2016 in review

December 29, 2016 | 12 Comments

I have been in two minds about whether to do a year in review post, but in the end, I decided that as it was such a big year for me it was important to do a wrap-up. And it was also really great for me to look through my collection of sketchbooks for this year.

Sketchbooks as shown in this photo:

  • 6 x A4 moleskine watercolour sketchbooks from my big 8 week Europe trip. Note: I often go through 1 book a week when I travel, but I worked smaller and sketched less this trip.
  • 4 x 9×6″ Stillman & Birn hardcover Alpha sketchbooks for my daily sketching.  I filled less of these books than usual as I wasn’t sketching as much on weekdays or weekends.
  • 1 x A4 moleskine watercolour sketchbook worth of sketches from Sydney outings (spread over two books as shown in this photo). This is where my output has been a lot less this year.
  • 3 x Stillman & Brin softcover Alpha sketchbooks in three sizes (with the maroon covers). The small landscape book is the one that I am currently working through.

My feeling is that I didn’t sketch as much this year, and the overall count is less than previous years (I often fill around 20 sketchbooks).

But the most important thing I realised, as I looked through my sketchbooks, was that I had indeed created a really good record of my year.

So what did I do this year?


Big Things:

  • I wrote and had a book published – so pleased with how Five Minute Sketching: Architecture turned out and I really hope that it will be a useful reference book for everyone who has a copy.
  • I did a big blog redesign. It was a huge investment but it has provided me with an incredible structure moving forward, and I am so happy with the clear design and how nice it is to use. Note: I still have lots of articles to write in the sketching tools section.
  • I tried an extensive sketching trip. It was 8 weeks long, I taught a few workshops, filmed two demos in Italy for my SketchingNow Buildings course, sketched all the time and kept up with regular blogposts. The blogging proved easier than I expected but overall the trip was a bit too long and intensive and as a result, I was exhausted by the end.



  • The themes for this year have been architecture and fast sketching. This was due to the topic of my book, my Buildings course and the fact that this year has been so busy. I just haven’t had much time for slow paced sketching sessions.
  • I have drawn many more coffee sketches than teacups this year!
  • I am really pleased with some of the formatting developments this year, including my Kelly Purkey stamps for the dates.





  • Implemented sabbatical weeks and early mornings – I wake up at 5.30am and start working before 6.30am most days. Both of these changes were not on the radar at all. In fact, I used to think waking up that early was impossible for me!
  • Continued all year with my cafe planning sessions. Using OmniFocus, GTD (Getting Work Done by David Allen) strategies and my Get to Work Book, has enabled me to really increase my productivity this year and that is a great feeling. But I have also loved becoming part of my local community as a result of my morning cafe visits.
  • I have radically reduced my caffeine intake – decaf coffees and flushing the caffeine out of tea – and that has improved the quality of my sleep!

What I didn’t do this year!

All of these achievements came with some costs:

  • As mentioned above I didn’t get out sketching much this year and missed most of the USK SYD events.
  • I wasn’t very social, but I am very thankful for supportive friends who understand why I was so slack this year. In 2016 I went from being a ‘long term, low maintenance’ friend, to ‘long term, zero maintenance’!
  • I didn’t exercise as much as normal, and instead of losing a few kilos, I put a few on.
  • I didn’t schedule enough rest and down time.

So looking ahead…

  • Well, 2017 is already fairly booked out, but I don’t intend to do as many big projects during the year. Instead my focus is more on improving SketchingNow for people who have enrolled in courses to date, and doing a lot of back-of-house development. So my work goal is to continue to improve my productivity and establish some really serious periods of deep work (I’m just finishing reading Cal Newport’s incredible book: Deep Work)
  • I want to focus more on my health – exercise, food, drinking more water and increasing length/quality of my sleep.
  • I want to get more people in my sketchbooks. I don’t beat myself up about this lack in my sketch repertoire as I just haven’t had any margin to work on it – 2016 had way too many other things demanding my attention! I need some committed time to do constant practice-research-practice to get my skills to the next level. So 2017 is going to be the year for this – isn’t it?? (I’m talking to myself here)

And of course my overall mission is still the same:
to sketch my life and share the experience in the hope that it will inspire others to pursue their own creative journeys.

I honestly can’t believe all the things I do these days. I don’t really have huge goals, I simply schedule what I think needs to be done and then try to live one day at a time. Many things come into my inbox, and I now have to say ‘no’ to most of them – this is hard and requires a lot of wisdom. I just can’t go past the well-known words of Proverbs 3:5-6:

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.


A HUGE thank you to you! Thanks for coming along with my crazy adventures this year and all the comments and encouragements. Without you, none of these things would have happened this year.

Wishing you all a wonderful 2017.



  • Lawrence Goldfarb says:

    Liz, Besides being a terrific sketcher, you inspire me to do more better.
    Thanks for being there.
    Much love to you in 2017.

  • Carmel Campbell says:

    Thank you for continuing to inspire others, myself included. Your energy and enthusiasm shows through as you to tell a story with your daily sketches. I come back to your blog when I need a pick me up! I filled 19 sketchbooks this year. I am a daily sketcher. I am happy with my sketchbooks however the content is mostly people. Something I want to change in 2017. Looking forward to meeting you in February at the Sydney workshop.

    • Carmel Campbell says:

      I wish you happiness and success in the coming year.

    • Liz Steel says:

      thanks Carmel – well done on so many sketchbooks (hmm, when I start sketching people my sketchbook consumption will go up!)
      Excited to see you in Sydney – Happy New Year!

  • Carmela Sunnyvale says:

    Liz–wishing you good health & happiness in the new year. I faithfully read your posts and recommend them to those in my sketching group. Your openness and sharing of your gifts are an inspiration. I’m glad to hear that you are making your health a priority. It’s the basis for mental and spiritual health, as I’ve had to discover the hard way. I’m looking forward to improving my sketching ability along with you and others this year. Thanks for being a wonderful instructor!

    PS: Love the new soft-grey mix!

  • Magdalena French says:

    A huge Thank You!! to you Liz for your generosity of spirit for sharing and passing on your learning and experiences above and beyond what would be deemed necessary – in the hope that it may benefit some. You are an inspiration to many (another burden for you in your already busy life) and therefore the least we can do is also become the custodians of your hard earned knowledge.

  • Jodi says:

    What a big year! Congratulations on all your achievements and I look forward to following your journey as it continues. Happy new year, Liz!

  • Ania Drozd says:

    All the best for the New Year Liz! And this year take care of yourself first!

  • I love popping in to see what you have posted each day. It inspires me. Thank you for sharing your work and knowledge. Have a wonderful 2017!

  • Fenne says:

    So many sketchbooks! Great to see 🙂
    Wishing you the best for the new year.

  • Patricia Wafer says:

    Thanks so much for this year end review. As always, you inspire me to review a bit and get more organized. I have been delving into the “Deep Work” book also. I encourage you to make exercise as big a priority as art work. I was in a dreadful accident 2 years ago and both my legs were broken. I was overweight and a bit out of shape at age 65 but I got to the swimming pool as soon as I could walk again and that became my priority number one. Now I’m at a healthy weight and swim over half a mile 6 days a week. I found that I was more productive with my art work if I took the time to swim. That was a surprise to me. I thought it would make me too tired to paint and it is just the opposite. I stay energized for hours after a swim. But I mentally had to make exercise my first priority and painting number two or somehow the exercise just did not get done! You will find a way!!!

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