A little Vanbrugh (and my thoughts while sketching)

January 21, 2021 | 5 Comments

One of the new habits which I have been working on in the last month or so, is to revive my evening sketching sessions. This can involve either simply finishing off my page from the day (a big part of what we are doing in Sketchbook Design) or doing a sketch to fill up my double page spread for the day. My goal is to do at least one double page spread each day (Monday-Saturday).

Tuesdays are a particularly busy day for me at the moment as I spend all day reviewing Sketchbook Design work and preparing for a livestream – either Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning. This week the livestream was on Wednesday so I had time to do a sketch.

I hadn’t done anything other than my afternoon coffee (my cafe visit had been all about doing work and not sketching) and so I reviewed my day to see if there was any object that would be relevant to sketch. Nothing particularly came to mind, so I started thinking about architecture.

My thought process was:

  • Italian Baroque?  No… a bit too over the top for me today even though it’s normally my go-to architectural subject!
  • A Palladian building? Not quite in the mood for his precision.
  • English Baroque inspired by Palladio? Hmm, this is a nice compromise!

And so I chose the Temple of the Four Winds by Sir John Vanbrugh in Castle Howard (North Yorkshire) which was inspired by Palladio’s Villa Capra (La Rotunda) just outside Vicenza.

A few thoughts while I was doing this:

  • “Ah! always nice to be sketching architecture!”
  • I had a great time reliving memories of two very special sketching visits here – in 2009 on a big driving day and a really hot day in 2016 – and also my first visit with my sister in 2000 and drawings I did back home.
  • As I visited this Vanbrugh building before its Prototype, I was remembering how surprised I was by the scale of La Rotunda when I saw it for the first time in 2016. Palladio’s building is much bigger!
  • I felt the desire to read some books about Vanbrugh – one of my favourite English architects (along with Hawksmoor)… and in fact after the sketch was finished I looked through two of my books on Vanbrugh.

And then I had a few thoughts relating to the sketch itself:

  • My approach: as the photo I was sketching from had good lighting it was a no-brainer to start with painting the shadow side.
  • I needed to slow down to get the perspective (and fore-shortening) of the two porticoes added to the main volume.
  • When I started doing the details… “I’m not going to add lines to this sketch am I?” No – I resisted and kept it Paint-Only.
  • How am I going to tie in the colour of this sketch with my coffee sketch? In the end I added some Transparent Red Oxide to the napkin under the cup and then modified the blues/greys in both sketches.
  • “Should I do a secondary sketch?”  This is one of the elements we are looking at this week in Sketchbook Design and I’m actively doing the homework with everyone else. “No! not tonight as I still have some livestream prep to do!”
  • I was using a new 1/2 inch RED DOT dagger brush from Rosemary Brushes for the first time and enjoying it. It felt great to use but I was thinking about whether it creates washes which are as lively as my Sable-Blend 772. Stay tuned for more about this!

And many other thoughts!

It’s amazing how many different conversations I have with myself when I sketch.  I know that many beginners spend a lot of time stressing about getting their sketch perfect and listening to their inner critic! I’ve made friends with my inner critic and while I was doing this sketch, it left me alone – even though this sketch is far from perfect. I was too busy thinking other thoughts for it to bother me at all.

What kind of conversations do you have with yourself while you sketch?

BTW I’m currently typing this while the sketch is still wet. I recently discovered that I love recording my thoughts immediately after I finish a sketch. My creative juices are flowing and my head is still in processing mode. So part of my reason for focusing on my blog this month (and not worrying about Instagram) is to revive my old-style of blogging which involved posting as soon as possible after finishing a sketch. This practice of writing about my work is such an important ingredient in keeping myself motivated and it always leads to more thoughtful sketching and new ideas. So I’m determined to share more and write more here for my own development as an artist. If you are someone who gets every blog article via email I hope you won’t mind getting more regular emails now and that you find my internal ramblings helpful!



  • Martine Brink says:

    I love your blog posts and I am not on instagram. So looking forward to seeing more posts 🙂

  • Vickie Wilson says:

    Like Martine, I don’t have Instagram (or any other social media), and I very much look forward to the blog posts. And, tying the pictures together using same shadow color, yes! Sure that’s to come in sketchbook design 🙂

  • Arlene Lennox says:

    I am very happy to have more blog posts, like the old days. I love to wake up to a Liz post and peruse while I drink my morning coffee—my art inspiration for the coming day. (I don’t do instagram either.)

  • Terry James says:

    Liz, always amazed at how self aware you are.

    Making friends with your inner critic, capturing your stream of consciousness, being actively aware of your thoughts as you paint, and writing them out while fresh in your mind…spectacular and wonderful! …//Terry

Leave a Reply