Europe19: Amsterdam sketches

August 9, 2019 | 17 Comments

I almost don’t know where to start when it comes to sharing my adventures in Amsterdam as it was such a jam-packed visit!

I was there for two weeks for the 10th International Urban Sketchers Symposium which occurred in the middle of my stay. It’s my usual practice to arrive a few days earlier so I get a chance to explore and do some sketching before the craziness of the symposium begins, but this year I didn’t seem to get much done beforehand. I also don’t normally get much chance to sketch during the symposium – and that was the case again this year even with the freer programme! Therefore I was very happy to have a few days afterwards which allowed me to wind down and fill a few pages.

I really loved Amsterdam as a city and found it very sketchable. I loved all the canals and wonky buildings! But at the same time I would not say that it was an easy city to sketch quickly, due to all the many big windows with narrow white framing. It wasn’t until my second last day that I had the focused time to work out a way of sketching these windows in my own free and loose way.

I don’t feel as if I do my best work in a symposium city as I’m always so distracted by the sketchers around me. It’s the very best kind of distraction, but being surrounded by so many friends and often getting interrupted by people saying hello means that I have to go into reflex sketching mode! This year was no exception, but overall despite all the other stuff going on, I’m pleased with what I managed to produce. I’m a little sad that I just didn’t manage to sketch a few signature Amsterdam views of bridges and leaning corner buildings. I did try a number of times but it just didn’t happen.

Oh! I’ve forgotten to mention the small matter of the weather – during my stay in Amsterdam I had a few very wet periods and then the symposium days were 37-39C! That was hot and very draining.

Anyway, I’m just going to share a selection of my sketches from my time in Amsterdam. (Warning: this is another long post!)

The first sketch I did on arrival was of the Nieuwmarkt in a very busy part of town. I was feeling a little overwhelmed by the busyness of the place and how many bikes were on the streets. It was a shock to my system after the relaxed pace of Gouda!

The next morning I had coffee with a designer friend in a local cafe outside the tourist area. Love the cafe name and the stamps!

At lunch I caught up with Paul Wang and started to sketch this bridge but didn’t finish it.

After an afternoon of chores and workshop location checking I did a super quick sketch of a grand church – St Nicholas. At dinner I tried to paint a fresh mint tea (a nice thing about the Netherlands!) but was a little distracted by all the fun talk at the table – I was with Paul Wang, Shari Blaukopf, Louisa and Rob Sketcherman. So much for a few quiet days before everyone arrived – the Symposium socialising had started!

A rainy morning spent in the Maritime Museum with Shari Blaukopf and Cathy.

And then we found a great covered spot from which to sketch.

An afternoon of sun and then freezing wind – yes, puffer jacket needed!

Sketching in the rain, sketching while catching up with friends and having trouble with my paints being too moist.

Incomplete sketches while being social – true reflex sketching.

A classic view from Rembrant Square – one of many crazy busy parts of Amsterdam.

Here’s an example of one of my spreads full of lots of little sketches. It’s often hard to find uninterrupted time to sketch with some many people around!

Flower Market!

Too distracted sketches due to catching up with Shari and Suhita.

An early morning sketch before the first morning of the Symposium.

A simple line drawing from Rembrant Square and a crazy warmup sketch before my first Symposium workshop.

After the Symposium I had a little solo sketching time which meant I could finally get around to do a proper sketch of the Zuiderkerk tower. The amazing thing was that the bells were playing for the 15 minutes I spent doing this sketch.

A quick shape based late one evening (hmm, it seems that I’m drawn to the towers of Amsterdam!)

Trying a few different techniques for sketching those big Amsterdam windows quickly.

An old black timber building in Begijnhof

The quiet-ish courtyard of Begijnhof and then the best apple pie in town at Winkel.

Sketches from our table at Winkel (while chatting!)

A truly wonderful catch up with a Flickr friend Amanda Kavanagh from the early days. It’s amazing how much has changed in the last decade (or more) and how special those early online friends are.

Ah! I finally worked out a way for doing Amsterdam windows. Can you work out what I was doing?

A wet and cold walk to the Rijksmuseum!

Here is the whole spread with another sketch of the Rijks.

Another wet walk back to hotel was broken by a cafe (and sketch) stop.

My last sketch in Amsterdam was at Nieuwmarkt sheltering from the rain at an empty cafe with Suhita and Shari. Such a fun way to end a great fortnight in this amazing city.

More about the Symposium coming next!



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