Online classes

Thursday, February 28, 2013


Car sketching after the gym ... just quickly grabbed the little packet containing the art supplies for Erin Hill's classes (not my usual kit) to put in my gym bag and did a quick sketch in the car before driving home (I have artist grade paints in the cotmans kit but not my usual colours) the pencils are staedtler watercolour pencils which are fun to use!

more experimenting with mixing paint and pencil.  I am trying to work out the 'sweet spot' with the wet paint when I can put the pencils over the damp paint without scraping the paint away... although sometimes that effect is nice!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

More fun with watercolour and watercolour pencils

Relaxing in my garden and continuing to try out mixing wc pencils and watercolour much fun!

My goal for this year (well one of many!) is to regulare my looseness... but sometimes I just go crazy! Testing out some of the watercolour pencils in the cheap set used by Erin Hill's classes.
I added watercolour, more pencil work, and then lots of water from my waterbrush... AND had a total disregard for perspective. Filled in the 5-10 minutes I had to wait.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Sketch your Cake Class

Today I went along to the fabulous class run by Erin Hill once a month called 'Sketch your cake"... a sketching class based around High Tea! Now I know you are all smiling...but honestly I am not a big high tea fan - I think it is a bit obscene - too much food and too much sweet things. Just give me a good generous pot of quality tea and a serving of scones is all I need.
However... every now and then it is a special treat! Today we went to Gunners Barracks tearoom and it was stunning!

Now you can see why I was sketching that Old Counrty Roses copy china last night- it was practice for today. To be kinda in line with the class I sketched with my lamy pen but was careful how much inklines I used.  I must say that leaving the pattern of the china to watercolour pencil and paint (no ink to the pattern) is working well for me! Also, I realised today that I always start with the cakes and make sure that the arrangement and relationship of the various cakes is right before drawing the plate. As the foucs is the food, it then leaves me in control of how much detail is needed for the plate.
Another thing, which I often tell people, it is very important for me to have tea inside your cup when you draw it... focusing on the non-regular shape of the tea within the ellipse shape of the cup  helps with drawing the outline of the rim of the cup - I often draw the tea first and the cup shape next. (hope that makes some sense!)

I enjoyed myself very much - as the others did as well.

A quiet day at home

just realised that I forgot to post this last night... today was certainly not quiet... but I will post about it later!

I know...not another tea cup sketch ... but this one is a chill out sketch as I have been fighting a headache all day(I wonder if we are about to have a thunder storm!)...and also it was a trial run for tomorrow's activity. Stay tuned for that one!
On the right... this is the set of watercolour pencil that Erin's class uses. Can you believe that I have had this set for over a week and haven't tested out the colours. They are only a staedtler set but still very useful. I had fun trying to mix some muted colours. Need to try them on a sketch next!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Saturday evening Landscape

I have been hankering after a landscape sketch and so tonight pulled out a photo album looking for something to paint.

I have done this scene before a number of times... so I was very curious to see how it would come out.

A little(!?!) overworked and my colours as just SO intense (notice the touches of opera rose...I just HAD to do that) but it has made me want to do some more!!! (but next time a little more regulated)

My thoughts doing this were "more water equals more fun" and "mixing watercolour pencil and watercolour paint at various (spontaneous) stages equals play" ... and the third thought I never had "I need to add ink to hold this together"! it is not needed!

Interesting to compare with last years sketch of this when I was actually there

090409_02 3 Sisters
At echo point waiting for paint to dry

Friday, February 22, 2013

Friday night Baroque

It is a while since I did a Friday night baroque sketch... as I wrote in my sketchbook, I am loving the way that my sketches are so unpredictable - no idea how it will work out...I am just going with the flow!

Two nights worth of sketching....

I am so easily led astray by my art friends when it comes to colour... two of my dear friends Robyn and Vivien just happen to mention recently that they were playing with Winsor and Newton Opera Rose.

Just so happened to have a tube of Opera Rose in my paint collection (from years ago - when they had a promotion and competition on)

WOW! I really like what I am seeing in these mixes.

Getting a vibrant mixed orange is something that some of us have talked about before - this one is amazing! So are some of the other mixes.  I think someone is going to make a change in her palette .....

I posted on facebook and almost immediately... Lightfastness of Opera rose is being questioned...
See here for details

This is nearly 5 years old in my sketchbook (so hasnt seen much light) and looks fine to me!
BTW I went straight to this sketchbook... I knew exactly what year and what month I did this sketch (scary!)

I have decided to use my mixing page to do my own ligthfast test - so I will report on it in a few months time
 Putting aside my new colour adventures,...
I have been wanting to get back into my Port Macq beach sketching mode back home....but I feel too flustered with all the things on my to do list (plus my studio/study was a disgrace) So  with a totally clear work surface (it is not an artist easel but a B0 drafting machine that I can adjust the height and angle) I sat down to slowly sketch an architectural subject using a combination of water-soluble graphite pencil, Watercolour paint and WC paints.

Ah! I enjoyed that very much....

I only drew the basic outline in water-soluble graphite initially, blocked out some areas in shadow with a ochre WC pencil and then paint, WC pencil, paint...and who knows... working up colour and texture together. Next time I am going to use better paper 300gsm (oh! that is a bold move for me!) Now that I have scanned it, I can see tweaks that I want to make...but this is where I stopped.

This was from a photo taken a few years ago - a bright summers day. Church in Manly

I added a scanned version of the other nights sketch into my sketchbook and then did another quickie (a glorified thumbnail) to test out my new approach to architecture. It is important for me to test out new techniques at home as when I am on location I often do 'reflex' I am in the process of retraining my reflexes!

Later in the evening .... I needed to play a little. So using my new teapot book (gifted to me by a best friend...I wonder why!) I had a little play with opera rose and my water colour pencils etc.

BTW. I just increased the width of my blog ...I hope you like the bigger images as much as I do.... much more changes to come some day...but small steps seem to be all that I can manage at the moment

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Revisiting Rivendell.....

After yesterday's afternoon little sketching outing, I decided that it is time for some studio experiments and developments. I am really not enjoying my ink lines at the moment and am getting such a buzz out of a spontaneous mixing of watercolour pencils and watercolour paint. So I thought I would experiment from a photo I took yesterday of the gatehouse to Rivendell (part of Concord hospital)

As my camera was handy I thought I would take a few photos of the stages...but once I started painting I forgot all about it. I also wasn't sure when I started what I was doing - so I started with a rough outline in yellow ochre WC pencil then added watersoluble pencil over the top (Derwent sketching light wash) . Next I mapped the basic areas of shadow/shade with that yellow WC pencil and then.... who knows. This isn;t quite doing what I had hoped to achieve - I feel the need to work bigger!
I plan to develop this technique in the coming days/ fun fun! (well I am enjoying myself ...I think that it might show a little bit!)

BTW I am LOVING using this Stilllman and Brin alpha book to be loose and rough and record my daily explorations without any pressure. I am less inclined to be journalling (though that is still happening) but definitely using it more as a working sketchbook. The paper is great for what I am doing - very robust for the workout I am giving it...but I am very much looking forward to getting into a Beta book next!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Tea and Rivendell is another T2 teahouse sketch... you might be getting bored with these but I am not (hm, surprising!) I use the standard elements which are always different to experiment. Look at that teapot... no way I would have done that last year. I also wasn't going to use my credit card scraping trick...but somehow it just happened!!! I don't actually compose the objects on my table and therefore wasn't 100% happy with the placement of the milk jug...oh well... next time!

Went to Rivendell today (doesn't that sound great!) It is also know as Sir Thomas Walker Convalescent Hospital. The intention was to do an 'old style neat ink and wash sketch but I was so disappointed with the end result that to make myself feel better I did this one... crazy crazy I know - but oh! so much fun!

Tea on a Floral Tray

just totally chilling tonight and painting the view on my side table - certainly not a composed still life. Trying out a few new tricks ... well experimenting with some things that I saw Shirley Trevena do on her DVD... really should try these tricks out on a larger sheet of watercolour paper...hmm, maybe tomorrow - now that my studio is a workable space again (though this was done from an armchair!)

Monday, February 18, 2013

Using my lamy pen again....

Get used to seeing this church.... it is on one of my daily walking routes and what to try a few experiments on it. I like sketching churches from an architectural point of view- their also have a number of different simple forms and often there is space around them.

I did this sketch with my lamy pen.... just to see what would happen trying my 'old style' again. Vey interestingly, this sketchbook is obviously too small for the size I want to draw (how is that for a backhand way of saying that I ran off the page in a tragic manner!) I had to paint this back home as I didn't have a paint brush with me...I didn't set out to paint very wet, but that is how it turned out.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Out and About sketching again with Erin Hills class

 130216 01 Manly HOuse
Today I was back at Manly again to be part of the Saturday group of Erin Hills wonderful Out and About Sketching class....

got there a little early so did a quick sketch with my new beloved line marking tool - Inktense 'indian ink'
130216 02 OutAboutwk3 Sat
Same deal as Thursday - we sketched the mannequin and then each other. Young and I had a sketch-off. She did a beautiful sketch of me.
130216 Out&About_3Sat NewBrightonHotel
After our studio warmup sketches we went down to the Corso and sketched the corner of the New Brighton Hotel again - I love talking about perspective and it is very exciting to see how convincing the work of newbies to architecture sketching is when they nail the eyeline on the page first up. This sketch was done in a bit of the rush at the end and I added 'impressionist' colour back at home. Another great morning!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Out and About Class Week 3 Thursday

 Yesterday I went to meet the Thursday morning class of Erin Hill's Out and About Classes in Manly.

But first I set up myself to use class materials...well almost. I found my old cotman set (what I started with... the set I mentioned in my chat with Danny Gregory!) and then tried to find as close as possible to the colours that Erin recommends. (mine are all artist quality not cotmans - but I was able to find all except for a Cad red). I also tried to paint with a small brush (using the side of it) but nope, I didn't like that at all. I also used my lamy pen but, as you can see, prefer to go for pencil (what has happened to me?) The 'scary' notes refers to Cad Yellow - I do not know how to use Cad colours - too opaque and make murky colours in the palette - ok, that means don't mix in the palette... anyone got any tips on using cadmiuim's colour.

It takes over an hour of driving in peak hour traffic (rush hour) for me to get to I tried a new route but a few bad bits made me reach for my sketchbook.

That is my new craze - Indian InkInktense- what a glorious warm black!?

I got there early enough for a walk along the beach (dodging a huge amount of seaweed) and a quick sketch... ah! the salt air, sand and surf does something for me!

The warmup exercise today was people.... those art mannequins and then drawing each other. I managed to do a quick mannequin sketch after everyone else had finishes and then a quick sketch of Tom. I am not going to go on about how I should draw people more....

Then we went down to the Corso and sketch the corner hotel... well I explained perspectives to some of the class and this is my resultant sketch. Great Day!
Freehand Drawing and Discovery at T2
I then went to T2 to meet a friend to talk about blog/website options and did NOT sketch our teas. However, I did take Jim Richards wonderful new book "Freehand Drawing and Discovery" to show the fabulous Kathleen (manager of the teahouse) my tea sketch in the book. I just realised that I haven't told you about this yet... will try to do so when things settle down a little.

A final sketch for the day on the way home... stuck in traffic again!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Chatting with Danny

Liz Steel: An Illustrated Journey from DannyGregory on Vimeo.

6 years ago thanks to the inspiration of my friend Eza and Danny Gregory from New York, I started my first watercolour sketchbook. I am blown away by the adventures that it has led to and now I am featured in Danny’s new book An Illustrated Journey. It is an unbelievable honour to be included with some many other amazing artists. He did a video interview with me a few weeks ago very very late one night and it is now released as an episode of a ‘Video Chat Show’ with other artists in his book... I can wait to watch them as I know it will be extremely inspiring!!!!!

I am very pleased to be able to chat like this to all my friends and followers on my blog and flickr. In many ways I feel like I am talking to you too in this interview.

Everyone of you, the ‘hits’ as well as the comments have been a HUGE part in shaping where I find myself today. Thank you thank you thank you!

BTW, I hope you can all understand my Australian accent!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

My new Stillman and Birn Alpha Sketchbook

Here are the beginning pages of my A5 Stillman & Brin Alpha book (actually it is the one we got at Santo Domingo in our Symposium sample bag) I think the images speak for themselves (except for a special hello to the owner of the Gordon Pizza Bar who I promised to post my sketch - it is right down the bottom of the post!)

A few general thoughts about changing from A4 watercolour moleskine:

- A LOT of experimentation is going on in these pages

- I am working VERY wet - often adding water on the top of my initial washes. The alpha paper is not designed for this treatment and obviously 'real' watercolour paper would be 'better' to use... but I am loving the effects anyway

- It is REALLY strange to go back to my standard sketchbook format after a break of over 6 months. The last time I used this format for a daily sketchbook it was just after coming back from NYC. I do feel in some ways a different person since then and do not have the familiar feeling I was expecting. (it is not the exact same sketchbook that I used to use - that was a Jasart Premium Book but they have changed the paper and I love S&B sketchbooks in any shape and form!!)

- I AM missing my large sketchbook in many ways (except for the weight and bulk of carrying around) I miss the larger page size for my sketches but I am also missing using the other side of the sketchbook as a table/prop for my paint tin.

- However, I am finding that the smaller size is more intimate and personal - I feel like this can be a more personal and experimental book - less for show as the big book. It fits on a small cafe table a lot easier (not that I have been using it in that location much - what????)

- BTW the 'old Liz' of ink and wash hasn't totally gone and in fact I feel one of those sketches coming on... tonight or tomorrow maybe...and I am looking forward to seeing what happens. (My Lamy pen is a little upset!)

- I have forgotten how MUCH I LOVE writing on the Alpha paper... (never felt quite right to write on the watercolour paper of the moleskine)..and yes, I can see my gridlines through the thinner paper so my writing can be neater- though I haven't had it with me all the time

- I am totally addicted to using my credit card (apple gift card in fact) to scrape paint... it is not a fun sketch without trying to do that at some stage.

OK... enough for tonight!... are the pages...

Monday, February 11, 2013

Out and About sketching classes

130208 OutAbout Flowers
I am very excited by becoming involved in the coming months as guest tutor with Erin Hill's wonderful "Out and About" sketching classes in Manly.She runs classes Thursday, Friday and Saturday mornings... with opportunites for other times as well.

In the first place I am going along to observe, meet the sketchers and get a feel for the classes. Erin has a great model of starting with a warmup still life in the Studio before going out on location. Last week I went to the Friday morning class and had a ball!

'This weeks still life' was a vase of flowers upon a pile of books... and we  had to draw both. Drawing a pile of books with angles going everywhere is a great warmup exercise for drawing buildings in perspective. You have to really look at the angles of each edge and yet at the same time keep a hold on the overall rectangular-ness of the individual books.
I did my own thing and sketched in watercolour pencil lines (rather than ink pen) and then watercolour over the top.
130208 OutAbout Firestation

We then went up the street and sketched the fire station. As I was wandering around to check out the work of others didn't have much time for my sketch and had to add the paint over lunch (like many of the others). Oh! I am enjoying the fuzziness of a water soluble pencil for lines. My favourite at the moment is  Inktense Indian Ink pencil. It is so soluble and a lovely brownish black! LOVE it!

Looking forward to join the Thursday and Saturday groups soon!

More about this weeks class with all the sketches

A break!!! From Inklines and much more!

130211 A break!!! From Inklines and much more!

A lot of you might be thinking "So what's the John Dory??"

Ok, most of you are probably NOT thinking in Australian rhyming fact I don't much either but John Dory (an Australian fish) is slang for 'story"... oh dear, I am off track already!... lets go back.

Many of you are probably watching my Blog/Flickr/Facebook and wondering why my art has changed and why my lamy pen has been neglected ... but also more importantly, why I am having so much time off (vacation?) this summer and why I haven't mentioned the word WORK for a while.

Well, I don't really have an answer to the first question as such... but here goes....

Ever since I got back from my trip to the Dominican Republic and New York in July I have been in the mood for experimenting and trying something different. I felt that trip that I had done the 'obsessive sketching while travelling'- thing to death and using the same sketchbook with ink and watercolour meant my sketching was in danger of getting stuck in a holding pattern. I constantly want to improve and develop and so I started a period of experimentation, using different sketchbooks, and media (markers). I have a vague hazy vision of what I want my work to be... and that was the best way I could think of to try to find out how to get there.

Obviously my time in Singapore and more recently my beach sketching have had a big impact (I do plan to analyse these more in the future). I am just as surprised as many of you are that I am now using pencils!!!! I haven't gone out of my way to lose my inklines but it has happened and in a way it is somewhat symbolic of the answer to the other question.

Someone left a comment recently on my blog... "You seem to have left some part of your architectural nature at home - less sketching more painting". That is in fact a very insightful comment as....

My BIG news is that I am having a break from working as an architect - a sabbatical, a career break... call it what you will. Obviously there is a long story behind making this huge decision... I loved my job, the work, the guys I worked with, my clients etc etc  but for some reasons that I won't bore you with, I needed to take a break. My life was getting a little out of control so I am giving myself 6 months of no pressure - to try to slow down and at the same time explore some ideas and even follow a few dreams and see where I end up. It is certainly not my intention long term to abandon 'architecture'  or stop being an 'architect' but I am sure a little time out is going to do me and my love of architecture a lot of good!

Anyway, I will be sharing my adventures with you all online.... so stay tuned. I have SO many things bouncing around in my head at the moment of what I could and want to do....and already have things popping up!

As you all know, I am a Christian and start everyday (whether I post my notes or not) reading God's word and spending time with Him. In many special ways He has lead me to this decision and although it might seem 'brave' to have a break and leave a secure job I have been overwhelmed by support all around. None of us know what is around the corner, the most secure position can be shaken in a moment by the uncertainty of the economy, illness or tragedy, so I live every day knowing this, and looking forward to my security in heaven in the next life.  My theme for this year more than ever is

Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
Proverbs 3.5-6 

Saturday, February 9, 2013

USK SYD in Pyrmont

Another wonderful Urban Sketchers meeting in Sydney! About 16 sketcher met in Union Square and we ended up at the water end of Harris Street for another great show and tell and then lunch.
It was really lovely to walk down Harris St and see sketchers scattered all around. Here are my sketches...
First one was a total warm up...I am still getting used to my 'new experimental style' and working really wet on a Stillman and Birn Alpha book - I know the paper has not been designed for this type of treatment... but I am loving the results. I tried splashing for the trees like I did yesterday, but did it too early in the process so didn't achieve the effect I wanted. To compensate (or make a total mess?) I then sharpened my yellow WC pencil over the wet paint!?!

The terminus hotel in a derelict condtion... I was having a great time talking to Lisa and wasn't fully concentrating. Also I am not really in the mood for sketching architecture at the moment (would prefer to be back at the beach) but it was great to get a better feel for this more textured watercolour paper (yes, I am working on loose sheets)

Running out of time so I did a simple sketch of the building on the other corner. It is a lot better at the moment for me to choose simple subjects so that I can continue exploring and developing my paint and WC pencil techniques.

And then one more sketch before everyone turned up for the show and tell... how fast can I do this?

Sketch I started while waiting for my lunch... finished at home from memory.

Spent lunch and most of afternoon chatting so missed out sketching with the others... but did go up to Ways Terrace and do this one just before leaving. I MUST come back and sketch this iconic building more!!!

A great day - thanks for everyone who turned up. ..will post photos later.
Next month we will meet at 2 March - details to follow soon.

Pyrmont Sydney