Travel sketchbooking on the Palladian Odyssey

November 6, 2017 | 5 Comments

Travelling is the ultimate sketch experience for me as it’s a chance to make sketching a priority. Obviously I need to plan an itinerary of places I want to visit and focus on getting from A to B, but after that, sketching comes next.

My sketching quantity and quality is the highest when I am in new and exciting places. But it is not just the individual sketches but the sketchbook as a whole that I am focusing on. In the back of my mind I am constantly thinking about the composition of my pages, mixing up the arrangement of sketches on each spread and leaving white space for notes and/or maps.

So I’m not just creating sketches, but also a travel journal of my adventures. In many ways, the desire to produce a beautiful journal and having an interesting experience as I flip through the pages, is more important to me than the quality of the individual sketches.

When I am teaching I normally don’t get a chance to work on the composition of my pages, as the priority is teaching. As a result my pages are often a little messy, full of incomplete demos and lots of little diagrams/scribbles as I talk to workshop attendees. I often try to tidy-up these pages, but it is always after the event and not part of the workshop.

The Palladian Odyssey Tour is an exception to this rule as during the week I have a chance to develop my pages and to share my compositional decisions with everyone from day to day. It’s so much fun for me to say in the morning, “Remember my incomplete sketch and page from yesterday… well, look how I finished it off!”

I think my favourite page from a compositional point of view, was this one of the amazing dinner we had at Ca de Memi on the first evening of the first tour. I had wanted to sketch the whole meal but there was too much going on and I only managed small partial sketches of three of the courses. But it was then that the fun began. I was able to create a three columned composition out of an empty looking page.

Here are a few other pages:

Sometimes I do pre-plan a sketchbook strategy before a workshop. Here I intentionally changed the colour of my pen for one of the warm up exercises to make the spread more interesting.

I’m always thinking about the gaps in my book, whether to leave them for text or use them for sketches, or collage. In this spread:

  • I didn’t take my sketchbook for an evening walk so sketched Villa Cornaro in my notebook and then glued onto my page.
  • I then did a quick demo the next morning of Ca’ Marcello on the right page leaving an empty space in the spread.
  • So to fill in this gap, I did a super quick contour drawing inside the villa.

Using different media is something I love to do a lot as it creates variety and instantly makes spreads more interesting. Here are three sketches, each using different media, of Villa Emo done during one of our private guided tours.

I also love planning with horizontal and vertical elements. Here is another quick sketch of Villa Emo done at the end of the workshop (horizontal) on one side of the spread. In the afternoon workshop at Asolo where everyone was sketching different scenes, I did a few quick personal demos. These were floating on the page a little bit so I added two vertical frames in attempt to tie the spread together.

And finally another spread made up of very quick sketches and another example of playing with vertical vs horizontal composition.

Next year when we run the Palladian Odyssey Tours again, I plan to be even more inventive with my spreads – including some collage and maps. Talking about how I design my pages during the week will be short bonus sessions outside the scheduled sketching workshops. Being able to share the creation of my pages (not just my sketches) is one of the reasons why I enjoyed the PO Tours so much this year, and can’t wait for next year.

There are still places available for both tours – click here for more information.




  • Cathy Dwyer says:

    Hi Liz. If the stars align, I plan to sign up for PO2018. There are a few scheduling issues to work out and I may have a plus one-I just hope there will still be space(s) available!! Your beautiful sketches bring me warm fuzzy feelings of a fantastic week of sketching, learning, new friendships, fabulous food, history and fun!!

  • Cathy Dwyer says:

    I mentioned new friendships but forgot to mention renewing old ones, too. How great it was to catch up with my ‘straya friends from past workshops and symposiums!

  • Tina Koyama says:

    I really admire how you think about the whole page spread as you sketch and write — no wonder you prefer the larger landscape format you’ve been using lately. I wish I had the forethought to do such planning, but I tend to be very conventional in this manner — just one sketch per page, turned either vertical or horizontal, no thought at all to design. Kinda boring. I like the idea of varying the media, but I don’t write in my sketchbooks, so I’d be missing that as a design element. I need to find a way to make this work for the way I sketch. . . hmmm.

  • Monika Machen says:

    Hi Liz, this was a very interesting and informative post. I’m wondering if you have or will have some posts or classroom sessions on design layout? i think the layout really adds to the wonder of your already beautiful artwork and your tips and tricks would be so helpful!

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