Painting and mountaineering in Holland

So what can Holland offer the mountain painter? Well, not many mountains, but there are marvellous opportunities for other subjects. I’ve not long returned from a few days in the Netherlands where I wanted to visit the Arnhem battlefield site and also sketch some Dutch maritime subjects, which I’ve always admired. But there was so much more: Amsterdam offered great opportunities for sketching those lovely traditional Dutch barges, the picturesque waterways, which at this time of year are fresh with new foliage on the trees, the incredible canal houses with their hugely varied gables, and bikes, bikes, bikes!

There was a sketch everywhere and not enough time to do it justice, and even sitting at an outdoor cafe sipping a cappuccino brought no relief, for the figures walking, cycling, hopping and shuffling past demanded so much attention from my pencil. What intrigued me was the number of blokes who came up and photographed me painting and sketching, though not one took the slightest interest in the work being done. Many artists shy away from working outdoors because of onlookers, but there are many ways to counter this.

Wear a large, wide-brimmed hat. This will isolate you from all but the most persistent onlooker, especially if you are sitting down. Have a second hat with some coins in placed upside down in front of your position – this will distance many, but at least if they approach closer you may be rewarded. When asked a question reply in a foreign language – Welsh is excellent for this, as even Berber children in Morocco, the true afficionados of artist-baiters, are hard pushed to counter this. If you are truly desperate then take along a disreputable-looking friend to stand beside you. My friend Michiel finds that when he is out walking with his friend Griswallt most people will immediately cross to the other side of the road when they see old Grissie approaching. So don’t be too alarmed if you find some wierd characters staring at your painting and making the most awfully nice comments about it…….

I’ll be showing some of the work from Holland in a future blog, but do enjoy it when you’re out there sketching – it can be great fun!

2 thoughts on “Painting and mountaineering in Holland

  1. Good to see you liked Holland!
    As a Dutchman, I always did want to know if a other artist would like the flat Netherlands.
    For myself I am always a bit jealous, when I see my friends paintings from the UK, usually hills in the back, always a background, and those cliffs you have there! The estuaries with incoming tides!
    We miss those things here!
    And people looking at the artwork you make, well I have to say, never bothered me, but one time when I sat down on the edge of a river, trying to paint the scene on the other side.
    Someone on a bike yelled at me, “did you catch a fish already”?
    Best Wishes
    Edo

  2. Edo, Yes, we are lucky in the UK to have such varied and interesting scenery, and if you like mountains and cliffs as I do, then, like many of the Old Dutch Masters you have to travel. We have no glaciers in Britain, so I have to travel to get my annual helping of ice. But Holland has so much to off the landscape artist: I came across beautiful beechwoods, the canals were magical, as well as the canal houses in Amsterdam. I love the old Dutch barges, and they gave me so much pleasure.
    Enjoy your painting.

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