Continuing on from my last blog post about my Amsterdam trip with Kathie of Bellissima Art Escapes – here is Part Two, where we explored more of Amsterdams museums and galleries and delved into working with paint and colour. You can read Part One of this post here.

Print room and studio in the house of Rembrandt

We packed so much into the week that in the last post I completely forgot to mention that we had also been to visit Rembrandt’s house, where he lived from 1639 to 1656. Filled with his paintings and etchings, a particular highlight was seeing his studio, which was divided up into painting areas and rooms to house his printing press. We enjoyed a demonstration on how his apprentices would have mixed his paints by grinding the pigment and oil. We were all eager to have a shot ourselves.

Demonstration of the grinding of the pigments that Rembrandt would have used.

After two days in the studio working on drawing from reference images and then working from our fabulous model Claire, it was wonderful to break the week up with another day exploring Amsterdam, and in particular, some of the many galleries. The Stedelijk in the morning and then the Van Gogh Museum in the afternoon. Both equally inspiring. It is one thing to see and admire artworks in books and prints but an entirely different experience to see these incredible works of art in real life – to appreciate the way the paint has been layered and built up, the way the colours interact and the emotions that come from standing before the work of true master artists.

Much of our week was focussed on using shadows and light to create form and convey emotion in our work – inspired by Rembrandt, of course. Here I am demoing how I build up a monochrome painting where I explore variations in edges and a deep contrast in value.

Paintings by Michele Rawlings Unger, Gilly Rochester and Katie O’Sullivan

Our next day in the studio was spent working with a primary focus of shadows and light on paintings inspired by our drawings from earlier in the week, our model Claire and also with the option to work using Rembrandt as our inspiration. Building up layers of paint and creating highly atmospheric images in monochrome to concentrate on form and working those edges.

Paintings by Sue Stevenson Pennal, Katie O’Sullivan and Zohra Amed

We were then able to work on those layers with glazes of rich colour with a limited palette and acrylic mediums – building a history of layers for a wonderfully textured surface with depth and again, more atmosphere.

Here is a layer by layer image of me building up colour and glazes over a monochrome underpainting inspired by a painting by Rembrandt of his mother. This is acrylic on canvas.

Astounding work by Kathie Vezzani, Katie O’Sullivan and Gilly Rochester. I love how you can really see how uniquely each artist is inspired and building up the layers and atmosphere in their work.

The work from these last two studio days is amazing! I am sure the incredible atmosphere of the studio had an impact on all our work – how can you not be inspired to create wonderful paintings when working in such characterful surroundings? I am sure each one of us felt as if we had been transported to the Renaissance period with the warm wooden panelling and incredible light.

Work by Sharyle Doherty, Zohra Amed and Michele Rawlings Unger.

Paintings by Gilly Rochester, Zohra Amed and Sharyle Doherty

Katie working on her amazing study of a Rembrandt painting

Paintings by Kathie Vezzani, Sharyle Doherty and Joan Currie

I think we were all sad to end our time in Amsterdam – we had walked our socks off, been inspired by old masters and more contemporary painters, eaten glorious food, worked from a beautiful model in the most inspiring studio you could hope to create art in and drawn and painted to our heart’s content. It is certainly a time I will never forget and I have to give a special shout out to all the students who joined us. Kathie once again organised the most wonderful trip that combined art, friendship, sightseeing and good eating. The perfect combination!

Our fabulous studio with the hard working students!

I am truly honoured to be working with Kathie on these trips. Really – they are so brilliantly put together and organised and I can’t wait to share more on the trips we have planned for next year! One of which you can read about here – London and Northumberland with myself and Judy Wise. There are only a couple of places remaining. Kathie has written a beautiful blog post about our three trips these past few months. I really could not ask for a better art/travel/workshop companion. You can read more here.

I never thought in a million years I would have the opportunity to do what I do and travel and create art with amazing people – but I am!

Our final evening together eating in this amazing greenhouse restaurant called Del Kas – you can read Kathie’s blog post about this restaurant here. The food was all locally sourced and really incredible.

Thank you to Kathie once again – so fabulous to travel with my good friend.

If you are unable to attend an in-person workshop with me then I would just like to let you know that I will be running my popular Portraits – Your art, Your way online course once again this Autumn. We will delve into drawing and painting expressive portraits in such a way that you are encouraged to discover and explore your own personal style and aesthetic. The feedback from students who have studied on this course so far has been incredible so don’t miss out if it is something that you would like to be a part of. You can sign up for the newsletter below to hear more about when registration will open for the next course which begins later this year.