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Behind the Sketch

A Surprise at St. Bavo

Have you ever gotten an energy boost from working near another artist?

3 years ago

A Surprise at St. Bavo

3 years ago

Have you ever gotten an energy boost from working near another artist? Here's a story about my unexpected encounter with a hard-working musician.

In 2019, I got to enjoy the Urban Sketchers Symposium in Amsterdam. After days of learning, observing, laughing and sharing with 400 other sketchers, I had a free day to be on my own before heading back to New England. I left the city and headed by train to Haarlem to see the Grote Kerk, St. Bavo.

Inside the church, I was overwhelmed by the pipe organ and stucco decorations. This had to be my subject! As I walked the perimeter inside looking for the best view, someone started playing the organ. It was so loud and abrupt that visitors jumped! I found a seat in some raised pews and began to sketch. I thought I was in for a concert but, instead, the organist played the same sections over and over, making corrections and learning from missteps. This audible effort was the best companionship for me as I worked. Struggling with numbers of pipes, gold folds and swirls, I stopped, started and attacked as the organist did. A proper concert, no matter how fine, could never have given me the experience that I had that day.

1 comment

  • A lesson In persevering. I’ve done this kind of practice as a musician many, many times. The organist was your inspiration.

    Sue Bissell on

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