Art · italy · Travel · Travel Sketchbooks

Collection #14: Travel Sketchbooks, Part 2 — Italy


As I wrote in my blog on China sketchbooks, the most intimate way to experience a place is to draw it in a sketchbook—to see every detail and absorb the entire atmosphere (the sounds, smells, and light and shadows) around your subject. Now, in Part 2, I’ll take you to Italy.




Like my trip through China, Barbara Carr, an illustrator and professor at Pratt, lead our group of artists through the beauties of Italy, starting in Venice.

I’m fortunate to have seen places in the world before they were overrun by tourism. I was able to sit in the Piazza San Marco painting the Basilica at dawn, pretty much alone, or paint the skyline with the Doge’s Palace without the view being obscured by mega-sized cruise ships.


san marco basilica




The best part of Venice was avoiding the main tourist locations to wander through back alleys and over small bridges and canals. I sat in a small piazza doing this drawing of a newspaper/magazine kiosk while wise-guy waiters threw pieces of bread near me so pigeons would bother me. But this is one of my favorite drawings (especially since I’m a magazine art director).

venice _kiosk_web



I painted this market in the rain wearing one of those dorky plastic rain ponchos—but it saved the day.


If you ever want to indulge in the romance of Venice, watch my favorite movie, Summertime, where spinster Katherine Hepburn falls in love with Rossano Brazzi.


Leaving Venice


I found dawn to be a productive time to paint. Here is my painting of dawn over Lago Maggiore and Isola Bella, done from my hotel balcony.



The Cathedral of Siena was imposing from a distance and remarkable close up. Glad I had burnt sienna in my bijou box (now using the larger size).




Portofino, seen from a hillside, looked like a box of Crayolas.



Florence was the last stop on our tour. A well-placed overlook provided an inspiring vista.


Italy Again

I returned to Italy to paint in Urbino with a School of Visual Arts program. My artist friend Jane and I also took excursions to nearby towns.

Men in the piazza, Urbino
Grilled lunch, Urbino


After Urbino, we stayed in Perugia and made day trips to Orvieto (a source of some of my Italian pottery) and Assisi, home of St. Francis.

Oratory of San Bernadino, Perugia
Fresco ceilings in a cafe bar, Perugia
Sunday morning, Perugia

I loved that in Perugia, when you wanted to order a cappuccino, you would say (phonetically) OO-na kah-POOCH.


A closed chapel used for storage, Perugia
Basilica of St. Francis, Assisi
Santa Chiara, Assisi


When I traveled, I didn’t only use sketchbooks. I also used larger pieces of Arches cold-press watercolor paper. I’d take two pieces of foam core and tape one long side together. I’d keep sheets of paper inside, held closed by large clips. To paint, I would clip a sheet to the outside of the foam core sandwich and use it as lap table. It worked great. You may see some of my paintings in my post about Antique Frames.


Time to say Arrivederci. Next stop—England.


Until next time, cherish your clutter.

2 thoughts on “Collection #14: Travel Sketchbooks, Part 2 — Italy

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s