Wednesday, September 18, 2019

17th Century Bruntenhof Gate of Utrecht

One might object and say: 'But this is an urban drawing video and not sketching in nature'. Let me convince you to think differently. I have drawn an old gate that currently stands in the middle of Utrecht, a large town in the centre of the Netherlands. However, Utrecht is an old Roman and Medieval town and because the Bruntenhof gate was built in 1620, in the 17th century version of Utrecht, this beautiful gate was positioned at the edge of the inner city, close to the city wall that divided the surrounding meadows and the well protected inner city.
Another argument that I would like to put forward is the beautiful location of this gate. If you stand in front of this gate, you are surrounded by trees, birds, and gardens. Its location, and the street it belongs to, doesn't allow cars, only pedestrians and cyclists, and thus it feels like a green oases. I have passed it several time while cycling, but when I was walking pass it, this gate made me stop and begged me to draw it, which I set out to do.

I had to return to it halfway my drawing because my reference photo didn't pick up all details. Upon closer inspection, that wasn't a photographic omission, some decorative features simply have been lost. A face of a cherub and one skull, as well as many floral decorations, are gone. I took the liberty to 'renovate' the gate with my pencils and thus give the cherub back its lovely face, adding a skull, and floral patterns. Plus, I romanized it. I placed a large flower pot in front of the gate in order to create depth and asymmetry. This flower-pot stands, in fact, in the garden of Castle Amerongen. I was seeking some balance between a serious architectural building and a 'human touch'. When I noticed the large floral vase in the gardens of Castle Amerongen during our recent visit to the castle, the two young lovers caught my eye. I knew that I had found what I was looking for.

This drawing took me ages but every time when I returned to it, I felt more happy. Or, as Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer said it so well about her newly built garden shed; 'It sang itself into existence'.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer
Utrecht, Netherlands

Finished drawing at Etsy
At Instagram
Commissions welcome.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Journal - Shenandoah Valley RV Camp - Waterfall - Lin Frye

Journal- When we first made campsite reservations during the early warnings of Hurricane Dorian, it looked like the Richmond, VA area was in the 'line of fire' -- so we booked a campsite in Verona, VA - in the Shenandoah Valley - that was more west and more north. When we got there, Dorian was scheduled to hit the Wilmington area that night, and both C and I were anxious to keep abreast of the news and internet. Though the website for Shenandoah Valley RV Camp boasted Internet, the only place it was available for any signal was at their store, and sadly, even that was a single bar -- when it worked! Then to add more anxiety to our stay, we found our RV TV was too old to work with their new QAM system -- talk about being upset. YET!!! The kind, truly kind staff, LOANED us a TV so we could watch the weather channel ... and since we wouldn't sleep anyway, we found we could get a scant 2 bars of Verizon from our site from midnight to 7 am. So -- relief left me in tears! As did the change in Dorian's direction and our Southport RV safe and sound. It was after Dorian's passing that I could finally relax and enjoy this beautiful park for the 2 days we were there. The campsite has a lot of activities including hot tub, pool, laundry, waterfall, pond, floating down the river, and more. We even got C to sing during the karaoke night, and dance too. But that hot tub truly helped relieve all the stress!

Friday, September 13, 2019

Journal - Cozy Acres Gazebo - Lin Frye

Journal - Though we worried where Hurricane Dorian was headed, the weather we had in Powhatan, VA was lovely.  We tried to relax a bit in this gazebo and pond that Cozy Acres Campground offered.

Lin Frye, North Carolina

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Journal - Cozy Acres Campground, Powhatan, VA - Lin Frye

Journal - We evacuated to Virginia as Hurricane Dorian approached. Once we knew our home was okay, we could relax and enjoy our unexpected Virginia vacation, and I was able to get a few sketches done.

We stayed for a few days at Cozy Acres Campground in Powhatan, VA. It was a sweet campground though the WIFI was out and we were anxious to check weather reports and our home in Southport. The owners of the campground VERY kindly called their cable service and the cable company and owners were able to get us access during our stay! Super friendly folks, beautiful site, and the kindness was truly appreciated. We will definitely return ...

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

the Carrara quarries- Concetta Flore

Magic and incredible place, brimming with history and the huge achievements of us, tiny human beings, able to subdue the hard, heavy rock and turn it into art, memorials, floors and fountains. Carrara, Tuscany, Italy. Where Michelangelo came to choose his blocks, centuries after the Romans did the same, and before Bernini and Canova...the white stripe in the middle of the watercolor is the marble, cut neatly across the peak.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Sketching Deep Inside a Prehistoric Cave; Lascaux Art Study


The two bison of Lascaux (Dordogne, France) are eye-catching cave paintings made about 17,000 years ago. I liked them because they are testosterone filled beasts but at the same time, they look cute with their large, round bodies and skinny legs.

Researching this cave painting, I found five interesting features. First, the two bison have open mouths. Their open mouths play a big role in the story that is portrayed. Combined with their posture, one almost must conclude that the bison are running away with great urgency. Their open mouths seem to be the result of a fight or a sudden shock that makes them stampede in opposite direction. For what they are running away, we don't know for sure, but we may assume they run away for each other, hence the opposite directions, perhaps after a fight over dominance.

But perhaps not. Very few of us see bison frequently or for a long time, simply because only a few live nearby or in a large national park, like Yellowstone. Nature documentaries on which most of us rely to see these magnificent beasts often focus on fighting bison because their fights are epic. That fighting picture is imprinted in our minds. But surely most of their lifetime bison do not fight. An alternative thought could be that the shaman/artist, being in a trance state, has seen the bison appearing from the same place of the wall, appearing from a 'thin place', a portal from and to the Other-or Underworld, hence the overlapping backsides of the bison.

God Michaelangelo.png 

Another aspect that is perhaps only visible to a trained artist eye is that of foreshortening. Foreshortening is a technical and artistic skill that is clearly visible here. Should you do not know what foreshortening is, have a look at God by Michelangelo. Foreshortening is to portray or show (an object or view) as closer than it is or as having less depth or distance, as an effect of perspective or the angle of vision.

Now have a look at how the shaman/artist has drawn the bison, running in opposite direction. Clearly, they are running towards the viewer, to both sides of the viewer, not away from the viewer. Their back-bodies are smaller in proportion than their front bodies; this is done to enhance the impression that the bison are running towards the viewer. Also, look at their hind legs. The bull on the left stands closer to the viewer than the bull on the right; his legs are a bit lower positioned creating the illusion he is closer to the front. In addition, the right bison's back is visible above the left bison, which adds to the impression that the right bison is further away. This is very well executed and in full respect of the shape of the legs of the bison.

But this is not all. The shaman/artist has used not only anatomical positioning (legs and tails) and foreshortening to create spacial depth, he/she has also used red pigments on the body (hexagon) as to create a highlight which enhances the foreshortening technique in creating depth.
I like to mention another feature, however I am not in the position to check this in vivo. The two front legs of both bison that do the stampeding are distanced by a small unpainted area from the front bodies of the bison. Such detached front legs add to the impression of wild stampeding beasts. It is as if their front leg is moving so quickly that the shaman/artist can only suggest the wild movements by positioning the leg a bit away from the body. Last, have a look at the heavy fur of the wild beasts. The hair streams in the wind due to their escape from danger.

The shaman/artist who have painted the two bison has done it splendidly. Only the sound of the stampeding seems to be missing but perhaps the shaman created that sounds with the help of drums or prehistoric peoples created the sound of stampeding inside the cave themselves. Both drum and stampeding people must have sounded impressive inside a cave, especially when the cave walls 
throw back the echoes.

Pastel sketch by Paula Kuitenbrouwer 

For my first study I have focussed on colours; prehistoric cave painting have beautiful ochre colours. I made a rough pastel sketch to get insight in which colours I needed. My next study was about finding essential lines. Which are the most essential lines that make up a bison? Which lines shape a bison and set it apart from an ox, or from a Przewalski's horse? Playing with the lines has resulted in an abstract version of Lascaux's 'Crossed Bison'.

Line-Drawing of Lascaux Bisons, copyrighted by Paula Kuitenbrouwer 

For my final drawing, I have built the beasts with layers of heavy pigment coloured pencils (Faber-Castle and Luminance). After finishing my third drawing, the result surprised me because my bison resemble Lascaux’s 'Crossed Bison' but are very different. So, let's talk about how this study led to a different drawing despite applying foreshortening techniques and staying close to Lascaux's Crossed Bison composition. Why does my drawing differ so much? The answers lies in the open mounts and fur of the bison. 

Bison copyrighted by Paula Kuitenbrouwer 

My bison haven't stopped fighting because their mouths are peacefully closed mouths and their fur isn't wildly shaken by their stampeding. One might assume that an open or closed mouth should not make such difference, but it certainly does. My bison don't seem to run away for each other or for danger. On the contrary, they look at you contently, naughty and even innocently, like two playing brothers or friends. The open mouths of the Lascaux bison thus are essential to the story told by the cave painting. The skilful and admirable Lascaux's artists drew perfect anatomy, showed highly developed artistic techniques, and even better, they told a story of two animals that is full urgency, perhaps because of hunting or fighting. The gasping for air during a fight or flight, due to running away with their heavy bodies make Lascaux's bison seem to be in great and urgent stress. By closing their mouths and neglecting shaken-up fur -I only altered two details- I have created bison that seem to prance and romp about happily, perhaps even playfully.

All paintings tell stories. What a difference small changes make! To me, this supports the thesis that the shamans/artists of Lascaux painted all details of their cave paintings intentionally. They painted a story with supporting details. Change the details; change the story. By studying this cave painting, by re-creating it, and changing two details, I have brought to light how detailed this cave painting is and how essential details are for the story that is graphically told by Lascaux's artists. The story itself remains a mystery. But at least we can guess a bit better by paying attention to all deliberately added details. Details are the building blocks of stories that are told from one generation to the next. Details safeguard us for altering stories due to forgetfulness, preferences, or imagination.

Bison of Lascaux by Paula Kuitenbrouwer
Lascaux is located in the Dordogne region in France: Lascaux's Official Website

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Colour Wash

I just overheard this dialogue. 

'Are you ready, my dearest sweetheart?'
'Yes, beloved one. Although I am a bit apprehensive for losing my grey monochromatic tones, I am looking forward to the colour wash'.  
'But, sweetest of hearts, I am so worried you won't recognise me because you will turn from grey to brown tones, but I... I will have outrageous colours... not a single colour won't stick to me!'.
'Fear not, dearest husband, it is unthinkable that I will fail to recognize you. You are my lifelong partner. But if it reassures you, let's remember a colour code. I will quack; 'Brown, Grey and White', and you will identify yourself with; 'Red, Orange, Blue, Green, Brown, Yellow, Black & White, Purple, Pink, Off-White and Indigo Blue'. 
'Say that again?' 

I immediately understood how stressful the drake was becoming and the last thing I want on my desk is a nervous duck. I therefore quickly started adding colour to help him remember his colourful plumage. I am very eager not to overlook any single colour because I wouldn't forgive myself for breaking up this sweet couple.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Artist info: I am using Arches paper & Derwent Graphites and Watercolour pencils. 

Ornithologist info: Mandarin ducks are breeding successfully in the Netherlands, and at least some of the populations are likely to maintain themselves in the wild.