Mystery Books & Mysteries in Our Lives

Guest Blog by Maryse Kluck

Maryse Kluck

Summery: Comparing and contrasting Mystery books from two centuries, Maryse Kluck finds the old genre valuable. Why is this and what has it to do with the battle between good and evil? Mystery Fiction from the 20th century inspires to fight for the good in our lives, like Greek Tragedies, the Bible, and old classic literature does. Writing literature can be a timeless form of activism.

I have been busy reading mystery novels. Usually I avoid them as I deeply dislike reading humbug such as blood spattering, dismembered limbs, and insane psychopaths, but 20th century mystery fiction seems to be much better than I thought it would be. I’ve been reading some mysteries before, such as Arthur Conan Doyle’s ‘Hound of the Baskervilles’- a beautiful book- and one of Dorothy Sayers’ books. But now I’m actively adding detective novels to my reading lists, as I have not done before. A week ago I finished Dorothy L. Sayers’ ‘Gaudy Night’, a detective set in the fictional Shrewsbury College of Oxford, and now I am reading an Agatha Christie novel, ‘The Pale Horse’. My goodness, how I love these novels! But I have been thinking why. They are literary classics, yes, and popular (my own grandmother was an admirer of Agatha Christie), but they touch something deeper. Hence why I wish to write this blog post; what snare these mystery novels touch and what they might say about our Western society.

I was reading ‘Gaudy Night’ a week ago and I was half immersed in the book, half irritated at the fact that there is no suspense in day to day life. Maybe some of us would think that this is a good thing, and to an extent, it is. In ‘Gaudy Night’, there is a villain leaving poison-pen letters and trashing the sacred halls of the college, leading Harriet Vane, a detective novel writer, to try to find the cause of this. We are embarked on a journey through Oxford, after the illusive villain, who seems to hold a grudge against women being in academia. This is clearly unpleasant, but there is a motif here; good against bad, heroine against villain. This is what keeps us reading; the allure of Oxfordian academia and intelligence, but also because of the age-old trope that we all love; the fight of the light against the dark. 

Mystery and Suspense in Our Lives

We can identify the same theme in Agatha Christie’s ‘The Pale Horse’. There is even some occult in there, which for me gets me even more ‘hyped’, to use a colloquial phrase, because naturally, as a Christian, I would be deeply skeptical of those who dabble in magic and the occult. Even worse, a priest is murdered. The blend of sorcery and the murder of a priest- who would represent the good in this novel- clearly sketches out the plot; good Christianity versus dark magic and homicide. We are brought into a sleepy town, but there is more to it than we think:

People who say the country is dull and the towns full of excitement don’t know what they are talking about. The last of the witches have gone to cover in the tumble-down cottage, black masses are celebrated in remote manor houses by decadent young men. Superstition runs rife in isolated hamlets.

We are thus brought to a setting where we, the reader, the hero or heroine (for we do not know exactly who the protagonist of the book is), are poised against old, malicious powers; a setting that dates back to old literature. Whilst we may live in a predominantly atheist society now, the traditions of Christianity and the fight against the occult and the bizarre still run through us, still thrill us, hence why we love a spooky Gothic mystery. The fight against evil is a motif we still love; we may no longer read the Bible with its monsters and Romans with their torture methods, we may no longer believe in folklore, but the desire to fight against evil is something embedded so much in our society, we are drawn to mystery books, to assert the role of the hero or heroine. 

I can’t really go along with this modern playing down of evil as something that doesn’t really exist. There is evil. And evil is powerful.Sometimes more powerful than good. It’s there. It has to be recognised- and fought.’

Our Western society has, thankfully, embraced things such as peace and democracy. We are no longer prey to warring kings or tribes or invading forces- something which we should be thankful of! The last tyranny that Western Europe experienced was in the 1940s, with gruesome, horrifying results. We should be grateful that we live in a free society.

However, there are some drawbacks. I don’t think we should even call them drawbacks, as I see little to no ‘cons’ of living in a place where there is democracy and I can be who I want- a Christian woman who wishes to become a writer (and, bear in mind, being an ambitious woman was not something easy back in the day, and religion could get persecuted)- without fear. My point is, that admits all our freedom, we have gotten so used to it that we no longer feel the need to ‘fight the good fight’. Our daily battles are with bureaucracy (and I know a thing or two about university bureaucracy), spats with friends or acquaintances, and, God forbid, fights on social media. We have lost passion to battle against what is really evil; religious extremism, political extremism, the loss of certain norms and values. We barely call out our politicians if they turn out to be right wing extremists- we just repeat what they said on social media, call them anti-Semities, but actually do something against their barbaric ways- no. We just sit around. We cancel writers and people with different political opinions on social media, but we barely do anything about the fact that in certain places around the world, women are still oppressed, and the earth is slowly but surely heating up. We don’t pick our battles correctly. We no longer face and fight true evil. And some of us actually choose to side with wrongness; whether it is promoting unscientific and ridiculous politically extreme ideology, or destroying academia through the lens of postmodernism, or siding with a dictatorial country that is performing genocide, we seem to have lost it. Perhaps, we know this. Perhaps the universal plot of ‘good versus evil’ in mystery books is what makes them so popular.

Picking Our Battles & Fighting Back: Learning from Mysteries 

That said, this is not a ‘call to arms’ to become a social justice warrior, a climate change radical, or a right-wing extremist. And neither is it a call to actual violence (sadly, some people these days think that in order to work against something they disagree with, they have to resort to aggression. This is a flawed and dangerous way of thinking). What I am arguing is to become passionate about something. Identify something wrong in society- and no, that does not involve writing ugly things on Twitter about an author just because she has contrary political beliefs- and deepen yourself in it, how you can take up the banner and strive against it. You do not need to donate hundreds of euros to do this. Anne Brontë wrote a dark, wrathful book about how women were treated in 1800s England, and her book lasts. If she had written a complaining, whiny pamphlet, the 19th century equivalent of social justice warrior tweets, that would not have made an impact. She threw her heart and soul into creating an incredible book about sexism and made it beautiful- but powerful. She thought it through and used intelligent, academic, even spiritual arguments against it. In ‘Gaudy Night’, Dorothy Sayers put effort into describing the academic world, and pinpointed sexist threats to women scholars. Artists, whether they be writers, painters, musicians, poets, have all put time and effort into carefully considering a problem and using the right tools to fight against it. Agatha Christie put writerly effort into creating her ‘good against evil’ mysteries.

We need to introduce more mystery, more ‘hero cycles’ in our lives. We need to become the hero or heroine of our stories, working against something we consider wrong or evil. This gives passion and excitement to our lives, which motivates us to step out of bed in the morning. Now, this might seem like philosophical rambling to you, but this is what I believe. We can’t indulge in our easy lives and not care about suffering or destruction. And, deep inside, I think we do yearn to be our own protagonists and battle against villains. Otherwise, why are we so drawn to mysteries? 

These are my thoughts thus far…as I read more, I am quite certain I shall have more to say on this subject.

Maryse Kluck

March 2023, James College, York University.

Special issue of the Literary Ladies’s ‘Gothic Literature Magazine’ is here.

Maryse’s letter to her great-grandfather is here.

Maryse Kluck is History student at York and Utrecht University, owner of, and writer at Literary Ladies, Reader & Book Lover. Rower at Orca (Utrecht).

Should you offer your artistic freedom in exchange for exposing your artwork?

With my daughter at York University, I look back fondly on my halcyon years of being a home-school teacher. I retired as a home-school teacher some years ago after which I expanded my portfolio (drawings & paintings). Starting a creative job at being in the neighborhood of 55 caused some trepidation. Of course, there are many manuals for starting a business, however there is no playbook for expanding one’s portfolio; you -as an artist- have to write that playbook yourself. Along the way of growing my portfolio, I noticed how creativity is progressively framed by social and digital media.

My Swan and Pumpkin artwork.

These days there are many digital fora on which artists exhibit their work; social media platforms are helpful for setting up a business but probably equally limiting or even compromising creativity. How much of your creativity are you willing to sacrifice putting yourself out there? This question slowly emerged after the first elated feelings resulting from rekindling my creative life. (Not to say that being a home-school mother hasn’t been creative, it sure was). But once past the tickled pink phase of selecting platforms, I had to write an ‘About me’. Here presents the first creative limitation in which you are expected to function. What about it isn’t about me but about my art? What follows is a multitude of lay-outs in which you showcase your work, express yourself, communicate with your colleagues, and possible meet customers. Somebody has done the thinking for you; you only have to follow guidelines and lay-outs, often resulting in having friends and fun. But where is your creativity? Is it still there?

Mandarin duck double folded note card by Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Surely, you can be creative and do a sterling job within these frameworks, but these are frameworks nonetheless. Creative minds squeeze themselves into configurations and the question thus is how much original creativity gets lost along the way? Also, where can an artist still be boundless creative? How would my art or your art look like had we lived during the High Renaissance (no digital representation)? Or at the time French Impressionists left their studios to paint the outdoors the way they saw it, not the way art galleries told them to paint for clients?

Aren’t we collectively making too many and profound concessions? Are we forsaking to teach the next generation to function outside digital media? Creatively thinking outside the box? Are we building character or are we the best boy in the social media classroom? Will the next generation yield a Raphael or a William Morris? How much room is there to develop one’s creativity when one compromises to existing arrangements? The onslaught of functioning within digital per-modeled lay-outs damages, standardizes, and limits our creativity. That is because no matter what, formats dictate our functioning despite I am often pleasantly surprised how much wiggle room artists find within rigid frameworks.

My workstation shows work in progress on my Yukiwa composition.

Allow yourself to be creative outside your studio, outside your website, outside social media platforms. Once trapped into these Faustian patterns (selling your creative soul for exposing your artwork) search for maximal freedom. A website is better than a blog because a website allows you more design tools. A blog is better than an Instagram account (self explanatory). A physical sketchbook is better than a digital pad. Use creative tags instead of existing ones, despite that might give you less exposure. Although creative minds can work with a minimum of tools, always run a mental check whether you actually want to give in to per-existing formats. I applaud the generation that shrugs off social media and finds new and original ways to grow their businesses.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer, Drs. M.A.

Website at

Art shop at Etsy & Portfolio at Instagram

How are the killers and midwives of your art? Read more here.

Mystery Books & Mysteries in Our Lives

Maryse Kluck shares her insight into the value of 20th century literary genre Mystery Fiction. Like Greek Tragedies, the Bible, and other old classic literature these books are about fighting for the good life and inspire us to a form of activism.

New Mandarin Duck Composition

This is a lovely and exceptionally harmonious original Mandarin Duck composition. There is something magical about this couple positioned in the centre of a pentagonal shape, which is a Sakura flower (Japanese cherry blossom). Five chrysanthemums enrich and embellish the composition.

This artwork serves Fengshui aspirations, Valentine’s Day or a wedding inasmuch as you aspire to confirm or attract love and loyalty.

This mandarin duck composition is hand-drawn with coloured and wax pencils used in combination with a (natural) solvent. This creates a high level of details.

The mandarin ducks are closely together. Their show of synchronicity confirms their life long bond.

I have currently several of these Sakura- Mandarin ducks at my Etsy shop.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Paula Kuitenbrouwer’s art shop is at Etsy and her portfolio at Instagram. Contact her freely to discuss your commissioned artwork.

Best Visited Articles: 184.000 views (and counting)

I oscillate between my love for drawing and writing: one day I like writing, the other day I need to paint. When I paint, my love for using colours or using graphite (monochromatic artwork) also swings back and forth with a regular rhythm. It is this versatility, this fight between my pen, pencils and palette, that keeps me ambitious and eager to learn new skills, better grammar, and new styles.

My website statistics list almost 190.000 visitors. This prompts me to offer you an index, slightly categorized, so that -perhaps- you will appreciate an article that hasn’t brought you here via search terms.

This website consists of a variety of seemingly unrelated subjects. However, there is one thing that does bind all these different subjects and that is Jane Austin’s advice: ‘Write what you know’. All that I have written or painted starts with inspiration that comes to me, my thoughts, feelings, and take on life. Hopefully my articles offer you great reading pleasure and hopefully my art will enrich your feelings.

Creative Writing

Writing is fun, therapeutic, a good exercise for the brain, and it feels like painting; you start with a draft and over the days you add more layers of thoughts and quotes, more polished vocabulary, more interesting sources, and refinement. Not a day passes in my life without reading and annotating what I read. I love to pen down quotes, sources, thoughts in my dairy which later will enrich my essays or articles. Here are a few of my most visited articles:


During my youth the Middle Ages was my favourite time in history. As I grew older, I found myself drawn to even older times, to Ancient, Neolithic, and Prehistory. At Oxford Department for Continuing Education I followed two courses on The Celts and Prehistory with great pleasure and I haven’t stopped reading books in prehistory ever since. Here are my essays and articles that have our deep past as subjects:

Mandarin Ducks

Picture my website to be a duck pond, surrounded by lush lotus plants. Which water birds will you spot regularly? Mandarin ducks, or Aix galericulata in Latin. This is because I draw and paint mandarin duck commissions. I opened an Etsy shop in 2011 and mandarin ducks stole the show. It is certainly not that I draw and paint mandarin ducks exclusively, I do other artwork too. However, to make my art-making self supporting, I keep on drawing and painting these lovely birds which always fill me with happiness. It is said that by having mandarin duck art in your home, works wonders.

Art Musings

There are many artists who find inspiration in nature, and so do I. But I find inspiration in art perhaps even more. Art inspires art. Culture inspires culture. Love inspires love. I can spend a whole essay on these cliché quotes, explaining in detail how this works (and I have), but sauntering about in art galleries or museums, or leafing through an art-book instantly fills me with inspiration and musings. Enjoy!

Monochromatic Artwork

Although working with colour is soul nourishing, making monochromatic artwork feels remarkably more soulful. It is as if you lay bare the matter of the soul after taking away its colours. Monochromatic artwork often reveals and uncovers the essence of things. I have a great love for my coloured pencils, but I love equally designing monochromatic bookplates. Bookplates are traditionally monochromatic but nowadays they are more and more in three primary or in full colour because colour printing has become affordable.


For miscellaneous posts, scroll down and down each article and see all categories (subjects) that -with one click- offer you more subjects to explore. Another method to find more inspirational posts is looking at ‘Related Posts’ under each posts you have just found.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Paula’s portfolio at Instagram

Paula’s art store is at Etsy.

Contact Form:

What is Cassandra Syndrome?

Cassandra Syndrome, also known as Cassandra Complex, Phenomenon, Predicament, or Curse. What is it? In this blog-post you will learn about Cassandra. Three women describe their experiences with Cassandra Syndrome.

IN SHORT: Cassandra Syndrome applies to a person whose valid warnings or concerns are not believed by others.

Cassandra by Ferdinand Rothbart


In Greek mythology, Cassandra is a beautiful daughter of King Priam of Troy. The young god Apollo smitten by her beauty, gives her the gift of prophecy. Despite this gift, Cassandra does not return Apollo’s romantic feelings. As a result, Apollo is so angry that he ensures Cassandra’s prophecies are never believed. Thus, in stories, Cassandra often appears as a prophet of doom, forewarning all her warnings stay unheeded. Over time, Cassandra’s name has become synonymous with prophets of doom.


Modern people have little knowledge about prophesies; we prefer statistical data and scientific simulations to map out our future. Those who dare to speak about prophecies are seen as mad or religious fanatics. That said, we fill our days with policy making. Whether you are a housewife/man, or a governmental senior policy maker, we run errands for the rest of the week and make plans for the next five year. We are very busy with forecasting and foretelling our future. Keeping an eye on the future is an integral part of living a well-planned life.

Remember the fall of Troy? Cassandra attempted to warn the Trojan people that Greek warriors were hiding in the Trojan Horse. Nobody believed Cassandra. Instead the Trojans resorted to calling her names and hurling insults at her. At night, the Greek soldiers hiding inside the horse, take the city of Troy, leading to its fall. So, what is Cassandra Syndrome? It consists of two aspects: prophesy and disbelief.


Prophesying is about seeing, or believing, or knowing something goes wrong. This knowing is based on a gift by the god Apollo in Cassandra’s story, but we -modern and often secular people- can base this knowledge on life experience, intuition, or scientific data. Whatever the source or method of knowing, Cassandra Syndrome is about knowing what is about to happen, and this can be very stressful.

I once read about a man who saw his whole life playing like a movie in his mind when he suffered a NDE (Near Death Experience). After this NDE, his life evolved just the way he had ‘seen’. He knew what would happen, who would die (first), just as he had ‘seen’. I gave this much thought and asked myself ‘Would I want to know all that? And would I be in such acceptance?’ The man’s wife died before him. ‘Would I put effort in trying to change that, to change the ‘natural’ course of things as they had presented in his NDE?’ These are difficult questions.


It is extremely stressful if your warning or knowing is met with disbelief. People die; Troy falls. All of that could have been prevented had people listened to Cassandra. Most climate change advocates must have suffered from Cassandra Syndrome. Who believed their doom scenario (of rising sea levels, increased heatwaves, horrendous floods) till we actually saw it happening?

Max Klinger, Cassandra, 1893

Have you ever suffered Cassandra Syndrome?

I did at least twice and it was very stressful. Am I bestowed with the gift of prophesying? No, of course not. Whether knowledge comes intuitively, divinely, logically, or scientifically, that is rather irrelevant. The point is that you had knowledge about a future development and you weren’t believed. Like Cassandra, I was ridiculed.  

Cassandra was seen as a liar and a madwoman by her family. Her father, Priam, locked her away in a chamber and guarded her like the madwoman she was said to be. How could Priam rule when his daughter could foretell the future? As a king, he should be in charge of the future, not his daughter. But because of the gift of Apollo, Cassandra was the real policy maker; she could anticipate the future. Thus, she was shamed as a madwoman. She was silenced.


I. ‘I got Cassandra syndrome from a conflict with my father. We strongly disagreed about his future. In my opinion, he should sign up for an old people’s home because he needed care and socializing. He said I was psychiatric, which is a very classical reaction of an old man in relation to a woman speaking her mind. Priam drove a knife in Cassandra’s back to stay in power; my father back-stabbed me in order to silence me. And boy, my siblings were too willingly believing the Master of Manipulation. Calling women psychiatric is what (some) men do when women say things they dislike. This begs the question; has anything changed since Ancient Greece?’

II. ‘When I think of Cassandra Syndrome, I think of Camille Claudel. She was a very talented sculptress but she lived in the shadow of Auguste Rodin. Claudel made art at the time when it was highly unusual for a woman to make a living as an artist. How could she ever step out of the shadow of the famous Rodin with whom she was in a collaborative and passionate relationship? It is said she lost her mind and lived for 30 years, till her death, in a mental asylum. Why was it that the woman of the artistic couple was stored away? Was she a madwoman or was she perhaps silenced by a male oriented society?’

III. ‘How long did it take for the pharmaceutical industry to acknowledge that it has been a men’s industry, testing medicines on men, for the benefits of men? How long have women taken medicines that were designed and tested on men? I understand there has been reluctance with testing medication on women for fear of damaging the reproductive system or unborn babies. But when these male designed medications didn’t help women, women too often were advised to seek psychological help for ‘psycho-somatic’ illnesses. In essence, the pharmaceutical industry was failing women and by suggesting they needed emotional help this industry was ridiculing and silencing women, saying they were a bit loopy, in need of mental help. In fact, the industry should have designed medicine for women. I think that women collectively suffer from Cassandra syndrome.’

For more on women and healthcare issues: Voices of Women. Books: Invisible Women, Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez. And: Unwell Women by Elinor Cleghorn.

How many women (and men) -do you think- have been Cassandra during a time in their lives? My guess? Too many. Far too many.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Paula Kuitenbrouwer, owner, commission artist, and writer at, a website full artwork, art-musings, art-appreciation, and art-essays. Paula holds an MA degree in Philosophy and loves painting and drawing. Her pen and pencils are always fighting for her attention nevertheless they are best friends; Paula likes her art to be brainy and her essays to be artistic.

Paula’s artshop is at Etsy. Just go there and have a look. You do not need an account to order art. Paula is also at Instagram, where she uses her Instagram as a portfolio for pictures and videos for you to enjoy.

Midwinter Holiday Season Christmas Art Cards 2022

It might sound paradoxical but thanks to the heatwave of Summer 2022, I have my Midwinter holiday season art cards available in my Etsy shop. I know this is very early so let me explain why.

I am too much a northerner to enjoy weeks of deep blue skies, high temperatures, and sweltering nights. In fact, during a heatwave I prefer to stay out of the sun, pretending trees, shrubs, and plants do not suffer from drought, animals aren’t thirsty, and all is perfectly normal. But of course, it isn’t. We are breaking weather record after weather record and these high temperatures are very challenging. The heat also has taken a bite out of our holiday. Not that we didn’t enjoy our holiday; we did! But the high temperatures prevented us making long walks and caused long delays on motorways due to fires on the shoulders of roads. So, these are the downsides to a heatwave. Now, the upside! A deep longing for cooler temperatures, made me work on two Midwinter compositions. Perhaps, subconsciously and illogically I thought that as long as I focus on winter, I can endure the hot summer a bit better. ‘Art-heals’ is said, isn’t it?

Midwinter Forest
Six languages

I designed a round composition showing a midwinter forest with deer, hares, and a squirrel with pine trees and holly. Inside there is a Christmas wish in six languages and on the backside you find a deer, the title of this painting as well as my name in small print.

The other composition shows a mandarin duck couple resting near their duck pond that is surrounded by holly, ivy, and overhanging rowan branches. The scientific side of me urges me to tell you that a mandarin drake loses much of his bright plumage before winter arrives. Should he keep his outrageous bright colours, he would stand out too much and soon would become a colourful meal for predators. That said, you won’t spot a teddy bear with a snowman’s hat during your winter walk either; the holiday season allows us some room for imagination.

Enjoy my Midwinter Mandarin Duck postcard and Midwinter Forest double folded note-card. Should you like to order a set, or a large quantity, contact me freely. As I will have them printed on demand, allow me 2-3 weeks of production time.

There is nothing better to have all seasonal greetings cards ready halfway November. Not only because it takes away last-minute pressure, also because there are still postal delays.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

I have my shop at Etsy & my portfolio (including videos) at Instagram.


Commission your Fengshui Mandarin Duck Artwork

Should you need a mandarin duck display in your home, think about a commissioned painting. Consider real, original art. The benefit of ordering a mandarin ducks commission is that you have a large say in your exhibited artwork: you can order a mandarin duck composition in bright or toned-down colours, the position of the ducks can be discussed, the background (floral, water-plants, or no background), all preferences are cared for. Do you prefer a border, Asian or West-European, gold or blue? We will discuss the possible use of a tiny bit of iridescent paint to highlight the awesome plumage of the mandarin drake too. And so on.

Mandarin ducks come in all sizes, positions, and environments. Some couples sit, others swim. Some rest and hide, whilst others are out there in the open. Look at your room and look at what you favorite quality of your (possible, new or existing) relation is: you like to be depicted synchronized? Lovingly looking at each other? Side by side? Resting or bobbing on high waves? All is possible.

Room with my Mandarin Duck artwork (imagine a mount and frame).

Fengshui says: ‘Mandarin ducks are the most effective remedy for love, devotion, marriage and luck. Since mandarin ducks are clear sources of love and romance, the ideal spot to place them is the couple’s bedroom. Place an artwork -showing a marvelous mandarin duck couple- to cherish their attractiveness. For married couples, the strong vibes given by the mandarin ducks keeps them together and deepens their love for each other’.

I happily work on Wood duck and Albino mandarin duck commissions too as these ducks are as pretty as full colour mandarin ducks.

Contact me freely to discuss your mandarin duck wishes. I might have a painting ready to ship, or otherwise, I welcome your commission.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Owner, artist, and writer at, a website full artwork, art-musings, art-appreciation, and art-essays.

Paula holds an MA degree in Philosophy and she is the owner of Her pen and pencils are always fighting for her attention nevertheless they are best friends; Paula likes her art to be brainy and her essays to be artistic.

Paula’s artshop is at Etsy. Just go there and have a look. You do not need an account to order art.

Paula at Instagram. I use my Instagram as a portfolio for pictures and videos. Mainly, for videos that that show me working on a drawing or painting.

Related & Recent Blog Posts:


Listen to Intuition

My husband and I were driving through the countryside just around the time of a wonderful pink-orange sunset. I was driving and my husband was sight seeing woodlands and meadows. Suddenly, I decided to drive slower which prompted my husband to ask if anything was wrong.

‘Nothing wrong’, I replied, ‘I do not like to hit crossing deer’.

Not many seconds later a suicidal squad of weasels crossed the road just in front of our car. I braked (reflex), stopped breaking (for fear of being hit by someone driving behind us) and asked full worries to my husband whether I had hit the daring family.

My husband checked his mirror and said he saw no roadkill. Big sigh of relief! That was close.

Later, I recalled that just before breaking for this twilight loving family that I had slowed down, knowing there could be a confrontation with wildlife crossing our road (or, and better, our road crossing their habitat). I interpreted my ‘knowledge’ as a worry for crossing deer.

The point is, one knows. Ones knows more than one knows. That intuitive knowledge, or intuition, is a very subtle knowing, extremely easy to dismiss or being overrule with thoughts, day dreaming, or reasoning. It is not vague or nebulous. But it is subtle. In fact, it is so subtle that one probably and unknowingly fails to act on intuition perhaps 99% of the time when it tries to gets its subtle message across to you. A suitable metaphor would be picking up the song of a nightingale at the time ten lorries are passing.

Driving through the lazy countryside, at sunset, with very little traffic to worry about, I did pick up on intuition and it saved four weasels. I wish that more often I would be able to hear, feel or act on intuition, because it is so beautiful. It makes you feel an actor in a large play in which you are allowed to act with the overview and wisdom of the director.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

P.S. Allow me to show you some recent work. I’ve been very productive which makes me very happy. Happiness equals art-making and vice versa: art-making generates happiness. 😁

For my artwork click here. I have a portfolio of at least 100 artworks. Should you have questions regarding my work, please feel free to contact me.

Stay happy and cool,

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Paula holds an MA degree in Philosophy and she is the owner of Her pen and pencils are always fighting for her attention nevertheless they are best friends; Paula likes her art to be brainy and her essays to be artistic.

Mandarin Duck Art Card Set

They always come in handy, mandarin duck art cards. They are perfect for weddings, marriage anniversaries, engagements, Valentine’s Day, to reaffirm friendship, or to renew wedding vows, or just to express a bit of kindness to a wonderful friend.

Would you like to receive a set of mandarin duck art cards? I have a selection of 4 double folded note-cards and 4 postcards. They all come with matching envelopes. The set contains only professionally printed art cards that will delight you. You will receive four very different mandarin duck compositions. Minimalist, romantic, 19th century and vintage-like, the four different compositions will make it easy for you to select the right card for the right occasion.

It is almost a point too obvious to mention that these cards are only at my Etsy shop and that they are nowhere else for sale. They come with some add-ons and as long as my stock lasts, with a special vintage mandarin duck postal stamp that I bought from a Canadian philatelist.

Follow the link or contact me if you need some help. You do not need an account to check out at Etsy. But even should you need an account, that is okay because Etsy supports small businesses, craftsmen and artists.

Click on the link underneath this picture to be transferred to my card set:

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

At Etsy

At Instagram

Traditional Palette Colours

I had to buy new gouache paints and, as always, I tried to stay close to the ‘Traditional Palette’ referring to the masters of Dutch Golden Age. Take Rembrandt, his original palette consisted of ochres, umbers, and siennas. Rembrandt used lead white, which for health reasons, is replaced with other whites, for instance titanium white.

The Dutch Golden Age palette is so famous; its warm earthy tones even inspired make-up artists.

Maria van Oosterwijck (1630-1693)

The Seven Colours of Maria Oosterwijck

Allow me to analyse the colours Maria van Oosterwijk shows on her palette. She holds seven pencils with beautiful tips, perfect for her exquisite and highly detailed floral still-lifes. From top to bottom, I say (disclaimer, I was not there): Lead White, Ochre, Burnt Umber, Cadmium Red, Deep Red, Ultramarine Blue (green shade), and Deep Green. (Please, feel invited to upload your educated guess in the comment section; we can learn from each other).


One may feel puzzled how exquisite artwork is done with so few colours but the secret is simple: the art of mixing. Have a look, for instance, at the website of Natural Earth Paint and enjoy studying their mixing chart. Notice how a variety of colours can derive from 16 colours only!

With the advance of paint production came healthier paints but also fancier colours. Earth pigments were complemented with synthetic paints. Some colours still carry traditional names like Titan Golden Ochre, but others go by fancier names like Delfts Blue.

The traditional palette as I know it (in oil) consists of Burnt Sienna & Burnt Umbre, Cadmium Red & Cadmium Yellow Pale, Winsor Red Deep, Raw Sienna, Yellow Ochre Pale. Two greens: Permanent Green Deep & Terre Verte and two blues: Ultramarine (Green Shade) & Cobalt Blue and last, Titanium White & Ivory Black.

I never buy fancy colours with fancy names in our local art store whereas my neighbour, who loves to paint modern and abstract, finds it good fun to add newly developed colours to his palette. I ‘blame’ it on the echo of remarks made by my former teacher warning against wasting money on fancy colours, explaining how they can lead to vulgar results, easily leaving a dirty impression after mixing (only allowed to be mixed with white) and how they clash with classical colours. I understood what he said; ever since I have been religious with his advice.

Scroll up and study the Natural Earth and Mineral Pigment chart and notice how harmoniously these colours go together. Plus, there are more reasons for remaining loyal to a classical palette: one gets so familiar with the colours that mixing does not require consulting charts, and should you have to restore a part of your painting, it is easy to analyse which colours you have used. But most of all, avoid frivolity and vulgarity. There is no need for short cuts or buying harsh colours. I rest my case now but not before letting Maria van Oosterwijck’s art convince you.

Maria van Oosterwijck’s Floral Bouquet

Here you can download a handy list of traditional colours.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

At Etsy

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Postal Stamp Commission Postzegel Tekenopdracht

Printing your own postal stamps

Not all that is handy is nice. Take, for instance, digital postal stamps. Do you feel a bit nostalgic when you write 9 or 12 numbers on the top right corner of an envelope? I feel a bit like cheating on the art of philately.

DRESS -your stationary- TO IMPRESS

Dutch Post offers the possibility to order your own postal stamps. All you need is an image stored in your computer, upload it here, and Dutch Post turns it into an eye-catching stamp. Many countries offer this possibility. The stamps cost a few extra cents, but they are worth that.

Should you like to commission a postal stamp, there is no need to look further. I have experience with designing postal stamps. All I need to know is the required page orientation: landscape or portrait. Plus your favourite theme, perhaps an animal, a butterfly, or a flower?

The wonderful thing about a commission is that you might use the commissioned drawing also for a personalized bookplate.

Contact me freely to discuss your wishes.


Recent Mandarin Duck Gouache Paintings with Gold Leaf and Iridescent Paint

Who are the Killers and Midwives of your Art?

Upon visiting our local bookstore, my eye caught two titles. ‘The Courage to Be Disliked: The Japanese Phenomenon That Shows You How to Change Your Life and Achieve Real Happiness’ by Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga. And The Beauty of Everyday Things’ by Soetsu Yanai. I did not need encouraging reviews to bring these books home. I hope both books will offer intellectual rigour that will influence me and my art.

With my new books safely stored in my backpack, I walked home musing over the question of what if I had lived, like Robinson Crusoe, on an island and there was nobody to admire or criticize my art, what would be my creative take on my life, on my small island, on my spiritual growth and so on. Or to put it slightly different, in a void of art appreciation and art criticism, what kind of artistic development would I experience? Is inspiration a divine energy or a genetic trait that keeps its steady flow despite having no social relevance? And with the book title ‘The Courage to Be Disliked’ in mind, if inspiration is independent of art appreciation, is it also independent of being disliked?

I have a deep and unwavering dislike for ugliness, hate, and aggression. My art therefore always will be beautiful, meditative, calm, and romantic because that is what flows out of me on my canvas. There is enough ugliness and hate, that it doesn’t need to receive more spotlight. (I need to make a disclaimer here for political art; artists have to paint the human predicament, thus also war, hell and death, think of Picasso’s Guernica).

Time for some self-inquiry. Keep the answers to yourself and enjoy possible new insights:

Who has stimulated your art? Who has tried to kill or belittle your art? Who are the killers and midwives of your art?

What art would you make being a Robinson Crusoe (miraculously having a free and fully stocked art store available but alas nobody to appreciate your art)?

What would be your L’art pour l’art (‘Art for the sake of art’).

A bit of musing can yield astounding results.


Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Paula holds an MA degree in Philosophy and she is the owner of Her pen and pencils are always fighting for her attention nevertheless they are best friends; Paula likes her art to be brainy and her essays to be artistic.

At Etsy

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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.

Keeping a Diary


I found an old diary that I had forgotten about. Being in a zealous decluttering mood, I was about to throw it away but leafing through some pages made me sit down to read a few old entries. Surprisingly, I enjoyed it. I had mistakenly assumed that I had fallen prey to what A.S. Byatt warns against: diary whining. Encouraged by my old diary entries (it showed no whining) I decided to keep a pandemic/lockdown diary assuming that years from now I -again- would find it interesting to read back how my loved ones and I sailed through this unusual, pandemic time.

My Paperblanks Diaries

I bought a pretty Paperblanks notebook (which is such fun because oh-dear there are so many beautiful Paperblanks notebooks). However, as soon as I sat down with a blank page staring at me, I felt again apprehensive about keeping a diary, afraid that my writing would be seen as pathetic. And I had good reasons for that, because of the Corona pandemic! (What on earth is not whiny and negative about living through a pandemic?) How can one expect grand and compelling entries when one is living a lockdown life? I opposed self-sabotaging doubts by remembering Brother Lawrence, a monk in the 1600s, who wrote on mindfulness whilst being confined to a monastery. (Not that I compare myself to Lawrence, only comparing and contrasting our voluntary and involuntary ‘lockdown’ in a monastery and at home).

I concluded that for a diary one does not have to have an epic and sweeping life. A confined life amidst a clear and present danger that shakes our world, the corona-pandemic, has intrinsic value. So, no reports on being chased by the three-headed Cerberus, I am not surviving Odysseus’ ship-wrecking storms, and I am not discovering prehistoric cave paintings, but -instead- I report on thoughts, progress on drawings, on the joy of reading, and setbacks during lockdown. Also, on the growing anger in our society, cutting ties with toxic people, the intensity of lockdowns, the pressure of staying at home, a home that has turned into an office, studio, and library. Just the best solitary scribbles I can think of. The beautiful thing about writing diary entries is that one is part of the world but one is also a distant observer, reporting on the human predicament.

Book cover of Dorothy Wordsworth by Edmund Lee. This painting shows the two main actions involved in keeping a diary: the thinking part consisting of evaluating, musing, playing with memories, and the second part, finding a voice and penning down diary entries.

And what blessings are there to report! It makes you cringe realizing how many have been affected by the pandemic far more severe than me and my family. This leads to gratitude. That said, nobody is the same anymore; we all have changed profoundly. Our lives have changed and our priorities have changed. I have seen ill people becoming more ill; angry people become more angry, despondent people growing depressed, ambitious people becoming overworked. Everything has been or felt exaggerated, hyperbole I dare to say, due to a lack of social engagement.

Should you have doubts whether or not to keep a diary, please take my advice and do it. Do not think big; think about the small pleasures of life.

So, what does my diary look like? I write in my diary most days, often before the day draws to a close. I have a stash of washi tape that I use to support pages that I often use. These pages I use for recording my book list, new vocabulary that I pick up from reading, how much Iron, Vitamin D & Vitamin B12 I supplement I take (I am vegan for 12 years now), and here and there inspirational pen sketches for new compositions. I mark some pages (like my book list) with stickers as tabs. Sometimes I let my daughter or husband write a line, like a Twitter tweet, when they have a witty remark or a smart one-liner. All in all, a colourful and engaging diary, a handy dandy notebook. My best friend.

Diary keeping is not working on a book. It is nothing big. It is one of the small pleasures of life.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Paula holds an MA degree in Philosophy and she is the owner of Her pen and pencils are always fighting for her attention nevertheless they are best friends; Paula likes her art to be brainy and her essays to be artistic.

Paula’s art shop at Etsy

Paula’s portfolio at Instagram

Paula’s links at Linktree

Valentine’s Day equals Mandarin Ducks

There is so much aggression and hate! I wrote about this before in my blogpost on the pandemic and on how artists stay well balanced in a world that seems to resort to aggression and depression. Stop the hating and dwelling on disagreeable occurrences. Let us celebrate Valentine’s Day joyously despite the fact that we easily dismiss Valentine’s Day as a bit silly, commercially driven, and only for the young.

This year Valentine’s Day is different. We have not seen our best friends for ages and there is nothing wrong with sending Valentine’s cards to more than your best friend, your crush, or your lover. Why not spread Valentine’s cards like Christmas cards? By sending a card you are saying so much; you are saying that you thought about somebody. That thought made you buy a card. You sat down to add a text to the card and an address on its envelope. But even without a splendid text, you show somebody that you took some time apart for making this person realize how special he/she is to you.

Oh, that is nice!

Oh, look at the card from …’

How kind!’

Everybody’s heart makes a little jump when receiving a bit of kindness. Especially in pandemic times when people, collectively, suffer from anxiety, cabin-fever, stir-craziness, and easily lose their equilibrium.

There is nothing wrong with a bit of extra attention and love. And the beautiful thing about mandarin ducks is that they symbolize love and friendship, just like doves and swans although ornithologists have observed occasional adultery among doves and swans (just ignore that).

Mandarin ducks melt our hearts because of their stories on life long partnerships, their cute colours and shapes, and their adorable ducklings.

Paula Kuitenbrower

At Etsy

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At Instagram

What is a Sisyphean Task?

Sisyphean by Titian

You have seen him in fine art paintings, or in cartoons. He, Sisyphus, is as strong as Atlas who holds the globe on his shoulders. But Sisyphus is not carrying the globe on his shoulders but a huge boulder. He is a character in Homer’s Iliad, and it is said he was the reputed founder of the Isthmian Games, a festival of athletic and musical competitions in honour of the sea god Poseidon.

We are talking about an exceptionally strong man fit to complete a physical demanding chore. See, Sisyphus tricked death, he outsmarted death, and was therefore everlastingly punished by Hades, the Greek god of the Underworld (the Greek god of Death). Sisyphus is ordered to roll a great boulder uphill. Approaching the summit, the stone drops and rolls down. This happens over and over, repeat after repeat. A Sisyphean task therefore is characterized by that it is demanding as well as a completely fruitless.

What is your Sisyphean task? Read on….

Titian at work, a wonderful illustration in Collins Children’s Encyclopedia of The Arts of the World.

Tiziano Vecellio (c 1488-1576) a.k.a. Titian was one of the most famous artists of the Venetian School. He is categorized in the art-movement known as the Late Renaissance or Mannerism. Mannerism would later be replaced by the Baroque. Titan shows Sisyphus in his youthful strength. His arms, legs, torso and back are muscular. Titan achieves a rich effect of light using deep contrasting colours. We, viewers, are encouraged to emotionally interact with this painting. We are invited to feel empathy for Sisyphus’s endurance, strength, and suffering. We are invited to feel what he feels and thus enrich ourselves with deep understanding what a Sisyphean task is.

What is Your Sisyphean Task?

Are you taking care of children during lockdown? Are you in quarantine with energetic, young children that need to burn off their wild energies in playgrounds but are not allowed outdoors and are having meltdowns at home? You are trying to stay calm but at the end of the day you feel drained and discouraged?

Do you have shielding friends who are in cancer treatment or remission and you are therefore not able to meet them face to face due to their vulnerability? You try to be a good friend but Covid restrictions make your efforts fruitless?

Are you taking care of an ill or elderly person and whilst their brain is undergoing alterations due to medication, illness or old age, you are -fruitlessly- trying to take away their confusion and anxieties? Perhaps they are mean, suspicious, and manipulative? Perhaps they are chronic complainers? Are you fruitlessly trying to improve living conditions but you only see the quality of life becoming less and less?

When a Sisyphean task affects your life, it can make you feel hollowed out. When life throws a Sisyphean task to you, all you can do is to accept that life never comes without hardship. We are not Sisyphus, luckily, we are mortals and all suffering will end because, unlike Sisyphus, we haven’t tricked death. We may try to carry a boulder uphill for a year, ten years perhaps, but eventually we will stop, sit down, and do some deep thinking. We will eventually stop with our Sisyphean routine, nolens volens. That sets us, mortals, apart from the everlasting, suffering Sisyphus.

Test you Knowledge, Questions & Lesson Ideas

What is the difference between a Sisyphean and a Herculean task?

Is Sisyphus preforming a Herculean task?

Compare and contrast Sisyphus, Atlas and Herculean using pictures of statues and painted artworks.

Which beetle reminds you of Sisyphus? And why is this beetle not preforming a Sisyphean task but a Herculean task?

Explore the mythologies telling you why Sisyphus was punished to carry a boulder uphill for eternity, and why Atlas is condemned to hold up the heavens and sky for eternity. Explore the multifaceted character and adventures of Hercules.

Hercules in Utrecht City Centre, graphite drawing by Paula Kuitenbrouwer, Statute by Ton Mooij. You feel tricked? This is not Atlas. Hercules steps in for Atlas by taking over the globe because Atlas needs a moment to rest his back. See this blog post for more.

As from now you will remember Sisyphus and Titian’s painting. And perhaps you will see that art is able to comfort us. One feels understood by artwork or musical pieces that resonate with our predicament. That alone is comforting: art inspires and heals us.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Paula holds an MA degree in Philosophy and she is the owner of Her pen and pencils are always fighting for her attention nevertheless they are best friends; Paula likes her art to be brainy and her essays to be artistic.

Commission Artist at Utrecht

At Etsy

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Trilingual Sympathy Condolence Note Card by Paula Kuitenbrouwer

I designed new Sympathy Condolence note cards. They are double folded and professionally printed. The details are amazingly clear.

Camberwell Beauty Butterflies fluttering nearby an autumn tree that shows old leaves and new beginnings (seeds). Camberwell butterflies –Nymphalis antiopa, are also known as Mourning cloak butterflies.

There is inter-religious symbolism in this elegant but solemn note card. My butterfly composition shows seasonal change and the cycle of life, in a realistic way. The autumn leaves and seed pods strongly suggest that, a new life will start, again, somewhere, somehow. This happens to the butterfly, too. A butterflies lays eggs, the eggs become caterpillars and the caterpillar becomes a chrysalis. The chrysalis turns into a butterfly. Everything lives on, although in another form.

The composition alludes to transformation and rebirth, to earth and heaven. It shows hope, or functions as a mindful and artistic reminder of impermanence and transformation. It is also a multi-religious condolence message in three languages open to your personal symbolic or religious interpretation.

The purchase of this artwork does not transfer reproduction rights © Paula Kuitenbrouwer. This note card can be personalized and posted on your behalf. Link to Etsy where the cards are available is here. Or contact me through the contact form.

More to announce…….’Work in Progress’ & ‘William Morris home improvement’ ….read on!


Blackbird Nest, work in progress by Paula Kuitenbrouwer.

Leaf by leaf I am making progress with this large graphite drawing. I have to weave several plants (Ivy, Honeysuckle and Hydrangea) and thus build a nest for this sweet blackbird couple. By spring, surely this large drawing will be ready. I am intended to keep the blackbirds hidden from predators by filling my large drawing sheet with all sorts of lush plants. There will be no open spaces which makes this drawing so laborious. Or maximalist, one could say, which brings me to more maximalist designs: designs by William Morris.

William Morris Festive Christmas Yule Dinning table


Being inspired by William Morris, I surprised my family and guests with a William Morris themed Christmas dinner table. Combining family gifts with home-improvement is a clever thing to do because you end up with a dazzling table that inspires your family and guests. Please, before you think this was expensive, it was not. William Morris products are very popular and there is always something is on sale. Just start months a birthday or festive holiday by collecting bits here and there. All William Morris designs fit wonderfully together and since his designs often are maximalists, there is nothing wrong overdoing your home improvement by combining various designs. In fact, putting various Morris’s designs together, results in rich and rather pleasant visual joy.

Stay well! Keep yourself in your best possible health and joyful mindset.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

At Etsy

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Shapeshifting Duck Fish

Mandarin Ducks shapeshifting into Koi Carp by Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Obviously, I was in one of my Celtic, shapeshifting moods when I drew these mandarin ducks morphing into koi fish. The mandarin drake shapeshift into a blue Asagi koi carp and the duck keeps her camouflage colours by shapeshifting into a regular orange koi. I used a graphite under-layer and various colours of ink to make the ducks and fish stand out: gold, black, blue, silver, and glittery grey.

What I like about Celtic art is its deliberately illusion. One is guided into a realm where one might see faces or animals but the next thing is doubting yourself. Did I see a duck or a fish? A deer or an owl? Perhaps both? It is a world of shapeshifting faces and animals inviting stories and poems, bearing testimonies to ancestral knowledge.

In an oral culture there is a need for imagery that has double, perhaps triple the amount of illustrations than prima facie noticeable. This makes Celtic art often clever art. It is practical art but it is also mysterious, enchanting, and engaging. But most of all, it is cunning and imaginative, a testimony of a time of great artists and craftsmen that were extraordinarily mathematically, psychologically, and mythological skillful.

My workstation with my drawing and tools

Shapeshift with me and notice the mandarin ducks and koi carps in their fluid realm. I have blended the koi carp and mandarin ducks, but in order to qualify for ‘Celtic’ art, I should push this concept to a higher geometrical and abstract level and add more illusions along the way. Till the moment the viewer sees and not-sees ducks, fishes, or faces, and questions his/her own perception. Then and there a Celtic shaman would step in to guide you to new levels of observing and understanding, aiming for healing, passing on knowledge, and bonding between tribal members. Like a nowadays art teacher or museum guides does. Isn’t viewing art not always an enriching experience?

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

At Etsy

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Blog Posts:

Parting is Part of a Pandemic & Art Heals

How do the seemingly unrelated quotes above interconnect? They conjure up memories of my annus horriblis (Latin phrase, meaning “horrible year”). Misery sometimes comes down like torrential rain. However, I can now look back and see how literature and art brought me valuable insights.

Marie-Guillemine Benoist (1768-1826) Les adieux de Psyché à sa famille; Psyche Bidding Farewell to her Family


Acceptance is a powerful emotion. Acceptance causes less suffering than trying to change the unchangeable. But how does one reach this stage? That question -of course- requires a highly personal response. Some take to sporting, others to long nature walks. But art has been my method. This year, I worked harder than ever, and, luckily, inspiration kept coming and coming. I felt so blessed to be at my desk with its workstation and Arches sketchbook. No matter what happened, I always returned to my drawing pad. I would pour a cup of tea and work on various projects. The more hours I worked, the easier my deep focus would became and blissful moments would follow in which I forgot about all and sundry. Only my art would exist; more exactly, only art-making would exist (and my loving and supportive husband and wonderful daughter, of course). The world around me and myself would simply disappear. These moments of non-existing were nourishing and healing, offering me a transformation from sadness to acceptance.

Recently, I read Wintering by Katherine May. May defines winter not only as a season, but also as the process of going through an emotional winter. Author May resorts to walking. She pulls herself through a yearlong suffering by long distance walking, and unsurprisingly, she guides herself to a better (mental) place. Even though I have always liked Aristotle’s peripatētikos (‘philosophizing is best done whilst walking’) as to prevent stagnation of emotions and thoughts, for me art-making has been more crucial than my daily walks. For me, it has always been art-making, drawing and painting, that has pulled me through any hardship home or abroad, and through any winter, be it a seasonal winter, or a year full of farewells. One better accepts farewells; there is no use in fighting. Because winter, seasonally and emotionally, is a part of life, one can better sooner than later wrap one’s head around it.

Winter Holly by Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Wintering, May describes, is also about preparing, stocking up stuff, or finding coping methods that help one endure the cold. And so, I did, and whilst I found great pleasure in stocking up crafts-tools, sketchbooks, graphite pencils, I came to experience my annus horriblis as a coming to terms with (a sudden and accelerated) ageing of beloved ones, ‘friends’ turning into foes, and family members falling ill to cancer.

I rigorously de-cluttered my house of memories, of stuff that till recently were reminders of pleasant ties, but now seemed to trigger vexatious feelings or sad memories of estranged ones. Letting go of all of that didn’t hold up eventually became a rewarding and deliberating exercise. And not only that, I have friends describing beneficial effects of the Corona pandemic and its various lock-downs as an exploration of what actually and really matters and of letting go of unnecessary frills of life. Apparently, vintage shops are more stocked than ever and employees have walked away from underpaid jobs in the thousands, giving new directions to their lives.

Not everything withstands the test of time

The Pandemic’s Battle for Life

The year 2021, the corona pandemic, obviously has been a battle for life. Literally, metaphorically, and personally. Worldwide, there has been a collective fight to prevent mortality numbers from accelerating. On an individual level, people battled with corona, with stress, with people falling ill or ageing beyond recognition, with their bosses, with siblings, or their landlords, and so on. In these fights, much was lost but those who took lock-downs as spiritual retreats reported gaining much wisdom. And isn’t a pandemic a ‘winter’, with being advised to stay indoors, scaling down social contacts, hibernating and living a postponed life?

Bookplate by Paula Kuitenbrouwer with a tree representing wisdom having its roots in literature.

I highly recommend literature and art at such wintry times. Literature offers a whole spectrum of pleasant effects from enchanting escapism to tapping into sources of wisdom. Art offers nourishment for the soul and healing from the pain that life sometimes throws at us.

Is my ‘winter’ over? Am I enjoying the merry months of May? Winter is about hibernating, withdrawing, decaying, dying. It is part of life. Is it possible to feel spring whilst there still are subzero temperatures? Yes. One can arrive at spring amidst a cold winter. For me, making art has been instrumental for working through a challenging time. I highly recommend seeking refuge in the realms of literature and arts where you will find much wisdom and inspiration.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Commission artist living in the Netherlands (see contact form below).

Commissions are welcome.

At Etsy

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Charlotte Mason & Levende Boeken


(Although this website and blog is normally written in English, Paula wrote this article for a Dutch educational magazin and therefor is in Dutch).

Wat Florence Nightingale was voor de gezondheidszorg, was Charlotte Mason (1842-1923) voor het onderwijs: een zorgzame hervormster. Wie was Mason en waarom is haar visie zo tijdloos? [1]

Charlotte Maria Saw Mason wordt op 1 Januari 1842 geboren te Bangor (Noord Wales). Ze is enig kind. Wanneer Charlotte 16 is, sterft haar moeder en een jaar later haar vader. Charlotte wordt naar een docentenopleiding gestuurd en behaalt haar onderwijs-certificaat. In de jaren die volgen, ontwikkelt Charlotte haar ideeën. Mason verhuist naar Chichester alwaar ze de samenhang begint te zien tussen opvoeding en onderwijs. Ouders moeten meer betrokken worden bij het onderwijs. Mason geeft daarover lezingen die later gepubliceerd worden onder de naam ‘home-education’ (thuisonderwijs). Opvoeding en onderwijs hangen samen, stelt ze. In 1891 verhuist ze naar Ambleside alwaar ze gouvernantes opleidt. Ze wordt 81 jaar oud. Na haar dood wordt haar opleidingscentrum te Ambleside het Charlotte Mason College. Dit college bestaat niet meer. Maar Masons onderwijsvisie geniet hernieuwde belangstelling. Met name in Europa en de V.S. Wat is zo bijzonder aan Masons visie? Wat kan een Victoriaanse ongehuwde en kinderloze vrouw ons te vertellen hebben over opvoeding en onderwijs?


Mason hanteert een brede definitie van onderwijs. Onderwijs, zegt ze, is een omgeving, een discipline en een leven (‘Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life). Onderwijs is een omgeving. Wat bedoelt Mason daarmee? Een kind groeit op in een omgeving en in deze omgeving vindt het leren plaats. Onderwijs is dus niet synoniem aan school. Leerlingen leren binnen een gezin, buiten een gezin, in een dorp, een stad, op de boerderij, binnen de muren van een school, een museum, een sporthal en vooral in de natuur. Jongeren doen overal kennis op, leren overal regels en gedrag. Leren is daarom een omgeving. Deze leerzame omgeving definieert Mason beduidend omvangrijker dan de beperkte ruimte van een klaslokaal.

‘Onderwijs is a discipline.’, meent Mason. Met discipline bedoelt Mason een juiste opvoeding door aangeleerde goede gewoonten en goed gedrag. Mason stelt dat hoe meer je goede gewoonten aanleert, hoe beter het leven zal gaan. Zo word je gewaardeerd als je ‘dank je’ en ‘pardon’ zegt. Ouders mogen slecht gedrag niet door de vingers zien. Hoe jonger het kind is, hoe makkelijker het nog te beïnvloeden is. Een jong kind reageert nog op een afkeurende blik, een ouder kind heeft correctie nodig. Kun je niets kindvriendelijk zien in Masons Victoriaans accent op goed gedrag, dan ben je bij haar niet aan het juiste adres. Echter, heb je geen respect voor een kind, dan zal Mason je eveneens niet aanspreken. Mason stelt namelijk dat een kind niet gemanipuleerd mag worden met angst, liefde, straf of complimenten. In een tijd waarin kinderen gezien maar niet gehoord mogen worden, is Masons nadruk op respect voor een kind opmerkelijk.

Mason bepleit samenwerking tussen de docent en de ouder bij het aanleren van goede gewoonten. Ouders en docenten kunnen hierover controle pas laten varen wanneer een leerling in ruime en betrouwbare mate over goed gedrag beschikt. Masons onderwijsvisie past in deze tijd waarin men roept om goed gedrag. Denk alleen al aan onveilige scholen waarin een kleine groep vechters de leeromgeving van goedwillende leerlingen verpesten. Mason schenkt in perioden van 4 tot 6 weken aandacht aan het verwerven van goede gewoonten zoals netheid en beleefdheid. Mason weet een juiste balans te vinden tussen een ruime mate van vrijheid in de vroege jeugd en een juiste mate van autoritaire invloed van docenten en ouders. Vrijheid, formuleert Mason, is het resultaat van goede begeleiding, niet het gevolg van een ongecorrigeerde natuur.


Hoe kreeg Masons visie handen en voeten? Eén van de opvallendste en bekendste aspecten van haar onderwijs betreft haar voorliefde voor ‘levende boeken’ (living books). Mason houdt van betekenisvolle boeken, niet van saaie, feit-georiënteerde werkboeken waaraan leerlingen lees- noch leerplezier beleven. Wat kenmerkt een levend boek? Een levend boek is geschreven door een bezielde auteur. Deze hanteert een verhalende of sprekende schrijfstijl die getuigt van passie voor het onderwerp. Levende boeken voeden leerlingen met verhalen, ideeën en nobele gedachten, meent Mason. Een levend boek genereert leergierigheid, zelfs voor onderwerpen waarvoor de leerling op voorhand geen interesse opbrengt. Waarom gebeurt dat? Omdat het boek de leerling respecteert. Het boek zendt niet de verborgen boodschap uit: ‘Jij bent dom en ik zal je wel even leren’. Het boek daagt uit, prikkelt het denken, stelt de leerling vragen en weet vragen in de leerling op te roepen.  Het is aan de ouders, docenten en leerlingen om te zoeken naar levende boeken. En dat is door de opkomst van de markt voor jeugdboeken geen ondoenlijke opgave. Integendeel. Wat is leuker dan een groep een Top 10 ‘Living Books’ te laten bijhouden? Mason schenkt vervolgens aandacht aan het navertellen van teksten, essays of boeken. De leerling wordt door de narratieve inspanning gestimuleerd de verhaallijn te ontdekken, nieuwe woorden te gebruiken en zijn geheugen te trainen. Een Mason-leerling zal niet snel verzuchten ‘Nou ja, dat vind ik nou eenmaal….’


Charlotte schenkt uiteraard ook aandacht aan vaardigheden zoals spelling, grammatica en schrijven door het dictee. Een leerling krijgt een tekst (of aantal zinnen) te bestuderen waarna deze zin voor zin gedicteerd wordt. Aan de hand van deze teksten worden de woorden, grammatica, spellingsfouten en zinsopbouw besproken. Zo blijft spelling contextueel en wordt direct aandacht geschonken aan handschrift-training. Maar daar blijft het niet bij. Op zo’n moment is het interessanter ‘Veni, Vidi, Vici’ of het ‘Cogito ergo sum’ te kopiëren en te bespreken dan ‘De theepot staat op de tafel’. Mason integreert zo geschiedenis, aardrijkskunde en literatuur.

Kunst, muziek en dichtkunst zijn ook een belangrijk onderdeel van het Mason-curriculum. Kunst wordt gegeven door leerlingen enkele meesterwerken te laten bestuderen. Van de vijf middagen op school wordt er één steevast buiten doorgebracht voor natuurstudie, natuurschetsen en om op deze directe wijze de studie van wetenschappen te introduceren. Mason plaatst de leerling graag en veel in de natuur. De natuur, zegt ze, is één grote onderwijzer. Mason laat leerlingen een Nature-Notebook maken. En dat niet alleen. Oudere leerlingen maken hun eigen dagboek waarin zij hun interesses uitwerken. Masons leerlingen krijgen aan het einde van de week tijd om in hun dagboek te schrijven. Zo ontwikkelen zij creatief schrijven. ‘Never a dull moment’ zou je kunnen zeggen. Althans, mentale overconcentratie wordt vermeden of afgewisseld met sport en spel.


Mason stichtte een meisjesschool en bepleit onderwijs voor iedereen, jongens én meisjes. Dat was progressief in haar tijd. Mason wilde de totale leerling zo evenwichtig mogelijk onderwijzen. Het aspect ‘leven’ (‘Education is a life’) verdient dan ook nog enige toelichting. Mason bedoelde niet dat onderwijs leven is in de zin dat een leerling vanzelf leert. Al leert een leerling elke dag door intrinsieke motivatie, Mason legde veel verantwoording bij ouders en docenten. Leerlingen leren door hen gedachten aan te reiken en hen met ideeën te voeden. Stel de juiste vragen die de jonge hersenen prikkelen. Vertel aan hen interessante verhalen waardoor de nieuwsgierigheid en de leergierigheid aangewakkerd wordt. Leerlingen bestoken met droge feiten is onvoldoende.  Zoals je een kind moet voeden met voeding, zo moeten ouders en docenten hun leerlingen ook cognitief voeden. Leven en leren zijn met elkaar verbonden, aldus Mason. En dit wordt wel eens vergeten in Nederland alwaar de schoolplicht de indruk geeft dat scholen voor al het onderwijs verantwoordelijk zijn. Ouders vragen steeds meer van scholen: naschoolse opvang, seksuele voorlichting, lessen over goed burgerschap, maar is dat opvoeding of onderwijs? Masons pleit voor een actieve rol van de ouder in het onderwijs en een actieve rol van de school in de opvoeding van de leerling. Samenwerking, daar gaat het volgens Mason om.


Mason schreef veel boeken, leefde een tijd van de opbrengst van vijf door haar geschreven geografie-boeken en gaf veel lezingen. Ook stichtte ze de Onderwijs Society Parents National Education Union (PNEU) en was redacteur van het maandelijkse tijdschrift ‘Parent’s Review’. Ze gaf les aan ouders en stichtte behalve een meisjesschool ook diverse basisscholen. Dit zijn opvallende ambities voor een vrouw uit haar tijd. Maar waarom kent haast niemand Charlotte Mason terwijl we wel Montessori kennen? Deze vraag doet er gelukkig niet meer toe, immers Masons onderwijsvisie geniet hernieuwde belangstelling. Docenten en ouders die teleurgesteld zijn in het huidige onderwijs herontdekken Charlotte Mason. Haar onderwijsvisie is buitengewoon kindvriendelijk. Elke docent en ouder ziet met eigen ogen dat levende (onderwijs)boeken het leerproces versnellen. Ook onderschrijven docenten het belang van natuurstudies en benadrukken zij hoe belangrijk goed gedrag is. Masons onderwijsvisie is een toegepaste visie die aan elke school, gezin of leerling aangepast kan worden. En dus ook aan deze tijd. Hoeveel ‘Mason’ je in de praktijk brengt, zal van school tot school, van land tot land en gezin tot gezin verschillen. Onderwijs is een middel tot een bepaald doel en dat doel is voor Mason niet een geslaagde cito-test maar een gelukkige, evenwichtige leerling met goede gewoonten en een gezonde en blijvende leergierigheid.

Dankzij Mason’s inspiratie om op zoek te gaan naar levende (of levendige) boeken heeft de schrijftster van dit stuk, Paula Kuitenbrouwer, nog steeds prachtige educatieve kunstboeken op haar plank die wachten op de volgende generatie. De boeken zijn simpelweg te fantastisch om weg te doen. Ook gaf Paula tien jaren thuisonderwijs. Haar dochter is inmiddels student aan een Nederlandse universiteit.

[1] Met dank aan Henny van Dongen en Pascale Hoek voor hun adviezen. The Original Home Schooling Series by Charlotte Mason. Dit zijn zes boeken. Voor de basisschool begint men met deel I. Voor leerlingen vanaf 9 jaar begint men met deel 3. Voorgezet onderwijs begint met deel 6. Zie voor meer over Charlotte Mason.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Op Etsy

Op Instagram

Donating Renewing Inspiration Part II

I received a few interesting comments and questions after posting ‘Donating, Renewing, Inspiration’. As a result, here is Donating Renewing Inspiration Part II.


There were two similar questions relating to giving away artwork that sits in an online shop or portfolio for too long. I can relate. There will always be artwork that doesn’t sell easily. Why is this the case? Without drawing any parallel between Rembrandt and me, why was the commissioned masterpiece The Night Watch turned down and stored behind a wall? Quality is not always the reason. More likely motivations to buy or reject art are price, style, fashion, or it could be that an artwork is too complex (for an online shop). For me, especially, this counts for my large graphite drawings. They have an unmistakable artistic quality and are technically above average, but monochromatic drawings are notoriously difficult to photograph and therefore selling is not easy. What to do? As always, when we are short of ideas, we should turn to literature for inspiration

The writer Chaim Potok in his ‘My Name Is Asher Lev’ offers a good idea. He describes a scene in which his main character, the artist Asher Lev, feels responsible for a poor widow with children. As Asher Lev himself is a young artist and not wealthy at all, Potok has Lev donating a painting every (so many) months to the widow. The first painting is accompanied with a letter by Lev in which the artist explains that perhaps one day his artworks will be sought after by art collectors and then the widow should sell off her Lev collection.


Another comment came from somebody who promotes giving intangible gifts. The lady follows Marie Kondo’s advice and desires a minimalist home. Gifts, she experienced, seldomly match her home and despite her appreciation for the act of giving, she often perceives gifts as unwanted items. We can all relate to a lesser or greater extent. Gifts like walking somebodies’ dog, or reading aloud to somebody, or babysitting, a handwritten poem are often very valuable gifts.

For a long time the Financial Times had a column in which a famous and wealthy person would be asked about his or her relation to donating. The first question would always be ‘Should we, to your opinion, donate money or time to charity’. Donating time is as much a valuable gift as money.


As to what is ‘a flow of things’. My household has seen many, many occasions of donating and renewing. Having gone through so many international moves, I’ve developed a rather detached attitude to (most) objects. After the first moves (and first decluttering and donating sessions), I woke up at night, sweating from anxiety, panicking; ‘What have I done!’ But as with so much in life, one gets used to letting go. I grew confident over the years knowing that objects are not the memories of those objects; you can donate an object whilst keeping your memories.  


There is a flow of things from one household to another. It brings a smile to my face knowing the pink slide that was used by me and my siblings as children, and later by my young daughter, I donated to a Kindergarten for chronically ill children. Objects should be used and enjoyed; they make fond memories.

As for things that hold bad memories… goodness…you should not have these in your homes. Your home should not only have things that have your love, you find beautiful or useful, but also radiate happy memories. Home is the one place that allows you to relax, to feel right at all times. Cleaning means not only dusting things off, it also means tidying up, making changes to something in order to make it better.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Donating, Renewing, Inspiration Part I.

Paula’s art shop at Etsy

Paula’s art portflio at Instagram

All links to Paula’s work at Linktree

Art Class Memories


At primary school ‘Crafts Class’ was organized as an after-school activity and these ‘lessons’ were -at this level- more about doing crafts than learning about fine arts. Hammering, sewing, sawing, making ceramic pots or tiles, doing wood work, I still remember the sense of freedom whilst working on various projects. The name of the creative teacher organizing these after school courses I might probably remember the rest of my life and that is telling.

Classroom queens lined up for my help at middle school. That made me very nervous but I did my best and hoped that by helping them out with drawing a penguin or a dove, they would treat me kinder, which, of course, was not the case. There is an order to all things, especially regarding classroom popularity.

My fellow high school students were a rare mix. There were drugs and alcohol using flower-power students as well as conservative ones who were dressed too stiffly for school. The whole social and political spectrum was represented creating a special tension and tolerance. Our teacher taught us art-history as well as drawing and painting. She did this with infectious enthusiasm. She taught various art movements by studying various artworks. Whilst the darkness in the classroom made us all sleepy, our eyes were solidly glued to the wall on which large artworks were projected.

It was our teacher’s unwavering love for the arts that made us feel ignited. The visual stimulation and learning to identify art stopped about halfway through the lesson; for the remaining time our teacher challenged us to make art. It was not about being good at drawing technically, but about being refreshingly creative or extraordinarily artistic. I can say hand on heart that the art-classes of my high school teacher worked their educative magic for decades to come.

I benefited from all art classes and I am deeply grateful to all my art teachers I had, in and outside the walls of my schools.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

At Etsy

At Instagram

At Linktree

How to Draw

Isn’t the purpose of an eraser to take away supporting lines and unwanted spots? Yes, of course, an eraser comes in handy when you make a mistake. However, you can also draw with an eraser. Imagine you want to create a texture. You can do this by drawing lines of dots that show the fabric of a pattern, for instance the nerves of a tree leaf. But you can also first fill a leaf with a dark tone and use the eraser to draw nerves. And you know what is very beautiful? Doing both, drawing highlighting lines and adding lighter areas in otherwise shaded sections. This creates beautiful illusions. Have a few different shaped erasers to help you: one that has a round top, one that is thinner and can be used to draw lines. Next to pencils and a drawing pad, invest in a few erasers as well. It will help you to create beautiful details.

Drawing is not a mathematical exercise, unless of course you are working on an architectural or archaeological drawing which is  about facts, measurements and right angles. It is often charming when you are making the same mistakes again and again because this is your signature. Viewers start to recognize your style not only by your style but also by identifying (consciously or subconsciously) your mistakes. It is not that I say stop teaching and correcting yourself, stop improving your skills. It is just that tiny mistakes can be your truly charming style and why erase them? Your drawing or artwork is not made by a robot nor by Da Vinci.

How to Learn without having Botticelli around? How to improve your drawing skills? Listen to feedback by fellow artists and copy artists you admire. Make studies of artwork that you admire. By copying these, you are pushed out of your comfort zone and you will learn so much. Remember that apprentices in Renaissance workshops of respectable masters received training of several years. They started taking care of tools, moved on to doing handyman work. Later they were allowed to mix pigments, or trace artwork. Only a few and the very best worked closely to the master. How can we copy this classical training? By copying masterpieces and seeing what trouble we run into. You will notice improvements straight away.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

At Etsy

At Instagram

At Linktree

Creation Creating Itself

Waiting in a White Washed Hall

Waiting in a White Washed Hall

Ever since corona and ordering from home, delivery services shouldn’t be bothered with taking the elevator to deliver at our door. I kindly offer to put boxes in our elevator and I will call the elevator up to our floor. By now, this ritual has become a routine. But now the spiritual ‘beginners’ mind’ is added to the story.

There I stand waiting for the delivery man to put boxes inside the elevator and waiting for our ever so slow elevator to reach our floor. Out of boredom I try to study the white washed walls of our apartment gallery. There is no smudge to cling to. There is no pot with flowers to empathically worry about. There is no insect trapped in our gallery that I can heroically set free. There is nothing, absolutely nothing. Because I am in a creative mood I feel a need to add wall art to these utterly dead walls. Why? Why should I want that?  Why is there a need to add wall art? This need is so deep, so prehistoric, that painting walls wasn’t it human’s first expression or art. Why?
As I stand waiting, I remember a mystical remark by a Sufi master. He explained that all we see and experience is Creation creating itself to see itself, to engage with itself, to see itself being reflected back at itself. When I heard this story on creation, I felt puzzled yet fascinated. I needed some time to see Creation as a force that enjoys creating a version of itself (not really outside itself and not even separate from itself but a bit away from itself) to be able to engage with itself, to see itself as a reflection of ourselves in a mirror. The more I think about it, the more I understand God creating the world in seven days; not God’s miraculous and exhausting timeline of creation but his will to create, or his need to create to interact with his creation. After all, what is God without people believing in God?

Back to me standing bored in our apartment gallery. I felt the need to create; an overwhelming need. These dead walls are painful. I imagine to be imprisoned in a white washed cell without crayons and I know that I would grow demented in record time or I would die due to having nothing to interact with.

The Sufi’s cosmogonic myth makes sense to me; creation needs to create. Without this creative force creating itself in order to interact with itself through thousands different manifestations all would deteriorate, seeps or drain away. We need art; we need music. We need to make art and music. Go and paint the umpteenth version of Monet’s lily pond; the umpteenth print of a sunflower. Creating is a good thing.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Paula holds an MA degree in Philosophy and she is the owner of Her pen and pencils are always fighting for her attention nevertheless they are best friends; Paula likes her art to be brainy and her essays to be artistic.

Paula’s shop at Etsy

Paula’s art portfolio at Instagram

At Linktree

Oude Boom Gedicht Kuitenbrouwer

Henry William Burgess ca. 17921839

In mijn tuin staat een oude boom,

Een beuk met een 400 jarig bestaan,

Haar duiven begluren de mensen loom,

Die onder haar lopen in hun kortlevende waan. 

Ik hou van deze boom en haar zachte geruis,

Haar bladeren glimmen in de regen,

En ik bekijk hoeveel dieren erin en eromheen wonen,

Hoe zij deze boom beleven.

Elke dag wanneer ik onder haar loop,

Word ik iets ouder, maar vergeleken haar blijf ik jong,

Eens loop ik onder haar met een stok,

De mens heeft een sneller levensverloop.

Ik hou van haar langzame trage leven,

Maar ook van mijn korte bestaan,

Ik wil onder haar geboren zijn geworden,

En later worden begraven tussen haar wortels,

En zo in haar opgaan.

Dan laat ik mijn lichaam tot stof wederkeren,

En zal mijn energie gestuwd worden naar haar top,

Dan ga ik zacht met haar mee-ruisen,

En zo mijn ziel laten verhuizen.

Mijn mooie en wijze boom zal mij hoe dan ook,

-Terwijl ik zo lang mogelijk onder haar loop- overleven,

En mijn jaloezie op haar lange leven wijselijk vergeven.


Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Paula’s tekeningen & schilderijen zijn te vinden op Etsy

Rachel Ruysch

I have studied Golden Age Dutch Floral Painters in the past and Rachel Ruysch (1664 – 1750) was one of my favourite painters. Not only did she paint extremely well, she had ten children. How can one paint so exquisitely and go through 10 pregnancies and raise so many children, is beyond me.

Her dated works establish that she painted from the age of 15 until she was 86, a few years before her death. She had household help, which she could afford because she was a well-paid artist (another remarkable fact) and painted, before her death at the age of 86, hundreds of paintings. But I wasn’t planning on writing about my role model, I wanted to point out that Dutch floral paintings are an illusion. We tend to overlook this because we can buy lush bouquets at our local supermarkets year-round and lack knowledge about when plants bloom and where they come from. We care little about seasonal vegetables and fruits; we also have not much knowledge about where our veggies and fruits come unless we study supermarket labels saying ‘Olives from Italy’ or ‘Persimmons from Israel’.

Sketches as reference photos

Golden Age floral painters studied flowers by making meticulous sketches and writing down which colours they needed. Upon designing a large floral bouquet, they returned to their notebooks and sketches. This way they were able to put together flowers that in nature do not bloom or flourish at the same time, or at the same place, and adding seasonal butterflies and insects, showing spring, summer and autumn in one painting. How easy it is now to consult a book or photo and put together flowers from all over the world, flowers that naturally never bloom simultaneously.

My tulip study inspired by Golden Age floral painters

The difference between the Golden Age and now is that vegetables, fruits and flowers that are flown in aren’t good for keeping a low carbon footprint. Golden Age painters created illusions and prosperous bouquets not with the help of cargo trucks, cool cells or air crafts, but with their own notes and sketches. Isn’t that wonderful? Imagine a studio with sketches. Imagine the deep focus that comes with using your sketches as a reference portfolio. Having no digital assistance did not prevent painters to paint the most wonderful, detailed and beautiful paintings.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

At Etsy

Ode to Hestia (Vesta)

In Ancient Greek religion, Hestia is the goddess of the hearth and of harmony within the family. She is the goddess that many mothers identify with. Perhaps women identify with Aphrodite when they are young, with Athena when they are -for instance- battling for a better education for their children, but certainly they might often feel in the role as Hestia when they work around the clock to create harmony (and health) for their family. Even fathers or home keeping men are allowed to identify with Hestia’s harmonizing and health promoting qualities.

This drawing of Hestia, however, is an ode to my beloved, late mother (who, at times, was a political active Athena as well). She was a nurse and teacher of young nurses, and she knew how to keep a person, a whole family, even a larger social circle in harmony and in good health.

I placed Hestia’s statute in a classical and elegant park. This park does not exists in real life. It is designed by me by putting together elements and thus creating an imitate and elegant scenery. Behind the fence one notices Demeter (Ceres) with her beautiful daughter Persephone (Proserpina). I placed the three women in the same garden but Hestia is on the other side of the water, slightly distanced from Demeter and Persephone, referring to two different realms, that of those alive and the other side. This is a family portrait although few will know or notice.

Hestia, Demeter & Persephone in an elegant, classical garden.

Should you like this classical , monochromatic work, and should you consider a family portrait, or a narrative drawn or painted in a symbolic way, contact me freely to discuss your wishes. I also accept commissions for book plates (Ex Libris), PhD graduation gifts, birthday or birth-name commissions, wedding, and mourning drawings.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer


at Etsy

At Instagram

Three Short Stories with Bird Drawings


Sparrowhawk by Paula Kuitenbrouwer (Copyright)

There she was, a sparrow hawk, majestically sitting in a high tree top in the late evening sun. It eyed me wearily. I apologized for being in her woodlands and for disturbing her. I told her she had nothing to fear from me; I was no hunter. In fact, I apologized for being human, being a perpetual intruder.

Sparrowhawk told me that humans were suffering from their noise filled brains.

‘You,’ she said, ‘…go through great lengths to be like me. You work to go on holiday. You go on holiday in order to relax and you need this relaxation to feel happy. You even travel half the world to do spiritual retreats to feel like me, free.’

‘Can you take me with you?’ I asked Sparrowhawk.

I sat down in the long grass in the middle of the clearing and relaxing took me a good 25 minutes. When the sun was about to disappear behind the trees Sparrowhawk opened her wings and swooped over me, lifting my soul from my body. I could imagine sitting on her back, but I was equally beside her, under her, in front of her, and behind her. I soared with her over treetops. I noticed creeks under us and two hikers on a footpath. They did not seem to notice me so I flew right through one of them. Flying through a human body caused a nice, subtle electric shockwave. I climbed the skies again only to notice that it was time to return to my human body. I felt extreme fear to land in my body, and I never understood why this is so because I enjoyed being out of it.

’Sparrowhawk, do you ever experience anxiety when landing on a tree top?’ I asked Sparrowhawk to stay with me for a bit longer. Sparrowhawk looked at me and although she had no facial expression she held my attention for a while.  I could see compassion in her eyes. When I felt grounded again, she flew away.

Common Teal Couple

I have no recollection of how much time passed before I became aware of a teal couple crossing the duck pond that lay in front of me.

‘Good day,’ I spoke to them. The couple seemed to be absorbed with each other but they changed their course and paddled in to my direction.

Soon they sat down near me and looked at me. I became aware they were communicating with me.

‘Do you know we are your fraternal ancestors from long ago?’ Teal Drake asked me.

I felt embarrassed not knowing this.

‘I know my grandparents and I also know the names of their grandparents but despite knowing all the ancestral names back to Medieval times, I have no idea who you are!’ I said apologetically. ‘Who are you then?’ I eagerly asked.

‘We do not have human minds any more; we reincarnated from a more cerebral to a more intuitive level’, Teal Duck said, and I understood that; their minds didn’t remember names and dates recorded through time.

‘Be us and you will know’ the Teal couple invited me.

I watched how they foraged for food. The sun caused a lovely reflection on the water behind them. I could see how wise and harmonious they were. I identified them as European teals, but as I observed them in relation to the lake, to the calm way they accepted the elements, without further judgements, I sensed how they were in acceptance with their surroundings. This stood in contrast to how I was feeling; ambitious to relax or favouring one element (the sun) over another (the cold wind).  I also couldn’t let go trying to capture the moment in order to paint it later inside my studio. Was there ever not a plan, not an ambition, no clinging to something?

The teals were about to leave me.

‘Is there something you like to say or ask us maybe?’ they asked kindly.

‘Yes,’ I said, ‘I want to be like you.’

Ducks lack facial expression, at least I couldn’t detect a smile, but in their eyes, I noticed compassion. They plunged in the water and swam away from me. I said farewell to them as respectfully as I would do to my ancestors.

Collared Doves

I told the Collared Dove couple whilst feeding them, that they symbolize love to humans and they should behave accordingly instead of pecking each other. That stopped them for a moment.

‘Love?’ they asked me. ‘What do you know about bird love? You have been taught at school that we experience seasonal love, hormonally induced for reproductive reasons. Humans think very low of animal love.’

‘Sit down,’ I said, after which I gave a long lecture on the dove symbolizing the Holy Spirit, Peace, and Love. I told them how I loved Picasso’s Paloma but no matter how much art history and theological knowledge I poured into my arguments, I could not accept the dove couple accepting doves symbolising love.

‘We do not symbolize love, we show love,’ said she-dove. ‘Love is there when we are together but also when we are alone. I will show you.’

She flew up and shortly after she approached my balcony. He-Dove instructed me right before her landing; ‘Watch carefully now!’

She-Dove landed and, in that moment, I saw it. I saw the Holy Spirit, I saw Peace, I saw Love in the space surrounding the wings of she-dove. I had visited many churches and I had seen so many doves represent Spiritus Sanctus with outstretched wings right above altars. But it showed in the landing; the landing was the magical moment. Maybe because at that moment the sky touches earth? Divine touches our world?

‘Thank you,’ I said, ‘Thank you very much.’

‘You saw it’, She-Dove concluded while she proudly walked up to my outstretched hand to pick sun seeds.

I thought how powerful the observation of a landing dove was and how it -in history- became a symbol of love and peace, of goodness manifesting on earth. As if divinity touches our worldly dimension.

The doves calmly ate their seeds and then said goodbye and flew off.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer, artist living in Utrecht, Netherlands.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer holds an MA degree in Philosophy (UvA) and is the owner of Her pen and pencils are always fighting for her attention nevertheless they are best friends; Paula likes her art to be brainy and her essays to be artistic.

Portfolio and shop at Etsy.

Portfolio at Instagram

Practical Art and its Benefits

There are many forms of art. Perhaps the one you know best is Fine Arts (paintings, sculptures, and drawings). There is political art too, think of Guernica, a moving anti-war painting by Pablo Picasso. There is artwork related to a specific culture, timeline, or region. There is ancient art and modern art. Art that shocks us; art that soothes us.

Guernica, a moving anti-war painting by Pablo Picasso

Practical Art

I like to say a few words on practical arts such as needle work, woodwork, and pottery. Where fine arts are created primarily for aesthetic purposes, practical arts have an applied function. Think of Celtic Art that was, according to archaeologists, practical art. Decorated shields and swords were often made as diplomatic or status related gifts.

Celtic Desborough Mirror painting by Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Inside our homes we like to surround ourselves with practical art too. We buy the nicest dinner plates and tasteful designed furniture. Fengshui, Chinese traditional practices used to harmonize individuals with their surrounding environment, also uses practical art. Specific animal artworks are put up in different areas of a home; they are believed to have different functions. These animals can be shown as statutes, ceramics, paintings, etc.

Five Elements of Fengshui by Paula Kuitenbrouwer

More Qualifications

When it comes to practical art, often an object that serves a practical function, holds many more qualities that fall outside the somewhat modest qualification being practical art. For instance, a beautiful religious painting inside a church is more than practical art; it might be painted by a famous Renaissance painter which makes the church a museum or a tourist attraction as well. Likewise, a dinner plate can be antique porcelain made by a famous German porcelain painter and thus a collector item. A violin can be a Stradivarius.

Peruzzi Altarpiece, about 1309–15, Giotto di Bondone

Practical Art is Important

The practical part of art fascinates me because it tells so much about the society in which it was bought, commissioned, used and – in case of The Night Watch by Rembrandt- dismissed and stored away for a long time. Aiming for art to have a practical function next to an aesthetic purpose is, to me, a justifiable ambition.
Mandarin note card at Etsy by Paula Kuitenbrouwer
For all those artists working on a practical piece of artwork, art that will wear and tear, art that will be used or gifted, I would like to say; ‘Keep going’. Because when art resonates with our feelings or thoughts, we look inside and see something of us projected outside of us. This helps us to bond with the environment outside of us and by bonding we subtly work on improving our lives.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

At Etsy

At Instagram


Leucistic Mandarin Ducks

My leucistic Mandarin ducks are ready. They are currently swimming in my Etsy duck pond along with colourful mandarin ducks, wood ducks and common teals. First, let me explain the difference between albinism and leucism. Albinism is the complete absence of melanin, thus the complete absence of what gives skin and feathers and eyes colour. Leucism is a partial loss of pigmentation which is for me -as a painter- more interesting because I can add a lot of colour to the ‘white’ ducks. Never think a white duck only requires a tube of white paint. I used yellow, orange, red (bill), black (eyes), grey, soft green and blue, as well as ochre for the white, patchily coloured feathers. Unlike albino ducks, leucistic ducks do not have red eyes or red feet.

Safety First

Leucism occurs in other wild animals besides ducks but the occurrence is very rare in all species. As beautiful as this lovely couple is, this couple’s lack of pigment makes them an easy catch for predators. Thus, give them a nice place in your living or bedroom. Make them feel safe and while they swim happily in the duck pond surrounded by bamboo, you can enjoy their serenity and loveliness.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

at Etsy

at Instagram

Should this gouache painting be sold, fear not, just contact me and I will add more beautiful white ducks to my Etsy duck pond.

Bullfinches, Woodcocks and Honeysuckle


Honeysuckle plants are both delicate and very strong. I drew this branch because it grew in our Belgium garden. The former owner of our house had planted a few honeysuckle plants for his blind friend. Upon saying: ‘I don’t mind whether we sit in or outside because I can’t see your garden’, the former owner would reply; ‘You can’t see the garden but you will be able to enjoy its scent’. Honeysuckle plants have a lovely fragrance that is best smelled later in the evening when a garden gets a bit damp. The damp morning and evening air carries the perfume of the plant.

Woodcocks by Paula Kuitenbrouwer (copyrighted)


Woodcocks are remarkable birds. They are rare in the Netherlands. Recently, I found a dead one in Nienhof, near Utrecht. It was at the end of a bitterly cold week and the woodcock probably suffered from not being able to dig for food in the hard soil. Next to that, woodcocks have a long list of enemies. Cats, martens, hawks, sparrow hawks, falcons, jays, magpies and humans who like to hunt and eat them. Imagine how hard it is for woodcocks to raise a successful nest despite its awesome camouflage colours that resemble tree bark beautifully. With so many enemies, surrounding you 360 degrees, it is said that woodcocks can transport their fledgeling from place to place. The woodcock will lift up its young with its long legs and transports it to a better place. Apart from starlings reported to lift up their fledgeling by their bill to a higher branch, I have not heard birds are capable keep their fluff balls away from prowling cats, rats and squirrels.


This drawing of a Bullfinch couple was inspired by observing a couple of bullfinches foraging through trees while staying together physically and conversationally. ‘Are you still near, sweetheart?’, ‘Yes, darling, right behind you’. ‘Aren’t the seeds and tiny bugs of this restaurant not wonderful, sweetheart?’, ‘Oh, yes, sweetie pie, just amazing and look how the sun filters through the branches’. ‘Glad you like it, honey’.
The sun indeed showed beautifully on the plumage of the male bullfinch. His red chest stands out. For observing the well camouflaged female, I needed my binoculars. When she sat still, she blended in so amazingly. But their constant chatting, thus maintaining their bond, gave away that there was a female. Finding her felt like winning a price. ‘There she is!’ I drew them how I observed them; happily going about their day.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Commission artist & freehand work at:

Selling at Etsy

Portfolio at Instagram

Sending a Handwritten Card

Dutch Post saw a daily increase to delivering 14 million letters and cards per day in 2020. A few of these envelopes contained my Mandarin Duck note-cards or greeting cards. I hope that every time somebody opened my note card, seeing my mandarin ducks felt that their hearts made a tiny, happy jump. Because that is what Mandarin ducks stand for; they symbolise love and happiness. Seeing these cute and colourful ducks makes people feel less lonely, more connected to a beloved person, whether close by or far away. It is therefore that in Asia mandarin ducks are seen in parks, as little statutes in window sills, and as wall art paintings.

There are many benefits of sending snail mail. There are many good reasons, my life philosophy on handwritten letter, for sending a card to a friend. Let me give you a few:

Writing a handwritten note or letter feels like a meditation,

Writing with ink means detoxing from your smart phone, computer screen and keyboard, (plus exercising and reviving your handwriting),

Buying a card helps to support local shops and/or artists,

Knowing these colourful birds are Mandarin Ducks or in Latin Aix galericulata helps people to grow their knowledge about birds and their names,

Spreading a bit of love won’t harm. In fact it might help people to feel less lonely or forgotten.

Let 2020 not be an exception but let us keep up with sending letters and cards in 2021. It has given people a feeling of being connected during the pandemic and it has given many an extra reason to make a walk to a nearby mailbox.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

At Etsy

At Instagram

P.S. I kept an exquisite Korean art calender given by a friend for years. The quality of paper and the art images were of such quality that the calender simply could not be thrown away. I finally came up with a solution to the old calender; I made sturdy envelopes out of 12 months of visual pleasure and art appreciation. The envelopes I embellished with stickers resembling postal stamps and now I will use these visually, engaging envelopes. They are still too pretty for scribbling down an address. I will put them inside a protective plastic folio and on that folio I will glue an address label. I hope the envelopes will be re-used many times more.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Paula Kuitenbrouwer holds an MA degree in Philosophy (UvA) and is the owner of Her pen and pencils are always fighting for her attention nevertheless they are best friends; Paula likes her art to be brainy and her essays to be artistic.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer’s shop is at Etsy and her portfolio at Instagram.

Dazzling Ducks


Ducks have an elongated and broad body. Their round shape varies and their bills are broad and perfect for filtering salt and food. Ducks have strong and scaled legs. Their wings are short and muscular for carrying their heavy body. Ducks use their webbed feet not for swimming alone but also, like aeroplane flaps, for flying. A clever circulatory system keeps ducks warm in icy cold water.


Under water ducks can swim 300 feet and they can dive down 100 feet. They can fly very long distances, up to 30-70 miles an hour, depending on the wind. That is as fast as your car. Ducks spend most of their time in the water.


Clumsy on land, yes, but ducks deserve respect. If all above facts fail to impress, perhaps knowing they sleep with half their brains awake, like dolphins, will change your perspective on ducks?


Keen to learn more? Ducks can become 10-20 years of age and they see colour. Do you think their beautiful plumage is for attracting a female only or is it perhaps also an attempt to impress humans? Ducks are simply dazzling and delightful.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Commission artist

Paula holds an MA degree in Philosophy and she is the owner of Her pen and pencils are always fighting for her attention nevertheless they are best friends; Paula likes her art to be brainy and her essays to be artistic.

At Etsy

At Instagram


Commission your Family Portrait 

What are your thoughts when you read or hear the words ‘Family Portrait’? A painting in your grandparent’s house? Or a sepia vintage photo? Are you thinking of a window sill of your local photographer showing a family looking their best?


Most of us think of a visit to a photographer when they are asked about a family portrait. But equally many of us never get that done because of the logistics of having all family members at the same moment looking their best and being in front of a camera. Many portraits therefore remain a dream. There is not so much you can do about that other than perhaps reformulating what a family portrait is.

On my work station three koi carp appear. The water in which they happily and dynamically swim needs to be added in blue, green and gold.

What happens when we change the definition of a family portrait? What happens if we take away the physical representation of family members and replace them with animals or flowers carrying a symbolic meaning? I did this because during the pandemic lockdown of 2021, I wished for a family portrait. Going through a pandemic is not every day business, it is a anxious time that we will remember for decades to come. But instead of visiting a photographer (which was closed due to lockdown anyway), I set out to draw our family portrait.  


I chose to paint a Kumamoto Japanese inspired hanging scroll as a way to organize all the symbols that I would use. These Kumamoto hanging scrolls have special designed border areas in which I would add symbolic messages. I chose a Japanese wave pattern for the Tenchi section to show the pandemic because was not the pandemic throwing wave after wave of scary news to us? And wasn’t the pandemic showing us wave after wave gratitude that we were healthy, safe and strong? For the Chumawashi border, I chose flowers. With this I wanted to emphasize that the pandemic lasted several seasons. That despite all scary news, there were many blessed moments too. And for the Tenchi border, I used butterflies. Butterflies symbolize hope and hope is a precious emotion during a pandemic.

Koi Carp symbolize good luck and prosperity. In Japan they symbolize good fortune or luck and are also associated with perseverance in adversity and strength of purpose. In Buddhism they represent courage.

What kind of symbolism do I use? Animals offer symbolism. For instance, Koi carp stand for prosperity; mandarin ducks for love and loyalty. Butterflies symbolize hope. Surnames often offer a reference or a clue. In the borders and in the main painting animals and vegetation will play this symbolic role.

Work done on a traditional wave patterned border.

To portrait our family, I shape-shifted my family in a family of Koi carp. Koi fish symbolize prosperity. If there was one thing during the pandemic that we were acutely aware of, it was that we had each other’s love and that we were able to continue working and studying.


Should you like to have a painting suggesting a hanging scroll that symbolizes your family or your life, I can work with you. We need to discuss symbols, colours and patterns but then you will have your family narrative hanging on your wall. Nobody will know its symbolism; visitors will see a beautiful, highly detailed hanging scroll drawing/painting. You will have a choice to tell or not disclose all hidden symbolism in your hanging scroll. Put in front of it an Ikebana flower arrangement and one corner in your home will look exquisite.

Here is my family portrait. I worked on it during the winter 2021. There were many grey days which made the lockdown harder but there were also beautiful snowy days with clear blue skies that made me so happy looking outside. My husband and daughter wondered who was who in this portrait. I considered giving them the answers but decided to leave the questions open. Don’t we all take centre stage in turns? Do we not all play a big role and the next day a small role? Life is like that and it should be like that to create harmony.

A feast for the eye; the ‘hanging scroll’ in full colour and symbolism.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

The Floating World (ukiyo) was an expression of the new economy and social ambitions of the common townspeople of the Edo period (1615-1868). It was, specifically, a world of play and entertainment in Japan’s three main cities (Edo [now called Tokyo], Osaka, and Kyoto).

Paula at Etsy

Paula at Instagram

At Linktree