Amsterdam: Urban Sketchers Symposium 2019

Finally a post about the real reason I was in Amsterdam: The 10th Urban Sketchers Symposium, held from July 24th to 27th, 2019.

This is my 7th Symposium, (6th as an instructor, I was a correspondent at my first one) and I’m never ceased being surprised, delighted and inspired by the experience. Every year I am floored by how the community grows exponentially. By the sheer breadth of work, skills and vision that sketchers bring to the Symposium. By how truly lovely and generous the people in the community are with their time and with sharing what they know.

Here are some photos sketches, and memories from that whirlwind of a week.

Touring the Royal Talens factory in Apeldoorn with other instructors, volunteers and the Executive Team. Sketching as we walk through the factory floor. Pen, Waterbrush and Graphite Pencil. 

We got to try so many products. One of my favorites was these water-soluble colored pencils. I like how the original mark you make stays in place even when you run water over it. 

First day of the Symposium. A look at a section of the crowd. And sketches of two of three correspondents: Orling Dominguez, and Mark Anderson. I’m sad I never got to sketch Gwen Glotin.

Photos from the three workshops I taught, including some lovely student work.  In the middle of a heatwave in Amsterdam. Bravo to everyone that produced such great work in trying conditions. We’re a tough bunch, eh?

I don’t get to sketch much during my workshops. But this guy, Chief, was so fantastic I had to draw him in the middle of an exercise in my workshop. Below that is a page of quick little demo drawings I did while teaching. 

And some photos that make me smile.
This is Matteus. Proudly holding his dad Mario Linhares‘ sketchbook, a beauty of a book made by Laloran. Yes, it’s a giant book: if you check Mario’s feed on instagram you’ll see some fabulous ways he’s experimenting with the big page. 

Loved sharing the flea market spot with Rita Sabler and Marina Grechanik for the workshops we taught. Two of my favorite urban sketchers.

Looking at Marina’s sketchbook here with Shari Blaukopf and Liz Steel. I spent a good amount of time this symposium with these three. Not only did I love it, I also learnt so much, just from watching them work.

Closing group photo after the final sketchwalk.

One more Symposium ends. But the next one is coming up soon! (Hong Kong, April 2020). But for now, I’m still savoring all the fantastic memories of this one, and I’ll be processing all I learnt for a long time.

Many, many thanks to those that came to my workshop and demo, and most of all to the countless volunteers that make this possible. Thank you to all who participate, on location and online. We’re all a part of something pretty amazing, aren’t we?

I think of this often: Gabi Campanario, you might never ever know how many lives you changed in ways big and small with that crazy idea you had and followed up on! Can’t say thank you often enough.

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Amsterdam: A day in Edam, actually.

When you teach at a symposium, each day consists of a tight little triangle of moving between your hotel, the symposium hub, and your teaching venue. So I try and stay a few of days after to sketch the city. One of those post-symposium days, Shari Blaukopf , Liz Steel and I took a short bus ride to the quaint village of Edam.

The sketches speak to only a small part of what these days are about. Talking about sketching and making art, looking through another sketcher’s book and watching them work: No instagram image or blogpost can replace the experience and how it enriches, informs and inspires what I do.

You can tell there’s a strong lazy-day/food-focus to these post-symposium days. After working hard and grabbing grocery store salads between workshops and eating them in my room (to keep out of the almost 100 degree afternoons and to catch a break in the day by myself), I was happy to dawdle over a coffee, pastry, sketch and chat.

That was a very good apple strudel. And I love how coffee always comes with a little cookie.edam1.jpg

I love the buildings we saw everywhere. Nothing grand and pompous about them, they are human-scaled and inviting. There’s a charm to their wonkiness and even to the baffling asymmetry of their door and window arrangements.

Sitting by the canal with lunch, sketching the scene besides us. One of the few outdoor sketches I made in the week with no bicycle in it.

Not all sketches are successful. This one belongs in the oh-well category, but that’s okay.

With that last sketch done, it was time to head back to Amsterdam. If I could sketch in the bus (I can’t, I’d get carsick) I’d have loved to draw the flat Dutch countryside with it’s picture-perfect black and white cows. It was a lovely ride home.





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Amsterdam: Windmill and some easy-sketching

Spotted just one windmill in Amsterdam. And it was a pretty long walk to get to it. When we got there, it was backlit, but I wanted to pull out atleast a hint of the color and facets that make up it’s shape. Of course, it wouldn’t have been an authentic scene without atleast a few bicyclists. Note how upright the Dutch are when they ride their bikes? No racer-style bikes for them. windmill

Two views of the Amstel River over a beer and a sunset. This is post-Symposium sketching, just to unwind (more about the Symposium in a separate post). Chatting with friends, and getting back to sketching after being in teaching mode for a few days. It takes a little while to make the switch.

More easy pages. This one over a highly-recommended apple pie.

This one over tea and coffee on a rainy day.

When I’m chatting and sketching, I tend to do far more talking than sketching and also do little fiddly things on my sketch: patterns, textures and repetition (like the shutters, windows and brick in the background) lend themselves well to conversation-sketching.

What I like best is that looking back at the sketches reminds me of the conversations with friends old and new that I loved meeting.

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Amsterdam: Boats, Canals, Bridges, Bikes

In Amsterdam, you’re never far away from a boat, canal, bridge or bike. Which means a sketch subject is always right at hand.

And when you’re hot and tired and Amsterdam has a record heatwave, you want to sit down by a canal and atleast pretend it makes you feel cooler to look at the water. boat

And where there’s a canal, there’s a bridge and where there’s a bridge there’s a boat. And bicycles.

Bicycles are everywhere!

Racing past Rembrandt house.
Or parked on the bridge

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Amsterdam: Bloemenmarkt and Rembrandt Square

Bloemenmarkt is Amsterdam’s flower market. It isn’t tulip season just now, so I didn’t see it at it’s best but it was still bustling and full of tourists.


Equally busy and full of tourists was Rembrandt Square. Sun, beer and a visit to one of the many coffeeshops and you’re guaranteed to end up asleep on the grass like these people.

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Amsterdam: The first few days

I’m got to Amsterdam a few days before the Urban Sketchers Symposium. It gives me the chance to check out the location and figure some last minute details on the workshop I’m teaching. And, there’s time to slip in some other sketches too.

Canal Houses everywhere. I love the detailing and the wonkiness of these houses. But most of all, I love the human scale of them.

The Waterlooplein Flea Market is where I’ll teach my workshop called Scavenged Sketches. So while I checked out my location and figured good spots to meet I sketched these two spreads with a bookseller and bicycle seller.


Once the symposium is in full swing, it’s hard to get much sketching done if you’re teaching, so I try to pull out my book and do a sketch at any meal I can. Here are a couple of lunch and coffee/tea sketches.


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Zandvoort Beach

Marina Grechanik and I led the PeopleMania! workshop at Zandvoort Beach on Sunday. The weather cooperated and it was such a great beach day. Here are some photos from the day.

On the train, headed to the beach…IMG_20190721_091205

Drawing on the beach.IMG_20190721_144121

A page full of little demo sketches.
A really fun exercise.zandvoort2

My handout.handout

I did this quick little sketch in the last session to remember the lazy sunbathers, seagulls, strange bunny sign and huge ferris wheel at the beach. zandvoort3

And our final sketches.

This is us at the end of a day of beach-sketching, ready to head back to Amsterdam!IMG_20190721_155309

Thank you to all the participants who made the trek down with us and gamely sketched people all over the beach.

dreamteamAnd thank you to our wonderful volunteer coordinators, Caroline and Cecilia: we could not have done this without you. Most of all, thank you Marina: teaching with you was as much of a blast as I imagined… Let’s do this again!




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