Day 2- van Gogh,diamonds,Jews and more!

the gloomy morning

This is how gloomy the morning was.

It was winter and the weather reports that I kept tracking did not show any sign of the Sun for the next few days and predictably, the next morning was cloudy and dark. Since we  were done with the walking tours, we decided to take a ride on the Hop on-off sightseeing bus to be able to make the most of our time here.

Hop On-Off Bus

Our ride for the day

We braved through the drizzle and chill and walked with newly bought umbrellas (The Hop On-Off ticket office stocked them) and tickets to where the bus would pick us.  Our first stop was going to be at the van Gogh museum. Akank was learning van Gogh style of painting at school in art and she had educated me on what to expect.  We were informed that the van Gogh paintings had been temporarily relocated to The Hermitage museum and that is where we headed first.

van Gogh

His paintings have been used to sell commercial products like these at the Museum shop

Armed with some knowledge of what to expect, we joined the rest of the museum goers. The walls neatly displayed the masterpieces of the great man.  Knowing a little about Vincent and his brother Theo helped to make sense of what I read.  We spent almost three hours there, reflecting on the wonder of life in Vincent’s times. He prided in calling himself a peasant painter. Most of his paintings were of peasants in their wheat fields. Some of the letters he wrote his brother Theo were displayed- profound thoughts in them. We spent time studying every painting closely like art lovers do and learnt so much about the man. His favorite color was definitely yellow and he had a typical style – thick layers of paint in short strokes, almost like tick marks. We viewed the famous – The Potato eaters – which van Gogh himself thought was his best painting. Now I will be able to recognize a van Gogh painting without breaking into a sweat.

Diamonds on display

These were fake diamonds- displayed to show the different cuts in magnified sizes.

By that time, the weather had cleared up and we felt a little more adventurous about making more stops. A trip to a diamond workshop piqued our curiosity. We were taken around the workshop, by an employee, who was only too pleased to show us around and the different cuts and clarity of the expensive stone, hoping to evoke some buying interest in the group that stopped for the tour. At the end of the tour, even though we did not buy one, my respect for the stone went up a few notches.

The instruments

Imagine using these on a tender 8 day old infant

Jewish MuseumThe hop on–off bus took the scenic route around town. The audio options in the bus let us choose the language we preferred to listen in and that helped. We decided to stop at the Jewish Historic Museum, next.  The audio tour we opted for, gave us a lot of information on Jewish history and culture. On display were paintings by the Dutch painter Sal Meijer who was Jewish, artifacts and photographs from the 16th Century Netherlands. We saw videos of some Jewish practices and ceremonies.

The instruments they used for circumcision of eight day old babies were scary! There were even videos of the circumcision ceremony – The Brit Milah – to watch. As the Jews await their Messiah’s imminent arrival, there have been a few false claimants who have called themselves the Messiah. One such interesting person to read about was Sabbatai Zevi. After initial claims of being the messiah he embraced Islam! It was possible to empathize with the Jews of the earlier days in the Netherlands and Spain and other parts of the World. There was so much to learn and appreciate and we had so little time. The lady who collected back the audio equipment at the end of our visit, was pleasantly surprised we had stayed that long.

After a quick bite at the museum cafe, we hopped back on the bus, to be dropped  where we began our tour. We were back in the vicinity of the hotel and we still had a few hours to use well before we went back to our room.  Amsterdam has museums for everything– over 50 museums on the last count! We couldn’t do justice to more museums but we went into one more that we spotted. The Erotica museum.

You heard it here first!

You heard it here first!

Did you know John Lennon, of the Beatles fame, was first an artist before he picked a guitar?  Some of his lithographs were displayed. So were some miniature soapstone sculptures from Kajuraho, some collectible bone ivory Shunga Netsuke from China, some works based on Milo Menara comics, some of Paul Blanca’s artistic photographs and Jeff Wack’s works.  There was even a metal sculpture of Lord Buddha.  We also saw on display a Tintin comic, an illegal adaptation of course, with Tintin and Captain Haddock in dubious situations!

The Buddha

The Buddha

We also walked to the famous Red Light District, right in the middle of town. Women are legally permitted to be sex workers and unlike in other countries, they have police protection. I saw both young and older women dressed in their best work attire, waiting at lit glass showcases called the ‘window brothels’. Some of them actually looked really pretty.

Well, we had seen enough. We stopped at a middle eastern restaurant that served Mexican falafels and freshly squeezed orange juice for dinner and called it a night.

Day three was in Antwerp and for a beautiful occasion!




yoyoginiIf you have been to yoga classes, you probably hear similar instructions from your teacher as well..

Peel the flesh off your sitting bones, sit with the spine straight, imagine a thread pulling you from the crown of your head towards the?? ceiling. Relax your shoulders. Breath into your abdominal space.Take a moment to bring your awareness to the room, your surroundings, the way your feet feel against the floor. Stretch your arms up high without lifting your shoulders. Look at one spot on the floor or anywhere in front of you to help you balance. Bring your hands to your heart center Hold your gaze on the center finger of your right hand- your dhrishti. Stretch your arms parallel to the floor. Reach towards the front wall. Slide your shoulder parallel to the floor, make sure your knee is above the toes.?? Keep your feet hip distance apart. Your hands are shoulder distance apart. Push yourself up with your sitting bones towards the ceiling, stand on your toes and send your stomach towards the thighs. Continue to breathe. Feel the stretch on your lower back. Lengthen your spine. Make sure you are balanced on both sides of your body. Hinge forward from your hip so that your spine stays parallel to the ground. Keep your legs straight and lean your body toward the left side without your right foot leaving the floor. Shift the weight of the body to the front without scrunching your toes.?? Relax your face and jaw.. Continue to breathe.. Bring your awareness to the breath. Clasp your fingers and hold the palms together, Gently open your eyes, take a deep breath through your nostrils and exhale through your mouth. One more time…

Acrylic on canvas – finally!

It seems I have made quite some progress since my first class in November 2009. My art teachers finally decided that I was ready to try out acrylic on canvas this week. I had a list of things from them to shop before my first attempt. I picked an easel, paints, brushes and another palette. They warned me that acrylic paints dry fast and that I had to watch out for unclosed paint tubes and bottles. My first acrylic subject was – no points for guessing – vegetables.

I chose an orange, a radish and a capsicum. The final version here shows an apple. To cut a long story short, it was replaced since I did not have the colour chrome yellow which was critical to capture the coloration of the orange. So Augustine replaced the guilty orange with an apple. It was hard work. First of all, this was the first time I was drawing anything using an easel! So to draw at the angle that it was precariously kept was a strain on my wrist. Victoria kept reminding me that I should avoid supporting my wrist against the board. At the end of the sketch I realized that I had made deep impressions on the canvas with my pencil. I was told that I had to use the paints as an opaque medium so as to camouflage the pencil lines.

The final piece looked like a dream. Even though a trained eye will find only flaws and no great artist will be fooled, for me it was nothing short of a masterpiece!

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Black board and Glassmarkers

This was an interesting class in art. I sketched the helmet using a glass marker on a black board. I have left the picture incomplete. The helmet was the object to be captured. The trick was not to draw the helmet but only highlight the wall, the floor and the portions around it so that the helmet will be outlined. The white coloration in the helmet are the highlights from the window. Interesting technique this.

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Charcoal Sketches

CharcoalCharcoal SketchAnother Charcoal sketch

This was another class that I had to be done with before I moved on to the real thing- Acrylics on canvas. This was only to get myself familiarized with how charcoal pencils work on paper. The experience was similar to that of pencil sketching. Here are a few of the sketches I managed on the sketching- with-charcoal day.

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Proportions and water colours


I went back to proportions last week. It had been a while since I had drawn anything so it was a good thing.  Augustine and Victoria asked me to look around the room and pick a subject that caught my fancy to capture onto the sketch pad. From where I sat, I saw the wall opposite me. It had a photograph of painted flowers. I didn’t think that would be interesting. To capture a picture of someone else’s capture! My eyes moved on from the photo to the corner of the room.  This room that I sat in was cluttered with stuff that have been left in their packed state. There were recently acquired paintings, a carton filled with more paintings, and a large brown paper wrapped hand knotted silk on silk Kashmiri carpet. It looked like I had found my objects of desire.


I also added an open shelved library with all of Akank’s books on one wall and part of the curtain on the other wall, to add perspective to the overall picture. It took me about half an hour to come up with a capture that did not entirely meet my art teachers’ approval. When I looked at it after their feedback I realized that I had begun the book shelf the top of the curtain at the same height instead of showing a difference that there was in real.

I attempted the same picture from another angle and equipped with inputs that I got from my art teachers, this one turned out to be a better capture.

 My follow up class last week was to use water colours on the same drawing to show the depth and highlights of the picture using water colours.


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Water colours

I have not been regular with my art class updates because I haven't been regular with art class!

I have progressed to water colours though. First my tutors taught me the various techniques in water colour. Only now I realize how unaware I was about water colours. Water colours need more water than colour. You have to paint the shades in, one layer after the other instead of using bright colours at the beginning. My art teachers tell me that I must learnt to make all the shades and hues of the colour wheel with just the primary colours.

My first water colour experiment was coloring a capsicum.I love the shade of red and orange in the capsicum so I chose that. I arrived at the final colour of the capsicum, with a judicious use of,  ochre, lemon yellow, vermilion and scarlet red. The final product was ready after 45 minutes of work! It was then I realized that using water colours was not easy. One not only needs to understand the shades of colours but also the quality of boards that you use for the painting. I am told some boards absorb more water than the others. Depending on the type of water colour you want to paint, you choose the board.

WaterColour -RedCapsicum
WaterColour - The hazy driveway
WaterColour - The meadow

My second experience with water colour was with another technique called 'wet on wet'. In this technique, I paint the board that I have chosen, first with water and before the board dries up, I paint the first colour. I painted a landscape using this technique. As soon as I used the blue for the sky, on the wet board, the colour spread automatically to give it a natural cloudy sky look and feel. Before I used the next colour, I had to wait for the blue to dry so that it does not mix with the second colour I used.

I enjoyed using this technique with water colours so much that I painted one more landscape later. This technique makes the picture look natural and is best suited for landscapes. Even a first time painter will experience such a thrill when the final picture looks like this!

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