Faced with the Duomo di Siena

The Duomo di Siena is one of Italy’s most famous — and most ornate — architectural icons. One might wonder why, instead of choosing to draw its many alternating layers of black and white marble, or its carved sculptures, rose window or carved bronze door, I would choose instead to draw the souvenir kiosk in front of it. There are two answers to this.

The first answer is the practical one. This was a workshop demo in a busy place on a rainy day. I could see black clouds approaching, so drawing the church in pen or pencil, or even a small detail on it, would have eaten up all the demo time, leaving no time for adding colour. I needed a subject that would lend itself to a quick teaching moment about simplification and values.

The second answer is the more honest one. After spending years drawing urban scenes with no people in them, I find myself attracted more and more to life on the streets. I spent the first few years of my sketching life pretending that cities had no people in them. Static scenes are a lot easier to draw, plus I had no confidence in my people drawing skills. But with time, and practice (and many good workshops about people sketching from artists I admire), I realize that I would rather try to add figures, even if they are badly drawn, than have no people at all. Who knows, maybe one of these days I’ll even get up the courage to offer a workshop of my own in people sketching. Wouldn’t that be a hoot?

29 Comments on “Faced with the Duomo di Siena”

  1. Mary Duncan says:

    I love your “people drawing” ! When I try to draw folks going about their lives I am not sure how much detail I need to depict just a casual scene ! I tend to try to put features on them and details in their clothing and they end up looking like cartoon characters 🤔what do I need to do to get the look you do which makes them soo realistic with no fuss and muss ? Do you just study shapes and draw them that way ??


  2. Gerry says:

    We are perpetual students. With your thirst for experimentation, it’s only a matter of time before a Blaukopf vernissage featuring aliens. Great work to date.


  3. Laurie Householder says:

    I am a novice sketcher and have tried to sketch that Duomo! An issue I have is, I travel with nonsketchers who are nice and patient but there’s a point so I end up taking a photo to finish the sketch later. Forget painting on location! Your sketch of the tourist stand adjacent to the duomo has, I think, more meaning because you know exactly where it was done and your memories go right to that. I think your idea to sketch that was great!


    • Laurie, if I’m travelling with non-sketchers, I usually do something quickly, like maybe a pencil drawing, and I finish it later when I am on my own. But of course my family and friends are very patient, so they usually give me time to sketch.


  4. Chris Rusk says:

    Really nice people. I am able to get the feeling of them in a swift glance – everyone looks ‘right’. Nice colours and playful patterns too.


  5. Prior... says:

    That would be a hoot if u had workshops and I do love when people are added to a sketch – gives it an active vib


  6. Judy Sopher says:

    Cheerful painting with happy colors. I have seen many of your works with people in it. One of my favorites is in “Archisketcher’ . It is in Barcelona, Spain-Placa de Catalunya.


  7. Uma Maheswar Nakka says:

    Good Evening friend Shari,

    Beautiful sketch with excellent color combination.


  8. Sally Fox says:

    Re: “Faced with the Duomo di Siena” I agree. It would have been daunting and time consuming. I like your little souvenir stand with the colorful people. I hope you took time to have a gelato at the world famous gelato shop in Sienna. I can’t recall the name of it, but it’s the one with the LONG line just about any time of the day (in summer anyway). Thank you for all your posts, and I loved, “Instead of leather”.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Sally, I ate a lot of gelato in Italy but nothing in Siena. Not sure why, but maybe it had something to do with the rainy weather. I did have one at a very famous place in San Gimignano. The only problem was that the queue was so long that by the time I got to the front of the line I had no time to read all the names of the flavours!


  9. Bernadette says:

    So good for me to see you pushing past scenes that rarely included people. Good for me so that I can begin doing the same. I’m starting on shakier ground with much less experience and skill but pressing on into unchartered waters is good. Hopefully, in time I’ll be pleased with he addition of people in my scenes. Thanks for helping me move past mental barriers of..I can’t.”
    Your work is inspiring in so many ways. Thank you.


  10. joantav says:

    I think scenes like this one capture the life and energy of the city. Nicely done!


  11. Rita Cleary says:

    You make a very good point, Shari….People always ADD to a sketch/painting. But it does take a lot of failures before you gain and skill to draw them so that they “read” correctly….This little sketch is wonderful.


  12. okaypolliwog says:

    Sound reasoning — and great sketch! And your people turned out just fine, too!



  13. Sherri T Skrivanos says:

    I’m hoping that is what I am signed up for next July!!!


  14. Andrea Rule says:

    Please enter me in the contest to win one of your paintings.
    Andrea Rule (Wood River Valley group).


  15. Peri Nilan says:

    Great example of people simplified and shapes/colour simplification of the complex scene. I love it! (And yes, I need to begin to add people to my sketches as well.)


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