Painting Italian Architecture

” If a building becomes architecture, then it is art.” Arne Jacobsen

Having had a variety of commissions lately I have neglected my blog. Consequently I thought it was time to share one of my favourite recent projects. I painted some of the marvellous Italian architecture in Rome…and spent a long time indulging my love of travel in the name of research.

Italian Architecture

This painting was commissioned by a lovely lady as a 20th anniversary gift for her Italian husband. It is composed of memorable places and landmarks in Rome which were chosen especially by my client. Arranging the architectural elements within the composition was similar to doing a jigsaw. I wanted the painting to look like it could be a realistic cityscape. Researching such an exciting project gave me a severe case of wanderlust and led to a serendipitous discovery. Suitcase Magazine, which is, according to their website ‘re-imagining the role of the travel magazine’ contains many interesting articles. Local knowledge and eclectic discoveries are accompanied by stunning photography. Consequently I’m a fan. Their Rome city guide and the stories told by my client has placed Rome highly on my extensive list of must visit destinations. I imagine drawing on location there would be fabulous!

Painting Italian Architecture – a time lapse video

I loved painting the details in the Italian Architecture and as a result made one of my first time lapse videos of the process. You can take a look on my new you tube channel here:



Finding the perfect, unobtrusive location for the camera was difficult. It involved a very unstable pile of books! I have a tripod, so need to set it up above my desk and invest in a shutter timer remote control for my SLR. If you have experience of making time lapse videos and can offer me any tips to make my next attempt more exciting I would be very grateful. Maybe not covering the image up with a sheet of paper would be a good start!  It would have been fantastic to make a time lapse of the whole process from beginning to end; another challenge for my next project!

Gouache proved to be the perfect medium for this painting. A combination of thinner transparent washes and thicker more opaque sections made it possible to construct the buildings in layers. The inclusion of white highlights and pencil crayon detail created a variety of textures. Working at A3 size allowed me to include a high level of detail. Each building represented a separate section of the painting to me therefore I painted each one individually. It was really satisfying when the whole image came together.

Italian Architecture painted by Illustrator Katie May

Here you can see a few photos of the process. The painting began with a scale sketch to position all of the buildings and ensure all the proportions worked. Subsequently I traced my design and then transferred it to thick watercolour paper ready to paint.


Please get in touch via my contact page or social media for information on architectural commissions. I love to paint buildings and places therefore I do bespoke house portraits or city / town compositions. These can also be based upon your special places and memorable trips. Finally, why not follow me on Instagram where I share my work, sketchbook drawings and adventures.

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