Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Prinsengracht, Little Black Houses and Balls of Wool in Amsterdam

Did this skinny sketch from a cafe table just around the corner from the canal  house we're staying in here in Amsterdam. It takes a moment to see what it is, but its a peak over the shoulder of the building on the corner of our block.  It's not at all what I sat down to sketch. There was a great view of the whole canal, but after running home to grab my sketch bag I realized I didn't have a pencil. Greg went back to grab one and I started doing a little ink line drawing of this roofline just to pass the time. Two beers and a bowl of peanut chicken soup later this is what I had. Afterwards we took a canal boat tour. One of the million things we learned on the tour was that this city was decimated by the black plague. Thirty percent of the population of Amsterdam was wiped out by three different waves of it throughout the 1600s. When someone fell ill with the incurable disease their house was painted black. People brought them food and water, but they'd remain completely quarantined in their houses until they passed away. To this day those houses remain black in colour and will never be changed. This house in my sketch, now a popular restaurant, is one of them. Our house (not black), just out of view in this sketch, is sandwiched between two plague houses.  Theres no stigma attached to it now.  It was, after all, about 400 years ago. Now they're just beautiful, and one more interesting thing about this fascinating city. 

We spent the morning at the Van Gogh museum. It was my one 'must do' thing here in Amsterdam, and it was just as  magical as I'd hoped it would be. Four floors of his work, related works, and some really cool displays showcasing different aspects of his life and his art.  One of the cool unexpected little treasures was a wooden box of his where he kept little balls of colored yarn that he'd intertwine in skeins to see how the colors would interplay. There they were, all these little two-toned bundles of wool in the brushstroke colors of his palette that he'd wound together over 100 years ago.  Lovely. 

We're down the final night of our trip. It's been over a month for me. I have a sketchbook full of half finished paintings, ticket stubs, postcards and ephemera that will complete themselves (and appear here) over the next month or so, an extra 20 lbs of books to somehow stuff into a suitcase, a few little art treasures and about a kilo of bread, wine and cheese around my waist to work off after get home. I wouldn't change thing about this trip. The places we've stayed, the people we've met, it's all been perfect.  Sometime mid afternoon tomorrow I'll be anxious to get off the plane and resume my Vancouver life.

But in the meantime there's a moonlit canal-side restaurant out there somewhere  with our names written on it. Will update soon. 

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