What is Cassandra Syndrome?

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

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

Cassandra by Ferdinand Rothbart

A TAD BIT LONGER

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

IN DEPTH

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

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

PROPHESY

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

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

DISBELIEF

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

Max Klinger, Cassandra, 1893

Have you ever suffer Cassandra Syndrome?

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

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

THREE PERSONAL NARRATIVES ON CASSANDRA SYNDROME

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

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

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

How many women (and men) -do you think- have been Cassandra during a time in their lives?

My guess? Too many. Far too many.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

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

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

THE ANATOMY OF A FAILED CHARACTER ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT

Ina, a former arts & crafts teacher, tells her story about a failed character assassination attempt. Her narrative does not focus on the causes or conflicts that lie at the roots of the 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.

Medieval Illuminated Manuscript
of a Phoenix burning and regenerating itself. Ina says that she adopted the phoenix as her role model. She got burned but regenerated herself.

Ina’s interview takes place inside 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. Reluctantly Ina 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 struck 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, 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. 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. 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 dumb the content. 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 hangout. 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 (and my family) to absorb other people’s hate and discontentment.

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 one’s self esteem. I will not sum up the long list of areas 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 choices, what I said-thought-felt, the way I looked… my husband, his work, his voluntary work, even my child, nothing got spared. I noticed many characteristics of conspiracy thinking too: deep and unfounded suspicion, blaming without evidence, no fair hearing (jumping to conclusions or unsubstantiated ideas). 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 boringly 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. Yeh, 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 my family and I received a physical threat and a death-wish, we were 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’.

Workshop of Marinus van Reymerswale Two Tax-Gatherers probably 1540.

‘I asked myself what in my life had been left untouched by hate. There was not much left. Realizing this, I knew it was about a need for hating, 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 problem. 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 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’.

Peasant Mother by David Alfaro Siqueiros. To Ina this painting shows there are times you feel surrounded by cacti.

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’.

Phoenix Regenerating, Aberdeen University Library: showing a Phoenix after its regeneration.

‘During the prolonged attacks, I felt as if I had died a bit inside. A crisis can break or make you. I opted for the latter. 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’.

I learned that people are shockingly easy to mobilize against another person. All somebody has to do is preying on their 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; ‘I’ll 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 lawyers which could have better 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’.

–XXX–

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 the Artist Studio and 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.

OTHER BLOG POSTS:

What is Cassandra Syndrome?

What is Cassandra Syndrome and have you ever suffered Cassandra Syndrome? Artist Paula Kuitenbrouwer sheds light on this syndrome by weaving definitions, illustrations, and personal narratives together.

What is Future Faking?

What is Future Faking? Artist Paula Kuitenbrouwer illustrates her definition of what Future Faking is with the Ancient Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice.

Midwinter Holiday Season Christmas Art Cards 2022

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

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

Midwinter Forest
Six languages

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

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

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

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

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

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

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What is Future Faking?

I could have been living the life of Esme, the main character in The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams, going through my days learning new words. When I am reading and I come across a new word, I use a dictionary and make notes. New words are intriguing. I like to share a (to me) new word and accompany it with some personal reflections and artwork.

FUTURE FAKING

Future Faking is when a person lies or promises something regarding your future in order to get what they want in the present. It is often used in the context of men telling lies to women. For instance, a man does not like to bring a relationship to the next level but also do not like his girlfriend dating others, thus promising a future. His lies sound like ‘When I introduce you to my parents’ or ‘When we go on holiday together’. That is future faking (if it turns out to be a lie). The same counts for gifts, inheritances, and rewards. ‘Take care (of me), work hard, stay loyal, and one day you will receive a reward’. Or, ‘One day I will deal with my indebtedness towards you’. But that day never comes. The rewards or gifts never materialize, hence the faked future.

Apparently, women suffer more from future faking than men. When it comes to trust, women are more gullible (forgive me this generalization). Perhaps this is because women do not easily negotiate proper payment, deadlines, promotions, or rewards (forgive me also this generalization). A woman asking for a raise, a promotion, or expenses is often seen as unbecoming, over-assertive. Because the natural state of a woman should be voluntary caring anyway, so way pay?

MY EXPERIENCE & MY ADVICE

I have suffered a good dose of future faking, both personally as well as business-wise. Once, I was promised a compensation for caring/assistive work that I had done for many years. After waiting and waiting, I mustered the courage and asked for it (friendly). What followed was moral indignation and conflict. Instead of being compensated, I was shamed. Not the person -who for years ‘forgot’ or postponed to compensate me- was being accused of being shameful, but me a woman asking for a compensation was breaking traditional rules.

I also have a word of caution for young (or new) female artists. Beware of future faking whilst building a business as an artist. ‘Exhibit your art for free’ -followed by a future faking- ….’and you will gain a lot of exposure’. And that will bring in sales. Or, ‘Let me do some P.R. for your art’. Or ‘You will gain followers‘, which are exactly that ‘followers‘, not customers. I believed it, foolishly. But the promised results never happened; the only thing that de facto happened was giving away art for free. My advice is to never take the future-faking-bait. You should always make signed arrangements on paper or draft a contract to prevent future faking.

Are you now more aware of future faking before you knew the word? Do you have a more acute awareness of this manipulative trick?

ILLUSTRATING FUTURE FAKING

When it comes to choosing an illustration for this blog-post, my head swirled with stories. God and Moses and the opening of the seas? No. That was a case of a kept promise. ‘(Exodus 14:21) Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided.” Moses reaches the holy land. No future faking.

I have chosen Orpheus and Eurydice trying to walk out of the Underworld to illustrate this blog-post.

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Orpheus Leading Eurydice from the Underworld, 1861

Hades, god of the Underworld, promises that Orpheus is allowed to guide Eurydice out of the Underworld as long as he does not look back at his beloved Eurydice during their perilous journey. What does this mean?

In Hades’s Underworld dwell those who have died. Orpheus can’t accept that Eurydice has died and thus has parted from him. Orpheus descends into the Underworld to plea for his reunification with Eurydice. Hades promises Orpheus a future with Eurydice however Hades’s promise is conditioned: Orpheus is not allowed to look back at Eurydice during their journey out of the Underworld.

During their journey, Eurydice is in tremendous need for support, and constantly begs Orpheus to check on her during the long and perilous journey to the end of the Underworld. Imagine the darkness, the horrors. Moments before stepping out of the Underworld, Orpheus can’t ignore Eurydice’s need for his encouragement anymore. He looks over his shoulder to Eurydice (‘Is she still there?) and by doing that he irretrievably loses his Eurydice to Hades again. He was just about to live with Eurydice again and have a future with her, when he loses her again). The suspense in this story is breath-taking and has inspired musicians, writers, and painters forever).

Hades knows beforehand that it is impossible for Eurydice to leave the underworld. As long as Eurydice dwells in the Underworld and does not see daylight, the natural order of things (Eurydice being dead) is not breached. Read: ‘no-one is brought back to life after having died’ but close to entering daylight, Orpheus loses Eurydice because Hades will never give up his power over his realm of death. However, this does not withhold Hades from perfectly preying on the deep longing of Orpheus for Eurydice.

The moment Orpheus looks at Eurydice, she slips back into the underworld.
Orpheus and Eurydice by Carl Andreas August Goos  (1797–1855) 

Hades foresees that Orpheus will feel an overwhelming urge to support the vulnerable Eurydice along their journey. Is she still following his footsteps? Has she fallen back? Does she still trust him when he is not making eye contact with her? Has the darkness swallowed her? Orpheus loses Eurydice but he was never able to retrieve her from the underworld in the first place. Odysseus is deceived by Hades. Hades has made a false -future- promise. Orpheus and Eurydice being united again after her death? No. Impossible. Too good to be true, future faking in hindsight.

Perhaps the end of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice is the most haunting. Orpheus has given it all; he has ‘convinced’ Hades and has tried to guide Eurydice out of the Underworld. Yet, he loses Eurydice twice. A double heartbreak is too much for Orpheus. He becomes so pitiable, being alone (again), that he is murdered by malicious wood nymphs. Perhaps Orpheus’ death symbolizes that something dies after a breach of trust.

Death of Orpheus (1494) by Dürer

Future Faking has inspired writers to great stories and artists to haunting paintings. Forgive yourself when you have been a victim of future faking, but don’t make the same mistake twice.

THE MORALE:

Future faking is a highly manipulative method; its relational or emotional damage should not be underestimated.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer
Commission artist living in Utrecht, the Netherlands, and owner, artist, and writer at Mindfuldrawing.com. Mindfuldrawing.com is a personal blog full art, art-appreciation, art-musings, and essays on art plus artwork made by Paula Kuitenbrouwer.

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.

Paula has a lovely 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.

Commission your Fengshui Mandarin Duck Artwork

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

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

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.

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

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

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A Dystopian Creative Writing Challenge

I wrote ‘Felix 120’ as a contribution to the writing challenge ‘Write like Kazuo Ishiguro a dystopian piece of max 500 words’. I received encouraging feedback: ‘Your darkest and best piece so far’, which surprised me because I do not favour dystopian literature. That said, I highly admire Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never let me go and The Buried Giant. Allow me to share my writing with you.

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FELIX 120

Once upon a time there was a man named Felix, and goodness, did he live up to the meaning of his name happy and lucky. Felix rode the waves of the economic boom following the Second World War which meant that he could afford the life he had in mind. He loved his life. In fact, he loved no one or nothing more than his life. This wasn’t surprising after all; he had been able to turn disadvantages into advantages. Felix was the embodiment of the principle that effective egoism is best achieved by calculated altruism. Thus his life was long and fortunate. Health-wise he was lucky too. Not only had his deceased wife helped him through all the minor health troubles he had had during their time together, Felix was also blessed with a strong immune system. He survived a war and two pandemics brilliantly. In fact, so blessed was he that it was hard to glow in his shadow.

Felix set out to become a centenarian, which he did with ease and in good health. It slowly became obvious that he stood a good chance to become 120, even 122, which scientists regard as the limit of a human life. When Felix turned 100, a few remaining children attended his birthday but when Felix turned 118 it was a lonely business. His last children had expired in their eighties due to a combination of fragile health and the four year lasting nuclear winter following North Korea’s bomb.

The mayor of Felix’s town paid his annual obligatory visit to his city’s oldest man, Felix. Cheerfully the major advised to all that were in the room, a medium sized cooled cell, to enjoy each other ‘whilst they were still alive together’. The director of the retirement home quickly whispered to the mayor that there was no family present. Later, after Felix was hauled to bed by his robotic nurse, the mayor and director walked to the exit exchanging some facts and figures.

‘Any children left?’ the major inquired.

‘No, only a few grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Rumor has it that they all moved north’. The mayor was well aware of the ‘moving north’ phrase; it meant escaping global warming by moving closer to the arctic circle.

‘Who pays for his Aircocoon and assisting robot then?’ asked the mayor.

‘He himself’ said the director, ‘Felix is a man of great self-preservation’.  

The director and mayor continued their walk to the exit passing tens of cocoons. Soft neon lights and whooshing sounds of bleeping assistive nurses emanated from the cabins.

Outside a scorching sun burned down on the roof of the former warehouse.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

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Whilst googling for illustrative pictures -to my surprise- I found photos of a Japanese assistive robot that is capable of putting immobilized patients to bed. During my writing, I had projected these robots in the future, however after I had written my piece, I learned that their implementation into nursing homes is well on its way.

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.OTHER BLOG POSTS AND LINKS:

CONTACT FORM:

P.S. My wood duck composition is ready and available at Etsy.

My shop is at ETSY. Please, feel invited to contact me directly should you be interested in my art.

I am currently very inspired by our recent stay in the Cotswolds. Expect some lovely medieval paintings before the end of this year!

Listen to Intuition

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

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

Not many seconds later a suicidal squad of weasels crossed the road just in front of our car. I braked (reflex), stopped breaking (for fear of being hit by someone driving behind us) and asked full stress 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 90% 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 when ten lorries are passing.

Driving through the lazy countryside, at sunset, with very little traffic to worry about, I did pick up 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 the director (male/ female) allows you to act with his/her overview and wisdom.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

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

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

Stay happy and cool,

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Paula holds an MA degree in Philosophy and she is the owner of 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.

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.

  • What is Cassandra Syndrome?

    What is Cassandra Syndrome and have you ever suffered Cassandra Syndrome? Artist Paula Kuitenbrouwer sheds light on this syndrome by weaving definitions, illustrations, and personal narratives together.


  • THE ANATOMY OF A FAILED CHARACTER ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT

    Ina tells her story about a failed character assassination attempt. Ina tells how she dealt with being bullied and hopes that her story helps others.


  • Midwinter Holiday Season Christmas Art Cards 2022

    Order your Midwinter Christmas Holiday postcards and note-cards at Paula Kuitenbrouwer’s Etsy shop now and receive them well before the happy holidays of winter 2022.


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

A bit of musing can yield astounding results.

Success!

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

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.

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.

Portraying the Young and the Old

When you compare and contrast taking care of a toddler and geriatric person, you find yourself dealing with brain growth and brain damage. It is simply wonderful, in fact enchanting, to read aloud to your child and see how your child absorbs knowledge, language, and illustrations as a dried-out sponge. This is such a rewarding and pleasant, if not addictive, task, it brings pure joy. That lovely warm body of a relaxed child to hold close to you, seeing these beautiful big eyes staring at illustrations, and these sweet small fingers pointing out what riddles him or her.

Taking care of a geriatric person is completely different. It feels like a Sisyphean task. (What is a Sisyphean Task, click here). There is forgetfulness, decline, less energy, and an increasing need for rest. Eventually, just like taking care of a baby, you end up just sitting close, holding hands and dwelling in the here and now without expectation or ambition.

Roman sculpture: Silenus with Dionysus by Lysippos. Glyptothek Museum Munich Germany

I had an uncle who was full of character. He thought that the old only had a ‘nuisance value’. He was in his late seventies when he talked about this, so we laughed off his notions. The first time he made my husband and me aware of his old age ‘nuisance value’ ethics was when he had to stop his car (in which we sat) and wait a long time for a very old person, bending like a crooked tree branch, to cross a street. All the while step… wait… step… wait. .…my uncle shared his philosophy on nonexistent values of old age. He knew that old men often become aggressive and very old women often grow depressed. To him there was no way out of this Sisyphean predicament other than dying on time, which he did.

Whether you agree or disagree with the nuisance value philosophy, we need to nourish one’s soul, keep the brain going (or prevent further declining), and see that sharing every ounce of love is worth the effort.

Guido Reni’s St. Joseph with infant Jesus; the beauty of young and old united. For more on this painting click here.

The difference between taking care of a toddler and an old person is that with a toddler you are gearing all education towards gaining independence in the future. Whereas with an old person, you accept the loss of independence and find comfort in sharing memories about the past. One embraces the inevitable and inescapable short timeline we all have. Whilst it is so incredibly fulfilling to witness the growth of a child and its growing cognitive capacities, it takes courage to come to terms with loss, with a brain that is shutting down operations. That said, is it therefore not wondrous that in an old person, childhood memories are so manifest? The first memories that were written in stone (in the brain) are those who will disappear last. I find incredible comfort in this because it shows that a healthy and happy childhood keeps its value for a lifetime. That said, it is also an urgent reminder how we need to take excellent care of every single child’s early life. (‘It is easier to raise a happy child than to fix a broken man’)

As an artist, I like to add that painters overall seem to be more inspired by old age than by young life. A baby is a tabula rasa, a clean slate, nothing written on it yet. It is lovely, beautiful and adorable, yet it has no depth. A baby is like an angel, pure, and alluding to heavenly innocence.

Raphael’s baby Jesus with Maria

Take the old, they have lived. Lived! Life has thrown 101 blessings and troubles to them. They have dealt with war, conflict, illnesses, labour and misfortune. Oldies have weathered heavy storms. How did they do that and what resilience shows in their countenances? They have turned into wise sages or mean, ugly elves with too large ears. It is an inspiring challenge paint an old man or woman; trying to capture the many layered life experiences that a human being has endured, the blessings and damage they are responsible for, the rewards and punishments.

The same counts for painting a sea or body of water. A calm sea only mirrors the heavens (like babies do), whilst a stormy sea is great fun for an artist; one hardly can’t go wrong with the wildness and chaos of high waves and lots of foam (just like the wrinkles in an old person’s face).

Christian Seybold (1695 – 1768) Portrait of an older woman.
Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden, Germany

Make sure you have lived…because life has been given to you and staying a young is no option. Keep your brain active, keep your enthusiasm going. Accept high waves. Make sure that when you get your portrait done to give a painter enough wrinkles. Makes sure you give a biographer enough soul.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Dutch artist at Etsy & Instagram & 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.

De meeste familieleden en vrienden zullen minstens een paar lachbuien herinneren wanneer hun gedachten teruggaan naar Michael. Met Michael kon je serieus praten maar ook goed lachen. Zo herinner ik me een langlauftocht nabij Inzell (Duitsland) waarbij Michael zonder enige schroom een afdaling inzette en terecht kwam in een privé garage, om daar vervolgens nauwelijk uit te kunnen klimmen niet in de laatste plaats omdat de rest krom lag van het lachen. Ook denk ik (ik zeker niet alleen) terug aan hoe hilarisch Michael de schuld aan het ijs gaf wanneer hij tijdens het schaatsen viel. Met zijn schaatsbeschermers gaf hij dan het ijs een bestraffende klap. Michael was niet snel beledigd en ook had hij een flink incasseringsvermogen. Een doorzetter in hart en nieren.

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.

In youth we learn; in age we understand.

Michael en ik in onze pyjamaatjes. Nog even buiten spelen! ca. 1965.

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

Lighting a candle at the first anniversary of Michael’s birthday in the parish church of Woodstock, Oxfordshire.
Memorial 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 keep a pandemic/lockdown diary assuming that years from now I -again- would find it interesting to read back how my loved ones and I sailed through this unusual, pandemic time.

My Paperblanks Diaries

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Paula holds an MA degree in Philosophy and she is the owner of 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.

Paula’s art shop at Etsy

Paula’s portfolio at Instagram

Paula’s links at Linktree

Valentine’s Day equals Mandarin Ducks

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

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

Oh, that is nice!

Oh, look at the card from …’

How kind!’

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

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

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

Paula Kuitenbrower

At Etsy

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Artists Stay Well Balanced

“How are things going creatively?”

“Very well, thank you”

And how about your creative energy?”

“Actually…really well, surprisingly”.

THE PANDEMIC AND ARTISTS

I have discussed the effects of the pandemic with many of my artist friends. I was wondering whether they loathed or embraced various lockdowns? I found out that long weeks or months at home brought them deep focus and a relief from the continuous time crunches they often experience combining art-making and family life.

However, I observed more. A pandemic causes many people to lose their equilibrium. Anxiety sets in and various lockdowns cause mass stir craziness and cabin-fever. People have become so aggressive! The Netherlands saw a huge increase of domestic or family violence towards women and children. There is such road rage on highways too. It is like people have become mad.

To the other end of the spectrum of mental health, people have also grown depressed. There is a radicalization of feelings due to a lack of social contact. It is not good for people to feel trapped because that easily leads to restlessness, anxiety or being agitated. Not that we should all pollute the air with kerosene again, but being cooked up at home is a hardship for most of us.

WELL BALANCED

But interestingly artists, avid readers, and musicians seem to suffer less problems (disclaimer, so it seems in my social circles) because they do a lot of mind traveling. They transport themselves to artistic, literary or musical realms and go on about their days making music, painting canvases, and reading books. In fact, for many artist friends the numerous lockdowns have been productive and inspirational, (though less profitable because of closed concert halls, galleries and shops).

ARISTOTLE’S GOLDEN MEAN

How can we explain this? Let us turn to Aristotle’s Golden Mean. The golden mean, or golden middle way is the desirable middle between two extremes. If aggression is an excess of energy, depression is a deficiency of energy. Let us go back to those who lost their equilibrium and became aggressive. Aggression is a deficiency of despondency; there is too much stirring up bad energies. It is extreme to be aggressive. It shows an excess of boiled up energy.  Depression is a shortage of aggression, of combativeness; it is a lack of energy. It is extreme too. One should neither be aggressive nor depressed. One should have healthy, harmonious energy. So, if aggression and depression are two extremes, what or which is the golden mean state of being? What is the middle between aggression and depression? That is initiative, or resourcefulness, or name it creativity.

Take a difficult meeting in which compromises must be made. Those with too much aggressive energy walk out. Those who give up, look hollow-eyed. But those who have healthy energy show creativity, offering creative ways out of a deadlock.

#Artheals #Nevernotmaking

This creativity, imagination, this resourcefulness and initiative, did we just describe Aristotle’s’ golden mean or did we focus on personal characteristics of artists by naming inventiveness, creativity, resourcefulness and imagination? We did both. I think that the personal traits of an artist keep an artist well balanced and resilient during lockdown. Artists will resort to their habits of creating, taking initiative, keeping their creative juices flowing. #nevernotmaking is a trending hashtag on Instagram. So is #artheals. I see it with all my creative friends: they fare well through lockdowns. Of course, there are boring days, but depression? No. Aggression? No. Creativity? Yes, plenty of it.

Open museums and concert halls

Now that is established how important art making and art is, why not open up our (Dutch) cultural sector? Why are shops now open but museums and podiums closed? Apparently, it is because our government aims to keep us local (not spreading the virus). People are discouraged to travel beyond their region to visit museums or concerts. But in the light of this hyper contagious Omicron, this is a lost fight. Omicron will come as a tsunami and nobody will be spared. Open up our creative and cultural sector because it is hugely important to collectively feel well balanced. Art should not be an afterthought; it lies at the heart of our well being.

So how are you keeping?”

Very well, really

“How come?”

“Because I have more time for drawing!”

I hope artists inspire others becoming creative too. Prevent depression and aggression by engaging in artistic, musical, and literary activities.

Love,

Paula

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Living Dying Battling

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 took 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.

‘Generaals Sterven in Bed’, a Dutch book on WWII. Generals die lying in beds.

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.

Dead Soldier, unknown (Italian) painter. Notice the skull and bones that symbolize death in case you overlooked the bloodless colour of the soldier’s face.

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.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

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.

Paula’s shop is at Etsy

Paula’s art portfolio is at Instagram

But above all, @ her workstation drawing, drawing and drawing.

What is a Sisyphean Task?

Sisyphean by Titian

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

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

What is your Sisyphean task? Read on….

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

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

What is Your Sisyphean Task?

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

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

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

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

Test you Knowledge, Questions & Lesson Ideas

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

Is Sisyphus preforming a Herculean task?

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

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

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

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

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

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Paula holds an MA degree in Philosophy and she is the owner of 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.

Commission Artist at Utrecht

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RELATED AND RECENT BLOG POSTS:

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.

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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

Op Instagram

Donating Renewing Inspiration Part II

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

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

Paula’s art portflio at Instagram

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

At Etsy

At Instagram

At Linktree

Donating Renewing Inspiration Part I

What do you do when you face another international move and you are only allowed to bring a maximum of x square meters of personal belongings? You donate; you donate like mad. In South-Korea, I donated baby and toddler furniture to a local orphanage. In East-Europe, I donated to local friends. In Belgium, I drove a few times to a charity shop and in Ireland I posted furniture and stuff on Facebook (all was collected in no time). At home, I have a circle of friends and the Dutch vintage shop Kringloop for donating stuff and furniture. Shedding skin is never a sad thing; it is a good thing to donate. It de-clutters, it forces you to move one, and as a result you do not live in the past.

But what about my art? Luckily my older drawings do not take up much space. I store them in a portfolio and 4-5 portfolio maps may be heavy but square-meter wise are neglectable. Still, it is a good thing to go through your portfolio and say bye-bye to drawings and paintings that haven’t sold and therefore one could depart from. Nothing is holy or beyond scrutinizing its beauty, usefulness or what feelings objects provoke.

What Helps You To Select?

I have read books on this and I like to offer three perspectives. The first one is by the famous Marie Kondo. She offers you a selection criterion stating you must love an item in order to keep it. I discussed this with a friend and we both think that is too simplistic, after all you can love trash, you could love useless stuff, or you are attached to an object because you feel obliged to pass it on to the next generation.

Then there is Eva Jarlsdotter’s decluttering’s working thesis encouraging you to do research into what items (furniture, clothing, a huge basket full laundry) costs as in taking up space, working on your emotions (for instance irritation), or as costing you time (to clean, to move around). I did this for our laundry cycle and drew interesting conclusions which lead to changing habits.

Art inspires art: my ‘Ode to William Morris’s Trellis’ on a painter’s easel with our new Morris’s wallpaper in the background.

Last, there is William Morris, the much admired and famous British multi-talented artist who simply states that:

‘Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful’.

Perhaps all three combined offer the best evaluation, Jarlsdotter’s economic thesis, Kondo’s minimalist strategy, and Morris’ passionate direction. We need to surround ourselves with only beauty and useful things because it makes living so much more pleasurable.

As an ode to William Morris’ passionate and inspiring call for more beauty, about a year ago I chose his elegant Snakehead wallpaper and renewed our bedding. Shedding skin does not have to be a bad thing. The effect can be very uplifting. And, despite these beautiful photos, it does not have to be expensive. Our local vintage shops are full of lovely and affordable items. They say that one person’s trash is another persons’ treasure. But let me say; one person’s treasure can be another persons’ treasure. Donating is important; gifting is important. It causes a flow of things, it prevents stagnation, and it offers you a renewed feeling.

My Mandarin Duck Gouache painting with William Morris Wallpaper in the background

The most important thing, next to William Morris’ advice, is that you need to surround yourself not only with beautiful and useful things but also with things that hold good memories or radiate inspiration. To me, personally, this rings truth because art inspires art.

In ‘William Morris in 50 Objects‘, I read more on Morris’s quest for surrounding yourself with beautiful things. I quote from No. 24 Morris explaining the importance of the decorative arts. He regarded ‘beauty’ as a basic human need that could only be satisfied by the best possible art. By ‘art’ he meant not just paintings or sculpture, but the home furnishings that surrounds us in our everyday life.

Donating Renewing Inspiration Part II is here.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

At Etsy

At Linktree

At Instagram

How to Draw

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

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

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

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

At Etsy

At Instagram

At Linktree

Work in Progress and Seeing Ahead

Copyrighted sketch by Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Sometimes I take a photo of my first layer of graphite. As I use Derwent H7, the hardest of pencils for the vaguest and most subtle of layers, I can not see well how my drawing will look like. Here comes the magic trick; I take a photo and increase it in contrast and darkness. This way, I get to see ahead of my progress. I can evaluate the darker and lighter sections now with ease. I can only evaluate, I am afraid, not change anything beyond this point because the composition by now is already set. Seeing the contrasting dark-light sections, however, provides me also with an impression of the movement of the drawing. With this drawing, I am very pleased. Can you see large lotus leaves and three dynamic turtles?

How to Draw an Underlayer?

I use H7 Derwent pencils for the first layer. Do I put the leaves or turtles (or any other subject) straight on an expensive sheet of Arches paper? No. I first make some very rudimentary sketches in my diary or on the back of a payment slip, or on the inside of a carton of gluten-free cereals at breakfast. How often one sketches a beginners sketch depends on one’s self confidence. With this I do not mean that I am confident all the time; new subjects demand more pre-studies than subjects you have done many times.

Is Using Rules Fine?

Yes! I always use a ruler because I work on large Arches sheets and thus I divide my sheet in erasable sections. Should I not do that, one turtle might perhaps have too little space and thus ‘fall’ of the composition. I use a ruler also to create white space around my composition, which is aesthetically pleasing but also handy for using a mount (passepartout) or frame. By the way, with my remark to create space for all objects you like to include in your drawing, I do not mean that everything needs to be 100% included. It is kind of exciting when parts of objects fall off a canvas or sheet. This creates a bit of suspense and the illusion that the real scene the artist had in mind is much larger than what he or she has been able to express within the limits of a canvas or sheet.

This gouache painting -by your truly- shows lotus leaves still being visible within the inner decorative blue border yet not extending beyond the outer, indigo border. Some lotus leaves are put well within the double border.
This variation -in order to have the signature included within the border- creates an irregular and therefor a surprising effect which is always playful and nice.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

At Etsy

At Instagram

At Linktree

Contact me freely for advice, commissions or help with choosing artwork or note-cards.

Creation Creating Itself

Waiting in a White Washed Hall

Waiting in a White Washed Hall

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

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

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

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

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Paula holds an MA degree in Philosophy and she is the owner of 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.

Paula’s shop at Etsy

Paula’s art portfolio at Instagram

At Linktree

Oude Boom Gedicht Kuitenbrouwer


Henry William Burgess ca. 17921839

In mijn tuin staat een oude boom,

Een beuk met een 400 jarig bestaan,

Haar duiven begluren de mensen loom,

Die onder haar lopen in hun kortlevende waan. 

Ik hou van deze boom en haar zachte geruis,

Haar bladeren glimmen in de regen,

En ik bekijk hoeveel dieren erin en eromheen wonen,

Hoe zij deze boom beleven.

Elke dag wanneer ik onder haar loop,

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

Eens loop ik onder haar met een stok,

De mens heeft een sneller levensverloop.

Ik hou van haar langzame trage leven,

Maar ook van mijn korte bestaan,

Ik wil onder haar geboren zijn geworden,

En later worden begraven tussen haar wortels,

En zo in haar opgaan.

Dan laat ik mijn lichaam tot stof wederkeren,

En zal mijn energie gestuwd worden naar haar top,

Dan ga ik zacht met haar mee-ruisen,

En zo mijn ziel laten verhuizen.

Mijn mooie en wijze boom zal mij hoe dan ook,

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

En mijn jaloezie op haar lange leven wijselijk vergeven.

.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Paula’s tekeningen & schilderijen zijn te vinden op Etsy

Rachel Ruysch

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

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

Sketches as reference photos

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

My tulip study inspired by Golden Age floral painters

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

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

At Etsy

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, artist living in Utrecht, Netherlands.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer holds an MA degree in Philosophy (UvA) and 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.

Portfolio and shop at Etsy.

Portfolio at Instagram