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!