Europe20V: First two days in Rome

April 30, 2020 | 5 Comments

I’ve had a wonderful first two full days of my virtual sketching trip to Europe. I’ve been exploring Rome (one of my favourite cities in the world) and I’ve been trying a few different approaches to virtual travel. Overall it has been significantly more satisfying than I expected and I’m having a ball!

Whilst sketching from photos is good for learning and developing techniques, my happy place is sketching out on location. Sketching from photos is just not the same – it’s just too flat and tame.

However, because I’m trying to weave a story of my day and create a rich travel sketchbook (not just simply sketch from a few photos) this story-telling aspect has really enlivened my photo sketching! Of course I miss being around people and being in Italy, but as I have been to these places before, I’ve had some very rich memories of previous trips. This is filling me with unbelievable gratitude that I’ve been able to travel so much in recent years.

I’ve also been enjoying doing some serious architectural research and in particular looking through the extensive Rome book I put together in 2004 – full of photos, drawings, quotes about all the buildings I visited in a trip that year. You can see some examples from this book here.

In terms of my strategy for my virtual travel, here are a few things I have discovered:

  • I thought that having a 2 hour sketching session would be enough for one day, but on Tuesday I wanted to keep going in the afternoon!
  • It takes more time to prep and find photos to sketch from, so planning the night before is essential.
  • My sketches have been all very quick 10-20 minutes as I don’t have any on location distractions!
  • I’ve been feeling surprisingly tired from my virtual travel and I’ve realised that this is because I have minimal time in between my sketches. Walking to a new location is essential between sketches not only physically (moving the body and getting fresh air) but also for the mental break it gives me. I work really fast (it’s my natural pace and the best way for me to achieve flow) but this means that my brain is working really hard as I’m combining numerous steps in a single stroke.
  • On Tuesday I recorded nearly all of my sketches for my Instagram stories. This was a lot of fun but it did impact the flow of my work a little. I think this was a factor in the tiredness too. I will continue to share time lapses and video snippets of my sketches, but it will be more spread out. Tuesday was a big dump as I was experimenting! You can see some of my previous Instagram stories in my highlight reel here.
  • The first few days have basically been explorations of the concept of virtual travel and seeing how much I can do. But I will be slowing my pace next week when I ‘head’ to Umbria and I hope to start experimenting with my work more (and using some of the different brushes I ‘packed’). Just like real travel, the first few days are just trying to find my feet. (Aside: It’s nice not having to worry about jetlag!)
  • Speaking of jetlag… I’m having a little trouble getting to sleep as I can’t help thinking about what I’ll do the next day! Ha!
  • The last few weeks of staying at home has made the days go fast and merge into one… but this week (so far) each day has been long and really different from the one before. This has been a great feeling!


Anyway… these are just a few thoughts to date – only three days into my three month project.

Here are a few sketches:

Detail of Michelangelo’s amazing Palazzo dei Conservatori, Campidoglio

Santi Luca e Martina

Quick loose sketch of the classic view of Forum Romanum

Another classic view of the Forum

The next day… more of the Fourm and Campidoglio

A very colourful version of the Colosseum

Arch of Constantine – after having some much fun last year sketching this, I had to do it again this year.

And then I tried another crazy version!!

And here are my pages in full – click on them to view larger.


Coming up…

  • the ultimate day in Rome thanks to an itinerary planned by my sketching friend Benedetta Dossi and
  • a crazy day trying to sketch as many Baroque churches as I can!



  • Cathy Dwyer says:

    Hi Liz. I have always received your posts up until recently when my email changed. I have resubscribed numerous times but your posts continue to end up in my junk folder. I don’t seem to be able to fix this. Do you have any suggestions? Thanks. Cathy Dwyer

  • Henrique Castro says:

    Hi Liz, can you share the video you add to instagram stories into the watercolor course? I would like to see you using watercolor and your Lamy pen a little bit slower than it showed up on instagram. thanks

    • Liz Steel says:

      Henrique. These videos are only for Instagram and I don’t think I can slow them down now as they were saved 12x speed in an app. I have similar more serious videos in Sketchingnow Buildings

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