Amsterdam Last days

It is not the language of painters but the language of nature which one should listen to, the feeling for the things themselves, for reality is more important than the feeling for pictures. -Vincent van Gogh

On my last full day in Amsterdam I visited the Van Gogh Museum and emerged two hours later feeling that I’d just encountered the part of myself that knows what it means to be an artist with a pressing need to draw and paint the world. I felt a kinship to this strange man who loved the common people, the miners, the potato eaters, and celebrated that love through his painting. . .kinship with his need to get out of the studio into the beauty and harshness of nature to try to find its “language”.


Afterwards the trees outside the museum seemed to have stepped right out of his paintings, and I sat to ponder them while eating my sandwich. A bee was flying around my food and I welcomed it, like the birds, as a part of this glorious natural scene! When my attention was distracted I took a bite and felt an electric shock in my mouth. Out popped a dazed and dying bee into the grass. My tongue was on fire! What would Vincent do? Surely not freak out, but start his painting! Which is what I did (and clearly survived).


Laurie Wigham met me for lunch afterward, and while I talked, she did this cafe portrait piece of me, direct watercolor with touches of after-the-fact water soluble pencil!


My last morning I had an hour to head out for a last sketch before catching my shuttle to the airport. Ah, if only I had another week, I thought. . . but this will have to do for now.


The flight back to San Francisco was fully booked. It was delayed and the waiting area was full of people already hot and weary, anticipating the eleven hour flight. My last sketch kept me from grinding my teeth, almost.

On the ride home my seat companions were a couple from Holland making their first trip to the U.S with their three teenagers. They got to practice their English and get some tips from a Californian. The man was a dyke engineer, so I got to ask my questions about how it’s possible that Amsterdam is not under water when it is over four meters below sea level!

The scene I never got to sketch on location!

I want to thank you if you’ve lasted through this rather long story documenting just a week of travel. It would have felt like a dream if I hadn’t put it down in this way. Actually as I look at my sketchbook, I think I’ve painted a dream.

I dream of painting and then I paint my dream.  – Vincent van Gogh

Exactly, Vincent!




  1. You are a tireless artist…sketcher,painter and teacher and very expressive with language and poetry…..I want you to know how much I enjoy reading and viewing your life in art…..
    🙏🙋🏻‍♀️👍 Judy Markoff


  2. Thank you Susan. You took me there and also brought back my thoughts and ponderings about Vincent. Years ago I was driving in northern Minnesota and drove by a very large field of sunflowers and I could see why Vincent painted the sunflowers. and when I met Starry Starry Night in person, it took my breath away. I love what you said and showed about the trees outside of the museum.


  3. I finally had the time to look at your whole Amsterdam blog. I really do love your work Susan! see you Monday:)


  4. Susan, loved reading about your Amsterdam experience with Urban Sketchers! I admire you and all the participants for such determination getting through the epic heat wave. So cool that you met Danny and Koosje in the midst of all of that, me being a Sketchbook Skool fan and longtime follower of Danny Gregory as well. Your sketches are fabulous, your writing and descriptions are top-notch, and the Van Gogh quotations give it all such a special flair. Thank you for sharing your amazing journey!


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