Cycling in Amsterdam

The bike is such an iconic part of Dutch culture. How could I not capture it on paper.  This is an Indian ink, applied by brush on manuscript paper. I love ink’s beautiful blackness and permanence. In addition the strong linear aspect of urban, architectural views make it a natural subject for ink. The reason I like using a limited palate is that I am forced to focus more strongly on the lines, rather than reproducing the scene in colour. I love scenes with depth and perspective, that idea of ‘going somewhere: an  adventure waiting to be discovered beyond the page….

I have also used a hint of gold paint. My decision for manuscript paper arose out of my desire to create more depth and interest in the piece. Amsterdam is a busy place, why not create a busy image. However it is not until you step up close to the image that the notes of the staves of music become clear. The image is 87 x 66cm. This piece is for sale.

While you have the buildings in the background your focus is most definitely the cyclist. Your eye is drawn to the human activity of cycling. The strong vertical and horizontal lines with the perspective, suggest the vast scale of the buildings and street. Why not combine chaos and order- a perfect reflection of city life.

The bicycle in Dutch history holds a special place. Apparently 36% of people in the Netherlands use the bike as their most frequent mode of transport on a typical day. The needs of cyclists are taken into account in all stages of urban planning in cities. Urban areas are frequently organised as woonwijken (living streets), which prioritize cyclists and pedestrians over motorized traffic. Too bad other countries don’t follow suit.

The Dutch train their children to ride so they can confidently ride on the roads when they are around 12 years of age, just before they start  secondary school. They are taught to ride in school and must pass their traffic exams which gives them access to a traffic certificate. 75% of secondary school students cycle to school.  Dutch motorists are also trained for interaction with cyclists as part of their drivers licence and a driver who hits a cyclists (regardless of who’s fault it is ) is always liable. I must say as a New Zealand trained driver driving in the Netherlands, its a bit hair raising – constantly having to be aware of pedestrians, cyclists, trains and trams as well as other motor vehicles!

Helmets are not compulsory and cycle paths are in the main separated from the road by a concrete verge or hedges. Unlike New Zealand I feel perfectly safe riding in the Netherlands and for me its one of the great joys of living here. In addition, if you don’t want to take you’re bike with you, you can simply hire a bike at any railway station throughout the country. Mobility made very simple.



  1. Reblogged this on JB Art Drawings and commented:
    The use of the music sheet as the backdrop of this art piece is so effective! I love how it creates a busy picture yet it isn’t distracting, you focus on, as Sarah says, the cyclist. The added gold of the trees adds a certain charm to the artwork too. I think I’ll have to give drawing on top of other backgrounds a go, such as newspapers (because we have plenty of them in our house!)

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