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

Shapeshifting Duck Fish

Mandarin Ducks shapeshifting into Koi Carp by Paula Kuitenbrouwer

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

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

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

My workstation with my drawing and tools

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

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

At Etsy

At Instagram

At Linktree

Blog Posts:

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.

Dazzling Ducks

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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.

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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.

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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

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

Portfolio Paula Kuitenbrouwer

A website requires often changing its ‘theme’ (i.e. lay out) for security reasons. And thus, through the years I have given my website different themes. It is always nice to see a revamped website, but in case you do not opt for a more expensive theme, you lose information. I thought why not present my portfolio? Most of it must have fallen off my website due to implemented changes. I invite you to enjoy my artwork and please feel free to ask all sort of questions should you like to ask me something.
I have painted butterflies, birds, and tulips so often, I can paint them now without reference photos. Every time a butterfly, tulip, or birds comes alive on my drawing pad, I feel joy.
It is very rare for me sauntering through a park or through woodlands, enjoying a holiday outside my home town without feeling hugely inspired. Although I have done Celtic art projects, prehistoric studies, architectural drawings, and bookplate commissions, most of my drawings and paintings are observational records of memorable nature experiences.
Autumn is my most inspiring season. Those beautiful, deep, and spiritual ochre colours never fail to make me grab for my sketchbook.
Working on commissions and being in contact with customers is important to me. The interaction between a customer who has a wish lingering in his or her mind and me trying to grasp that wish and transform it in to a painting of drawing is a wonderful task.
Architectural drawings of monuments or prehistoric studies, every project results into more knowledge and more joy in drawing and painting.
Of all the different themes and projects I have done over the years, mandarin ducks and book plate commissions are the most regular. It is such a honour to be trusted to draw or paint a personalised book plate or living room painting with lovely mandarin ducks.
I have done a large floral triptych during the Sars-Cov-2 lockdown. It goes without saying that busying myself with large tulips, irises, and daffodils brought much joy in an otherwise scary and depressive time. See here: the power of art!
Book plates, mandarin ducks, sashiko decorations, a medieval Ex Libris, and an architectural freehand drawing. Express your wish and let me try to capture it on paper or canvas.
When I am not working on a commission, I busy myself with freehand drawing. I grab an old, art book and copy masterpieces of the past. Or I find Iron Age art objects in museums and try to crawl into the mind of its long dead maker. Or I design Christmas cards, greetings cards, textile prints, or study traditional or ancient geometric signs (Celtic, Iron Age, Japanese, Aboriginal, Saxon). I haven’t been a day without feeling inspired and I would need a few more lives with more time to be able to grow through art, to deepen my understanding of art, and to honour artists that have enriched our lives. Without Bach’s music, we wander in the dark. Without art we fail to communicate the meaning of life.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

at Etsy

https://www.instagram.com/mindfuldrawing/?hl=en

Mandarin Ducks

Colourful mandarin duck watercolour paintings have been added to my Etsy shop.

The large composition consisting of an Asian landscape, a lotus pond, a turtle pond, and mandarin ducks was lovely to make. I felt inspired to make it after visiting the Volkenkundig Museum in Leiden, where I enjoyed the Asian department. As always, I was charmed by how Asian artist harmoniously combine natural and abstract representations of their surroundings.

Stay safe & take care.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

At Etsy

Lovely Mandarin ducks resting in a lotus filled duck pond. In the front a traditional, Korean duck couple.

Mandarin Ducks (Aix galericulata) by Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Mandarin Ducks Resting Under Lotus Plants
Etsy Mandarin Ducks Kader
Mandari Lotuspond Adjusted
Mandarin Ducks resting under Lush Lotus Plants
Mandarin Ducks Resting under Lush Lotus Plants with Gold Leaf Frame

A few of the many mandarin ducks that I have painted. More are at my Etsy shop.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

at Etsy

at Linktree

at Instagram

Two Mandarin Duck Couples

I like to show you two different mandarin duck drawings. In traditional Asian culture, mandarin ducks are believed to be lifelong couples, unlike other species of ducks. Hence they are regarded as a symbol of love, affection, and fidelity.

Mandarin ducks Lotus Pond warm.jpg
Mandarin Ducks in Lotus Pond copyright Paula Kuitenbrouwer

The first drawing is titled Matchmaking in Heaven. It shows a mandarin duck couple in a lotus pond. It is a softly rendered watercolour drawing. The pond is calm, lotus flowers are growing and so is the bond between this duck and drake deepening. The duck and drake have just decided to take a swim. They will look for food, synchronized as they are. They are life long partners and, like swans, will stay together. Lotus flowers are symbols of purity, enlightenment, self-regeneration and rebirth. In Asia, mandarin ducks represent love and loyalty. Seeing bonding ducks, seeing how synchronised they are, makes people long for a deep belonging, a deep bond between lovers. Love renews itself every day; it grows, it deepens and sometimes we need to stand still and take time to say ‘I love you’ to our beloved ones. Because, although we know it, expressing this during a day that is full of obligations, commitments, and ambitions is a good thing. Combining the Lotus symbol with the Mandarin ducks, this couple stays together to grow old and wise together. They feel reborn in their deepening love every season.

The other mandarin duck couple drawing has a longer story. I was about to add a new couple to my portfolio when I noticed the Fibonacci Sequence in one of my old sketches. I immediately set out to make a circular composition, adding two ducks shaped as in the well-know Fibonacci fashion. And after having done that successfully, I couldn’t stop and added parts of The Great Wave off Kanagawa by the Japanese artist Hokusai next to the mandarin ducks.

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Greate Wave.png

Now I had four Fibonacci elements in one drawing, as I recognized the Fibonacci sequence in Hokusai’s wave too. This mandarin duck couple, deeply in love with each other, is bathing in wild waters. In fact, they are so deeply bonded, they have no idea where they individually begin or end. They have become one in emotion and routine. They are also one with the waters they live in.

Fibonacci Sequence

The beautiful Hokusai wave, which could be interpreted as the pleasant and unpleasant high waves life throws at every couple, can’t separate them. They will stay together during their whole life; in high tide and low tide, in calm and difficult times, through day and night, till the end.

More Mandarin ducks are at my Etsy homepage & Instagram.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Forest Scene: Mandarin Ducks Resting on a River Bank

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

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

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

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

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

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

@mindfulfdrawing on Instagram (video  link)

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

www.mindfuldrawing.com

mindfuldrawing@gmail.com