Europa

Sicily Sketches

Ink and watercolor sketches and illustrations from the island of Sicily.

These are my companion sketches and illustrations to my article on Zingaro National Park in Sicily.

Sicily Map

Handpainted map of Sicily

My watercolor map of Sicily referencing some of the cities referred to in the sketches below.

Sicily, the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, is incredibly diverse in its geography across its major regions.

The east boasts fertile plains and valleys surrounding volcano Etna, along with coastal areas along the Ionian Sea. To the west, Sicily's coastline is rugged, marked by cliffs, coves, and sandy beaches. The capital, Palermo, is located here. Inland, rolling hills, vineyards, and agricultural lands stretch out, producing olives, grapes, and citrus fruits. The south is dominated by rolling hills, olive groves, and almond orchards. In the north, the terrain varies greatly, offering sandy beaches along the Tyrrhenian Sea and rugged mountains further inland.

Castellammare del Golfo

Castellammare del Golfo Sketch

The town of Castellammare del Golfo was historically the port for the city of Segesta; one of the major cities of the ancient Elymian people. Sketched with copic markers.

Castellammare del Golfo is a beautiful coastal town - it's name translates to "Castle by the Sea."

Palermo Streets

Venice Chronicles

Palermo houses so much historical architecture, often fused together side-by-side. But I was really caught by the dereliction of buildings still partially crumbled from the 1943 bombardments. Here is a sketch of a side street off of Via Vittorio Emanuele.

These streets are known for their mix of architectural styles spanning different periods of Palermo's history. Elegant Baroque palaces stand alongside medieval churches, reflecting the city's rich cultural heritage

Palermo Taxi

Sketch of Taxi in Palermo

Three-wheeled taxis, which are frowned upon by foreign tourists for price-gouging and safety issues, are common in Palermo. I captured this driver with a pair of locals stuck in traffic at rush hour on Via Oreto and Via Buonriposo.

Trapani Windmill

Trapani Windmill

I sketched this refurbished Sicilian windmill, used to grind salt, with Copic sketch markers.

The windmills of Trapani date back to the medieval period. Trapani was an important area for the production of salt, grain, and other agricultural products. Windmills played a crucial role in these industries, harnessing the power of the wind to grind grain and pump water.

The earliest windmills in Trapani were likely built during the Arab rule of Sicily in the 9th and 10th centuries. The Arabs introduced advanced irrigation techniques and agricultural practices to the region, including the use of wind power for milling grain. These early windmills were simple structures with wooden blades and a vertical axis.

This is one of the well-preserved windmills along from the Saline di Trapani e Paceco area, where they stand as silent sentinels of Trapani history.

Run-Down Alley in Palermo

Street Scene from Palermo, Sicily

I was drawn to this run-down alley in Palermo, filled with shuttered shops and draped with linens. I used copic markers to sketch this scene.

 

Piazza Pretoria Sketch

Palermo

The Fontana Pretoria sculpture, built in 1554, features animal heads, gods, goddesses, nymphs and horned patronesses. The fountain sits at the center of the Piazza Pretoria, which is known as the most striking square in Palermo, as two large historical churches sit across from each other.

Because homes were demolished for the construction of this fountain, and because of the use of nudity in the statues, the fountain has a long history as a symbol of outrage against corruption and excess in Sicily, and is sometimes referred to as the Fountain of Shame.

Behind the fountain is the San Giuseppe dei Teatini, a 17th century masterpiece of Sicilian Baroque architecture.

 

Chiesa di San Martino

Chiesa San Martino

A sketch of the main door to the Chiesa di San Martino, which is dedicated to the souls that endure the muted pains of purgatory.

Greater Flamingos near Trapani

Greater Flamingos

The salt flats of Trapani have produced perfect conditions for salt farming for millenia. They also host Greater Flamingos in large numbers. I wonder if flamingo feet contribute to the unique taste of Trapani salt?

Porta Felice Gate

Porta Felice Sketch

The Porta Felice Gate, built over 500 years ago, is one of the main gates to Palermo.

Built during the Spanish rule of Sicily in the late 16th century, the Porta Felice Gate was constructed as part of the city's fortifications to defend against potential attacks. It was named in honor of Donna Felice Orsini, the wife of Viceroy Marcantonio Colonna, who oversaw the gate's construction.

The gate served as one of the main entrances to the city, providing access to and from the coastal area. Its strategic location allowed for control over the flow of goods and people entering Palermo.

Chiesa di Sant'Ignazio all'Olivella

Chiesa di Sant'Ignazio all'Olivellav

The Chiesa di Sant'Ignazio all'Olivella church was originally built in the 16th century, during the Spanish rule of Sicily, and was dedicated to Saint Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit Order. It was constructed in the Baroque style, with ornate decorations and architectural elements typical of the period.

Over the centuries, the Chiesa di Sant'Ignazio all'Olivella underwent several renovations and expansions, reflecting the changing tastes and needs of the community. One of the most significant transformations occurred in the 18th century when the interior was extensively redecorated in the lavish Baroque style, featuring elaborate stucco work, marble altars, and frescoed ceilings.

During this period, the church became a center of religious and cultural life in Palermo, hosting important ceremonies, processions, and events. It also served as a showcase for the artistic talents of Sicilian and Italian craftsmen, who created many of the church's exquisite decorations and furnishings.

Piaggio Ape

Watercolor Piaggio Ape 3-Wheeled Truck

Watercolor and ink sketch of a Piaggio Ape carrying citrus in Palermo, Sicily, Italy. These little three-wheeled commercial trucks are common in urban Sicily. They date back to 1948, when Italy's transportation infrastructure had been devastated by war, and larger four-wheeled commercial trucks were simply too expensive for the economy (and small roads) to support.

The Ape is still produced even today, looks almost the same as the original models. Many of those three-wheeled taxis we see in countries like India, Thailand and Vietnam are extended Apes.

 

Sicilian Reptiles

Venice Chronicles

Marker sketches of two common reptiles from Sicily - the Sicilian Wall Lizard, which often have brilliant and striking green markings, and the Moorish Gecko.

Palermo Alleys

Alleys in Palermo, Sicily

Narrow apartment building in Palermo, Sicily. Many of the buildings off the main lanes are heavily adorned in graffiti, and evidence of the scars of World War II is everpresent in these back streets.

 

Commercial Truck in Erice

Sicily Work truck

A tiny commercial truck produced by Fiat is used to haul rubble from reconstruction efforts in the medieval mountain town of Erice.

San Domenico Church in Palermo

San Domenico Church

The Chiesa di San Domenico in Palermo, Sicily features rich, baroque facaSdes in bright gold and white with stone Dominican figurines atop two story columns.

 

Sicily Moleskine Journal

Below are pages from my Moleskine journal. I have been showing pages from my journals since the year 2001, and the purpose is to show my readers how you can use a simple analog journal as a way to organize your entire travel. I use my journal to make notes and sketches of birds; turning it into a compact field guide. I also use my journal as a way to compose or come up with ideas for photo shoots by visiting and sketching the scene earlier in the day.

I always begin writing my journal months before I actually visit a place, allowing me to enter notes from books, magazine articles and even Wikipedia.

I used different media in this journal - gouache and watercolor with a waterpen, sepia and black Micron pens, and Winsor Newton ink.

Notebook from Sicily

Sicily Travel Journal from Sicily, Italy

Sicily Sketches

Drawings from Sicily

Sicily, Italy sketches

Sicily Journal

Sicily, Italy Moleskine Journal

Page from my Sicily, Italy Moleskine Journal

Moleskine Journals from Sicily

Sicily Journals Sicilian Moleskine Journals Sicily, Italy Travelogue Journal

Explore more in Europa


In Venice, Istrian Croatia and Slovenia, I explore whether another Venice can be built in the future.

On the Island of Paros, I explore whether a musical improvisation master could have thrived in the ancient Mediterranean.

On a road trip to Iceland's remote Westfjords, I explore the decline of the iconic Atlantic Puffin.

In a road trip to Spain's Mediterranean coast, I ponder the value of itinerary-free travel.

Exploring Sicily's Tyrhennian Sea coast, with notes on the effect of climate and migration.

The Alfama district of Lisbon hints at the global influence of colonial Portugal.

Celebrating a family feast in the strange, modern setting of Pomerania, land of my ancestors.

Exploring small towns of Iberia, where some of Europe's most fabled cheeses were born.

Exploring the Bavarian and Swiss alps in search of the region's famous handmade cheeses.

Sketches, illustrations and notes on improvisation and worldbuilding in the Germany's second largest city.

Notes, drawings, sketches and illustrations in different mediums from Paris.

Drawings, notes and Moleskine journal sketches from my travels on the island of Sicily.

Notes on Gibraltar and its famous macaques, plus an interview with one of their protectors.

Drawings, sketches, Moleskine journal notes and illustrations from Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain.

Midnight tapas in Madrid, the plains of La Mancha and ancient alleys in Cuenca.

My companion notes, sketches and illustrations to my story on the Venetian Adriatic.