illustration

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”.

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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).

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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!

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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.

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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!

 

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TLR Sketch Stories

The Living Room folks have been putting up with me and my sketchbook for six months now. I’ve produced a couple of posters of the sketches, but now I have a hard copy of Vol. I of my mostly on-location sketches to share with the women when I’m there. Apparently it’s nice to see yourself in a handmade book, especially when you’re used to being overlooked in a multitude of ways when you’re homeless.

Once again my husband Bob has applied his detailed book-making and letter press skills to the project. I always feel a little sheepish about putting all (literally) of my sketches, rough or otherwise into such a lovely container. Since I sketch on paper signatures which are sewn and taped together and then clipped into a light weight, temporary book made of corroplast,  there’s no way to tear out a sheet without messing up the book. But somehow when the book gets bound in this lovely cover my messy sketches look “right” and people are not critical (even though I still am!)

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8″ X 10″ book with pen and watercolor on 100% cotton rag CP Fluid W/C paper

My plan is to publish the best sketch stories in a book that can be available then to the women in the program and others for fundraising purposes, but I’m working on a second volume first.

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I’ve tried to sketch the various activities, both the everyday and special groups like meditation and singing. But I’m also documenting the many ways that volunteers help to keep this valuable program going.

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. . .like preparing food, playing with the children, decorating the tables each week with fresh flowers and so much more.

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When I sit in the corner sketching, usually for 30-50 minutes, I’m making notes about all the things that are happening around me. One Monday last month, in the living room-sized room, all these things (above) and a great deal more occurred in about 50 minutes! There’s no time to plan out the picture space. I just keep drawing in whatever I can see that may show some part of the story. It’s more like a tapestry of images that I hope will come together.

 

I’ve also been helping out a bit with the groups there. While the Expressive Arts group leaders take a month-long break, I’ve been filling in by offering a mixed media Muse Group with the able help of Ruth Burke. More about the fun we’re having in another post.

If you are interested in volunteering at The Living Room, they need you, especially this summer with so many folks headed off for vacation. Also donations are welcome. For more info head to their website.

Now I’m headed off to the Sierras for a week of painting and no wifi, so I’ll be back to the blog in about 10 days.

Sketching the Group Sketching

TNDG figure sketch, nib pen dipped in black and walnut inks on plain sketch paper, 12 X 9″

Haven’t been to figure sketching group for a while, but with all this abstract painting I’ve been doing lately, I needed a drawing fix last Thursday night.  The thing is though, that my preference is sketching people in natural life situations, so that if I don’t want to fall asleep when the model lies down, I move on to the other far more fascinating subjects in the room.

If you recognize yourself, please forgive me for whatever liberties I have taken!  You are far more attractive than I may have inadvertently depicted you here.