Inspired by Kumamoto’s hanging scrolls

Book Find at a Mini Library

Have you come across mini libraries in your area? I came across one and found this highly inspiring book ‘The Floating World’ on Japanese hanging scrolls from Kumamoto’ published by Rijksmuseum/Waanders. I took it home and next day dropped off two books because that is how these street libraries work. These free, mini libraries are particularly important now that we are in a lockdown and most libraries, galleries, and museums are closed.

Grateful

I was so grateful! I learned so much from the book. It was such an aesthetically pleasure to study its many colourful illustrations. Consequently, I decided to design a hanging-scroll with traditional Sashiko wave patterns and floral designs. For the floral patterns I use the cute ‘Japanese Style Labels, Stickers & Tapes’ by Pepin Press. I do not copy; I do not enjoy spending time copying. By just leafing through these books I sense a reservoir of inspiration that will last for ages.

The Tenchi area is filled with an irregular wave pattern that will be done in traditional Indigo blue; Ichimonji is filled with floral patterns showing lots of chrysanthemum flowers, pieces of dark, curvy wood and white, small daisy -like meadow flowers.

Regular Updates

I will post regular updates of my work on my hanging scroll. What I aim for is a perfect composition of the painting within the Ichimonji (border), Chûmawashi (another decorative border), and for Tenchi (the background border). I am glad to know these names now. What I do not know is the name of the previous owner of my book. A huge thank-you to the anonymous person who left this book on a table in Utrecht’s shopping mall Hoog Catharijne. You made my day (well weeks, most likely years). May you enjoy the books that I left on the table. To all: put a table outside with books that have to make room for new ones. But take care; I read funny column named ‘Ikje’ in our Dutch @nrcnl newspaper that one person didn’t grab the concept of street libraries; he/she took the bookcase and left behind stack of vintage books.

Adding a Koi carp inspired by a postcard showing a wonderful embroidered gold work koi carp on indigo blue fabric.
Three koi carp are symbolizing a family; they are close, dynamic and in harmony. Copyright Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Return here so now and then and enjoy new updates photos of my work in progress. I will add many fine details in the borders. I am undecided yet about the main painting. Perhaps this could become your commission and you like me to add doves, mandarin ducks, trees or fruits in the main section?

Indigo blue and many colours green plus a splash of bronze for the waves.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

P.S. I checked the book-table two days later and my donated books were gone.

Commissions for your MA-Bird or your Kumamoto inspired Hanging Scroll with symbols of your family are open.

At Etsy

@mindfuldrawing on Instagram

Hercules Statute Utrecht Netherlands

In my hometown of Utrecht, on two Rococo houses alongside the ‘Nieuwe Gracht’, stands Hercules holding the sky onto his shoulders. The ancient story goes that Hercules has taken up the firmament for Atlas allowing the old Titan a brief moment of respite to take up one of his labours.

I had to correct Hercules’ legs because all reference photos are taken from street level, and Hercules stands on top of a four story house, and it therefore the statute showed too short legs. I’ve elongated Hercules’ legs to create a level frontal view.

Hercules looks strong, but he is a demigod and demigods can do things we mortals can not. Yet, the maker of this statute, the Dutch sculptor Ton Mooy, has given Hercules a tormented expression.

I kept wondering why I like this Hercules. When I was about to draw his hair and face, I remembered. I had seen this kind of hair and facial expression before. Hercules has the same hair as Vercingetorix (see photo) and a similar tormented expression as the statute of the Dying Gaul (see photo), an Ancient Roman Hellenistic sculpture. There is beauty in showing that extraordinary strength and bravery often comes with pain.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

At Etsy & at  Instagram

Bruntenhof Gate Utrecht

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

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

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

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

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Listed at Etsy & at Instagram

Contact me for questions:

Prehistoric Women Figurines

To deepen my understanding of female prehistoric figurines, I have set out to draw a few of them. Clockwise starting with tge middle-lower sitting woman, you find Courbet Venus, carved in a seated position, about 14.900 years old. Followed by the Venus of Polichinelle, carved in green steatite, 27.000 years old, found at Grimaldi. The strictly stylised engraved Lalinde Venus (there are more than one) found in Gönnersdorf in Germany, in Abri Murat and Gare de Couze in France, Pekárna in the Czech Republic, and Wilczyce in Poland. Stone Age. Further clockwise; Venus figures from Wilczyce, followed by another Gönnersdorf figurine. Then, Petersfels Venus that is made of jet, circa 15. 000 BP- 2.000 BP. Another Gönnersdorf engraving and last, Venus from Nebra, 15.000 years old, animal bone.

It makes you wonder, doesn’t it? You can’t possible blame prehistoric peoples for a lack of body diversity. But why the concentration on bellies and buttons, and why are heads and feet missing? Most look either emaciated, nursing or pregnant. Are some suffering from chronic diseases? Did it matter how a female looked like, or was the first piece of bone or stone vaguely resembling and therefore symbolising a (perhaps departed) woman okay for whatever ritual? Some look crudely abstract, others are enchantingly elegant, as if they are the first sketched outlines of ballerinas in action. I have chosen an ochre background as this pigment was hugely important to prehistoric peoples.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

at Etsy

At @mindfuldrawing on Instagram

Commissions welcome: contact me at mindfuldrawing@gmailc.om

Bookplate History Books Ex Libris

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I drew an engaging Ex Libris is for those who study, love, writes or owns (history) books. Or books on Prehistoric Peoples, Celts, Anglo Saxons, Viking, Medieval or Renaissance books. It shows many areas of interest starting at the Prehistory (top), following anti-clockwise with Saxon-Viking, Medieval and Renaissance border.  The inside patterned border is in style with the outer border; upper part shows an Celtic interlace pattern, followed by a Saxon pattern in the Saxon-Viking area, a Medieval, and elegant Renaissance pattern.

The bookshelves show special areas of interest too: the top book shelf shows history books on prehistory. They are all in soft red ochre, the colour that shows up on many prehistoric cave paintings. The book cover embellishments are based on research done by Genevieve von Petzinger, a scientist who identified pictographs used by prehistoric peoples in cave art. You see aviform, circle, cardiform, cruciform, negative and positive hands, serpentiform and so on. The next bookshelf is reserved for Celtic books, showing book-cover embellishments that are typical Celtic. Following is a shelf reserved for Saxon books, (notice ‘Saxon’ written in Saxon letters), and Viking books, showing ‘Viking’ as a transliteration (not as a translation). One bookshelf lower, the books get more colour as they contain Medieval books; the embellishments show a castle, a medieval ‘M’, a crown, flowers, etc. The lowest bookshelf proudly shows Renaissance books that have more bright colours and more floral and decorative embellishments.

The name box is for your name. Might I suggest you do that with sepia-brown ink?

The book plates make a lovely, special and unexpected gift as they are engaging and full details. In fact, one can sit down and take in all details for a long time. ‘Find the Dolmens…’ (in the Celtic border), ‘Admire Oxford’s Bridge of Sighs (Medieval border), ‘Can you locate Florence?’ (Renaissance section), ‘How many Viking shields do you spot?’ (Viking section). One could imagine that the Celtic roundhouses are located in an Irish-British landscape. The Saxon houses could be imagined in Germany. The Viking houses are located near a fjord. The Medieval houses are showing a busy town with less green, buildings are cramped together for defence reasons. The Renaissance buildings are full pride and glory. It must have been dazzling living in a Renaissance city. This Ex Libris shows West European history. It could, however, show another cultural aspect, for instance, a different time-line, a different history related to another part of the world, another religion, history or cultural aspect, a mathematical border, geographical, philosophical, musical, botanical, zoological one. I can draw any Ex Libris that shows personal preferences. Contact me to discuss your commission.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

At Etsy

This Ex Libris at Etsy

Postage Stamp Design

 

 

Recently, I found out that one can buy online postage stamps. It is very handy but such ‘post stamp’ appears to be a sudoku-like 9 square code that you pen down in the upper right corner of an envelope. Handy but disappointing, especially when you enjoy receiving a neatly handwritten envelope with an exotic postage stamp.

 

As so much digitalization is met with a return to pre-computer behaviour, like note booking, calligraphy, and snail-mail, I decided to return to using post stamps too. I bought a bag of old, hobby postage stamps that are used by Hobonichi journalling or notebook designing, and added them next to the postage codes. Somehow that didn’t do the job. And so, I set out to design a post stamp that shows a lovely nature scene, elegance, and spaciousness.

 

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Paula’s booklet at Amazon

The Post Stamp at Etsy

Paula’s Etsy shop

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Prehistoric Hands Invite and Confirm Communication with the Dead, by Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Positive hand-prints are stencilled with red ochre; white hand images are achieved by adding pigments around a hand

I like to present an idea about prehistoric positive and negative hand-prints that are found all over the world and dating from circa 40.000 to 1.000 BCE. I read a message into the difference of red and white hand-prints. The message, to my understanding, is that both hand-prints testify of successful communication with deceased souls. Why I have come to this thesis, I will explain.

I.

There is research stating that prehistoric peoples believed that the soul of the dead lived on in rock or in stone (stones or stone walls). If this sounds strange, think of modern examples that resonate with this belief: we have the venerated Wailing Wall, we touch stone tombs, crosses, statutes, and monuments or lay flowers at the foot of them showing our respect.

Thinking that the soul of the dead lived on in stone isn’t hard to imagine as stone is everlasting (apart from some eroding) and impenetrable. The ever-lasting and impenetrable quality of stone symbolizes death; people are away for ever and out of reach. But are they? Not to prehistoric peoples who lived in their world full animal, nature or ancestral spirits. For communication with the deceased, the living sought their ancestral spirits in special places; deep in caves, high on mountains or hills.

We do the same. We visit graveyards, throw flowers in bodies of water, send our prayers to heaven. Or we hold close memorabilia, things prehistoric people didn’t have. Imagine being without memorabilia to hold close in times of grief. Imagine how important it was for prehistoric people to communicate with the dead; to ask for their advice and wisdom. Or to invite them back into the world of living, which was an obvious thing to do as prehistoric people lived with the spirits of their dead, they were dwelling in their house, in their lakes or on nearby hilltops. Inviting back family members or tribal leaders who had stood out and were important or even regarded irreplaceable, isn’t a huge mind-stretch when one assumes his or her spirit is lingering nearby and shamans could journey to the spirit world to communicate with these valuable and beloved tribal members.

II.

There are many different interpretations of the functions of cave hand stencils. They are seen as ancient fingerprint identifications; ‘I have been here in this cave’. Or as traffic signs, informing us about the location of fertile hunting grounds, or they were handshakes (one tribe is greeting another tribe). In any case, hand-prints were serving a form of communication. The most remarkable fact about prehistoric hand stencils to me, for me observed as an artist, is that they come as positive and negative prints, creating red and white hand images.

Making red and white hand images requires a different technique, which, to me, shows two different communications are expressed; the message of light-against-dark hand-prints versus dark-against-light hand prints.

From here, we could assume that the hand-prints that were red, were the hand-prints of the living expressed with red ochre being the colour of blood and thus of the living. The white hand-prints are the hand-prints that expressing and representing the deceased. They are white because being dead is being bloodless, pale or white.

A cave that shows hand-prints, both reddish and whitish, holds a message to visitors that this is a sacred place, a ‘thin’ place, a penetrable place where communication with the spirit world is possible and successful. Supportive of this thesis is that a few speleologists (Chauvet cave, France) felt ‘spirits of long ago’ after discovering a prehistoric cave.

On some cave paintings many hand-prints are found, illogically applied, some easy within reach, others not so easy to apply. It seems like that prehistoric people were trying to locate the thinnest place of the walls, that, as a thin veil or membrane, was hanging as a semi-permeable divide between the world of the living and the dead, allowing communication with the dead. As a doctor feels a patient, as an artist feels a canvas, as a blind person feels a face, so prehistoric people felt a wall, trying to make contact and marking their hands as red, as from the living. Where they felt contact with spirits, with the deceased, they set white hand-prints to mark communication was established. Should they return to the depths of a cave, they could use the marks on the wall.

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III

We know that hand-prints were often applied by women (Professor Dean Snow of Pennsylvania State University) but certainly not all of them as there are also hand-prints of both genders and of all ages. Still, it is important to know that most were female hand-prints. What is the extra value of women over men? Let me be succinct and point out to reproduction. Only within a woman’s body reproduction can take place and a soul can descend into a fertile womb. This quality of a woman had her, more than others, touch prehistoric cave walls inviting a spirit back into her womb. Again, I like to point out how prehistoric caves resemble human flesh, with their stalagmites and stalactites resembling membranes, male and female genitals.

To enter Earth’s womb made prehistoric people set of long and laborious journeys into dark and dangerous deep caves. Then, arriving there, in a womb like interior, performing or reacting a conception ritually (and perhaps not only ritually as the cave of Laussel suggests), but more importantly spiritually by communicating with the dead must have been a consolatory and a rewarding ritual when, a few months later, a baby was welcomed to the community. Communications with the dead might have been assisted through shamanistic rituals, enhanced by the illusions the visual stimulating cave paintings created, and by the intake of paint pigments, which might have been used as psychedelic drugs.

Perhaps shamans or psychedelic drugs weren’t even needed. Imagine changing stages of consciousness by dwelling for a longer time deep in a cave that is completely dark and still, in a cave that isn’t affected by the outside world. No rain, no wind, no thunder, no light other than that of torches and ear deafening silence. Imagine the smell of smoke and a sense of being inside a living organism that shows its fleshy interior. This was the strange world where the dead lived as it was cold and dark, yet it looked alive and organic too. Here you were as close to the dead as possible and here communication with the dead should be able to take place.

A combination of a wish to communicate with the deceased, alternating stages of consciousness, and the belief that the dead were dwelling behind these fleshy walls, inside an organism in which you had descended too, here contact with the dead was possible. Although the deceased lived in stone, these fleshy coloured walls, seemed to move and pulsate under the lights of torches, and these walls didn’t look impenetrable.

It was a matter of finding the thinnest spot, but touching, by feeling the wall. And thus, the thinnest curve in a rock that allowed communications were touched with red hand prints. And if prehistoric cave dwellers felt communicating with a deceased family or tribal member was answered, a white hand print, was added with a white hand stencil signature.

A supporting idea for white hand prints marking established contact with the dead, is to be found the hardship a small community suffered by crawling into a deep cave, a seriously dangerous and laborious task, a task that was only worth to be undertaken if it served a cause worth its hardship and danger. Bringing back a wise dead family or tribal member would fit such cause. Not only as a remedy against overwhelming sense of loss, also to regain wisdom, elementary knowledge or status to a tribe.

What can be brought up against my idea? Many things, like that some hand prints were from men and children. However, it isn’t hard to imagine a grief-stricken child in need for communication with a lost parent being helped by other tribal members or their shaman. Refuting my idea by stating that if white hands represented the dead touching and answering to the call, these hands should have been mirrored, fails as one can’t touch a stone wall from within. But one can use different coloured hand-prints.

CONCLUSION

Putting a few aspects together; hand prints serving communication, prehistoric people thinking that their ancestors lived on in the world of rock, most hand prints were applied by women, supports an idea that pregnant women were assisted by their tribe or community to enter a cave, touch the ancestral world in order to communicate with a deceased soul to invite them back into the realm of the living. Red hand prints were left on cave-walls as to testify people attempted to contact deceased tribal members, white hand images were added as a sign communicating with the dead had taken place.

Hand images have emerged around the world over a period of some 40,000 years. Any symbol, be it a hand or a circle, can represent a multiplicity of meanings and motives or change in their meaning related to rituals, sacred rites or ceremonies. I have highlighted only my idea. There are many ideas and theories.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Artist/Philosophy M.A.

N.B. Inevitably I am, as a lay person, simplifying and generalizing archaeological research. I hold a degree in Philosophy, studied ‘Religion and Rituals in Prehistory’ at Oxford Department of Continuing Education, and have read many books on prehistoric art. My essay is presenting an idea, unpretentiously, and it welcomes criticism.

Ma, a Japanese aesthetic principle, in my three bird drawings

I’d like to show three paintings in which I have incorporated Ma, a Japanese aesthetic principle. Ma is described as ‘an interval in time and/or space’, thus referring to empty spaces, vagueness or abstraction. Empty spaces, in which nothing seems to happen, are full of possibilities. How do my three birds deal with Ma in their portraits?

Ekster by Paula Kuitenbrouwer

For my portrait of Magpie, Korea’s national bird, I added orange colour to compensate for a magpie’s black and white plumage. To stay close to her Korean habitat, I decided to position Magpie on a colourful and fruit-bearing persimmon branch, heavily laden with pumpkin-shaped kaki. Magpie is content with her portrait, and so am I.

Crow Kraai by Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Setting up a composition for a portrait of Carrion Crow was a little harder. Negotiations with this proud and cheeky bird were tough. I talked him into sitting on a mountain ash branch, but initially he didn’t agree with my decision of pushing him a little to the rear.

‘You are an indigo blue-ivory black bird’, I explained by pointing out that humans don’t like black things. I explained that I could trick humans in loving his plumage by adding the rich palette of colours of an autumn Mountain Ash.

‘This branch has fresh green, bright orange and deep red, and will charm viewers in loving your monotonous black feathers. And if I use a diagonal composition, I can guide the viewer along the branch, climbing up from deep red, through the bright orange to sap green. After such a colourful journey, people don’t mind a bit of solid black. But to do that, I told Carrion Crow, I have to push you a little to one side, but that is okay. Reluctantly, Carrion Crow agreed.

Sparrowhawk by Paula Kuitenbrouwer

My sparrow-hawk demanded to sit high and mighty on the top branch of a proud pine tree. The world of humans doesn’t interest him. He soars above it, looking down on our wars over oil, mass migration and our overheated, overpopulated world.

Sparrow-hawk knows he has this intricately textured and awesome coat of feathers, which makes fashion designers drool. Not much is needed next to such an eye-catching bird; two almost evenly-coloured pine cones complete the portrait. Sparrowhawk sat down just long enough for me to make a portrait, and, without so much as a ‘thank-you’, flew off to his own world, soaring high above ours.

Back to Ma.. In all three bird portraits you’ll notice considerable emptiness. My birds seem to look into this emptiness. What do they see? A suitable partner? Prey? Are they guarding their hidden nests? Are they exploring new horizons?

Ma is for you to fill in with your imagination, with your story-telling, your ornithological knowledge or poetry. But Ma can also be left open. We don’t need to fill in empty spaces with projections, trauma, words or sounds. Ma offers a thinking pause or escape from our train of thoughts.

Magpie, Carrion Crow and Sparrow-hawk understand Ma naturally. We are enchanted when we see a bird resting on a tree branch and we long to be like them: resting in Ma, accepting the here and now.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

@mindfuldrawing on Instagram

At Etsy.

Commissions for other themed Ma drawings are open.

Commissions your Kumamoto inspired Hanging Scroll with your family (symbolizes by flowers, patterns and animals).

I invite you to have a look at my portfolio on Etsy and Instagram. You might like to watch the videos of me drawing in Etsy and Instagram too.

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