Europe 2020V: A Virtual Palladian Odyssey Tour in Umbria

May 20, 2020 | Leave your thoughts

Last week was a very special one – Mike Botton and I hosted a virtual Umbrian tour for the people who had signed up for the Palladian Odyssey tours this year. We also opened it up to past participants (in our private Palladian Odyssey group) and we shared some photos publicly (see more about this below).

It was so wonderful to connect on a daily basis in our private group and to be all sketching from the same photo. Mike provided some wonderfully evocative descriptions and there was lots of inspiration, chit chat and a bit of banter too – I love our Palladian Odyssey family! One night around 8pm, after chatting in the group, I felt a ‘bit of pressure’ to tackle one of the difficult views. Actually, it wasn’t really pressure, more like inspiration to have a go myself. This type of interaction and motivation was great! So a huge thanks to everyone who participated in our “V-tour.”

In addition, I was also filming daily exclusive videos just for the 2020 gang – giving a few important tips for sketching the photos of that day. I posted a time lapse of one of my demos on Instagram this week here.

There is no doubt that some of the scenes in the Umbrian towns are somewhat challenging – angles going everywhere and all surfaces made from Umbrian stone or similar tone roof tiles! It was really nice to create some free teaching videos for the group after having to cancel the tours this year. (So many of us have had to go through the unpleasant experience of cancelling events lately, haven’t we?) It wasn’t the same as being there but it was a lot of fun and it felt really good to be able to respond in video form to some of the comments and questions in the group during the week. If you are interested in some of my mixing formulas for Umbrian stone check out this blog article – or visit the bonus videos inside of SketchingNow Buildings Lesson 4.

As for my own sketching… I pushed myself to do a few super quick versions of some of the more tricky photos – such as this one which I did in under 10 minutes with minimal setup. I’m finding that I have to set myself some kind of limitation in order to get more lively results when I’m sketching from photos. There is definitely a danger of overworking a sketch when not out on location! BTW this is one of the sketches I did during the spontaneous night sketching session mentioned above and done in about 10-15 minutes. I was really pushing my perspective skills with this one.

I also realised that I’m not doing as many line drawings in my sketchbook. This is mainly due to the fact that I’m sitting comfortably at my desk with my paints already out in front of me. So I enjoyed doing this page and not painting this sketch.

Another thing I’m not doing much during this virtual trip, is creating large double page sketches and this is mainly because I’m just looking at a photo and not seeing the full vista. So I decided to make an effort and go big for this sketch of Assisi. Note: I did this in about 30 minutes!

I’m continuing to enjoy using the Hahnemuehle Watercolour book (see here for my review of it). The paper is so beautiful and doesn’t have the strong textured side of the page of the portrait Moleskine books which I battled with last year during my travels. I’m still exploring the best ways of achieving the texture I want and really enjoying the journey. I definitely can’t do a number of my usual wet-on-wet techniques with this paper but there are other options and I’m thankful for having a hairdryer handy! Here is a close up of the texture from the Assisi view.

And finally I’m enjoying working with the landscape format. I know last year I absolutely loved working in a portrait format and I had already bought 4 x A4 portrait Moleskine for this trip. But landscape is working well for me at home. I haven’t had a chance to totally access my preference, but I know that the portrait format was much nicer to use on location (less awkward to handle). More about this in a future article.

Last week’s sketches

So here are the pages in full in order… click on them to see at larger size.


Reference photos

Here are a few of the photos which we sketched from during the week – and some I sketched the week before! If you would like to have a go yourself, we would love for you to join in and when you post your work please use the hashtag #palladianodysseyvirtualtour2020

You can see more at the Palladian Odyssey Instagram account here.


What’s next?

It’s been so wonderful to be in Umbria for the last two weeks (can you believe I have been virtual traveling for 3 weeks and more than half way through my second sketchbook?) But I will admit that I’m hanging out to return to the Veneto and its rich variety, history and architecture!

Please let me know if you have any questions about my sketches, sketchbook, paints, techniques etc!


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