Some purchases in the Netherlands

Wherever I travel I like to find art materials as momentoes of my trip. As I was going to an Urban Sketchers Symposium I was well aware that an art supply goody bag would be waiting for me there. The market stalls at Symposium are also great places to find well-priced items. None the less I still managed to find some items that I knew wouldn’t be in the bag.

It turned out that I had set myself up to buy, without even really trying. Our hotel in Rotterdam, where we spent the first week of our trip, was directly across the road from two art shops!

To make it easy for myself I have made a visual record of my purchases.

First purchases handmade Khadi paper, a bone folder used in bookbinding, a new fountain pen (of course I need another one!) and some new ink to go with it. And a ring in , my windmill-shaped biscuit cutter.

By way of explanation this fountain pen has one of the biggest reservoirs on the market, which makes it very useful for lots of sketching without having to frequently refill it. This KWZ ink was purchased on the basis that it was waterproof. Unfortunately there was a mis-understanding and it turns out that the green-gold ink is not waterproof. The company makes another green which is water- resistant, but this isn’t it.

My new paints, with the exception of Potters Pink which was only a replacement. A second new ink also with some odd properties.

I seem to be attracted to the blues these days. I was intrigued by the Smalt Blue (AKA Dumont’s Blue). This is a very old form of blue pigment made by grinding glass coloured by smaltite, a cobalt salt, into a fine powder. I assume it was one of the less expensive options than ground lapis lazuli. From some of the reading I have done it has, in oil paint, tended to fade over time, but not all paintings show this fault. It has a purplish tinge which I really like. I expect it will be appearing in my ‘skies’ in the not too distant future.

Much as I am a devotee of Pyrrol Orange (it is one of those irreproducible colours), I do sometimes find it a bit pink. This Transparent Orange, above, is a synthetic pigment with an industrial automotive history, it looks like it fits the bill for a truly orange, orange. I swatched it out, below, with some of my other orange-y paints for a comparison.

As you might decipher in my notes on the page above my Platinum Classic ink (an iron gall ink), is listed as both water soluble and resistent to water. Mmmmm?? A bit of research indicates that while some of the ‘apparent’ colour of the ink may be water soluble, over time the ink gall element should not only resist water, but darken with age. I’m not sure that I will be happy with this latter development, as the solubility of the ink has resulted in some quite pleasing effects. I used it in my workshop with Ròisin Curé, where were were channelling Rembrandt’s use of sepia ink. Here is a sample.

Sepia Black ink, line and diluted ink, part of the sculpture version of the Night Watch on the Rembrantplein in Amsterdam.

Sketches from Utrecht

Here are the sketches l made during my stay in Utrecht.

Sculpture from the Dom of St Martin of Tours cutting his cloak in half to give to a beggar. (At first I thought it was a strange image for a church, quite threatening with the drawn sword, until a passer by explained the story). The City of Utrecht also derives it’s diagonally slashed two colour red and white coat of arms to this story.

Some roofline and details of a building near the Dom.

The canals of Utrecht are distinguished by their lower level storage areas, now largely used as restaurants and cafes.

Next to the Dom are the cloister gardens, which are owned by the university. Each arch has a different tracery. I could have sketched in there for ages. While the gardens are generally open to the public they can be closed for university events. In that case they can be seen from the Dom cafe, inside the cathedral.

The character of Miffy was created by Dick Bruna, a Utrecht native. In 2014 a statue to Dick and his creation Miffy was made by Jacques Tange. The sculpture has two sides, one featuring Dick and the other Miffy.

Just outside Utrecht station, in the middle of the canal sits this whale made of 5 tonnes of plastic reclaimed from the ocean. It’s called Stranded and it was made by Studio KCA. I understand that the sculpture is travelling the world and will only be in Utrecht for a few more months.

Amsterdam

I realise that I need to do a dump of my sketches from Amsterdam now, or l may never find time to share them. So here they are. Almost all of these were done at the Urban Sketchers Symposium which was held here this year.

Sketching the wonky houses along the Herengracht in Amsterdam.

A quick sketch of a bicycle with a child carrying module.

All the goody bags lined up at the registration desk this afternoon for all the Urban Sketchers Symposium workshop participants.

Final, unfinished sketch from the Marion Rivolier workshop on capturing the flow of sky and water with watercolour.

Final sketch of statues based on Rembrandt’s The Night Watch, Róisin Curé workshop using sepia ink.

Extending your page to include the images that are important to you in a scene. Karen Sung workshop, 1st piece.

Creative use of line and including people, Karen Sung workshop, 2nd piece.

My favourite bit of graffiti on the way to Rokin Metro station (sorry I was very bad at writing down location names).

Sketching from the ‘Drink and Draw’ location on Amstelhoek

NEMO, the science museum, final Sketchwalk of Symposium.

The canal next to our hotel, sketched at night, trying to capture the light reflections.

The Pandhof Dom in Utrecht

On our last day in Utrecht we were able to visit the Pandhof, or cloister gardens of the Dom (cathedral, dedicated to Saint Martin of Tours). We were lucky as fellow Urban Sketchers @kittyvdheuvel and @imonkie had only been able to see the gardens from the Dom cafe the day before.

A panoramic view of the gardens.

Built in the 1400’s as a cloister connecting the cathedral and chapter house, the Pandhof was only used by the church for about 100 years before local residents took it over. The garden became part of Utrecht University in 1636 and gets closed for university functions every so often.

The beautiful stone arches of the cloister.

I loved that each archway had a different design at the top and every gargoyle was an individual.

Some of the gargoyles in the cloister.

I sketched the central archway in the photo above, which also features a sculpture of the death of Saint Martin, left side of the page. I was sitting inside the cloister as heavy rain was falling. It gave me the idea to paint the right hand side view, which is of the archway I was sitting behind from the inside. I added the flowers for the garden, which was initially created in 1962 and then redesigned and replanted in 1975.

Archway with the death of Saint Martin, left side; view from inside the cloister, right side.

Rotterdam

A quick-ish hop around the world via Singapore and now I find myself sketching in Rotterdam.

Rain Vortex at Jewel Changi. Watch our for large numbers of people dragging their luggage around while looking at their smartphones.

First sketch in Rotterdam the Markthal (Market Hall) by MVRDV architects, (2014).

Next the Kubuswoningen (Cube Houses) by Pier Blom (1984).

This is an earlier version which I wish I had left at this stage instead of turning it into a turgidly overworked mess.

Then part of Auke de Vries sculpture ‘Maasbeeld’, with De Rotterdam, by Rem Koolhaas (2013) and the Erasmus Bridge in the background.

Today even further challenges with De Hef, (Koninginnebrug) a now defunct, lifting railway bridge.

Travels with my paintbox

It’s been a year since my big European sketching adventure, so I decided it was time to take a look at my paintbox and see what I have and haven’t used, paint-wise, over that time.

The paintbox after one year’s use.

I bought this set in Paris about this time last year, but it no longer resembles the Sennelier set that I purchased, nor does it have many Sennelier paints in it anymore.

My biggest issue is that the Sennelier paints use honey as a binder, which is fine in moderate climates but doesn’t do the job in high temperatures. It was quite an alarming experience to be sitting, a few weeks later, in the streets of Cordoba realising that all my paints were liquid under a thin top skin. It was awful for painting and even worse when they started running together across the box.

So having started out using the kit as purchased, this paint box has been modified as I have gone along. The original set only had pans in half of the box, so I immediately started filling the empty spaces with extra half pans I bought as I travelled.

Longer term I also added full pans, all of which are filled by tube paint. It took me a while to appreciate that using full pans made it easier to get juicy colours onto my palette and paintings, without unnecessarily wearing down the hairs on my good brushes. When travelling using full pans also means less refills.

Sorting out what I have ready for re-filling.

In the middle of the box sits a row of colours that get used at a lesser rate than others. Some, such as pyrol orange and diazine purple that are almost impossible to mix from scratch and for me at least, are absolute necessities in some sketches.

I can’t resist trying new colours and no kit I have seen holds all the colours that I want to use. I am also a firm believer that art supplies make excellent souvenirs, particularly as so many brands are hard to get (other than online) in Australia. Included in my box are paints I got in Japan, France, Singapore and Portugal. Brands include Windsor and Newton, Daniel Smith, Artist’s Spectrum, Holbein, Schmincke, Sennelier, Mission Gold and PWC. My latest purchases made in Taiwan last year, haven’t found a space in the box yet, even though I am desperately attached to the Mission Gold Red Brown.

Comparing colours between what I had at home (the paints at either end) and replacements bought while travelling, when I ran out or couldn’t find the right colour.

I am looking forward to travelling again so it will be interesting to see what new paints I find! Here’s to my re-filled palette.

My shiny clean paintbox , not for long!