10th Urban Sketchers Symposium: Amsterdam

Thursday, August 01, 2019

Just back from the annual Urban Sketchers extravaganza, aka sketching in extreme heat. Thought it would be a lovely 70F-80F in Amsterdam, but no such luck; temps hovered around 100F pretty much the entire week, making it very challenging to be outdoors in the afternoon.

Here are the highlights:

Tuesday, July 23.
Took the bus out to Volendam, a fishing village turned tourist magnet. I sketched the buildings facing the marina, and we had fun watching a demo on cheese-making.

190723 Volendam marina

That evening, after our Urban Sketchers Advisory Board dinner, I went out sketching with the lovely Uma Kelkar and Elizabeth Alley. The light on the Amstel river around 10 pm was absolutely gorgeous. I started with a line drawing, then added a first wash for the highlights before finishing with the darks.

190724 Amstel River at sunset - Amsterdam, Netherlands

Wednesday, July 24.
USK Symposium sponsor Royal Talens invited the faculty and board members to tour their factory and Experience Centre in Apeldoorn, about an hour and a half from Amsterdam.

It was fascinating to see how paints, pastels, and other art supplies are made. We walked quickly, so it was tough to capture even a little sampling of all the steps in the process. I'll never look at my tube colors the same way again!

190724 Royal Talens tour 1

190724 Royal Talens tour 2

190724 Royal Talens tour 3

190724 Royal Talens tour 4

190724 Royal Talens tour 5

190724 Royal Talens tour 6

190724 Royal Talens tour 7

Thursday, July 25.
My morning workshop was with Joerg Asselborn. It was called "Catching Windmills." We took the tram out to De Gooyer, to see one of the few windmills in the city.

We started out with semi-blind contour drawings and proceeded to capture small details like the windows. Finally, we put everything together in a sketch of the whole structure. It was a challenging subject, but it was very helpful to break it down and truly "see" each part before tackling the whole.

190725 De Gooyer windmill Amsterdam

In the afternoon, I escaped the soaring temps by visiting the Van Gogh Museum.

Friday, July 26.
The heat was relentless. This morning's workshop was with Karen Sung. It was called "Growing a Drawing." She challenged us to think outside the square/rectangular format of the paper and to add paper wherever it made sense, to extend focus areas. I liked the concept, though the scene before me wasn't very inspiring and the alternating smells of garbage and cleaning solution (from restaurants preparing to open) were distracting.

Still, I managed to crank out a sketch or two.

190726 Hotel Atlanta Growing your sketch Amsterdam

In the afternoon, M. met me and we rented a Bakfiets cargo bike.

It was very uncomfortable to sit in given the extreme heat, but we toured about in it for a while, visiting Jordaan and going past the Anne Frank House. It was nearly impossible to sketch from the bike, but I tried.

190726 Jordaan from cargo bike Amsterdam

190726 house from bike Amsterdam

We ended up at the book market, where I got out and did a quick drawing while M. went to get ice cream.

190727 Book market Amsterdam

In the late evening, we took a canal cruise. This was a better opportunity for sketching in motion, and I was able to do four mini sketches while waiting for the tram and also while on the boat.

190726 Amsterdam thumbnails

Saturday, July 27.

My last workshop was with Marina Grechanik. I've long been a fan of her colorful, layered sketches of people in context, so it was great to see how she worked.

We practiced doing portraits and capturing emotions before "hunting" people's faces at the local flea market. For our final sketch, we had to keep portraits as the main focus while telling a story, a narrative of the market. I founded a shaded spot at a cafe to draw some bored stallkeepers as they waited for customers in the searing heat. It was fun to let go of conventions and just play around with color!

190727 Flea market Amsterdam

All too soon, the symposium was at an end!

Next year we'll all meet up again in April ... at #uskHongKong2020!