2019 Foundations Friday 10: Different Stories - Callanish Stones

March 8, 2019 | 4 Comments

This week we are looking at creating a focus (finding a story) in order to strengthen our sketches. In the bonus material we are looking at local icons. So I thought for this article I would compare the stories of three different sketches from the most iconic location on the Isle of Lewis (where my sister lives) – Callanish standing stones

The reality is that I don’t always think about story before I start a sketch. I normally do, but not always! However, I do think about story towards the end of the sketch and I start focusing on what’s on the page, not what is in front of me. ‘What is my sketch saying to me?’ So I found three versions of the stones where I can’t remember what my intention was in terms of story. I thought it would be fun to explore what they ‘say’ to me now.

But before we look at the three sketches, here is another one which explains the configuration of the stones (sketched from a postcard) – it’s a cross with a circle in the middle.

2010 Version

This is an old sketch (from my baby sketching days) and I didn’t really think about ‘finding a story’ back then. I think it was off and on raining that day but dry at the time so I don’t have any memories of being rushed. What is interesting in this sketch is that I drew the inner circle and wanted to record the background hills. So that’s the message I am seeing in this version.

2016 Version

I was with my sister and 4 year old niece on this occasion so I didn’t have a lot of time. However we did sit down and ‘sketch together’ – her version of sketching was colouring in a Bob the Builder book.

So I had to find a spot where we could both sketch, but it seems that I managed to find a spot that had a good view.

So this sketch tells me a story about the cross of the stones and hints at the fact that the stones are on top of a hill.

2018 Version

The third time I sketched the stones I was with the full family (sis, brother in law, niece and 2 year old nephew) and basically I had no time to sketch (just a few minutes). I had set up my support board with my kit as we approached the stones and then just simply stopped at the first place with a reasonable view. So I didn’t capture any sense of the geometry of the stones in this version. I only had 3 minutes and it was very windy – it turned out to be a case of reflex sketching.

However this sketch reminds me of two things:
– I was doing the 30×30 direct watercolour challenge at the time
– My niece was confused as to the difference between these Callanish Stones and a cemetery. “The stones have names on them” she had said!

So this version for me is all about stones standing up in a grassy area and having fun with watercolour texture.

This exercise of re-visiting these sketches is making me look forward to having another go this year and creating a stronger story when I do!

So what do you think? What stories do these sketches tell you?



  • pbass wil says:

    Love all your versions! You may feel the original 2010 one is not as skilled, but it’s not to be dismissed – as a picture it’s very pleasing. The thick lines & the contrast are satisfying, and the clouds give drama.
    What a cutie-pie companion you had in ’16. :^}

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Pbass wil – I actually didn’t say I didn’t like the early sketch, just that I wasn’t thinking about story as much back then 🙂 I do rather like it!
      And yes- total cutie-pie. she still is especially with her thick scottish accent.

  • Jo-Christy Brown says:

    Liz — I enjoyed this update. It is valuable to see 3 such different approaches and outcomes…and all so lovely.
    It is a great reminder that there isn’t a “right” way to do any one thing in watercolor and gives me courage to try different approaches…

    Thank you for your generosity and sharing your talent and experience


    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Jo-Christy, so glad it is helpful. definitely no right way!! but there are always ways to make your work stronger!

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