I started sketching fellow passengers on the NDSM ferry after I moved to Amsterdam Noord, which is separated from the city centre by a body of water called the IJ. The trip takes about twelve minutes, and it seemed like a great drawing exercise for the mornings. I’d loosen up with a speedy pencil portrait on the boat, cycle to my studio, and finish it up with fineliners and markers over a cup of coffee. This daily doodling evolved into an interesting study of how we choose to spend our time. We’re all in this state of suspension on the ferry, floating on the water, in a limbo between destination points. I was particularly drawn to people who were absorbed in reading books. These “dedicated readers” remained quite still through the journey, and it’s a loving testimony to the power of print. This original tiny sketchbook filled up from January to May 2017.
When I flipped back through the sketchbook, I discovered that it also told a story of time passing on a larger level as winter opened up into spring. This gave me the idea for the Faces on the Ferry art project, which consists of a film of the original sketchbook and sixteen silkscreen prints extracted from sketches made on the ferry over the course of a year, four for each season. The prints each use a four colour palette, with one colour that carries through to the following season. This creates a flow, expressing the observations I made about time, as well as a series of vivid modern portraits of the diverse public of the ferries.
The historic city centre of Amsterdam is a charming but well-known tourist destination, and I hope that my art project brings more attention to the north, specifically the NDSM area. The industrial history, cheap rent, and relatively open spaces have made it a haven for artists, similar to parts of Brooklyn in New York. A trip across the water is like a breath of fresh air, invigorating and memorable.
Rachelle Meyer is an American illustrator and artist living in Amsterdam. Faces on the Ferry is being exhibited as an installation from 1-17 November in NDSM FUSE, Amsterdam Noord. More of Rachelle’s work can be found on her website www.rachellemeyer.com.