Art Thought: More on my Palladian Mistake

June 1, 2016 | 5 Comments

One of the things I love about sharing my work online is that the comments from other people can prompt me to return to a sketch and analyse it further. And that is what is happening this week with my Palladio sketch.

It’s not so much because I made a mistake (I make mistakes all the time – so no big deal) but because this is an interesting one with a number of implications regarding different ways to sketch architecture.

It is a very famous building, with a square plan and a dome in the centre of the square, meaning that the dome is set back a long way from the ‘front of the building’. My first attempt at the dome was not in this location.

Note: I wrote ‘front of the building’ in inverted commas because all four sides of this building have a temple front and look like the ‘front’.

Conveniently I took two photos of my early steps of this sketch so you can see where I originally put the dome. I don’t normally take these early stages photos so not sure why I did on this occasion.

I think that the dome is reading central to the front facade so it looks believable as a classical building. It is however incorrrect for this particular building.

Sometimes when I realise I have made an error I ask myself how significant an error it is, and then make a decision based on whether I can correct with a single stroke or whether it is better just to go with it. I wrote more about this mid-sketch decision making process in regard to running off the page here.

But the most interesting aspect of this particular mistake is how the solution is based on basic observational skills – comparing the lengths and relationships of various edges. It is not anything to do with perspective. Here is a quick page of notes that I did explaining the design of the building and my mistake.

I want to come back to this sketch one more time (next week) and discuss some strategies for minimizing mistakes, but in essence in this instance my error was caused by working too fast and also being interrupted by a chat with a friend in between the initial setup and the ink lines (I was do this sketch during my morning cafe visit).

I did this sketch primarily to test out of few ideas for my upcoming online course SketchingNow Buildings course and another project I am working on (more about this soon) so I was thinking about ideas relating to those project more than I was thinking about producing an accurate sketch. It certainly has highlighted a number of very important themes that I will be explaining in detail during Buildings – the main one being the importance of being able to work feeling edges, abstracting shapes and constructing volumes all at same time when sketching architecture. If you missed it I wrote about this yesterday!

You can certainly tell what is on my mind at the moment – hey? Its multiple workshop prep at the moment and it is really great that they all relate!

Hope my notes make sense – but please ask me any questions if they don’t!


  • Sharon Nolfi says:

    Actually, I didn’t recognize the building. Your initial attempt at the dome simply looked wrong to me – in terms of perspective. It’s interesting that your solution was made without reference to perspective. It may be that I have more experience thinking about perspective than I do with comparing lengths and relationships of edges. I’m not an architect and have come to drawing only in the last few years. But somehow, perspective always made sense to me since I learned it as a child, and, subsequently, studied it in books. I just “see” that way. I wonder if different people just “see” differently. I do have problems with relative proportions and measuring, especially in life drawing class. I’m a retired lawyer pursuing a life-long love of art and architecture. Looking forward to your “Buildings” class.

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Sharon! Yes, I think in terms of perspective too!
      Hmm, Not sure how you would sketch the dome in perspective. (You have gotten me thinking on another idea!!!) Sometimes is it so much easier just to draw shapes. But totally agree that understanding perspective helps you see and sketch.

  • Julia Blackbourn says:

    Liz, thanks for sharing these thoughts about sketching perspective and your “mistakes”–your thought process is most helpful in looking at my own sketches and my own way of approaching architectural sketches. I’m anxious to take your new course–just what I need!

  • jonathan says:

    I think you seem to be making a mountain out of a molehill here

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Jonathan- would love to know in what way…. becase I am making a fuss about the fact tht I made an error. I hope it isn’t reading that way. I make errors all the time… big deal! the reason for these posts was because I think drawing this dome raising a lot of interesting sketching techniques.
      There is no doubt that I am taking an error that is no big deal and using it as a springboard for looking at other issues. My goal is to work spontaneously but with a degree of accuracy that appeases the architect in me. To do this I do go into technical tangents to change the way I am thinking.
      Please excuse the obsessive over-analytical nature of my brain!

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