into artwork, I feel much better, and delaying only shows that one needs time. This is not the kind of art-making that should be hurried. *Note later added: the In Memoriam- Remembrance drawing can be viewed here.

More updates shall follow soon. For now, may peace prevail on Earth, may my fellow artist friends feel a steady flow of inspiration, and wishing all others the very best.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Portfolio at Instagram

Commissions and Freehand drawings at Etsy

Academic essays, articles, and miscellaneous stuff at Linktree.

Work in Progress and Seeing Ahead

Copyrighted sketch by Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Sometimes I take a photo of my first layer of graphite. As I use Derwent H7, the hardest of pencils for the vaguest and most subtle of layers, I can not see well how my drawing will look like. Here comes the magic trick; I take a photo and increase it in contrast and darkness. This way, I get to see ahead of my progress. I can evaluate the darker and lighter sections now with ease. I can only evaluate, I am afraid, not change anything beyond this point because the composition by now is already set. Seeing the contrasting dark-light sections, however, provides me also with an impression of the movement of the drawing. With this drawing, I am very pleased. Can you see large lotus leaves and three dynamic turtles?

How to Draw an Underlayer?

I use H7 Derwent pencils for the first layer. Do I put the leaves or turtles (or any other subject) straight on an expensive sheet of Arches paper? No. I first make some very rudimentary sketches in my diary or on the back of a payment slip, or on the inside of a carton of gluten-free cereals at breakfast. How often one sketches a beginners sketch depends on one’s self confidence. With this I do not mean that I am confident all the time; new subjects demand more pre-studies than subjects you have done many times.

Is Using Rules Fine?

Yes! I always use a ruler because I work on large Arches sheets and thus I divide my sheet in erasable sections. Should I not do that, one turtle might perhaps have too little space and thus ‘fall’ of the composition. I use a ruler also to create white space around my composition, which is aesthetically pleasing but also handy for using a mount (passepartout) or frame. By the way, with my remark to create space for all objects you like to include in your drawing, I do not mean that everything needs to be 100% included. It is kind of exciting when parts of objects fall off a canvas or sheet. This creates a bit of suspense and the illusion that the real scene the artist had in mind is much larger than what he or she has been able to express within the limits of a canvas or sheet.

This gouache painting -by your truly- shows lotus leaves still being visible within the inner decorative blue border yet not extending beyond the outer, indigo border. Some lotus leaves are put well within the double border.
This variation -in order to have the signature included within the border- creates an irregular and therefor a surprising effect which is always playful and nice.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

At Etsy

At Instagram

At Linktree

Contact me freely for advice, commissions or help with choosing artwork or note-cards.

Dutch Heritage Nieuwe Gracht Huisjes (Utrecht)

Erfgoed III (1)

Follow the progress that I make drawing three lovely houses located at the Nieuwe Gracht, Utrecht. This large drawing demands much patience because these three pearls are full details. I will update this blogpost regularly. For videos on this project, visit my Instagram account @mindfuldrawing. Contact me for questions and commissions.

 

 

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Etsy

Instagram

Forest Scene: Mandarin Ducks Resting on a River Bank

The mandarin ducks (Aix galericulata) have carefully chosen a place to rest. They seems to blend in with the dark background, thus if necessary, they will respond quickly by taking to the waters and thus escape predators. The river is calm, the forest is rich in sounds and smells, and all is well. The reflection of the lovely couple is visible in the calm water. Birds are flying over. 

The duck and drake have just decided to take a rest and have already positioned themselves on the bank. The duck is checking the left, the drake checks the right, if all feels safe they will soon tuck their bills into their wings and take a nap. After that they will look for food again, synchronized as they are. They are life long partners, like swans. In Asia mandarin ducks represent love and loyalty. On the photos of this drawing, you will notice a few wooden ducks. They are used, in Asia, like drawings, prints and paintings, to enhance feelings of love and loyalty in homes and rooms between couples. Seeing bonding ducks, seeing how synchronised they are, makes people long for a deep belonging, a deep bond between lovers.

This is a softly rendered graphite drawing. On my Etsy home page and Instagram you can watch a video of the making of this drawing. I have done many Mandarin duck commissions for homes, weddings, engagements, stationary, or meditation/sleeping rooms. Contact me should you have specific wishes regarding a mandarin duck drawing. Also, have a look at my shop where you will find mandarin duck mini-prints, cards, and full colour drawings. May I advise to have a full colour drawing of mandarin ducks in a monochromatic coloured room and a softly rendered graphite drawing in a colourful room?

Artist information: Derwent graphite H-series pencils on Arches hot press paper 31-41 cm. Winsor & Newton Varnish Spray.

Ornithological information: Although Mandarin ducks are Asian ducks, Dutch park and estate owners buy these ducks to add some bright colours to their duck ponds or castle moats. Mandarin ducks then need nesting facilities because in nature they breed inside tree cavities. They seem to do well in Dutch weather. I am very lucky to have spotted them nearby my home town. One thinks that they stand out splendidly, but I can assure you that even the very colourful drake often seems to blend in its surroundings perfectly.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

@mindfulfdrawing on Instagram (video  link)

Etsy (for video watching scroll down till ‘About Paula Kuitenbrouwer’

www.mindfuldrawing.com

mindfuldrawing@gmail.com

Bruntenhof Gate Utrecht

My ‘Gate to Heaven’, a lovely gate is located not too far away from my home, at Bruntenhof, Museumkwartier in Utrecht.

img_8425In real, there is no flower vase, just pavement in front of this gate. I received some feedback, stating: ‘There is a great difference between a photo of this gate and your drawing. A photo shows beautiful stonework but you have drawn something dreamy and poetic. The gate has become a portal to another world. You can walk through it and find yourself in a Medieval landscape with knights and dryads‘. I think the feedback itself is rather poetical, don’t you think? Such sensitive feedback stimulates me to make even more progress.

This gate can be found at Bruntenhof, Museumkwartier in Utrecht, in the centre of the Netherlands. It dates back to 1620. But it could be any gate, a dream gate, a portal to heaven, to another world. Gates are symbolic and often stand for a transformation or travelling between worlds. Gardens are set apart from manor houses by a gate. People drive through gates to enter an estate. Gates impress, transform, and show style; Roman, Art Nouveau, Classical, Medieval or gates are used for defence purposes. Drawings of gates can mean so much and are open to your interpretation.

img_8431Commissions are welcome for drawing a favourite place be it a gate home, residence, manor house, hotel, garden, holiday-home, estate, or apartment. Contact me for discussing your preferences.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Listed at Etsy & at Instagram

Contact me for questions:

Abundant Acanthus; A Lovely Gift for a William Morris or Plant Loving Person

Abundant Acanthus

‘Abundant Acanthus’ with plant motifs by William Morris and me. Here are the ‘work in progress’ photos and musings.

I have drawn this large graphite drawing with so much pleasure despite that I became dizzy from all these swirling botanical patterns. But isn’t elegance worth a bit of suffering?

Take care and don’t forget to water your plants during the summer heat.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

At Etsy

At Instagram

 

New Work in the Making

I am working on the successor of ‘Praising Plants‘, ‘Ode to All Oak Trees‘ and ‘Sophisticated Succulents‘ and returning to William Morris for inspiration.

For years, William Morris didn’t appeal that much to me because I was still under the influence of my study of Dutch Baroque floral painters. They, as no one else, could create depth and a feeling as if you were looking at a real bouquet. These Golden Age masters positioned their composition in such way that a large flower vases, with all seasonal flowers, would stand proudly on show and you could -in your mind- walk around it. You would admire not only the flowers but also water-drops and insect that rested on big and small petals. But, of course, you were looking at an illusion. Dutch floral painters studied flowers, one by one, made sketches on them, and then set up a composition as if all flowers were all in bloom at the exact same time, which is never the case in nature. A wonderful illusion; a much admired illusion.

William Morris looked one dimensional compared to these baroque painters, yet, I learned to see that compared to modern flower designs, Morris’s work certainly isn’t one-dimensional. He may not create as much depth as I would like to see, but he weaves flower stems, creating the feeling as if you are in nature and looking at bushes, trees, and flower beds. Some flowers are near, some further away.

My drawing will have another lovely title using again a two word alliteration. You are invited to guess. However, before doing that, one needs some botanical knowledge and isn’t that not exactly what makes us love William Morris? He educates and inspired us with his design, botanical knowledge, and colourful palette.

img_7894

William Morris mainly scatters and extends broad leaf foliage, flowers, and sometimes animals for the purpose of creating a repetitive, yet not too repetitive, wall paper design. There is a difference in what we expect from wall-paper, a painting, and from a mural. We expect a mural to trick us like Harry Potter on Platform 9 ¾: we like to run into the world that is suggested by a mural. Wall-paper, on the other hand, aims at supporting the design and décor of a room. Wall-paper must suggest less depth than a mural or painting, but more than a brick wall, by weaving the stems of flowers and using the technique of foreshortening, Morris does exactly that however not overly.

I have yet many white spaces to fill up with my own designs; this way of freehand drawing is enjoyable. 

Here you find more on my William Morris Trellis watercolour painting. (Click here)

Paula Kuitenbrouwer   

My shop is at Etsy & and my portfolio at Instagram

Trellis by Paula Kuitenbrouwer

York Minster Cathedral Drawing

b8fad007-ef2a-4ba9-9879-47168204b4ddThis is a drawing that I made while staying in an apartment opposite of York Minster (Cathedral). I enjoyed studying all York Minster’s wonderful, elegant, and whimsical details with and without binoculars.

I was especially charmed by some stonework that wasn’t symmetrical and I thus set out to capture it by standing in front of the window, drawing without a ruler. Later I used a ruler but only a little to keep the spontaneity of this elegant drawing. I apologise for the darker photos as I planned to place the drawing so that the façade of York Minster is visible in the background, thus photographing against natural light. The drawing is done on white (slightly off white) high quality paper and the drawing is light, elegant, and softly rendered. For ornithologists, boy did we enjoy the peregrine falcon family! Two parents and four juveniles exercising flying around the north east tower delighted us. For these birds, York Minster is a perfect natural rock formation surrounded by food (street pigeons).

This drawing is a special gift as there is only one and there are no copies available.

Artist info: Derwent graphite, fixative Winsor & Newton. Frame it with a mount and you have a lovely ‘Memory of a Minster’, or ‘Detail of a Cathedral’. (I know a Minster and Cathedral aren’t the same, yet many use both terms).

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

at Etsy

This drawing at Etsy

Ode to All Oak Trees

Ode to all Oak Trees

After my ‘Praising Plants’, a large graphite drawing that was sold rather quickly, I decided to continue with botanical theme-drawing and thus I designed ‘Ode to All Oak Trees’.

This drawing has a large oak tree as it centre piece, decorated with William Morris botanical motifs and leaves freehand drawn as its border. In spring a single oak tree produces both male and female flowers (catkins). The acorns are its fruits. We use both the acorns and cupule for crafts while jays eat them and squirrels store them for the winter. Oak wood was often used for building churches because of the density, great strength, and hardness. It is very resistant to insects and fungi. Oak wood was also used for building Viking ships and in Medieval times it was used for interior panelling of prestigious buildings. Mistletoe growing on oak trees were most treasured by druids in Celtic communities; it was harvested with golden sickles.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

@mindfuldrawing on Instagram.

On Etsy available. Only one; there are no copies available. It makes a lovely and original gift.