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).

SO FEW COLOURS!

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

At Instagram

At Linkree

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.

  • 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. Look no further; they are here.


  • Traditional Palette Colours

    Paula Kuitenbrouwer write a short piece on the traditional palette colours and warns against buying unnecessary fancy colours.


  • Postal Stamp Commission Postzegel Tekenopdracht

    Ook zo’n hekel aan die lelijke digitale postzegelcodes? Paula Kuitenbrouwer helpt u aan een prachtige gepersionaliseerde postzegel. No more ugly digital postal stamps! Paula Kuitenbrouwer designs an inspiring personalized postage stamp for you.


SELF INQUIRY FOR AN ARTIST

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 the books will offer intellectual rigour that will influence me and my art.

With both 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.

Success!

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

At Etsy

At Instagram

At Linktree

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.

In Memoriam M.B.P. (Michael) Kuitenbrouwer (1961-2022)

Mr. Michael Bernardus Plechelmus Kuitenbrouwer

Jurist

Beste familie, vrienden, (oud) collega’s en jaargenoten,

Met groot verdriet deel ik u mede dat mijn broer Michael op 28 januari 2022 plotseling is overleden. Graag wil ik stilstaan bij mijn lieve broer en u een schets geven over zijn leven, wie hij was en wat hij heeft gedaan.

Michael studeerde lang geleden af aan Faculteit Rechten van de Universiteit Utrecht. Hij was lid van de Utrechtse studentenvereniging Unitas. Na zijn studie volgde hij diverse Scandinavische taaltrainingen aan de Open Universiteit. Wanneer je eindelijk kon onthouden dat hij Deens studeerde, was het inmiddels Noors en wanneer je zeker wist dat het Noors was, studeerde Michael Zweeds voor Beginners. Michael was geïnteresseerd in de verschillen en overeenkomsten tussen de Scandinavische talen.

Michael studeerde breed af hetgeen terug te zien is in de diverse functies die hij had maar ook in de verscheidenheid van onderwerpen waarover hij gespecialiseerde artikelen schreef voor juridische tijdschriften in de periode van 1986-1989, 1995-1999, 2015-1019 en vanaf 2018 op Linkedin.

Het Tijdschrift voor Bouwrecht publiceerde in 2014 Michaels artikel ‘Anti-speculatie bepalingen sinds HR 14 april 2007 en 27 april 2007, een inventarisatie’. In een ander blad Bouwrecht 2015/68 publiceerde hij: ‘Juridische aspecten van handhaving bij permanente bewoning van recreatieverblijven, de stand van zaken van medio 2015’. Het tijdschrift Verkeersrecht publiceerde van Michael op 23-10-2016 ‘Juridische aspecten van de uitwegvergunning’ en in Bouwrecht van 31-12-2016 ‘De evidente privaatrechtelijke belemmeringen bij bouwaanvragen, een kwestie op de grens van het bestuursrecht en het privaatrecht’. Het blad Verkeersrecht publiceerde op 16-3-2018 ‘Verkeer en Evenement’ van Michaels hand. Een inventarisatie van Michaels artikelen is te vinden op Recht.nl.

Mike was tot zijn overlijden Juridisch medewerker evenementen bij de gemeente Breda via detacheringsbureau Solyne B.V.

Michael was een lieve zoon, een lieve broer en een lieve oom met een zeer grote liefde voor Geschiedenis. Hij had een formidabel geheugen voor geschiedkundige feiten.

In oktober 2020 vatte hij het plan op om enkele autobiografische verhalen op papier te zetten. Hij schreef twee A-viertjes vol interessante, grappige en ernstige ervaringen op, maar verder dan een index lijkt hij niet te zijn gekomen.

Een kort opgeschreven herinnering kenmerkt Michael zeer. Het was zomer 2016 en Michael ging op sollicitatiegesprek bij de gemeente Schagen in Noord-Holland. Hij schrijft dat hij gekleed in zwarte en donkergrijze kleding, kort haar, met zwarte schoenen, een zwarte tas en een donkere jas binnenstapte. Michaels fashion mistake resulteert in dat iedereen veronderstelt dat de sollicitant een bezoekende ouderling van de Hervormde Kerk was, waardoor hij zeer vriendelijk door iedereen werd begroet. Michael kon goed lachen over dit soort kleine en alledaagse grappige zaken.

Michael had een enorme werk- en levenslust. Tijdens ontmoetingen en diners konden we steevast rekenen op zijn optimisme en geschiedkundige verhalen. Wij zullen zijn zachtaardige persoonlijkheid vreselijk missen.

Michael is 60 jaar geworden.

TRIBUTE TO MICHAEL KUITENBROUWER

REMEMBRANCE CARD & AN EX LIBRIS

In Memoriam Michael Bernardus Plechelmus Kuitenbrouwer
1961-2022 NON INUTILIS VIXI (copyright Paula Kuitenbrouwer)

My drawing ‘In Memoriam Michael Kuitenbrouwer‘ shows a border of classical oak leaves, referring to my brother Michael’s love for green and nature. The inside border shows Michael’s baptismal names and Michael’s life dates -1961-2022- in Roman numerals. Non Inutilis Vixi means ‘I have not lived in vain’.

All four corners are decorated with Passionflowers, a plant that is associated with our hope for everlasting life. It also shows passion, which alludes to Michael’s academic dedication: Law and History. Lady Justice (Iustitia) takes centre stage: Michael studied Law and never changed his subject and profession, supplementing it with foreign language training and historical knowledge. The many stacks of books symbolize Michael’s unwavering love for living an intellectual life. In the front lies an open book showing the Latin text Rest in Peace.

Michael was remarkably well-read and he was gifted with an extraordinary memory for the past and the contents of his books. In the background, a buzzard is flying away to the horizon, symbolizing Michael’s departure.

Feel free to contact me should you be a former friend, acquaintance, or colleague of Michael and you would like to receive the above shown Remembrance Card or Ex Libris that I have made to remember and celebrate Michael’s life. I will post this card or bookplate to you without costs. Please, do contact me through the Contact Form.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

In Memoriam Card & Bookplate

All text and images are written and made by Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Keeping a Diary

WHY 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 keeping 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 time.

My Paperblanks Diaries

I bought a pretty Paperblanks notebook (which is such fun because oh-my-God- 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, 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, how 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. Make it a handy dandy notebook. Make it your 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

At Etsy

At Instagram

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

At Linktree

At Instagram

‘Bio’ and ‘About’ Reflections

How to Write a Bio or About section Truthfully and Modestly?

Ex Libris or Bookplate drawn by Paula Kuitenbrouwer symbolizing a tree of knowledge deeply rooted in ancestral wisdom. (Ink and Graphite)

Do you feel uncomfortable with the social media ‘Bio’ or ‘About’ section? Do you feel hesitant when a social media platform encourages you ‘…to tell something about yourself’? Is it because seldomly you are given enough space for introducing yourself thoroughly and adding a sense of modesty to your self-promotion too? Those exasperating collapsing menus offering prelisted choices: you are an artist or a designer or illustrator! They leave you no room for ifs, ands, or buts.

It is not easy to strike the right tone in a world in which all and sundry proclaim to be writers, artists, cooks and models. All that ego aggrandizing, all that fake it till you make it. So, when is somebody an artist? When one is talented, or selling or awarded? I see artists on Instagram having thousands of followers but when you click to their shops, not many have bought their art. But in case somebody is selling well, does that make them an artist even when they have no significant talent? And vice versa, perhaps an extremely talented person has no passion to pursue a career in the arts does that person make less of an artist? It is a confusing world in which we do not take something at face value anymore. This huge herd yelling about their talents and achievements only befuddles us and fills us with captious questions. ‘Is he really that talented? Did she copy art?’

Could this overheated market cool down a little when we would describe ourselves in a calm fashion? I do not suggest to chronicle oneself as a coffee lover because that has lost its light touch and sounds more like escapism. Let us at least attempt to capture oneself modestly and truly.

Let me shepherd you through some steps

An unpretentious Bio can be achieved by comparing and contrasting oneself to the masters of the arts. Do some self inquiry; ‘I am very inspired by artwork of ….’ Or ‘If I ever reach the level of…, I would be utterly delighted’, or ‘I aim to draw like …’ or ‘I draw in the style of the famous and I hope one day my work will reach the technical level of…’.

Who are your role models? Which artwork do you admire and why? Because of technical skills? Because of its emotional intensity? How feverish is your passion to pursue art-making compared to that of, for instance, Camille Claudel? What is your relation to the world of art? What do you aspire; which artist is your (long dead) master? Where do you like to be ten years from now?

This examination could be done regularly or annually. The answers will change because you, who is busying yourself with art, will change. The fact that your Bio or About will need some tweaks here and there so now and then testifies of your explorations of the world of art and bears witness to your growing skills.

Three generations of turtles sitting on each other’s back symbolizing that successes of one generation are the foundation for the successes of the next generation and so on. Watercolor painting by Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Have no anxieties; to put yourself side by side with the Great Masters will not dwarf you into oblivion, but will put your ego into perspective. It will not be intimidating because you allude to inspiration, to being a self-proclaimed apprentice. Describing your identity in respectful relation to those who contributed to the history of art is -to me- a good method for writing a modest but impressive ‘About’ section.

We are all standing on the shoulders of giants. We owe them to be remembered. When we feel inspired by them, when we learn from them, we honour them by referring to their achievements.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

P.S. It won’t do harm referring to female artists. So many have been marginalized or written out of history. Should you feel inspired by female artists, say so, ignore that their names are probably more obscure than Rembrandt, Vermeer or Picasso.

P.S. I received a question how my Instagram profile looks like. Squeezing ‘myself’ into a ridiculously small letter-count, I currently have: I aim to paint as beautifully as Dutch Golden age painters, especially as Rachel Ruysch, and I dream of drawing as skillfully as 17-century Dutch artists. I used beautifully to define my artistic aspirations (adding beauty to the world). I referred to Rachel Ruysch because she had many children and nevertheless painted till she was very old. And I used the verb ‘dream‘ to express my aspirations. This bio is truthful, will most likely undergo some changes in the future, but narrates of the driving forces behind my creativity. That said, I wish I could have squeezed in my love for Asian art too.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

At Etsy

At Instagram

At Linktree

Postal Stamp Commission Postzegel Tekenopdracht

Ook zo’n hekel aan die lelijke digitale postzegelcodes? Paula Kuitenbrouwer helpt u aan een prachtige gepersionaliseerde postzegel.

No more ugly digital postal stamps! Paula Kuitenbrouwer designs an inspiring personalized postage stamp for you.

Portraying the Young and the Old

Paula Kuitenbrouwer reflects on portraying the very old and very young. One better lives to the full extent; give a portrait painter enough wrinkles to chew on and a biographer enough soul to reflect on.

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 a demanding as well as a completely fruitless challenge.

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? 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. That sets us, mortals, apart from the everlasting, suffering Sisyphus.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

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

Commission Artist at Utrecht

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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!

WORK IN PROGRESS

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

LAYING A 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

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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

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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

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

CHARLOTTE MASON, EEN TIJDLOZE ONDERWIJSHERVORMSTER

(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?

ONDERWIJS IS OMGEVING EN DISCIPLINE

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.

LEVENDE OF BEZIELDE BOEKEN

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….’

VAARDIGHEDEN

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.

MASONS VERNIEUWINGEN

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.

MASONS REVIVAL

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 amblesideonline.org voor meer over Charlotte Mason.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Op Etsy

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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.

DONATING ART

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.

INTANGIBLE GIFTS

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.

A FLOW OF THINGS

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.  

SHEDDING SKIN

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

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All links to Paula’s work at Linktree

Art Class Memories

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, 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 like students as well as conservative students 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; during 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 my art teachers I had, in and outside the walls of my schools.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

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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

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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 suggest putting boxes in our elevator and I will call the elevator up to our floor. 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

At Etsy

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

Letter Writing Card Sending

Receiving a letter makes people feel valued as a friend

Dear Gloria,

Thank you for your lovely letter that arrived on the 1st of June. I envy your tiny living house and the limited square meter that needs homekeeping.

The name you gave to your home brought back a memory. It was during the last week of our assignment to Ireland and as I was packing boxes, I fell. I must have tripped and – as a result- I broke my wrist. My husband and I went to the First Aid Department of a local hospital. Now, you need to know that all those years living in Ireland I had never come across another Paula. Neither had my husband or my daughter at school. I never came across anything ‘Paula’, not a restaurant, not a store, nothing. However, upon entering the waiting room of the hospital, I was seated next to a woman a bit older than me. I introduced myself to her and she introduced herself to me; ‘I am Paula too’, she said kindly.  She held her arm in such a way that I assumed she had broken something. It turned out that we had both broken our left wrist that morning. How about that? It makes you think astrology has a point.

Stay well and give Bonbon my love; what a beautiful horse you have.

Sending a long bear hug,

Paula

Dear Michaella,

How are you? I am so sorry to hear about your flooded garden. To see your herb garden ruined must be awful. I very much hope that your new soil holds wonderful minerals. As I am Dutch I know a thing or two about floods but I have seen the most unexpected flooding of a home, not in my native country, but in Ireland. Not in a valley, but on higher grounds.

One day an extraordinary amount of rain had fallen in the Wicklow Mountains area. Two days later we went for a hike. We were surprised to see how much water rushed downhill at the side of the roads. Apparently, it took longer for water to find its way to lower areas than we had anticipated. At one point we noticed a house, built with its back against a steep mountainous hill with its front door open. Out of that open door rushed so much water to the street below, finding its way further downhill we could hardly believe it. Through my mind the movie scene played of a woman in her nightgown ascending the stairs asking her sleepy husband urgently: ‘Honey, could you open the front door to see an uninvited, liquid guest leave the house, please’?

I hope your garden will grow and bloom again soon.  

Sending you love,

Paula

Dear Rowan,

I need to write to you about a recent sailing experience. We were sailing on Mark’s ship near Amsterdam in the direction of Gooimeer and it was glorious sailing weather. All guests to Mark’s birthday were in a happy mood and we all took in the wide open Gooimeer scenery. The elements were in our favour. The wind was utterly perfect; nobody was sea sick whilst we sailed with moderate speed. At some point I was standing alone and I noticed a clipper passing by in the distance. You know a clipper, don’t you? It is a type of mid-19th-century merchant sailing vessel, designed for speed. It has four masts and its amount of sails is impressive. Anyway, it passed us but that took 30 minutes or so because we were both sailing in a north-east direction. The clipper passing by with the sun shining, the wind in its white sails, its slowly overtaking us, the blue sky and silver water, and its dominance over us in beauty, speed, masts and sails, the whole scene mesmerized me. The longer I watched this superior ship from a distance, the more I found myself in one of the paintings by a Golden Age Dutch marine artist. In fact, I felt myself completely absorbed and I experienced a shock of beauty. By the time I let go of my efforts to take in the scene, Mark had alerted his guest on the magnificent clipper. We all seemed to realize that we were experiencing something we might never see again in our lifetime. We noticed the clipper disappearing in the distance.

I hope you are well and that your leg is healing nicely. Take good care and I hope to see you and William & Charlotte’s birthday. Till then!

Much love,

Paula

‘Receiving letters makes people feel valued’.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer wrote three partly fictional and partly autobiographical letters. As a student she participated in essay competitions and won several prizes. She designed the luxurious, double and folded mandarin note cards herself and they are for sale at Etsy. (No customer account needed). Paula hopes that her letters will inspire to more snail mail.

Paula’s Etsy shop

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

Utrecht

at Etsy

At Instagram

Three Short Stories with Bird Drawings

Sparrowhawk

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

Dutch artist living in Utrecht, Netherlands.

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 -for instance and in case of The Night Watch by Rembrandt- dismissed 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 on display or stored, 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

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

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.

Bullfinches

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

Wetcanvas is back!

Remember Wet Canvas? That huge platform for artists to participate in challenges, receiving help and feedback, advising fellow artists, and just having fun?

I regretted its decision to stop and I had the feeling this unfavourable decision had to do with Facebook starting ‘discussions’. But for somebody not active on Facebook, I missed WetCanvas. Now, it is back and I see artists signing up every minute.

www.wetcanvas.com

Let us help getting it started!

Paula

My Mandarin duck folded notecards are at Etsy. Click here. (Outside Netherlands). Click here for ordering within the Netherlands.

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.

Information

Mandarin duck note card at Etsy (16 euro)

Mandarin duck note card also Mini Print for Framing at Etsy (12 Euro)

Mandarin duck instant download writing paper/stationary at Etsy (less than 1 USDollar)

Website of Just a Card organisation is at www.justacard.org.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Dazzling Ducks

D

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.

U

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.

C

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

K

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? Are not ducks… simply dazzling and delightful?

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Commission artist

At Etsy

At Instagram

A SYMBOLIC FAMILY PORTRAIT

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?

DEFINING A FAMILY PORTRAIT  

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 one 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 absence of family members and replace members 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 the lockdown anyway), I set out to draw our family portrait.  

SYMBOLICALLY INSPIRED

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 emphasise 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 symbolise hope and hope is a precious emotion during a pandemic.

Koi Carp symbolise good luck and prosperity. In Japan they symbolise 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 symbolise 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 symbolise 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.

COMMISSIONING YOUR PORTRAIT

Should you like to have a painting of a hanging scroll that symbolises 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) life’s 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).

At Etsy

At Instagram

At Linktree

Keeping a Pandemic Diary

OLD DIARY LOST AND FOUND

During our series of lock-downs, de-cluttering has become a beneficial home bound activity. I found an old diary that I had forgotten about. Being in full de-cluttering mode, I was about to throw it away. But before I knew, I sat down reading a few entries. Surprisingly, I enjoyed reading my own musings. That is interesting because when I was young I read A.S. Byatt’s warning against diary whining which instilled a fear to keep daily notes. But encouraged by my old diary entries, I decided to start a lockdown diary assuming that years from now I -again- would find it interesting to read back about how we lived during this unusual time.

A Home Bound Life

I bought a New Romantic 1980s Paperblanks. But soon after, I felt again apprehensive to keep a diary, afraid that my writing would be irrelevant, a waste of time. But then, how can one expect grand and compelling entries when one is living a lockdown life? I opposed the self-sabotaging thoughts by remembering Etty Hillesum’s diary. I also remembered Brother Lawrence, a monk in the 1600s, who wrote on mindfulness whilst being confined to a monastery. (Not that I compare myself to Hillesum or Lawrence). I concluded that a diary does not have to report an epic and sweeping life. A home bound life amidst a clear and present danger that shakes our society, like the 2020/21 pandemic, is equally of value.

An old diary entry that I found at the time we were travelling abroad: ‘Exotic lands offer challenges and strangeness, a feeling of anxiety and excitement. Against the background of a new landscape we project ourselves as vulnerable, which results in a sense of awe and wonder. We dwell in new landscapes testing ourselves and feel an urge to settle and domesticate the land in order to feel free of anxiety, to feel safe. When we explore new lands, we feel so vulnerable and lonely that we search for gods or goddesses in pools, on the tops of mountains, in caves, near old trees, like prehistoric peoples did. We do all this to feel less naked, less exposed, more at home. We create sanctuaries but the land itself and all that comes with it was sacred before we arrived. We set up altars, shrines, and hang flags in trees. We feel a need for divine or ancestral support when we feel exposed to new horizons’.

My Mandarin duck stickers for an additional splash of colour
Nothing Grand or Epic
Now I write an entry almost every day and instead of writing epic and sweeping reports of meeting remarkable people, being chased by Ceberus, surviving Odysseus’ ship-wrecking storms, or discovering a new Lascaux, I report progress on drawings, on the joy of reading, and the small pleasures and setbacks of a lockdown life.

Should you have doubts whether or not to record your lockdown or pandemic life, please take my advice and do it because it is fun. Like me, you might find pleasure it in and it might be of use as a primary source for further family members who wonder what the Covid-19 pandemic felt like ‘back then’.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

At Etsy

at Instagram

Nearing a decade of Mindfuldrawing

In 2012, I set up a website named ‘Mindfuldrawing’ and over time I have added and deleted many posts. Several times I came close to deleting everything out of frustration with stolen artwork, difficult updating processes, and customizing challenges. Years later I can say ‘good’ that I took away posts that weren’t visited often enough to be of significance. What stayed were valuable articles that are frequently visited from all over the world. My website matured to something that goes beyond an artist portfolio; there are written pieces on art appreciation, essays, art musings, freehand and commissioned artwork.

Art Musings

Frequently visited are my articles on paintings, like ‘Guido Reni (Bologna 1575-1642) St Joseph with the Infant Jesus’, or ‘The Soul: Painting the Unpaintable’, or illustrated reflections on principles of Asian art; Ma, a Japanese aesthetic principle, in my three bird drawings. I have been asked how to look at art mindfully, on which I have replied to read children and middle-school student books on art. Young people are taught to look at art with an open mind; adults are told in which period art pieces fit.

Artwork by Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Prehistoric Art

I posted many musings on Prehistoric art: ‘Crossed Bison of Lascaux: Art Study Through Drawing’, ‘The Woman or Mother of Willendorf’, essay on ‘Prehistoric Hands Invite and Confirm Communication with the Dead’, on ‘Prehistoric Women Figurines‘, and on ‘Ochre’. I wrote a light-hearted, fictional story on a ‘Prehistoric Dinner Party’. Academic essays are ‘How Interpretations of the Ritual Nature of Stonehenge Have Changed over Time‘, my essay on ‘Lady Vix, A Bardic Storytelling of the ‘Celtic of the West’ Model’. My Celtic Art Project shows how the studying prehistoric art inspired me to design Celtic art myself. I also gave the Sorcerer of Trois Frères, Ariège, France a face, drew the shamanic healing of the Inuit sea goddess Nuliajuk and tried looking into the beautiful and fascinating Iron Age Celtic Desborough Mirror.

Artwork by Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Commissions & Freehand Artwork

Sometimes I was allowed to publish privately commissioned book-plates of which some are situated in past times, Medieval times, or the Jugendstil period. Other times it was requested to keep commissions private.

Utrecht’s Monumental buildings by Paula Kuitenbrouwer

William Morris

I felt very inspired by William Morris. He was such versatile artist and worked relentless on bringing nature inside people’s homes. This inspiration resulted in large, decorative paintings of ‘Trellis’, ‘Abundant Acanthus‘, ‘Ode to Oaks Trees’, and ‘In Praise of Plants’.

Lastly, there are many Mandarin duck drawings and aquarelles, because people, like me, love these sweet and colourful ducks. It is said that mandarin ducks attract love and loyalty. Since my return to the Netherlands in 2018, I discovered two couples in nearby parks and estates. Therefore, I can confirm that mandarin ducks do attract …well, lovely mandarin ducks. 

Invitation

I like to invite you to my website. It isn’t a sleek, frequently updated website. Instead it is a calm and thoughtful little place of the Internet like one of those tiny, intimate window seats inside an old library where you can snuggle up for a few hours of mindful reading and viewing art.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

More portfolio overviews are at Etsy & at Instagram

The Year of the Ox

The Year of the Ox: Muskox (Ovibos moschatus), or ‘musky sheep-ox’ by Paula Kuitenbrouwer. Inspired by Het Leven der Dieren by S.P. Huizinga

Happy Lunar New Year of the Ox

I have drawn in an illustrative way a Muskox and added prehistoric spirals to its thick coat. The spirals symbolize ‘time’ and the passing of time as time most likely was experienced more circular than linear in ancient times.

The year of the Ox starts from February 12th, 2021 (Chinese lunar New Year Day) and lasts until January 30th, 2022. Because it will be a Metal Ox year, I have assembled a golden postcard. If we associate one characteristic to an ox it is surely its strength. May 2021 offer you strength to catch up with all you planned for 2020 but fell through due to the pandemic. May 2021 offer strength to create a ‘new normal’ that is both enjoyable for you and promising for future generations. The 2020 pandemic has showed us how we have overstepped in liberalism, hedonism and consumerism. Lock-down made us feel like we were on a forced spiritual retreat. The year 2021 requires strength and determination to make our world a better place.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

I have only a few of these art cards at Etsy. They are heavy cards. I offer to address them to your family or friends, thus saving time which is important now that there are many worldwide, postal delays. I suggest the following text: ‘Happy Lunar New Year of the Ox’ followed by your name.

The Year of the Ox will return in 2033.

Inspired by a museum visit

In the Asian department of Leiden’s Museum of Ethnology you find this decorated ceramic plate. It shows floral and geometrical patterns, as well as a garden and landscape. Blue and orange – complementary colours, are predominately used. There are four quarters and more areas filled with sceneries that stand on their own. Perhaps more artists worked on this ceramic plate because the decoration seems to show different styles. The blue chrysanthemums are close-up; the mountainous landscape adds depth. Studying the different elements and patterns one feels enchanted a long time.

ART AND CULTURE LOVING MUSEUM VISIT

There is always something in a museum that inspires. At least, that counts for me. Whether I visit an exhibition on shamans, a scientific department with preserved animals, an insectarium, planetarium, or aquarium, fine arts, or an anthropological exhibition, something will speak to me.

The interesting thing is that you have no idea beforehand which object, story or atmosphere, or even a part of a building, will grab your attention and fill you with inspiration. All you have to do is visit a museum and open up. Inspiration might be overwhelming when you stand in front of the eminently displayed Nike of Samothrace in Paris Louvre. Equally so, it can be kindled by an object as small as the Alfred Jewel in the Ashmolean, Oxford.  Sometimes inspiration is not presented through the storyline or ancient objects of an exhibition. It might be the museum building itself that emerges you in an Art Deco atmosphere and consequently inspires you.

HOW TO VISIT A MUSEUM FOR INSPIRATION?

There is something essential you have to do, or perhaps, do not. You should not refrain yourself from feeling happy to visit a museum instead, you should feel grateful for being able to enjoy a carefully curated exhibition. Yes, gratitude and excitement are perfect emotions that do not interfere with inspiration. But what does interfere with inspiration are pre-existing ideas of what you are going to gain from visiting a museum, a gallery or exhibition. Leave all expectations at home. Step into the Medieval mindset that inspiration comes from God or is whispered in your ears by angels. Museums often are quiet, mindful places that make a visitor susceptible to ‘hearing’ angels’ whispers or to feel touched by an object or the perfect execution of fine art skills by one of a well experienced or highly trained artisan or artist.

Even when you have visited many floors, enjoyed a lunch in the museum café, or sauntered through the museum shop, you might not have an idea what inspired you. The whispers might be very subtle and not easily detectable amidst the excitement to be confronted with art, excellence, or originality. But just before you are about to put on your coat ask yourself; ‘What spoke to me?’ or ‘Where in the museum should I have lingered longer?’

INSPIRATION STRUCK  

There…there you sensed inspiration. Something interesting or beautiful ‘spoke’ to you. It whispers in your mind; ‘Will you stay with me a bit longer next time?’

Inspiration is a beautiful thing. To me it isn’t a thought or a feeling. It is a whisper that can become rather loud once it has sunken into your soul. It has a timeless quality; some whispers stay for weeks, others ignite your artistic fires for years. See here how art inspires to art (making). How art lives on weeks, decades, years after those who practise highly developed artistic skills left behind their artwork. Art seems to be born from this never-ending stream of inspiration, enhanced and carried by those willing to learn skills and deep focus.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

This Asian ceramic plate in Leiden’s Museum of Ethnology grabbed my attention and with much joy and interested it inspired me to draw two large mandarin duck compositions. Perhaps you can find the elements that inspired me in my mandarin duck paintings? (Click to enlarge the pictures)

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

at Etsy

at Instagram

Prehistoric Diplomatic Dinner Party

After returning to my home country, I find myself looking back at living abroad as a diplomatic spouse. By writing fictional stories, I play with the idea how different my diplomatic memories could have been.

Prehistoric Diplomatic Dinner Party  

I lived with my husband and daughter in Asia, East and Central-Europe. Our most recent posting was Ireland. ‘Natalie’, the fictional character in my Prehistoric Dinner part story stands for all remarkable and very kind people that I met abroad. Suzanne is real and still today a very good friend.

Whilst enjoying tea in our local tearoom, Suzanne asked me how the dinner party last Saturday had been.

‘It was lovely’, I smiled and my mischievous giggle didn’t escape her. A gentle smile appeared; ‘Tell me!’

The barista brought us coffee and nut cakes.

‘Well, the party was very well organized and the Finish Embassy is just so lovely. You know that, don’t you?’ Suzanne nodded and reminded me that she had a National Day reception there last year, so there was no need for me to describe the dining room.

‘I sat between two quiet people. I tried to make conversation, you know; the usual polite opening questions. On my left sat Mr. Park from South-Korea. This was his last party before moving to Genève. He gave the most polite answers possible which hindered my attempts to engage him in conversation. You know these parties, don’t you? Everything is utterly perfect but there is no esprit’. Of course, Suzanne knew. She had been, like me, a diplomatic spouse for ages. ‘And on my right side, I had a Latin-American lady of about 60-65. Initially, she was very withdrawn and reluctant to tell about herself. I forgot to find out to whom she was partnered.’ Suzanne encouraged me to get to the point.  

‘It seemed like ages before the second serving arrived.  I felt so desperate for some enthusiasm.  I felt my mood change and..’

‘Yes, yes… so what did you do?’ Suzanne asked impatiently knowing that not much was possible because I was well educated, well prepared, well balanced…basically a lot of ‘well’s’, and thus caught in a web of well behaving-ness.

‘My mind wandered to my prehistory course, you know; my all time favourite subject, but I could not just blurt out something Neolithic and expect them to be interested. And yet, that was exactly what I longed for to do. Just for once! So, ……I made up a recent archaeological discovery. Yes, I just did that by drawing inspiration from the prehistoric excavation in France of the Lady of Vix, Germany’s Hochdorf Chieftan’s grave, combined with the famous British Amesbury Archer, all real graves but no one knows about these anyway?’

‘I have never heard of these famous individuals. Are you telling me you just made up a whole story?’ Suzanne asked with a mixture of disbelief and amusement.

‘Yes! By the time the second serving was finished, I had enthusiastically explained highly significant artifacts, linguistic evidence supporting archaeology, carbon dating accuracy, rituals, and battles. I impressed my listeners with throwing in lots of names, locations, Celtic styles, Viking trade routes, even names of highly respected archaeologists like Barry Cunliffe. He is real, by the way. I talked myself through dessert. If no-one inspires you, you basically have to inspire yourself!’

‘So true’, Suzanne said.  I could tell she was eager to hear more. 

‘Mr. Park, the Asian man, politely endured my monologue but the Latin American lady became livelier even eager to learn more about prehistoric battle victims.  The more I went into this imaginary world, any inhibition to stick to scientific evidence left me. I even became theatrical and emotional as I described Iron Age superstition and reenacted some funerary rituals focusing on the cause of death of famous shamans.

‘They had not the foggiest idea you were …uhm…. ‘storytelling’, shall I call it?’ I loved Suzanne for her unwavering diplomatic word choice. 

‘That’s right. Instead, I found the Latin-American lady asking me stimulating questions, many reflecting on the cause of death of Iron Age shamans. I sat through a jolly good dinner after all, in the company of a lovely, enduring audience.’ We laughed like young girls about my silliness and got ready to leave the tearoom.  

We were well on our way to the parking garage when Suzanne inquired whether I had first checked the background of my dinner companions. Of course, I had. The Asian man was a publisher; the Latin American woman was a doctor.

‘Imagine, telling your fantastic story to an archaeologist and finding yourself debunked!’ Suzanne giggled with the prospect of my making an unforgettable blunder. 

‘How clever do you think I am?’, I boasted.  

Before we stepped into our cars, Suzanne asked whether I would come over a bit earlier the next day to help lay the coffee table for her guests.

‘I particularly look forward to meeting Natalia again’, Suzanne said.

‘Why?’, I inquired absent-mindedly, getting into my car.

‘I met her a few days ago at that Swedish Santa Lucia reception -which you sadly missed- and she told me she felt lonely. She is older, you see. This is their last posting abroad. Apparently, she feels somewhat inhibited to tell about her job that she held till a few years ago. She is the second partner of the Peruvian ambassador and her job is often regarded as somewhat gruesome’.

‘Suzanne, could she be the woman who sat next to me last night?’, I asked disbelieving.

‘Well, she has very straight, thick black hair, a bob’, Suzanne mentioned. I started to feel uncomfortable; I had counted on never seeing my audience again!

‘Could she be the Latin-American doctor? No, it can’t be, that would be too coincidental. But darn-it, she had a bob too’, I said, placing my handbag on the car’s passenger seat.

‘I must have Natalia’s name card…, Suzanne said; ‘It is a bit of a mouthful but wait..’. Suzanne grabbed in her pocket and lifted out some name cards. After checking a few, she said; ’Here it is. She told me…. till recently she was internationally renowned … she is…here it says; a paleo-pathologist’. I gasped. Suzanne saw all my colours disappearing from my face.

XXX  

The next day, Natalia cancelled tea at Suzanne’s house and I felt enormously relieved. But, inevitable as it was, I met the formerly renowned doctor in the study of diseases of ancient man a month later at the Presidential New Year’s reception.  She smiled at me as we shook hands.

‘I had hoped you would not remember me’, I said with a growing blush of shame on my cheeks.

‘I never forget faces. See, I remember somebody’s skull’s features’, she replied. And just when I was about to make a prolonged excuse, she took me by the arm.

‘Stop apologizing. You were wrong by about 5000 years on the timeline regarding a few burials, but otherwise you warmed my paleo-pathologist’s heart’.

‘You are very forgiving’, I said softly. ‘When I learned that I had been blabbing to a professional, I felt an Iron Age axe landing on my head’. Natalia smiled very kindly: ‘I was just pleasantly waiting for you to drown in a misty, prehistoric peat-land full factual and fictional sedges and shrubs.

‘To become a famous bog body on display in a national Museum of Ethnology?’, I asked. We both laughed. For as long as we were together en poste we would never skip a chance to meet at receptions and have a passionate, prehistoric chit-chat.  

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Utrecht 2020    

Nuliajuk (Sedna) and her Shamanic Healing

Nuliajuk or Sedna, copyright by Paula Kuitenbrouwer. Notice Nuliajuk’s disorderly hair in which sea mammals are entangled. Also, notice also the healing hands of the shaman, running his/her fingers through Nuliajuk’s hair and thus setting free an Arctic unicorn (Narwhal), bearded seal, beluga, and a whale. The top of the drawing shows a successful hunt.

Nuliajuk, the sea goddess of the Nesilik Inuit

Nuliajuk or Sedna copyright by Paula Kuitenbrouwer. In this drawing the hands of a shaman take tenderly care of Nuliajuk’s hair. After a shaman has healed Nuliajuk’s anger, fish and sea mammals are set free, hunters are able to bring food home again. (Graphite drawing in Arches paper).

NULIAJUK, A TIMELESS SEA GODDESS

There is a tender beauty and quality in the ritual a shaman visiting Nuliajuk (also known by the name ‘Sedna’) performs when this fierce goddess is angry. Nuliajuk is the sea-deity on which Netsilik Inuit depend for food and living. When hunters cannot find food, Netsilik Inuit believe that their food is tangled up in Nuliajuk’s hair. A shaman will have to travel to the bottom of the icy cold sea where he or she will find the goddess upset with anger. The animals that have once been her fingers before they morphed into sea mammals are itching! They urgently need to be freed from her long hair.  

When the sea is mildly wild, Nuliajuk grows irritated. Her hair becomes tangled up with sea creatures. If only Nuliajuk could de-tangle her hair all would be well again. But she cannot because her father chopped off her fingers. Her fingers dropped next to her to the bottom of the sea where they grew into sea animals. The story of why her fingers got chopped up by her desperate father is another one, which a reader might like to research. For here, the focus lies on a tender and caring task an Inuit shaman has to perform in order to help calming down a frustrated sea goddess.  

Nuliajuk has grown so upset with itching and annoying animals, she tries wildly to release them by running her fingers through her hair. To no avail, Nuliajuk can only wildly shake her arms and head, stirring up high waves and as a result the sea becomes wilder and wilder. Hunters cannot find food or bring something edible home and even the sled dogs grow hungry. Animals cannot be hunted, hides cannot get preserved, and the health of the people is declining. It feels like spiralling down: Nuliajuk is so angry, one cannot hunt. And because the wild waves tangle up Nuliajuk’s hair even more, she grows increasingly vexed. Nuliajuk’s powers are thus either life giving when she is calm. But when she is not, people face starvation.

Shamanic Healing

Here a shaman needs to step in. He or she needs to tidy up Nuliajuk’s hair, set free animals after which Inuit are able to regain their hunt. All the shaman needs to do is reach Nuliajuk in a spiritual realm and take care of her hair. Often people relax when their hair is tenderly brushed and for Nuliajuk it is no different. This is the shaman’s task; calming down Nuliajuk, freeing sea mammals, and restoring an equilibrium that is both beneficial for the sea-goddess and for her people.

Can we see Nuliajuk’s mesmerizing hair? Yes, by looking in an ocean or sea. When you sit on a boat and you lean over, look under the surface and you will see movements. These undercurrents are Nuliajuk’s long strands of hair. Isn’t that beautiful? When we are confronted with plastic pollution (tangled up in Nuliajuk’s hair), we feel alarmed which is a good thing because – like in Nuliajuk’s tale -, plastic pollution kills sea animals; discarded fishing nets traps fish and sea mammals like Nuliajuk’s hair.  

What does the Inuit shaman look like? Well, just like any other Inuit except that he or she might dress up in a special coat. In 2015, the fashion label KTZ copied a unique shamanic Canadian Arctic garment that dated back to the early 1900s. According to Smithsonian researcher Sima Sahar Zerehi this garment was the ‘most unique garment known to have been created in the Canadian Arctic’. The design was used without the consent of the shaman’s descendants in Nunavut and thus it was pulled from stores. KTZ apologized to the family. But by then it had sparked interest in the origins of the parka and the meaning behind its symbolic designs. Do the large hands on the chest of the garment represent the hands of the shaman that help Nuliajuk with de-tangling her hair, a vital act to restore her mood?

Environmental Goddess

Nuliajuk is a timeless goddess but by now we have trade Nuliajuk’s mood for the Beaufort scale, an empirical measure that relates wind speed to observed sea conditions. When sea animals get trapped in fishing nets, we need people interfering, like shamans calming Nuliajuk. When sea-weeds, which remarkably look like Nuliajuk’s hair, disappear, we find food resources depleting. Taking care of the Great Barrier Reef of Australia by replenishing its coral feels like scientists stepping in for shamans taking care of Nuliajuk’s world. 

No matter how we tell a story about our seas and oceans, mythologically or environmentally, we know that the sea takes care of us when we take care of her.

When ancient people of Island of Man prayed to their Celtic sea god, Manannán (or Manann) to shroud their island in thick mists to protect it from marauding Vikings, people had to pray. Gods like communicating with men, they like offerings and prayers. According to mythological stories they also like to be properly thanked. In the story of Nuliajuk one sees this element of reciprocity: she takes care of her peoples, they need to help her because of her missing ability to run her fingers through her hair and thus keep it tidy. This reciprocity can be extended to all nature gods, in fact to Nature herself. We have very few shamans left but, wisely, our children are educated on environmental issues at school. Beach cleaning school trips raise lasting awareness of pollution (and contributes to ‘keeping Nuliajuk’s hair well kept).

Nuliajuk’s statue, with her sea mammal tale, in Leiden’s National Museum of Ethnology, Netherlands. About 15 cm. Probably made of soapstone.

Illustration

This illustration is for sale. It could be used as a book cover or a book illustration. Or a lesson plan illustration. Contact me should you like to use it. The link is here. Its price is negotiable in relation to its copyright.

Education

How can we educate our children on Nuliajuk? When trying to buy a book on this goddess, I find only one title: ‘Nuliajuk’ by the explorer Knud Rasmussen, published in 2017 for Grade 3 readers. This is great for young children for learning about the interaction between nature and man by anthropomorphizing nature forces. When these children become high school students, they will remember their mythological education and see stories morphing into environmental science. They might even recognize the small Nuliajuk statute in Leiden’s National Museum of Ethnology (Netherlands). Her small, soapstone statute carries a beautiful historical, environmental, and mythological tale of nature’s power over peoples and over healing reciprocity.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

2020

Some lesson ideas are:

Explain the role of the shaman and compare him/her to priests, doctors and environmental activists. Look up the four animals that are trapped in Nuliajuk’s hair. Explain why they are mammals and not fish. Explain why Nuliajuk has become an environmental goddess who needs our help; explain on a larger scale taking care of our environment. Explain why we need seas and oceans for food and future food (seaweeds and algae). Compare Nuliajuk’s hair with discarded fishing nets. Explain why we need nature and why nature needs our care.

At Etsy

Trellis ‘Ode to William Morris’

Finding William Morris in Nature


One day I was admiring our local herbal garden and found myself in William Morris’ Trellis wallpaper design. To celebrate this moment of seeing artwork by the most famous Arts and Crafts Movement artist being alive right in front of me, I set out making a large watercolour painting. I believe the Arts and Crafts Movement and especially William Morris’ designs strengthened the human-nature connection.

Trellis Design

This watercolour makes a lovely wink to past artisan times. Morris designed a simplified trellis with perfect squares, which I stayed true to. But instead of climbing roses and bluebirds, I have chosen passionflowers as host plants to a hummingbird and a butterfly. I have paid much attention to drawing an Arts and Crafts frame, in dark wood with embellishments.

Work in progress with lots of blues and greens and a live model leaf of our own passionflower.

Morris used different ground colours including blue, dark grey, taupe, and the off-white which I will do too. Blue symbolizing heavens, the ethereal part of life and dark, wood brown representing our earthly life.
I have used some gold and iridescent paint so that light offers an enriching effect on this watercolour painting.

Ode to William Morris with bits of gold and iridescent shine.
Watercolour Painting Copyrighted by Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Size is 46 by 61 cm or 18 by 24 inches. Horizontally oriented. I always use Arches High Quality Art Paper, satin because of its soft satin feel and because, to me, it is simply the best. This artwork will need an off-white or softly coloured passe-partout (mount) and a frame. You will cherish this original artwork for years to come!

‘Trellis with lush Acanthus and Passionflowers, a Hummingbird and a Butterfly.’ (Passionflower is the host plant for hummingbirds and fritillary butterflies).

Should you like artwork that matches your William Morris wallpaper, consider commissioning me. I look forward to work with you.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Etsy

Etsy William Morris Inspired Artwork ‘Trellis

Etsy William Morris Inspired Artwork ‘Bouquet of Flowers’

Etsy William Morris

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