One morning, three different ways of seeing.

[By Orling Dominguez, 2019 symposium correspondent, in Amsterdam]

The first day of workshops started early, at about 9:00am, with a meeting at the Zuiderkerk, the symposium main venue. A morning of announcements, catching up with other sketchers, participants checking out the vendors area and more presentations of past symposiums by their hosts. You could feel the excitement and eagerness of the participants to go out to learn and sketch in their chosen workshops. They only had the option of choosing 3 out of 36 workshops, so they had to be very thoughtful about what they wanted to learn. As a past participant, I know how hard it is to choose 3 or 4 workshops out of so many amazing proposals.

About 9:30am we were set to go. Out of the Zuiderkerk, in the plaza right outside the doors, there was a contagious energy. Volunteers were spread around the courtyard holding a board with the workshop names, so participants could tell where to go. Some teachers stay in the plaza doing their introductions and later on walked to their asigned locations, others were on their way the minute they had their group completed.

My intention for the day was clear. I wanted to, at least, attend three workshops for about 50 minutes each, in order to capture a glimpse of the essence of the workshop, to try doing the exercises that the participants where doing at the moment, and use the tips proposed by the instructor to sketch in that style or technique.

My first learning experience of the day was at Norberto Dorantes’s workshop: Line Flow – Discover how a simple line can be a launch point and join spaces.

Noberto started his workshop at the Mr. J.J. van der Veldebrug bridge that connects the side of the OBA (Amsterdam Central Library) with the NEMO Museum side. In my sketch I wanted to reflect Norberto’s interesting remarks about the goals of the exercise he was introducing. I pictured him in the middle surrounded by his very attentive students. He wanted us to do small quick sketches of 30 seconds, for about 15 minutes. The idea was to focus on the direction of the line, on the fluidity of it to drawn us from the foreground to the background, and the movement a line can generate. My sketch of Norberto’s teaching is surrounded by the thumbnails he asks us to create playing with the composition. A drawing of Norberto’s demo sketch is on the right.

After the first exercise, we crossed the bridge and moved under the shadow of the massive structure of the NEMO Museum. In my sketches to the right you can see that the group is farther from me. I stayed behind because I wanted to capture the proportion of the museum using the ideas Norberto had just introduced, about keeping the line fluid by playing with the direction of it. I left the group when they were doing their second exercise to check out Shari Blaukopf workshop, who was happening very close.

Unfortunately, by the time I made it to Shari Blaukopf’s workshop she had already introduced the main ideas, but she happened to be at that moment giving feedback to a student and I was able to catch the purpose of the exercise at hand. She was requiring the participant to use a brush pen so I quickly pulled mine from my set of sketching tools and got to work. The idea was to capture shapes, mainly boat shapes, by using a brush pen, to understand the structure and proportion. As I was setting up to do my exercise, she moved to another student and I decided to include her in the sketch, along with some boats, using the simplification she suggested, focusing on shapes.

Shari’s workshop is titled: Barges, Schooners, and Trawlers; Sketching Amsterdam Historic’s Harbor and for some reason, I see my sketch and it looks like she is the commander of her own ship. Isn’t she?

The group was spread out in a big area and the time came to moved to another workshop.

My next workshop was Color First, Then Line, with the one and only, Anne Rose Oosterbaan. She happens to be the art director of the symposium and creator of Adam, the symposium’s mascot and all the little animations you have seen througout the previous weeks featuring such lovely character.

I have to say I had a lot of fun in this workshop. I showed up right at the beginning of her introduction of the last exercise, so I had to pick up from there the goal of the workshop. She asks us to draw first with color, and then to draw for a second time with lines, not worrying if both drawings didn’t match. I am mostly a black ink user, but this workshop gave me the opportunity to play with watercolors for a while at the same time that I was creating my reportage drawing for this post.

I stayed for the critique session and participants were very happy with their results. Once the sketchbooks were on the floor, it looked like an explosion of color. In this sketch I wanted to picture Anne Rose looking over the sketchbooks that were placed at her feet. Her body language is powerful, someone who is focused, paying respect to her students. Later on, during lunch, I happend to overhear some of her students at the restaurant commenting on how much they enjoyed the workshop and the liberty that it seemed to have granted them. Bravo Anne Rose!

In the afternoon, after a quick bite, I returned to the main venue to catch the Skit Sketch. Seven sketchers shared their experiences with sketching and the world around them. Eduardo Bajzek very moving presentation left us thinking about the power of drawing to connect with others in the streets. Pedro Cabral shared how he takes some days off every year to just walk and wander… and sketch in remote areas. Elizabeth Alley, represented in this sketch, introduced us to the similarities of sketching with technical communication, inviting us to see sketching from another perspective, either by sketching the steps of a recipe, illustrating in thumbnails actions of the day, doodles of patterns, or just sketching at work. The idea of the skit sketch presentations is to give presenters a short time to introduce the audience to a single concept, precise and focused. These seven presenters did an amazing job for sure!

To complete the day, sketchers had the opportunity to choose from 3 different sketch walks happening in different locations. It was hot, around 100F degrees. Some decided to call it a day and relax in a terrace, but many went on to continue sketching through the evening. 

I personally had a great time today, playing with three different approaches for sketching from three amazing instructors. Thank you Norberto, Shari, and Anne Rose!

Time to cool down now and find an air conditioned room! Stay hydrated kiddos! Until tomorrow then…

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