Let’s Take a Walk

Devan Brush
day 17:: reflection // 5.31.17

In the beginning of the first week of Amsterdam, Tricia said this trip is going to be like a marathon. I think that is a perfect depiction of the trip. Before we left there was anticipation, there was excitement and nerves and the unknown was ahead. Throughout our time in Amsterdam, there were ups and downs, there were times that we worked really hard, and times that we got to explore. There was extreme exhaustion, but there was so beauty and accomplishment. We left for Amsterdam the day after I graduated, which was quite a transition. There wasn’t really much time to process graduating from college to then getting on an airplane to travel across the ocean to Europe. I was beyond exhausted from my final semester, but also so excited to be going to Europe to study graphic design and to learn printmaking with so many of my close friends. I was looking at this trip as the perfect ending to my college career, doing what I love, in a new place, with my roommate, professors and classmates.

The theme of our trip was interrogation. I thought long and hard about what exactly I wanted to focus my research and time on while abroad. I thought through some heavy topics and decided I wanted this trip to be an exploration that I could enjoy, and didn’t want to focus on topics that I knew would upset me. I began to think about how when school or life or whatever was going on and things get hard, I go for a walk. Walks seem to clear the mind and give you perspective. Anytime when I would be struggling with homework when I was little, my mom would say let’s take a walk around the block. Getting fresh air, moving, and observing your surroundings gives you perspective and a chance to breathe. Similar as I’ve been in school, if things would get stressful in the studio, I would say to Jordan or Abby or whomever, let’s take a walk, and no matter how stressful or busy things were, it would help. I started researching how this is a thing people actually study. I checked out the book “The Art of Taking A Walk”. The term flanerie is defined as aimless idle behavior. That was one of the main focuses of this particular book. As I read this book about how it is a modern phenomenon to consider the streets as our privileged metaphor that links private perception to the public sphere. The Art Of Taking A Walking talks about how walking through cities jogs creativity, and that in the modern world today we are more likely to want to just drift through spaces to explore our surroundings. This is how I wanted to approach my Amsterdam Experience.

Walking through the streets of Amsterdam, I would observe how different and modern the architecture was, how the canals were such an integral landscape within the city, and wow the streets themselves, they were very different too. You have to go through the bike lane, the car lane, bus lane, another car lane and then the last bike lane. It was quite the navigation to get to one side of the street to the other without getting hit by a bike. I loved how integrated bikes were into the city here; it’s definitely not like that in Boone or anywhere I’ve been in the States. Other than walking from place to place, I really didn’t take too many walks in the sense I thought I would. We were at GWA and AGA most days, and we would get so busy and wrapped up in our work, I didn’t think take time out of the day or night to go for a walk.

Going to GWA was probably among my favorite things we did in Amsterdam. We would walk in, and it would instantly feel like we were at home. There was coffee, tea, minted water, biscuits, fruit and chocolate waiting for our arrival. Being a graphic designer, I have always loved typography. I have never worked in a letterpress studio though. I enjoyed this experience because I felt it was the perfect integration between graphic design and printmaking. We were able to use type in a physical way and learn how to work a press and experiment with our prints. There was such an energy working there, there were about 5 presses that we were all hard at work right in a line next to each other. We couldn’t always see what each other was working on, but we could hear the excitement in our quite vocal group. No matter the exhaustion throughout the days, there was always humor which would keep me going. Having my friends by my side always kept me going. It was also exciting getting to work with new people. Mixing graphic designers and printmakers we were able to benefit from each others talents and learn from one another. Two days at GWA I worked with David, and that work was some of my favorite work I produced while I was there. He would ask me my opinion on how we should place the type, and he would help me with running the press and inking it correctly. Our time at GWA would always fly by, before we knew it, it was time for our home cooked meals we looked forward there and then the afternoon was over in a flash, but without realizing it until we left, it was much needed to sit down after standing by a press all day.

Along with going to AGA and GWA, we went on a few day trips. Even though getting there was an adventure in itself, I thoroughly enjoyed Maastricht. Walking through the town reminded me of Tuscany Italy. We had some free time between going to The Painted Bird Exhibit and going to Jan Van Eyck Academie, so Abby and I separated from the group and explored the town. It was nice just to be in a small group after a week and a half, and just stroll through the streets. I was beyond excited to find a little pizza place, and obviously got a little ahead of myself and ordered myself a whole pizza. It was just the little break, or walk I needed to reenergize myself for the rest of the trip.

Yellow, Yellow Yellow. At the beginning and end of my day I would see yellow. We stayed at WOW Hostel, and without noticing it, you’ll certainly say wow a lot as you first encounter your home for the next three weeks. The walls, beds, shower, floor, everything in our room was yellow. It was overwhelming at first, but I came to like it. It would wake me up rather easy in the morning, and I would have rathered yellow over red or blue. Yellow made me happy, it was just a lot of it everywhere. It was my first experience in a hostel, but it probably wasn’t your typical experience as everyone staying in my room I’ve known and been close with for a few years now. We would always start or end our day with highs and lows, so we were essentially at camp, but times like these were among my favorites during the trip.

WOW was also right next to AGA, which made working at AGA very convenient, and it also meant for some late nights, which I practically lived in Wey Hall in Boone most nights so there wasn’t much difference here, other than we were across the big ocean working. However, it was slightly different for me. Everything about AGA was unfamiliar. I had never taken a printmaking course and didn’t know the first thing about printmaking, to be honest, so every aspect of AGA was new and different. I didn’t feel as comfortable there, as I was out of my comfort zone, and didn’t always entirely know what I was doing. Even though sometimes it stressed me out, maybe sometimes that was a good thing. Anna would show me what to do with my photo polymer plate, as I would watch how focused Emma was on her intricate wood block, and how Belle loves monotyping, which before this trip I didn’t even know what that meant. We all had different skills, and I was getting to do things I’m not as exposed to in Boone, and that I’m grateful for to have had that opportunity.

Thinking back about interrogation of space, I was trying to think about my favorite encounters of space in Amsterdam and I was immediately drawn to a memory. It was Sunday of our first weekend. It had been a long week of work in the studio and I also had been very sick from something like food poisoning or stomach bug, but I finally was back at 100% and wanted to explore on our day off. Abby, Jason, Kellee, David, Anna and I went on an adventure which we thought we were going to a flea market. The flea market ended up not running that day, but it still ended up being one of my favorite days. It was quite the adventure to get to where we were going, we took a bus to Amsterdam Central, walked around until we found the tram to take us and then another bus, to then walk for a little ways. We got to this secluded area that was unlike anything in Amsterdam I’d seen thus far. The place looked vacant, there were huge buildings, with large graffiti on them, and we walked for a while trying to find this flea market that obviously was not around. It was like our playground though, we were the only people really around, until we found this building that turned out to be a cafe on the water. It was so quirky and fun, we stayed for lunch. We sat outside, and it was right on the water. It was beautiful, and calm, and felt like we were so far away from everything. I was still getting my appetite back, so I didn’t eat that much, but Jason did get fries and those were good. Sitting on the water and walking the quiet streets was so calming. We started exploring the area after lunch, Jason and David found this crane that had an apartment or place of living inside of it. It was a pretty neat spot and I didn’t regret coming at all even though there was no flea market. We realized there was a much faster and prettier way back, and took the ferry across the water. I knew that this day would influence my work, which it did, that’s why there is a crane in my spread of our collective book.

Like I said before, it was quite a trip, rather more of a marathon. There was a lot of work made, a lot of hours spent in studios and on trains, not that many hours sleeping, but I believe we all gained knowledge and experience about how we want to work as designers and artists, and how we can collaborate to work together in the future too.




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