30x30: The first few direct watercolour Baroque facades

June 6, 2022 | 8 Comments

I’m really happy that I decided to sketch Baroque facades for this year’s 30×30 Direct Watercolour Challenge. It’s a subject that I love but one that is challenging as well.

My favourite way to sketch Baroque buildings is to start with paint but then switch to ink in order to accurately describe the intricate designs – the curved elements, the use of the classical orders (and whether they are pilasters or full/half /three-quarter columns ) and the stepping wall planes. (Above: Re-sharing some sketches from the last time I did some serious Italian Baroque sketching.)

As mentioned last week, these types of sketches (paint then ink then paint again) can be considered direct watercolour as I’m starting with paint without any guidelines. But I want my 30×30 sketches to be paint-only and totally ink-free. This means that I have to work out a way to describe the details.

Does this mean I have to use a finer brush than my usual 1/2 inch Dagger brush (Rosemary Series 772)? 
Does this mean that I have to work more wet or dry?

These are two of the questions that are going through my head as I start this challenge.

I’ve also decided that I want to research every building that I sketch!

I love to understand the design of these Baroque facades and so it’s been really satisfying to get out my three favourite books on the subject in addition to my own photo album/book that I created in 2004 (you can see some sample pages here).

BTW these books are specialised architecture books – I’m only sharing these for other people who are seriously into architectural history and theory. They are not sketching-related books at all! 🙂

So you will see on my pages diagrams describing the design…

and also quotes – particularly from George (ie. George Sullivan from his book “Not Built in a Day”) who was my constant companion during my 2010 visit to Rome. (See Part 1, Part 2 and Part3 for my sketches from that trip – lots of George quotes in Part 2 and 3 when I was solo.)

I’m absolutely loving the research process but it’s actually making it hard to paint loosely in watercolour as I’m more invested in describing the details. Also, the research is taking longer to do than the sketch itself  so this might become a time challenge as I get busier this month!

Anyway… these are my initial thoughts about doing the 30×30 challenge so far this year.

Here are the sketches of the individual buildings.

S. Susanna

S. Andrea della Velle

Acqua Paola

Acqua Felice

SS Luca e Martina

Ah! this is going to be a fun (and full-on) month!


If you are doing the 30×30 challenge… how’s it going?


  • Martine says:

    I love the bold choice of colours! I wonder if that is the influence of working with colour pencils?

    • Liz Steel says:

      Thanks Martine – I have used colours like this before (such as the pages from my Baroque day in 2020)… so I suppose it would be true to say that my CP work has reinforced this approach. 🙂

  • Julie Kok says:

    Hi Liz, my comment isn’t related to the w/c challenge but your comment about the research. Last year when you were traveling around NSW and drawing your maps, buildings, scenery with lots of information, I decided I would do a belated sketchbook of a 6 week overseas trip my hubbie and I did in 2016. This included the Netherlands, Berlin, UK, including Scotland, and Finland (where our eldest daughter lives) using our photos. Then finishing off in Singapore. As I didn’t do a travel diary (which I am so angry about now) I had to research what each building (I knew some of them) and statue was, landscape etc. What a challenge, but with the help of google I am learning so much. I am only in London so far with my sketches (with so many other art projects to do), I am really enjoying it. And it’s all because of your wonderful sketch diaries. So enjoy reading your blogs and learning so much too. Thanks Julie K

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Julie – thanks for the comment and so great to hear about your project. Takes time but so rewarding isn’t it? It used to take me a year to finish my photo albums – working a few hours 3 or 4 nights a week!

  • Jamie C says:

    There is something so alive and vibrant and colorful in these direct watercolor buildings! I think your research is really putting the soul of the buildings into these paintings!

  • Lisa Cruse says:

    Hi Liz: Really surprised by how much I love your bright sketches paired with neutral. Especially love the blues but that vivid pink is arresting! Great effect. Thanks for all your sharing– like peeking over your shoulder.

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