Europe18: Krakow - St Mary's Basilica

July 10, 2018 | 5 Comments

St Mary’s Basilica for me, is the SOH of Krakow. SOH = Sydney Harbour Bridge = the iconic building in a place that I feel compelled to sketch over and over again.

Not only does St Mary’s have some amazing towers, a trumpeter which plays every hour from the top of the taller tower in four directions but it also stands out in the main square because of it’s brickwork and 45 degree positioning in the main square.

It’s also challenging to sketch as it’s tall and narrow with some white detailing – ie. hard to fit on your page and the details are fiddly. I think it needs to be sketched fairly large but I don’t like rotating my A4 sketchbook so I have to fit in in a 30cm height,

My first attempt was at the end of the first day. I had already done eight sketches so was a little tired. I had to do some creative shrinking to fit it on my page and there were a number of other ‘mild disasters’ while I was sketching this. But as often the case, once you remove yourself from the scene, the sketch starts to look better!

My second sketch was on a wet day and we were sitting in the colonade of the Cloth Hall. I was struggling with the scale of the building again.

So I decided to zoom in and do a direct watercolour sketch of the left tower.

And then I did an ink sketch of the whole scene – in some ways this was my favourite at the time of the three versions I did that day, mainly because it felt the easiest for me to do at the time.

On our last sketching day, when we were with the local Urban Sketchers group (see more here) I did this version from the cafe on the upper level of the Cloth Hall.

All in all, I’m happy with my collection of St Mary’s sketches, but I would have liked to have sketched it from a few more side/oblique views.

Do you do multiple sketches of one building/icon in a place (where you live or when you travel)? What makes it special, why it is that you feel compelled to sketch it more than once?

Or are you someone who only sketches something once?



  • Stan Josselyn says:

    Hi Ms Steel,

    Thank you for your blog, or whatever. Not up on “social media”!? I enjoy your posts so much.

    I’m in U.S., California. I’m 75 years young. I began sketching about 1 yr ago. I’m still searching for fellow sketchers.

    I find it difficult at times to express on paper the significant juxtaposition I see in things, such as how Saint Mary’s sits in context. Your second sketch of St. Mary’s expresses well, the significance the basilica has in context. Is context the right word. I find my repeated sketch attempts on a single subject, is my attempt to convey the juxtaposition/context.

    I’m off to sketch what we call a strip mall. Not exactly St. Mary’s basilica! ????

  • rosalee scriven says:

    its so interesting to see what you include and what you don’t. I find I overthink the whole thing and it often results in a confused mismatch of details. Every time I look at one of your sketches I wonder why I am compelled to put “everything” in…as it clearly isn’t needed. Thanks Liz.

  • Love that you did so many sketches of the cathedral. My favorite is the second one you posted. I usually want to capture everything in the place I am visiting so I rarely do any one building more than once…but maybe I should try it and see what happens.

  • John Flames says:

    I use to draw just once buildings or details when I travel. But there are a few buildings or details in my hometown or where I live that I sketch frequently when I don’t know what to draw.

    I like all your sketches of S. Mary’s Cathedral. I really appreciate your hability to avoid vertical vanishing point. I challenge you to draw Clerigo’s Tower in Porto. 😉

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