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A bustling Amsterdam

I was in Amsterdam last week, criss-crossed the whole city and tried to do some sketching. I found it extremely difficult to sketch in Amsterdam. I struggled to zoom out the busyness of the city and capture only the essential in a scene. The canals are filled with boathouses and with sightseeing boats, the streets with bicycles and people and cars and trees obscuring the narrow houses. And I sometimes feared for my life as, standing on a spot with a sketchbook in hand, doesn’t mean you’re in a safe spot. I had to jump aside many a time, from the urgent ringing of a bicycle bell, just to hear the clang of the tram behind me, which had me scuffling quickly left, directly in front of some service truck, fleeing to the right, of course on the toes of some nose-ringed stranger and apologizing back onto one of the many black garbage bags on the sidewalk. That would have me slog shakily into the nearest  coffee shop or bookstore.

An interesting city, with a heartbeat of its own. I’ve come to recognize many of the gables of the buildings, as we have them in SA as well. We ate kroket and patatje and drank our blond beers with a lemon slice. I enjoyed koffie verkeerd in the company of Rembrandt and Van Gogh and had my dry cleaning delivered to one of the other many Van Wijks there in Amsterdam. I saw the seductive silhouet of Madame in the window of her “Walletjies” apartment and quickly put my hand over Hartman’s eyes. A busy time. A busy city. I now revel once again in the quiet of my home back here on the banks of the Loire.

So here are some efforts, drawn on site in pen or pencil in my handmade sketchbook and moleskine and finished at the hotel with a wash of watercolour. For some pictures(more interesting and much nicer than the sketches!) you can go to Myfrenchkitchen.

…many bridges, many canals, many boats, many trees, many…

 …and more…

…giant amaryllus…

…bulbs, bulbs and bulbs…

…in the way of the tram…

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12 responses

  1. I always love the sketches, even when bumped off your spot, they convey life and atmosphere (or maybe that helped ;) ) – the photos are terrific too – what a fascinating place, but I bet you’re glad to be home! (Hey, congratulations on the Taste magazine best-blogger award! Wish I’d got that copy.)

    September 29, 2008 at 5:51 pm

  2. You know, I don’t realize how much I miss your wonderful sketches until I see them again. These are just wonderful!

    September 29, 2008 at 7:03 pm

  3. annie

    Well, I slurped these up, and then got into your French Kitchen and slurped up photos and the potatoes and chocolate and back here, again. EVERY kind of feast…

    I love the sketches and the photos. Cities full of canals
    and creeks are so wonderful. I think they capture and hold
    light–like prisms, maybe?–there seems to be so much light
    and color in them. But To stand there and sketch them? With
    my vertigo? I applaud your ability to bring us a feeling of quiet
    water and soothing trees and wonderful light in the middle of such a busy whirlwind of a place.

    September 30, 2008 at 3:29 am

  4. I haven’t seen your photos yet, Ronell but I’d be surprised if they delight me more than your ‘sketching in the face of jeopardy’ :) I love your architectual detail particularly. And the little boats in the canals – it’s an impressive achievement in a busy city.

    Did you bring back lots of bulbs?

    September 30, 2008 at 10:21 am

  5. Wow, some great work here! I was just in Amsterdam, such a wonderful country. Thanks!

    September 30, 2008 at 4:51 pm

  6. When I was in Amsterdam I was not yet a sketcher. You have captured the canals beautifully. I love the giant amaryllus bulbs. Welcome home.

    September 30, 2008 at 8:23 pm

  7. You risked life and limb but what wonderful results!

    September 30, 2008 at 11:08 pm

  8. Wow, Ronell!!! These are so fresh and scintillating and lively!!! They’re champagne and sparklers and the Eiffel Tower at the top of the hour all at once!

    October 1, 2008 at 2:43 am

  9. The colors, movement in the water, texture in the trees!! Just beautiful, Ronell.

    October 2, 2008 at 3:58 pm

  10. caseytoussaint

    Wow – it’s been sooo long since I stopped by your blog. What a great trip – and you’ve so generously shared it with the world. Your sketches are very very good. See you soon!

    October 3, 2008 at 12:18 pm

  11. Wow–you really captured Amsterdam in these sketches. I could just imagine the scenes you described. Your watercolors of the canals and architecture are just charming!

    October 4, 2008 at 5:18 am

  12. Gosh, Ronnell. I’m in dnager of saying the same thing EVERY time I visit your blog (which isn’t nearly often enough) but you blow me away. You really do.

    October 10, 2008 at 1:41 am

Tthank you for your visit and comment, II appreciate it!

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