2015 Sketchbook Review

December 31, 2015 | 15 Comments


It’s my usual tradition to spend NYE turning through every page in my sketchbooks for the year, and then sketching my collection. It is not the most exciting sketch of the year, but it is an important one!

My average number of sketchbooks completed in a year is 20… and that was what I did once again in 2015. One a month during my everyday life and one a week when I travel!

I wasn’t planning on doing a review of my year, but as I looked through these sketch books this afternoon, I was struck by two things:

  1. how much change I have felt in my own work this year
  2. how each sketchbook represented a distinct stage.

So I couldn’t resist taking some photos showing an important spread for each book.

January & February: I started the year finishing off my Foundations course and then went straight down to Tasmania for a ‘work trip’.  I found myself sketching more street scenes rather iconic buildings and then on the last afternoon did a few quick ink-only sketches. These cross hatched drawings were surprisingly satisfying! This started a big new trend in my work for the year.

March: My left hand was out of action for a little while which forced me to do some right handed sketching – this was fun. I didn’t have the usual control but mentally it felt comfortable.

April: I had a challenging 2 weeks in Melbourne unable to sketch at my normal pace but right at the end of my trip, I managed two ink and wash sketches. I really enjoyed a different colour palette with all the autumn leaves. (oops sorry about the sideways images!)

May: I enjoyed a few compositional challenges with the object based “Every Day in May” prompts.

June: Seemingly out of nowhere I got people into in my sketchbook (actually it was in response to a challenge by Marc Taro Holmes). Still got a long way to go, but this was a major breakthrough this year.

Other daily sketchbooks: Like last year, I used an A4 moleskine for special sketching days out and about in Sydney. I only used 2 such books in 2015, the first started with the outdoor demos for Foundations (a big step when you are filming, teaching and trying to produce a good sketch all at the one time) and the second book I started in July when I started filming myself with two cameras and contains Edges demos and numerous sketches of Barangaroo. The new Barangaroo Development is a big part of the life Sydney this year!
I also used the little “Perfect Sketchbook” for a food diary – need to get back to that in early 2016!

July in Singapore: Of course the Urban Sketchers Symposium was an incredible experience, but I really enjoyed some time to focus on my watercolour work. In particular, I was able to apply some of my ‘teacup techniques’ to more complex street scenes. At the end of my time in Singapore I started more shape-based work.

August in Cambodia: The shape-based approach was really helpful for sketching the extremely complex and challenging architecture of the Angkor temples. Using a second, smaller sketchbook was liberating, and attempting to sketch in the Siem Reap Old Market was a big achievement for me (huge thanks to the inspiration of Suhita Shirodkar). Sorry about another sideways image!

August, September, early October: On my return form my big trip I was foucsed on Edges, and surprisingly went into a period of changing my normal sketchbook – A5 portrait Beta, and Delta and then a spiral bound. These books included cafe downtime during my SketchingNow Edges Adventures, the start of a Palladio fad and a three day workshop in Tasmania.

End of October: My great escape to Norfolk Island – figuring out how to get very different paper to work for me, sketching extremely fast and loose, creating more complete scenes and really focusing on capturing the light.

November: Continuing with the A5 format was an attempt to free up my sketchbook usage to more journal style and the start of my morning and evening walks.

December: Morning lattes and Fountain Pens (don’t need to say anything more than that – hey?)

Ah! It has been a big year! I started it with a multiple ink sketch of my peacock blue cup and ended the year with the same thing. But my three takeaways from it all are:

  • Things happen when you just keep sketching
  • Allow yourself to follow the creative journey wherever it takes you
  • The value of sketching your life in a sketchbook – what an amazing record you create of your life and creative journey in the one place!

Anyway – thanks again for being a HUGE part of my adventures in 2015. 
Happy New Year to you all! See you in 2016…

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  • Mary Frantz - December 31, 2015 reply

    Thanks for sharing Liz. Love them all. I secretly wish we lived close by and were sketching pal's. I just love your work. Thanks for a great year of inspiration. 2016 I am going to finish Foundations and Edges. Mary Happy New Year to you.

  • Lady Aga - December 31, 2015 reply

    Happy New Year Liz:)

  • Sherry Fabricant - December 31, 2015 reply

    Hi Liz, I read all the comments under the photos but I'm curious how you decide what sketchbooks to use.....??

  • Sandra James - January 1, 2016 reply

    I've recently rediscovered your blog and it has completely inspired me to get my pen and watercolours out again. Your posts are so useful and instructional and I can't wait to do your two elearning courses this year, when I'm on a break from my graphic design degree (as a mature student!). Thank you for sharing your beautiful characterful work and your expertise so freely. I only live 3 hours from Manchester so I might see you there. Happy New Year!

  • Teoh Yi Chie - January 1, 2016 reply

    20 sketchbooks in a year is insane! I wish I have that kind of productivity when it comes to sketching. LOL.

  • Karen - January 1, 2016 reply

    What fun to look back through the year through your sketchbooks. Happy New Year!

  • Serena Lewis - January 1, 2016 reply

    Loved your sketchbook review, Liz!

    Happy New Year to you. :)

  • Liz Steel - January 5, 2016 reply

    Yes insane... I wish I had your productivity when it came to product reviews LOL!

  • Liz Steel - January 5, 2016 reply

    It sure is Karen - Happy New Year!

  • Liz Steel - January 5, 2016 reply

    thanks Serena - happy new year!

  • Liz Steel - January 5, 2016 reply

    Its by lots of trial and error - just choose one and fill it up, then try another one! You will work out what suits you best

  • Liz Steel - January 5, 2016 reply

    HI Sherry - check out this page http://www.lizsteel.com/p/sketchbooks.html

  • Liz Steel - January 5, 2016 reply

    thanks Lady Aga - Happy New Year to you too!

  • Liz Steel - January 5, 2016 reply

    thanks Mary - just virtual sketching pals, hey?

  • Liz Steel - January 5, 2016 reply

    Hi Sandra- great to have you following along again... yes hope to see you in Manchester!

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