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Monday, September 30, 2013

Loose lines but tight hand

Today I told my physio my left hand was a bit sore and she felt it in horror.... "Just a little bit too tight! " (this is an understatement!)

I hold my pen very loosely and draw loose lines…but sadly my muscles are tight! This might explain why I am so sensitive to weight and thickness of pen!

So this page which is a recording page not a sketch (ie. I traced my hand to be accurate!) to record the current extent that my thumb can naturally stretch - pretty pathetic really.

 Lots of hand exercises coming up! My instructions… 

"don't stretch your thumb back till after you have warmed up for the day" 
which of course in Liz-speak means:
" stretch after your first sketch for the day!"

 It is not too serious but is related to shoulder tension which is something we are working on at the moment.

The funny thing is that I haven't been sketching as much lately….

Saturday, September 28, 2013

A notebook/sketchbook from Cardiff Wales

Back to scanning from my July trip…

After 2 weeks in BCN I went to Cardiff, Wales UK for another conference. This time a church conference running for 5 days… being surrounded by very very special friends. (2 years ago I did a similar thing) It was a really special week - focusing on the things that are most dear to me (which is NOT sketching!) Read the notes to find out more!

I was determined
1. to take good notes of all the address/sermons
2. work out a system for incorporating images and large slabs of text.

So this year I tried to do my sketches ahead of the notes - ie. I purposely did sketches as page illustrations and then wrote notes later. This meant that there is a mixed up chronology between images and text (done on different days) but surprisingly I don't mind that at all!

The afternoons were free time and I mostly wandered off, needing all little time for myself. My sketching wasn't the focus of the week, or even these afternoon sessions…so the standard tea and architecture theme appears quite strongly. I was using sketching as processing time so it was a bit of comfort sketching (and the occasional pure risk taking experiment!)

I was very happy with the way these pages turned out - it is a completely different thing to have a sketchbook full of text like this! I must admit that I often had to guess how much space the sermon notes would take up and had to start taking less notes in the second half to fit the space (that is just fine, because the important part is actually listening and being moved at the time not the notes!)

And sometimes pages I intended to write notes on, ended up with generous white space… ah! I love filling travel sketchbooks!

For the full set of pages please check out my flickr set

Two photos of me at the conference… one with my sketches of the church and the other…oh dear! I thought I was behaving myself in Cardiff but obviously not - getting excited and drinking tea!

And here is a photo taken inside the church during one of the sessions. You can see me taking notes in the largest church notebook ever and with sheets of paper hiding my sketches. I often sat next to people who I hadn't met before so I was trying to hide the fact that I was taking notes in an A4 landscape watercolour sketchbook!

Testing a new ultramarine

I am always tweaking my palette a little - testing out a new variation. Yesterday I had a colour session with my friend Chris - testing my palette against her W&N ones and looking at some of our standard mixes and trying to work out what is causing certain murky effects. I wasn't trying to push Daniel Smith paint but it was very obvious how much better they performed in the main. It was nice to re-visit some of the tests I have done over the years for my own palette and confirm that I still stand by those decisions.

I have almost locked in DS Transparent Red Oxide as my Burnt Sienna alternative and was testing a few options for French Ultramarine. Came across a half used tube of Schmincke Ultramarine Finest and really loved the purple tones to the neturals mixed. I am going to give it a go. It seems also to make lovely greens (but I didn't want to add those test swatches to this page). It is funny that I have never really look at the FUB alternatives seriously - a fairly fundamental colour in any palette!

I need to do an updated listing on my blog of my latest palette…. very very happy with it…but still also testing and tweaking it slightly…mainly because I am somewhat addicted to colour and also watching watercolour do its own thing. Although I have had this current palette for 3 months now, I know I haven't really tested all the mixing options in it yet…more playing with paint to come! Yay!

Back from Melbourne

With a whole sketchbook to scan... but in the meantime here is one of my favourite building... yes, Flinders St Station. Such a fun building to draw and paint!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Vanilla Slice

A lovely day today with a great friend in the Daylesford/Macedon region. Day included a lovely breakfast and late morning tea, a wee walk to a waterfall (trentham falls) and exploration of a few quaint country towns. In a slow mood so only sketched my food loose and quick washes.
Breakfast at The Village Larder in Woodend. We resisted the award winning Vanilla Slices at


Woodend bakery but ended up trying out a vanilla slice at an amazing bakery at Trentham- Red Bread Bakery (we also got some sour dough bread to take home)

Saturday, September 21, 2013

With the Melbourne Sketchers

I really needed to have a quiet day today after my big 2 day workshop but I wanted to hang out with some local after doing yet another Flinders St Station sketch (a version that would fit in a frame) I met up with some dedicated sketchers at St Kilda just opposite Luna Park.

After a lovely slow paced lunch we headed across into Luna Park... I left them around 6pm where they were heading for cake(yes, I missed out on cake!). Thanks for a lovely day – it is always nice to hang out with local sketchers and it was fun to compare Melbourne’s Luna Park with Sydney's. I think the Melbourne one looks a little angry!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Capturing the Moment Workshop - Day 2

A quick collage of Day 2 of my Sketching workshop “Capturing the Moment” in Melbourne. The top photo is right at the end of the day when only the very keen were remaining (had over 20 in class!)

What an amazing and inspiring group I had and it was very exciting to see a lot of botanical artists (who do the most stunning and detailed botanical art) loosen up and start splashing watercolour around and really catching the sketching buzz.

Thanks to all that attended and worked so hard and did such amazing work! Such a great creative vibe in the group. And a special thanks yo Jenny Phillips and Helen Lovett for making it all possible. I had a ball and am keen to run this 2 day workshop again somewhere, sometime soon!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Capturing the Moment Workshop Melbourne - Day 1

A quick visual summary of Day 1 of my workshop down in Melbourne run out of the wonderful Jenny Phllip's Botanical Art School Melbourne.

We spent the morning inside doing various exercises to explore concepts of how to start sketching, doing setups, working fast vs slow and how to work with lines and colour

and distinguishing edges. In the afternoon we braved the unpredictable Melbourne weather (very rather chilly today) and got some lovely blue skies as we sat out on the streets of South Yarra - looking at how to choose a focus and work out what to sketch. I did a number of demos today which was fun - I really wanted to share my process.

A great group of about 20 people - all keen to sketch more and some really great work was done today. Looking forward to more tomorrow!

More detail later when I am back home!

Monday, September 16, 2013

A wet day in Melbourne

First sit down coffee in Melbourne this trip and didn't sketch it! And yes for all those that are wondering...I do enjoy coffee and am drinking one a day at the moment. Melbourne is the coffee capital of Australia so I have to have my fair share while I am here!

Can resist sketching a coffee but not tea and cake - too wet to sketch outside today

 More about this on my sketching architecture blog

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Today at Melbourne University

Today I held my first Sketching Architecture workshop in Melbourne - at Melbourne University.

Keep an eye on my Sketching Architecture blog for more details.

Friday, September 13, 2013

I am in Melbourne!

In Melbourne preparing for my Sketching Architecture workshop at Melbourne University which is on tomorrow! After casing the joint I ended the day with a quick sketch just for me... of my favourite building in Melbourne

More on my sketching architecture blog.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Last week of 'Sketching Mosman'- but more classes soon!

Today was the last of a 4 week sketching class in Mosman. We ended up spending the whole time down at Balmoral and have enjoyed it so much that ....Next month there will more Balmoral sketching!

This time classes will be Friday mornings 11 Oct- 1 Nov (4 weeks)...more detail coming soon.

We were looking at colour and also re-visited value to see how the two work together so closely. I ended up getting excited about my mixing of pigments (how surprising) and also doing a number of demos - 3 in fact ...and they brought everything together that we have been looking at for the 4 weeks of classes.

One demo was a landscape thumbnail and colour study where I was carefully controlling the value of the colours I was looking at and how I kept my strong focus,. Next was a quick sketch of 'Billy the dog' - though I was mainly drawing the plinth he was on and how I adjusted the values and colours in flat light.

The final demo was a full sketch - the sun came out briefly and I tried to remember the light-dark pattern as I sketched. All three of these demos were not prepared beforehand so it was fun to share my whole thought process with my class.

Thanks to these wonderful sketchers for making the last 4 weeks so much fun! (this photo was taken in the middle of my final demo)

Looking forward to our next adventures in Balmoral in October. Let me know if you are interested as there are only a few available spots.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Melbourne Workshops

I am off to Melbourne later this week for two workshops ... which are now fully booked.

I am sorry if there are people wanting to attend that can't get in now - please send me an email at lizsteel{at} gmail {dot} com and I will add you to the waiting list and/ or my mailing list.

Looks like I will have to plan to come back down again soon... I really love Melbourne so I am sure that this can be arranged!

For those that have registered ... I am REALLY looking forward to it! See you soon!

For those in Sydney: Sketching classes on Friday mornings in October ... more details coming soon. Please let me know if you are interested!

And finally.... if there are a group of people anywhere in Australia that are interested in me coming to visit for a workshop... please contact me!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

A chance to share our BCN experiences!

Our monthly USKSYD meeting this month was a BCN debrief!

Alissa, Chris and I shared our symposium experiences and described the workshops we did and what we got out it. Here is a combination image of all the sketches I did during the workshops (I didn't do anything on other pages or in another sketchbook …but most of the notes have been added since I got home)

It was then lunchtime …so no sketching got done as a group today. Still it was great to get the USK buzz going and have friends to share our experiences with (non sketching friends don't quite understand what the fuss is about!) It was a lovely warm day of about 30C so lovely to spend a morning in the gardens! Wow - warm weather for early spring.

On the way out I did a quick crazy sketch… couldn't come to the Botanic Gardens and not sketch! Then I had to remember to vote on the way home! - it is election day today and it is compulsory. I was planning to sketch the queue to vote but at 2.30pm there wasn't queue at all (so no sketch)… maybe a little sketching from the TV tonight - a new Prime Minister????

Friday, September 6, 2013

People Practice: Bic vs Sailor

When in London I saw the bic pen in action in the hands of Adebanji Alade  which of course was very inspiring! This week I finally got around to getting hold of one and so tonight I tried. After 2 heads, well 3 in fact (one under one of the yellow post-it note) I wasn't going so well (fussing with my lines)… and then I saw my new green sailor pen (thanks to Isabelle Lalibert√©) sitting nearby and gave it a go… a lot better! I prefer to just give it a go and live with the consequences and the variable line was fun ( a way of saying that I wasn't controlling the thick and thin very well!)

Suits the mood I am in at the moment of not having much time for my daily sketchbook and when I do sketch in it, I am not taking my work too seriously.

Anyway… enjoyed putting this page together very much! ... of course part of it is the composition of the spread and making sure somehow I get some colour on the page. Just got to start doing it in public now!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

12 reflections on my 2 weeks in Barcelona

Just uploaded a low res version of my BCN sketchbook which hopefully work for you if the hi res version is a little slow. Here are links.
Low res
High res(if you want to read all my crazy notes!)


Now that my Barcelona sketchbook is scanned I want to record a few overall thoughts about this part of my trip and the sketchbook (just to let you know that I am only at the half way point of my 4 week trip- though I sketched less in the second half)

I would like to do a separate post about the symposium, but these are a few random comments about this sketchbook and my time in BCN as a whole (it is in fact 2.5 A4 sie watercolour moleskine books!)

Of course this book is VERY special to me ... don't know quite if I can put it into words but I hope that the joy I had filling these pages  comes through! Some trips there is a far amount of internal frustration or challenges that do not appear on the page... this time,  once I got myself warmed up I felt a lot of my work just flowed - that is a wonderful feeling and I had enormous satisfaction from many many of these sketches. I am not specifically thinking about the end result, but the internal dialogue I was having at the time.  But at the same time I am very happy with MANY of these sketches. Most trips there are 1 or 2 …or many 3 sketches that stand out for me. I am not sure I could isolate only 3 that are special to me in this collection.

Ok… 12 random thoughts...

1. Choice of sketchbook

This is my 4th trip that I have used this size book and I have to say that I LOVE them. They are big and heavy but the extra size to spread out or doing composite pages and include collage is great (and as an aside I never see to do as much collage as I would like and run out of page easily). I do like working on the moleskine watercolour paper as well…. just seems to suit the range of styles that I use and the wetness of my watercolouring.

2. Heaviness of sketchbook

I carry the book in my hand nearly all the time as i find it too heavy in a bag...this means I am ready to sketch at any time...

3. Size of sketchbook (practical issues)

it is large and opens like a table! I use the other side of the book to rest my paint tin and that works well. It is a little awkward in cafes and planes. I think the size made me a little less likely to open it and use it for a quick sketch than I am with a smaller book…however next point….

4. Trying to slow down and not sketch non stop all the time.
I did actually do this!!!! although you might not believe it. I didnt bother to sketch every evening (too tired!) and often when with people I just chilled and didnt try to sketch and talk. I really did not want to put any pressure on myself in regard to my sketchbook - sketch what I feel like, when I felt ike pressure "I should sketch this or that"

5. People are more important than sketching
Related to 4. is the fact that for me this 2 week period was very much about people. SO many people in BCN that I wanted to spend time with , catch up, meet, sketch with. So this year talking with people was a focus - as a result less food sketches!!! There is no way I can sketch everything in Barcelona, and I can sketch non stop compulsively when I am on my own…but when I have a chance to hang out with inspiring USKers… I know what I want to do!

6. Sketch posture and physical limitations
Having to be careful with sketch posture and time spent in the one positon. This is a huge deal for me at the moment - I physically cant work on a sketch for more than 30 minutes in the one positon so I have to work fast or simpler and have been looking at ways to do this. I am very happy with how much I achieved and apart from a few occasions when I ignored my 'rules'(and suffered!) was able to sketch without major consequences to neck and shouder and lower back. 

7. The need for time out

Related to 5. above I did find it a little overwhelming to be around people all the time for the two weeks and you can read all my comments scattered through the book about needing to steal some solo time to sketch and process it all.

8. Crazy stuff
A few quirks that dominate these pages just happened - the diagonal placement of images on the page started with Sagrada Familia on the 2nd sketching day and then I just went with it. Also I got hooked on splashing. Neither of these are necessarily something that I will always do but I did continue doing both throughout the whole trip.

9. Homework - a LOT of it

Many many blank areas to add text and maps when I got home. I try to prioritise what I can do when I get home and what I need to get done at the time. Normally when I travel I have a little time in the evenings to add a few notes… didn't have that this time at all.

10. Spreading out

I can never leave enough white space… even a full spread where all I put was a half sketch on one plate of food got easily filled with notes, collage and maps etc.

11. Mixing it up
Was a lot of fun to mix up my tools and approaches from sketch to sketch. Sometimes I didn't know whether to ink or sometimes I did both... I really like the variety! But did find it interesting that my love of using my lamy pen is still very very strong!

And leaving the biggest point to last:

 12.  Subject matter.
One of the challenges for my next trip is that I want work out a strategy for including a broad range of subject matter…. I do wish I these pages captured more of what it was like to walk through the streets of BCN for 2 weeks. A lot of that day to day experience is not included in these pages.

There are two factors that have made this a new focus to my travel sketchbooks
1. when I stay for a good period of time in a city I have moved away from a simple 'capture everything I do approach' to a wish to 'describe the city'.
2. I was hanging out with my great friend from Sydney Chris Haldane  who creates the most wonderful travel sketchbooks with a variety of subject matter. Comparing the things that she wanted to sketch with my list of architectural masterpieces was a real eye opener!

I feel like this book is a little too much focused on  architecture... but hey what about point 4. No pressure? Barcelona  is one of the top cities that I wanted to go to from the aspect of architectural subjects -  so why excuse sketching what I really want to sketch. However there are lots of little details - doors, street lamps, signage, shop displays that I do wish I had included….oh! and of course (!!!??!!) sketching more people!!! I am not beating myself up… but it is always good to have a goal for next time!

Ok... I think 12 points is enough for today. There are a lot of other things that I could write... and interested in hearing from you if you have any questions.  

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Sketching Mosman (Balmoral) Week 3

Another stunningly beautiful morning... the top photo is what I enjoyed while having my pre class coffee. The wind did pick up later in the day making sketching a little cool..but still very nice. It was very helpful to have a bright day today as we were doing Values. Last time in Manly we had a grey day with flat light so it was a little challenging to explain a few concepts! Today was perfect.

Using a very recycled collection of boxes and blocks of wood painted different colurs we explored fundamental concepts of preserving white, local colour, shade(with reflected light) and cast shadow. Then we tackled a small portion of the concrete wall along the beach front putting these concepts in practice both with markers and with watercolour.

Right at the end of the class I did a very quick demo and then somehow (!?!??!!!) I got onto mixing colours and showing them some new favourites. A good lead-in to next week's  final class (for this session) on colour.

Been so much fun down in Balmoral the last few weeks - if you want to join us for the last class please let me know. (more classes coming in October)

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

My BCN Sketchbook in full

Here it is in issuu format - I am have a few issues with it (pardon the pun) so please let me know if you can't (easily) view it.

Also here is my entire sketchbook in one image....

This is all the sketching I did in 2 weeks (most maps and many of the notes have been added since getting home).

I know you can't see the actual images at this size...but I love seeing it all like this as it gives me a feel of the composition of the pages and flow from page to page...something that is very important to me.

Monday, September 2, 2013

BCN.UK.2013: Friday 19 - My Last day in BCN

Something completely different to start off - some crazy modern architecture drawn in Inma Monster style (see here if you don't know what I mean!)

The morning I spent with Marc and Laurel Holmes. I love being around these two! They are very special people - lots of fun to hang out and explore places with them ... and  of course Marc is such an inspiring artist! He was drawing black and white using a clipboard and was unstoppable. You can see the pile of his work here.

It was such a privilege to have spent so much time with them this year and Marc and I had had numerous occasions sketching alongside each other and chatting about ideas and projects and theories and all kinds of stuff. This last morning we were going flat out....both talking and sketching. So my cathedral sketches were a little distracted... but still fun to do.

Despite hanging out in the gothic area a lot there was still a lot in the cathedral zone to sketch including the BCN bridge of sighs (not sure of its real name), Laurel found a very weird jewelery shop (Marc was sketching inside there too!) and then I took them to Placa dei Rei .. for my third or is it 4th sketch (it is my favourite public space in BCN) Sigh - then we had to say goodbye!

Spent the afternoon with Lapin and Jason. First a very nice Vegan lunch (which I had to sketch... not sketching much food this trip!) and getting Lapin to sketch my portrait in my copy of his book. Then Lapin took us to on a tour of la Barceloneta and beyond...including where he lived when he first moved to BCN and we even made it to the beach (so not dressed for it!)

Finally we stopped to sketch something modern - Torre de Gas Building by Miralles.  I normally don't enjoy sketching slick glassy modern buildings but I will admit that I did enjoy this! Soon it was time to say goodbye to these two (the last USKers that I saw in BCN)

Yes- highly risky to take my sketchbook with me into the ocean.... and yes, this was just a photo opportunity!

I had quite a long walk back....but it was through my favourite place (as opposed to space mentioned above!) - Parc de la Ciutadella. I had spent some really special time in the park on both Sundays and not only is it very beautiful and with a stunning collection of buildings, but in some ways it connects me with the rest of Spain as I experienced in 2003. I had a made flurry of sketches (stupid to attempt) as I walked back.....

And finally as I walked past the cathedral I had to do one final sketch. I had intended to do a 'proper' slow-ish sketch of the cathedral front but the light was fading and I desperately needed to get back to my room to pack and get some sleep before a 3.30am wake up. So I used a little water soluble ink over the top of my normal (noodlers bulletproof ink)...

and well... that is it! Cardiff next stop (for another conference!!!)