Another lockdown project: Sketching through Palladio's villas in order

July 16, 2021 | 14 Comments

Earlier in the week, I teased you about the fact I’ve been working on another project during the current Sydney lockdown. Not only am I sketching a different teacup each day, but I’m also working my way through a list of all Palladio’s villas!

I only started this project last week and I’m not necessarily trying to sketch one per day. But having a list to work from provides a great reason for sketching the work of one of my favourite architects. It’s not an arbitrary whim, it’s part of a systematic project.

I’ve sketched many of his villas before  (and especially last year during my virtual European tour) but not all of them. So it’s good to fill in the gaps and also see the individual buildings in the context of a book of work. Palladio’s villa designs are extremely historically significant… but I don’t have time to get into that today!

Getting the list together was a fun exercise. With advice from Monica (the local art historian who has been part of our Palladian Odyssey tours) I first looked up the UNESCO website to get a list of all the registered Palladian villas. I then tried to put them in order based on a few books I have. On the next day, Monica told me about the chronological list of Palladio’s buildings on the Palladian Museum website. It has a few extra buildings on the list so I’ve decided to use that. But already I’ve modified the order a little!

The goal is simply to sketch the next villa on the list and do a little bit of research beforehand. I’m not trying to make it into a special series of sketches ie. in a similar style or in a consistent format. Instead, I’m just using this project as a reason for including a little Palladio into my every day (locked-down) life in order to add something unique to each page and each sketchbook page. It’s this juxtaposition with other sketches and notes on the page which is making this exercise so interesting.

I love the way a project like this evolves each day. I’m a little surprised that, so far in the first week, I’m leaning towards more accurate drawings rather than more loose and abstract sketches. Maybe the abstraction will start appearing next week with the more mature and complex designs. But so far I’m having a lot of fun taking my time with these sketches. Correction: Taking more time than usual – these are still quick sketches of under 20 minutes each.

As a result of my more accurate sketches, I’m wanting to go on a few tangents (such as doing detailed drawings of the classical orders) but I haven’t yet found the time to do that. Maybe I’ll hit pause on the villas for a few days to do that.

Anyway… as you can see, I can share a lot about this project and these buildings… but I’ll stop my ramblings now and simply share the sketches so far.

Palladio’s Villas: PV01-07

PV01: Villa Trissino
I’ve seen this villa from the road but not sketched it on location. This is a villa that Palladio worked on.

PV02: Villa Godi
I have amazing memories of visiting this villa with Monica (and meeting the owner too). Photos of this villa don’t do it justice. It’s much more impressive in real life.


PV03: Villa Piovene
Exactly where this villa fits in the timeline is questioned, but I put it at No. 3 as it’s just up the road from Villa Godi.


This villa is the only one in this set that got two watercolour sketches… but I had to do another one of the beautiful pink gates. I sketched this view on location in record time during my 2019 visit.

PV04: Villa Valmarana Bressen
This villa has different positions on the various timelines, but due to its simple design I used its position in my first list. A radically abstract and somewhat modern design. I’m not sure that I’ve sketched it before.

PVo5: Villa Gazzotti Grimani
I used my watercolour pencils for this and had fun with the exposed brickwork.

PV06: Villa Pisani Bagnolo
I wanted to draw this at a reasonable scale so decided not to draw all of the right tower!

PV07: Villa Thiene
Another brick facade and another villa that I haven’t sketched before. I like the colours in this one.

Full Spreads

And if you want to see these sketches in the context of full spreads… here they are – mostly accompanied  with tea or coffee cups!

It’s really great to be sketching some Palladio again (even if simply from photos) and it’s fun to be mixing them in with my other sketches to create interesting spreads.

It also feels good to be sketching architecture regularly like this. So… just to give you all some advance notice (if you don’t already know) .. I’ll be doing a Group Run-through of my Buildings course later in the year (Oct-Dec).



  • Fiona Campbell says:

    Aw, so nice to see a copy of Bannister Fletcher in one of your spreads ??. I have my late father’s copy – much treasured and a mine of information and great illustrations.

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi fiona – ah yes, BF makes an appearance. For some reason we were never told about this incredible book at uni, so I only bought mine copy a few years ago. this is a more recent edition

  • Kate Powell says:

    Are you sketching from books — like Fletcher’s — or also trying Google maps or internet images?

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Kate, a combination of book and google images … and my own photos 🙂 I have many books on Palladio – 10-20??? so I have lots of source material to read and then I do my sketch using a number of images as reference. ie. I’m not copying one photo but making my own version.

  • Divya Sachar says:

    Hi Liz,
    I tried signing up for your newsletter and an early bird discount for your online courses, but it seems that the submit buttons on your website are not working. Please sign me up on your mailing list. Thanks.

  • Ellen Agger says:

    I especially love these well-balanced and interesting spreads, Liz. I hope you show them in your livestreams for the Group Run-through of the upcoming Sketchbook Design course. ?

    • Liz Steel says:

      Thanks Ellen! I’ll be on another sketchbook (or two) by the time the Group Run-through starts… so if I forget just remind me. Would love to talk about these pages!

  • Louise Glynn says:

    I am really enjoying this. Many years ago, my husband (who was an architect) and I spent several days in Vicenza and looked at some of Palladio’s works. Brings back happy memories. i also collected cups and saucers but left them behind when I downsized and moved into a retirement living faciity.

  • Belinda says:

    Thanks for sharing your sketchbooks. I enjoy seeing your beautiful sketches, especially in the middle of lockdown!

    If we sign up for any of your courses now, can we still join the future run throughs of that course? I’m a beginner and I’m looking at joining Foundations and Sketchbook Design. I’m also considering purchases some other courses to work through in the future and I was unsure if that means I would miss out on the run throughs.

    • Liz Steel says:

      Thanks Belinda. Yes, if you signup for a course at any time (including in the next few weeks) you have free access to EVERY future Group Run-through for that course! Lifetime access to existing content and future add-ons!

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