With my daughter at York University, I look back fondly on my halcyon years of being a home-school teacher. I retired as a home-school teacher some years ago after which I expanded my portfolio (drawings & paintings). Starting a creative job at being in the neighborhood of 55 caused some trepidation. Of course, there are many manuals for starting a business, however there is no playbook for expanding one’s portfolio; you -as an artist- have to write that playbook yourself. Along the way of growing my portfolio, I noticed how creativity is progressively framed by social and digital media.
These days there are many digital fora on which artists exhibit their work; social media platforms are helpful for setting up a business but probably equally limiting or even compromising creativity. How much of your creativity are you willing to sacrifice putting yourself out there? This question slowly emerged after the first elated feelings resulting from rekindling my creative life. (Not to say that being a home-school mother hasn’t been creative, it sure was). But once past the tickled pink phase of selecting platforms, I had to write an ‘About me’. Here presents the first creative limitation in which you are expected to function. What about it isn’t about me but about my art? What follows is a multitude of lay-outs in which you showcase your work, express yourself, communicate with your colleagues, and possible meet customers. Somebody has done the thinking for you; you only have to follow guidelines and lay-outs, often resulting in having friends and fun. But where is your creativity? Is it still there?
Surely, you can be creative and do a sterling job within these frameworks, but these are frameworks nonetheless. Creative minds squeeze themselves into configurations and the question thus is how much original creativity gets lost along the way? Also, where can an artist still be boundless creative? How would my art or your art look like had we lived during the High Renaissance (no digital representation)? Or at the time French Impressionists left their studios to paint the outdoors the way they saw it, not the way art galleries told them to paint for clients?
Aren’t we collectively making too many and profound concessions? Are we forsaking to teach the next generation to function outside digital media? Creatively thinking outside the box? Are we building character or are we the best boy in the social media classroom? Will the next generation yield a Raphael or a William Morris? How much room is there to develop one’s creativity when one compromises to existing arrangements? The onslaught of functioning within digital per-modeled lay-outs damages, standardizes, and limits our creativity. That is because no matter what, formats dictate our functioning despite I am often pleasantly surprised how much wiggle room artists find within rigid frameworks.
Allow yourself to be creative outside your studio, outside your website, outside social media platforms. Once trapped into these Faustian patterns (selling your creative soul for exposing your artwork) search for maximal freedom. A website is better than a blog because a website allows you more design tools. A blog is better than an Instagram account (self explanatory). A physical sketchbook is better than a digital pad. Use creative tags instead of existing ones, despite that might give you less exposure. Although creative minds can work with a minimum of tools, always run a mental check whether you actually want to give in to per-existing formats. I applaud the generation that shrugs off social media and finds new and original ways to grow their businesses.
Maryse Kluck shares her insight into the value of 20th century literary genre Mystery Fiction. Like Greek Tragedies, the Bible, and other old classic literature these books are about fighting for the good life and inspire us to a form of activism.
In this blog-essay Paula Kuitenbrouwer uses several narratives to illustrate how elderly parents can hurt their adult children. She turns to classical literature and fine arts for soul nourishing inspiration. Kuitenbrouwer guides you through the classical story of Pelops followed by philosophical musings and concluding thoughts.
Over a year I have collected different narratives from three continents; all are voiced by women between 55-65 years of age who have taken care of (one of ) their parents. The stories are anonymized. This blog-post essay offers a message of understanding and hope.
Person 1. ‘My ill and rapidly aging parent attacked me verbally. It left me shaking. After a while, I felt a need to talk this over with her but she had forgotten all about it. I know that what she said is part of how she feels about me and that hurts me’.
Person 2. ‘I felt such deep shame for the attack by my old father that it took me a long time before confiding in a friend. It turned out that I wasn’t alone. It was extremely stressful to find yourself in a situation where a parent turns against you. I was astounded how my father pitted my siblings against me when I told him caring for him became too much for me. My siblings ate out of his hand; my father has always had a knack for playing the victim or for acting vulnerable. It opened my eyes to a side of my father that made me question how much I had benefited and suffered from his strategic behaviour. Ever since, I haven’t been able to shake off the feeling that he had never much respect for his children; he had no problem playing them. Luckily, he took responsibility later and apologized, but by then my relationship with my siblings was irreparably damaged. He now suffers from vascular dementia, maybe being mean was a prelude to dementia’.
Person 3. ‘After months of hurling insults, my father returned to his charming sweetness without remembering his offending remarks. Only a vague unease lingered in his mind. He kept on mentioning he was indebted to me. It took me a long time to wrap my brain around his behaviour. What was it? Brain damage? Character? Medication? I still do not know and probably will never know’.
Person 4. ‘You have no idea how racist my parent became towards her Asian nurse’.
Person 5. ‘I have seen it in both of my families; my own and the one I married into. Some parents hurt their adult children and then when relations turn sour, they do not shy away from using their fortune to secure attention, care, and power. Disinheriting as a punitive threat or action; it fast-tracks the disintegration of a family’.
Person 6. ‘I had times when I wondered whether I would actually survive my parent. I noticed that my physical and mental health improved exponentially the longer I stayed away. I would never forgive myself for hurting my child. I have also decided to never start any old age medications. These are drugs that keep the body going whilst the mind deteriorates and perhaps that toxic mix is largely to blame for mean behaviour’.
Person 7. ‘Having been insulted makes you question how much love there was in the first place. We are dealing with a generation that had children because that was what was expected from them. Perhaps there just is not enough love to sustain till the very, very end’.
Person 8. ‘No matter how often I drive hours back and forth to my parents, it is never enough. The suggestion that I fail them is often bluntly communicated’.
Person 9. ‘My parent used others to attack me. They voiced my parent’s disdain in unequivocalterms. This cleverness withheld me for a long time thinking in terms of dementia‘.
Person 10. ‘It all has left me depressed and fearful for my own ageing. High age is romanticized. Perhaps it would be beneficial to offer elderly mental health coaching. There used to be a chaplain taking religious care of old people, now there are mainly nurses and managers’.
Person 11. ‘My father discussed disinheriting my brother with me. I would never capitalize on something so unfair and hurtful, so I advised against it. But I did ask; ‘Did you discuss disinheriting me with my brother also?’ on which the reply came; ‘Yes’. The threat was out in the open. Disinheriting hangs as a Sword of Damocles above primary caretakers whilst siblings not participating in daily care chores are idolized’.
Adult children aren’t snowflakes; they have experienced social hurt as from their young schooldays. There are parents who age into angels and those who resort to toxic games, and all stages in between. The question is why? There are many possible reasons: old age, behavioral side-effects of medication, illness, drinking, rusty social skills, tiredness, decreased empathy, dwindling love, frustration, and character. The answer is seldom uni-causal. Knowing what mix has caused hurtful remarks can put suffering into perspective, so here are a few to consider (and should there be more, please add them to the comment section):
Your parent suffers from brain damage caused by delirium or vascular dementia. In this case, you will shake off the horrible remarks (sometimes even sexual). However, forgiving does not imply tolerance: like with a pet, baby or toddler you should set boundaries. It is no different for geriatric people. Walk away, urge your parent to apologize to you. Prevent this behavior to normalize.
On a less brain-damaged level; parents can have too many debit cards. They pull these cards whenever they feel vulnerable (which is sad). One card is Illness, the other Old Age. Loneliness is another card and so is Inheritance. They masterfully play around with these cards; remember, they know you well. It is a power game of emotional blackmailing, manipulation, and future faking.
There can be an underlying trait of autism, arrogance, or narcissism. In the limited world of an elderly parent it is expected that their children will care for them. That is the natural thing to do, right? Well, children of older parents are somewhere between 50-70 themselves. They are the sandwich generation: taking care of their parents and (adolescent) children, sometimes even grandchildren. If caretakers fall ill or fail, a Vesuvian anger can erupt. Adult children, especially women/daughters, are to be expected to work unrewarded, unpaid, being available 24/7, or else….you will be taught an old fashioned parental lesson.
After identifying possible causes for hurtful behaviour, we need to get as close as possible to compassion. I forgo using the word ‘forgiving’ because forgiving is too often creating fertile soil for more abuse. What I seek here is Buddhist or Christian compassion and kindness which is an inner state that should not (I cannot stress this enough) prohibit assertiveness and sensible self-defense. Many caretakers feel drained, overstretched, and exhausted. They feel like taking care of their elders is a Sisyphean task. Only saints have an inner strength that helps them with their life long service. I am not saintly and maybe neither are you. I need gratitude, encouragement, support not to grow exhausted.
Returning to kindness and compassion. Consider the physical and mental condition of elderly parents; many have old age behavioral changes and inhibitions (neurological changes in the brain), lack of empathic feelings, diminished motherly or fatherly feelings, survival stress (to get through the day), are flushing (or drinking) down bags of medications one-two-three times daily (think about taking these medications yourself; how would that make you feel?), and many -especially the less religious elders- have no perspective other than growing older, becoming more fragile or ill. Where there used to be a heaven and a reunion with those who passed River Styx earlier, now there is just the end of a life. Surely, we can feel the frosty, biting cold of those last wintry years.
“Now you have pulled a knife from your back, it is time for some healing thoughts. We will find these by close-reading the story of Pelops”.
Let us now turn to fine art and literary inspiration for healing and nourishing our minds and souls. After that, I will conclude with practical and philosophical reflections. Greek mythology has it all; it never fails to morally support us with profound psychological insights and supportive philosophical thoughts. Parental disloyalty towards a child is narrated in the haunting story of Tantalus and Pelops.
Tantalus was a son of Zeus and Plouto and as such he was welcomed for dinner at Zeus’ table at Olympus, the abode of the gods ad the site of the throne of Zeus.
There, he is said to have abused Zeus’ hospitality. Even more punishable, Tantalus offers his son, Pelops, as a sacrifice (gore warning; but happy ending). Tantalus cuts up Pelops, boils him, and serves him up as a banquet for the Olympian gods in order to test their omniscience. The gods immediately become aware of the gruesome nature of the menu. Goddess Clotho is quickly ordered by Zeus to bring the poor boy to life again. She collects the parts and together with Hephaestus and Demeter revives Pelops. Pelops grows to be an extraordinarily handsome man.
Tantalus is punished by standing in a pool of water with overhanging fruits; he cannot eat the fruits nor drink the water. Tantalus will forever feel deprived to fulfill his hunger and thirst. This has become to know a Tantalean Punishment, referring to good things in life that are there to grab but forever elude our grasp. In English the word tantalize refers to an object of desire that is out of reach.
Practical & Philosophical Reflections
It is deeply tragic that sometimes a parent cuts up a child, be it metaphorical. Yet, the classical story of Pelops has a surprising happy ending. The child is revived by the loving and crafty care of a few Olympian gods and goddesses. The story could have had a bad ending with Pelops not being able to ‘put together again’. Like Humpty Dumpty who -despite ‘the work of all king’s horses and all king’s men- could not be put (back) together again’.
Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall Humpty Dumpty had a great fall All the king’s horses and all the king’s men Couldn’t put Humpty together again
Unlike Humpty Dumpty, the story of Tantalus describes in detail how Pelops is revived. Black-smith Hephaestus and motherly, caring Demeter go through great lengths to resurrect him and even forge a new shoulder made of ivory. The assembling process takes time, creativity, and resources which can be interpreted as ‘don’t expect this healing phase to be rushed’. This contrasts with the fate of Humpty Dumpty, standing symbol for a person or thing that is toppled over, broken, and irreparable. It stands to reason that by stressing that Pelops is brought back to life and becomes an remarkable handsome man, the hurt inflicted on a child by a parent can be turned around with the help of caring others.
We have moved away from believing in Greek gods a long time ago. However, that should not inhibit us from replacing the omnipotent gods with loving and supportive friends. They will offer a shoulder to cry on and over time that helps to rebuild self-esteem. You have done nothing wrong. There are thousands, if not millions of Pelopses, well-meaning sons and daughters who have been scolded, undermined, or punished, even disinherited. It has hurt them and has damaged their ideas about their parent’s character.
Since I came to learn that at one time in your life you can become Pelops, I was told that siblings and caretakers should be wary and cautious of taking sides of their geriatric parent when they fall out with somebody. Don’t enable them; geriatric elders have certain age-related behavioral patterns. Like crabbiness, lack of empathy, anger and depression, and a feeling of having been robbed. They are aware of their diminishing auditory, visual, kinetic, and cognitive abilities and this translates into the feeling of insecurity, misgivings, or even mistrust. Not being able to find something, like having lost their wallet or fountain pen, these surely have been stolen! No, they haven’t been stolen. Double check robbing stories, gossip, and avoid believing slander. Only those families whose children and caretakers take a united stand are able to navigate through the choppy waters of caring for an elderly parent.
Now that you know that you are not alone, Pelops does not need to be your middle name. Keep a healthy distance from your elderly parent if abuse happens or continues. I know about a geriatric nurse who advises family members not to visit their demented parents too often of even not at all because ‘They do not notice and it will hurt you’. These are sobering and somber thoughts, but one must be realistic.
I hope this blog-essay will help easing emotional hurt. Feel invited to add your advice or insights.
Paula Kuitenbrouwer, drs. M.A. is owner of mindfuldrawimg.com. She works as a commission artist in the Netherlands. Her art shop is at Etsy and her portfolio at Instagram. Paula majored in Philosophy at UU and UvA and won a few essay contests during her study. Paula worked as an editor and teacher in the Netherlands and abroad. For ten years, she home educated her daughter in various countries. Currently, she lives in the Netherlands with her husband whilst her daughter studies abroad.
Ina, a former arts & crafts teacher, tells her story about a failed character assassination attempt. Her narrative does not focus on the conflict that lies at the root of the bullying attempt nor on the mortally malcontented being in need to vent their frustrations on her and her family. Instead Ina’s story centers around the notion of a failed attempt. Why did it fail? And how did it fail? What role did art play? Ina shares her experiences because she profoundly hopes that it might help others. ‘Even if it is one teenager or woman that is helped by my story, I am happy‘. Her story is illustrated by several artworks.
Ina’s interview takes place at her studio. Her large work table and various artisan tools ignite a desire to become creative. Various unfinished projects give evidence of an overload of inspiration. Ina reluctantly revisits a time in her life in which she and her family received hate mail after hate mail. ‘Hateful emails seek a reaction, a response, they invite a counter attack’.
‘I read ‘Religion and Violence’ by historian René Girard when I was in my twenties and I was impressed by his theory of the Scapegoat Mechanism. How important a scapegoat is for social cohesion and how collectively accusing is more important than the substance. Thinking back of Girard’s theory, I concluded that -unluckily and apparently- it was my time in life to experience that mechanism first-hand. Scapegoating me was skillfully done with drip-feeding fabricated and exaggerating accusations that resulted in attacks on me’.
As soon as Ina realized that attempts to counterbalance false accusations didn’t help, that there was no real conversation, and that she wasn’t responsible for one other’s envy, she withdrew and refused to interact with those who made it their mission to bring her down. She hoped that the campaign against her would die down as soon as some fact-checking was done. It was not the accusations that hurt her (they were silly, made-up, and unfounded) but the fact that people were so willingly believing gossip by a formerly very clever but instigator but now in his early stages of dementia. Ina knew therefore that trying to get into the good books of her aggressors was a Sisyphean task. Thus, Ina decided to wait it out but that didn’t work. Eventually, she had to hire a lawyer as a firewall. ‘Seal off your personal space, and resort to things that are soul nourishing, like studying, being creative, doing sports,’advises Ina.
‘Just because there is an attempt to harm your life, to bring you down, to harm your family, it does not imply that you should get emotionally involved. That said, hate-mails hurt no matter how utterly unfounded or dumb the content is. I noticed that I started to excuse myself and resorted to using disclaimers, I adopted an apologetic attitude. That was not good, so I changed that’.
‘I realized one has to live one’s own life, suffer one’s own sufferings and rejoicing in one’s own luck and happiness. Not to say that I have adopted a hyper-individualized form of existence, instead, I am Aristotelian in believing that one’s telos, one’s full potential should be the focus of our lives in relation to others. We are inherently social beings. But you need to select carefully with whom you hang out. Relations are healthy when they support each other’s telos and growth, unhealthy when they hamper one’s telos. It was unfair to ask from me to absorb other people’s hate and discontentment. I decided not to become a sin-eater for envious others.
What does character assassination look like? What is its anatomy?
‘It is much more than an ordinary squabble or an unresolved conflict. Character assassination is a coordinated and prolonged effort to maliciously harm a person, to damage a person’s good reputation, and to destroy someone’s self esteem. I will not sum up the long list of areas of my life that were targeted but the vile accusations were emotive, paternalizing, and downright hateful. There was relentless criticism on almost every aspect of my life along with reproaches and objections. My education, my past, my choices, what I said-thought-felt, the way I looked… my husband, his work, his voluntary work, even my child, nothing got spared. It was obsessive.
I noticed many characteristics of conspiracy thinking too: deep and unfounded suspicion, blaming without evidence, no fair hearing (jumping to conclusions or unsubstantiated ideas). The amount of emails describing me and my family as elitists and elite were significant. That word ‘elite’ was obsessively used. And of course, the ‘elite’ was to blame for ‘everything’.
It grew -even without me interacting- and after a few months the hate had accumulated in that I was a despicable and dangerous person. That I was dangerous made me almost laugh, had it not been so sad, because I am a boring, good citizen. And, also very conspiracy-like, I was to blame for everything that was wrong. My villains were so proud of echoing that I was the single cause of a layered, multi-faceted, and complex problem. Ever since Eve! Such is the beautiful, simple world in which one woman causes the fall out of paradise.
‘Things completely spiraled out of control. It was frightening (and interesting) to see how every next email or letter was harsher in tone, more accusative. When I received a physical threat and a death-wish, I was advised to go to the police and a lawyer.
‘At that time, I came across ‘Tax Collectors’ by Reymerswale but I did not know the title of this artwork. It shows two tax collectors doing their paperwork. Despite their luxurious clothing and fine interior, the painter has deliberately made them look downright ugly. To me, this painting could have been titled ‘Two Hate Mail Writers’ because hate makes ugly’.
‘I asked myself what in my life had been left untouched by hate. There was not much left. Others who received the same treatment by my foes said there was about a need for hating, a need for venting conflict and anger, exactly like Girard had theorized. There was a need for a shared enemy on the part of the accusers to ease tensions. I had become a lightning rod for an unsolvable conflict and frustrations. I was deeply shocked.’
HOW TO DEAL WITH ATTEMPTS TO DESTROY YOU?
‘I suffered terribly. I have had moments wondering whether I could cope with all the anger directed at me. Hate is a terrible monster, like Cerberus (the three-headed dog of Greek myth guarding the entrance to the underworld). Envy is an even more devilish monster. You have to protect yourself against monsters. I was greatly supported by my husband and grown up daughter but I needed judicial help too. So, get help is number one.’
‘Number two: look at where the anger comes from. Is it justified? Does it come from a well-educated, well balanced person (or persons) who is open to mediation, respecting the choices you make in your life? No? Then try to stay unaffected. People willingly venting their unrestrained anger are harming themselves; it is like the trash taking itself out. So, get help and try to stay unaffected. That sounds contradictory, but it isn’t’.
Ina came across a painting of a mother with her child positioned between man-high saguaro cacti navigating her way through a barren and hostile landscape. She felt one with the painting. ‘This is a great expressionist painting. You immediately are drawn into the painting. The background shows a sunset but it looks like it is on fire, adding to the dramatic scene. I loved this painting because it so cleverly shows danger juxtaposing tenderness. I felt like the mother in this picture. But I also felt like the child, held by the protective arms of my family. As long as my family and I kept on walking, that landscape would change for the better’.
‘During the prolonged attacks, I felt as if I had died a bit inside. A crisis can break or make you. If I died a bit inside, I decided that I would be like a phoenix, the mythological, immortal bird, who dies by flames and arises from its ashes. It took time, but I completed my regeneration. My health was restored (that took more than a year) and I felt good again. The biggest compliment I gained is that I looked younger. There is much truth to that observation. I adopted a Phoenix as my mascot. Its picture helped me to keep strongly focused on regeneration. That was very important to me’.
Will you forgive and what did you learn?
‘It would be a mistake to forgive because it was a well-planned and prolonged attack, not a faux pass. I decided against forgiving because I am setting an example to never allow emotional abuse’.
‘The long period of harassment happened during the pandemic. It was a shameful fact that in the Netherlands there was an increase of women and children abuse during the pandemic, especially during lock-downs. Apparently, some were in need to vent their boiled up anger. Perhaps it helped them to write hate mails, but they should have dealt with their feelings differently’.
‘What I learned? I learned that people are shockingly easy to mobilize against another person. All the instigator had to do is preying on feelings of envy or frustrations’.
DID THE HARM CAMPAIGN FAILED OR SUCCEEDED?
‘Shame withheld me to look for help. It is probably a womanly thing to react as a sin-eater. I felt ashamed being so hated. Shame is a very bad reaction to bullying (there is no way you have brought scapegoating onto yourself). It results in withdrawal and silence. What one needs is the opposite, to set up a robust defense. I remember my lawyer hearing my story and saying; ‘This is awful, let me take it from here and I’ll run this pass a criminal lawyer too’. The intense relief that caused! So, did the character assassination fail? Initially, no. It caused emotional and physical damage. Also, money was spent on judicial helpwhich better could have benefited the next generation. And I still keep my friends at an arm’s length, afraid they too pop out of Pandora’s box as hateful puppets. But overcoming shame and seeking help changed everything. I am absolutely not a fan of Nietzsche, but he is frequently quoted for having said that what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. In the end, the character assassination epically failed’.
Any advice for teenagers who get bullied, for women who become conduits of anger?
‘In teenage language? ‘What the fuck! Seek support NOW. You are worth living your cool life without the bullshit of others’. To adults, I advise the same, though in different wording: go to the police, get a good lawyer. Stop feeling shame, stop suffering; harassing behaviour by others is socially or judicially unacceptable. Seek help’.
THE MORAL OF THIS BLOG-POST? You have read this before on this website: We make art, appreciate art, and see our lives reflected in art. The great stories about the human predicament, whether Ancient Greek, Biblical or classical literary sources, or famous fine art paintings, all cover some part of our lives. Seek refuge in art and literature. Nourish your soul with literature and art. Art matters. Books matter. Art heals. We -humans- have created a huge reservoir of healing properties to be found in libraries, museums, galleries, studios, and bookshops. Use it; enjoy it.
Next blog post will be about what is a Cassandra Syndrome?
Mindfuldrawing.com is owned by Paula Kuitenbrouwer who holds an MA degree in Philosophy. Paula’s pen and pencils are always fighting for her attention nevertheless they are best friends; Paula likes her art to be brainy and her essays to be artistic. Paula has an Etsy shop here. Her Instagram account serves as an online portfolio and is here. Contact Paula freely by email or a contact form for commissioned artwork.
Almost 190.000 views on a small, personal art website prompts a fresh new index. Paula Kuitenbrouwer, artist living in Utrecht, the Netherlands, explains her art and writings categorized in various ways.
My husband and I were driving through the countryside just around the time of a wonderful pink-orange sunset. I was driving and my husband was sight seeing woodlands and meadows. Suddenly, I decided to drive slower which prompted my husband to ask if anything was wrong.
‘Nothing wrong’, I replied, ‘I do not like to hit crossing deer’.
Not many seconds later a suicidal squad of weasels crossed the road just in front of our car. I braked (reflex), stopped breaking (for fear of being hit by someone driving behind us) and asked full worries to my husband whether I had hit the daring family.
My husband checked his mirror and said he saw no roadkill. Big sigh of relief! That was close.
Later, I recalled that just before breaking for this twilight loving family that I had slowed down, knowing there could be a confrontation with wildlife crossing our road (or, and better, our road crossing their habitat). I interpreted my ‘knowledge’ as a worry for crossing deer.
The point is, one knows. Ones knows more than one knows. That intuitive knowledge, or intuition, is a very subtle knowing, extremely easy to dismiss or being overrule with thoughts, day dreaming, or reasoning. It is not vague or nebulous. But it is subtle. In fact, it is so subtle that one probably and unknowingly fails to act on intuition perhaps 99% of the time when it tries to gets its subtle message across to you. A suitable metaphor would be picking up the song of a nightingale at the time ten lorries are passing.
Driving through the lazy countryside, at sunset, with very little traffic to worry about, I did pick up on intuition and it saved four weasels. I wish that more often I would be able to hear, feel or act on intuition, because it is so beautiful. It makes you feel an actor in a large play in which you are allowed to act with the overview and wisdom of the director.
P.S. Allow me to show you some recent work. I’ve been very productive which makes me very happy. Happiness equals art-making and vice versa: art-making generates happiness. 😁
For my artwork click here. I have a portfolio of at least 100 artworks. Should you have questions regarding my work, please feel free to contact me.
Stay happy and cool,
Paula holds an MA degree in Philosophy and she is the owner of mindfuldrawing.com. Her pen and pencils are always fighting for her attention nevertheless they are best friends; Paula likes her art to be brainy and her essays to be artistic.
Ever since the pandemic I have been reading and reading. Of course, when there is plenty of natural light, I prioritize drawing. But since consecutive lockdowns came into effect and meeting friends, running errands, and going for a walk were pushed to the background, literature reclaimed its rightful place. I kept a list of books in my diary and every time I finished a book, I proudly ticked off a book title. I like to share the moment with you that within the time-span of two days I came across a book title and a harrowing painting. Let me first give you the book title. It stopped me dead in my tracks.
Generals die lying on beds
I thought the title was brilliant (disclaimer: I did not read the book). It rang so true to me. I have seen it again and again, those who have struggled in life have died an untimely, painful or medicine induced death whilst those who have ruled, manipulated, or were in charge, Machiavellians, lived a long, happy life and died a peaceful, luxuriously death neatly tugged between crisp white bed linen. But foot-soldiers die on battlefields, in the dirt, at a too young age. ‘Comes with the job, an occasional ‘habit’, collateral damage, kind of thing‘. But generals die at a high age on luxurious beds.
Next, the painting of a dead soldier. It made me wonder whether it is a detail of a larger painting because of its unusual angle that is a bit uncomfortable for a viewer. But perhaps, this uncomfortable perspective was something the painter precisely sought? I imagine the soldier has most likely fought for someone else’s cause, principles, or power games and now dies an anonymous, early death. Maybe he ends up in a mass grave, unlike the general.
The book title and the painting made me wonder what battles we fight and for who? Who are foot soldiers and who are generals? Do you know them in your life, amongst your friends, at your work? Who is dying for who? I thought of Machiavelli’s philosophy. But also of a very old flyer of a political party that I vaguely remembered. It showed a sweet, little girl, standing all alone in a desert whilst you are asked the question: What if there is a war and nobody is willing to participate? Nobody shows up on the battlefield?
Art and literature make us evaluate the roles we take up in life. Art and literature offer us endless inspiration to ask questions in our lives that need to be asked.
Next blogpost will focus on Aristotle’s Golden Mean in relation to lockdown/quarantine and living the artist life.
Paula holds an MA degree in Philosophy and she is the owner of mindfuldrawing.com. Her pen and pencils are always fighting for her attention nevertheless they are best friends; Paula likes her art to be brainy and her essays to be artistic.
The mandarin ducks (Aix galericulata) have carefully chosen a place to rest. They seems to blend in with the dark background, thus if necessary, they will respond quickly by taking to the waters and thus escape predators. The river is calm, the forest is rich in sounds and smells, and all is well. The reflection of the lovely couple is visible in the calm water. Birds are flying over.
The duck and drake have just decided to take a rest and have already positioned themselves on the bank. The duck is checking the left, the drake checks the right, if all feels safe they will soon tuck their bills into their wings and take a nap. After that they will look for food again, synchronized as they are. They are life long partners, like swans. In Asia mandarin ducks represent love and loyalty. On the photos of this drawing, you will notice a few wooden ducks. They are used, in Asia, like drawings, prints and paintings, to enhance feelings of love and loyalty in homes and rooms between couples. Seeing bonding ducks, seeing how synchronised they are, makes people long for a deep belonging, a deep bond between lovers.
This is a softly rendered graphite drawing. On my Etsy home page and Instagram you can watch a video of the making of this drawing. I have done many Mandarin duck commissions for homes, weddings, engagements, stationary, or meditation/sleeping rooms. Contact me should you have specific wishes regarding a mandarin duck drawing. Also, have a look at my shop where you will find mandarin duck mini-prints, cards, and full colour drawings. May I advise to have a full colour drawing of mandarin ducks in a monochromatic coloured room and a softly rendered graphite drawing in a colourful room?
Artist information: Derwent graphite H-series pencils on Arches hot press paper 31-41 cm. Winsor & Newton Varnish Spray.
Ornithological information: Although Mandarin ducks are Asian ducks, Dutch park and estate owners buy these ducks to add some bright colours to their duck ponds or castle moats. Mandarin ducks then need nesting facilities because in nature they breed inside tree cavities. They seem to do well in Dutch weather. I am very lucky to have spotted them nearby my home town. One thinks that they stand out splendidly, but I can assure you that even the very colourful drake often seems to blend in its surroundings perfectly.