• Emma Bijloos

Sketching Amsterdam's Historic Harbour with Shari Blaukopf

From 24 to 27 July the 10th International Urban Sketchers Symposium took place in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. The Symposium is an annual educational event organized by Urban Sketchers (USk), a nonprofit dedicated to fostering the practice of on-location observational sketching. I was one of the lucky holders of a Symposium Pass, which gave full access to 3 workshops and a demo with a great lineup of international instructors. Day 1: workshop with Shari Blaukopf from Canada.

On Thursday morning 25 July about 500 (!) Urban Sketchers Symposium Pass holders gathered at the Zuiderkerk in Amsterdam for our first workshop. I was thrilled to be participating in a workshop by one of my favorite watercolor artists, Shari Blaukopf. The workshop was titled 'Barges, Schooners and Trawlers: Sketching Amsterdam’s Historic Harbour' at took place at the Oosterdokskade.

The rich culture and history of Amsterdam have been shaped by the water that surrounds the city and runs through its canals. And no symposium sketchbook of Amsterdam would be complete without documenting at least a few of the boats that ferry residents and tourists through the city, carry goods, serve as residences, and provide evidence of a storied seafaring past. But, as Shari writes in her workshop description:

"Drawing watercraft and their ever-changing reflections can be daunting! Their proportions can be difficult and their details complex. But that’s what makes boats both a satisfying and challenging subject to paint: the complex shapes of the hulls; the messy tangle of masts, ropes, lines and buoys; the full range of values from light to dark, all closely jumbled together; and finally, the movement in the water that causes reflections to be slightly different each time you look up." - Shari Blaukopf

In this workshop Shari shared her love of drawing these vessels (she's sketched dozens and dozens over the past few years) and tips for simplifying their drawing, painting and reflections.

The workshop started with Shari giving us a demonstration of how the approaches a subject first in ink, using a black brush pen to explore the shapes and values of the scene. We all gathered close to take a good look!

After trying a few sketches in ink ourselves, Shari showed us how to paint a vessel in watercolor. She worked from memory and used a single color to focus on the essentials, especially in how to paint reflections in the water. Some participants joined the practice, but I preferred to watch Shari work while I had the chance.

Shari then moved on to giving us a full demo of a painting, choosing a small yellowish vessel used for ship repairs as her subject. Watching her build up her scene of brilliant watercolors was a true delight, or as we say in Dutch: "een lust voor het oog"!

A true fangirl, I had brought my copy of Shari's Urban Sketching Handbook on working with color with me for her to sign. Thanks Shari!


All images (c) Emma Bijloos 2019, unless stated otherwise.

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