One of my favorite things to do is just walk along the Seine and sketch. I got a lovely sunny afternoon to do just that.
I also got a hot chocolate at Angelina's (my favorite!) and took it over to the Tuileries to sit and look at the sculptures. And the very large crows.
I had the Rodin Museum garden all to myself for a bit one rainy morning. It suited the garden. The sculptures look just right in the rain. And I found a couple of sheltered places to sketch, though you can see a little bit of rain droppage on the pages.
I also got a cup of tea to warm up at the garden cafe and did one sketch snugly indoors.
I enjoyed my fast train sketching on the way over here, and I'm going to try to stay in that mode for a bit and not get too labored.
So here are some early sketches from
Abbesses, the cool area just up the hill from me.
I met my friends Audra and Pascal for a sidewalk bakery visit. They're musicians who came to stay with me last year as they toured though the States. Audra even wrote a song that has Sun Studio and Mr. Darcy in it. I can't wait for the cd to come out, because it's lovely.
I sketched Pascal looking incredibly French, leaning against the bar with a coffee at his elbow. They both draw too, so they're nice enough to get it.
It's really lovely to get into town and have such a warm welcome waiting. I'm looking forward to hanging out with everyone and hearing them play. All my friends here seem to be musicians, which is marvelous.
I'm still catching up a bit. I've been doing a ton of sketching. Above is the view from the park bench just outside my hotel. I had sketched it in color earlier in the week and then kind of regretted adding color to the drawing I was happy with. So I went back and did one in black and white as well.
Below us from my last lunch at Zuivre Koffie, my favorite hang out in Amsterdam. This is my table inside looking out to the back garden through the window.
Then I did a little sketching on the train. It moved quickly, so they are very small impressions, ending with Gare du Nord as I arrived in Paris.
I started Tuesday off with a trip to the Rijksmuseum. I'm halfway living there this trip, thanks to the museum kaart. It's quickly become one of my favorite museums anywhere, up there with the Scottish National Gallery and the Rodin Museum. It's not too crowded (except by the Vermeers) and is easy to come and go from. And I love sketching there.
I went back particularly to sketch this group portrait of the Drapers' Guild. It took a little longer (about an hour) than most of my museum sketches -- it's bigger, a double spread, and quite intricate. And, you know, people..... Harder for me. But I love Rembrandt's use of light and rich color, and I learn from copying.
Then I went to the Rembrandt House. It is always powerful for me to be in a space that a painter I admire lived and worked in. Looking out his studio windows and seeing the view he would have seen also brought tears to my eyes. I also loved that he had a front room gallery, as I do, where he could entertain clients and sell art. I sketched it. I'm a sucker for a checkerboard floor.
There was also a stunning display of his etchings. I hadn't copied anything this linear and intricate since doing art journal copies weekly in college. (Thank you, Sheldon Tapley!) I had a ball doing this one. I loved the dramatic darkness and the texture of all the falling lines.
Afterwards I sketched the front of the house, and then the houses across the Amstel canal, just down the block.
Finally I ended up at the Rembrandt Plein. They have life sizes sculptures of the figures from the Night Watch, and it's a trip to watch the tourists interact and take photos with them. I'd been wanting to sketch it for several days. Fun to have a full day devoted to Rembrandt.
So I came really planning to sketch outside and paint lots of bridges. And I've done a good bit of that. But what I am enjoying more than anything is doing tiny museum copies in my sketchbook. So I may just do that for my last couple of days. It is vacation, after all...
I've got my tiny watercolor tin and the waterbrush that works like a pen, so I can work standing up in front of a painting of there's not a handy bench. Above is a Dutch follower of the Barbizon school in France. Below is a Daubigby. I like him more with each painting I see. Both of these are from Saturday afternoon in the Rijksmusuem.
I did two more Daubigny studies in the Van Gogh museum this morning. I discovered that if you get there 15 minutes early, the line isn't bad, and most people stop to get in line for audio guides and start obediently at the bottom floor. I went straight to the top (having done it chronologically in April) and had a peaceful, blissful 45 minutes or so before the crowds got up there to see my favorites.
I'll post the other couple of sketches in a separate blog post. I can't minimize the files on my phone, and it gets to where there are too many pictures in a post for it to load well. To be continued....
One of the places I had really loved my last trip was the Oude Kerk. It's buried, improbably, in the Red Light district, and you do have to wade through some marijuana smoke to get there, but it's a lovely oasis when you do. A soaring space in shades of grey and tan, interesting flagstones, and real tangible quiet of the sort you get in ancient stone buildings..
I sketched this staircase last time in my sketchbook and wanted to do a more finished watercolor of it this go-round.
I also did a page in my journal, quickly, after doing the watercolors. I'm trying to keep a visual record of what I do this trip. And it can be fun to do a very quick sketch of something you've already painted and "figured out." I also wanted to sketch Saskia's gravestone. She was Rembrandt's first wife and died at the height of his popularity and wealth, so he could afford to bury her here.
After working I bought a bit of quiche at a bakery, which they heated up for me. I took it out to a park bench along a canal (I love that about waking cities in Europe -- the plentiful benches as well as the lunches to take outdoors). Halfway through lunch, a gypsy jazz group set up right in front of me to play. Great entertainment and a sketching opportunity all rolled into one.
I have been out painting canals, because, well, I'm in Amsterdam. That is, in large part, what you paint when you're here. All those little rounded bridges are just so enticing.
After these couple of very detailed, maybe too tight, full watercolors yesterday, I did this one from the park bench across from my hotel where I carried my dinner out to enjoy the evening.
Today I tried to be a little looser with the full watercolor.
While I was painting that last one, the older man who lives in the house just opposite my spot took a photo of me working from his upper story and was kind enough to print it and bring it out to give me. Very, very kind. And kind of fun to see the birds eye view of myself working.
I've been dreaming about sketching here ever since my last trip, and I've got a pass to get in and out at will, which is lovely. That way I can go in, do a few rooms, and then do something else. I really have a great time sketching in museums too. My water brush and tiny watercolor kit are perfect for it. Very contained and easy to stand up with.
On the way home I halfway stalked a busker. He was walking slowly and looked so cool that I wandered behind him and sketched him for a block or so.
My final sketch of the day is a nifty old building (I love the "Comestibles") that is now an antique store.
I got to Amsterdam yesterday and am delighted to be here. I'm looking forward a mix of sketching and sitting in museums this week. Above is my first full watercolor, a scene I did a quicker journal sketch of last time I was here.
Yesterday I was pretty groggy and mostly walked and went through a couple of rooms of the Rijksmuseum. I did a few quick sketches there. These statues reminded me so much of the characters in Alice in Wonderland that I wonder if Tenniel saw them before doing his illustrations. I get the same feeling from the fanciful knights atop the Hotel de Ville in Paris.
I have also revisited my favorite coffee shop here and done a couple of sketches, one yesterday and a couple today.
Sammie, the resident cat, came to join me, and I was trying to sketch him, but he ended up purring in my lap instead. A good substitute.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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