2020 Foundations Fridays 3: Abstracting Shapes in differing light

April 24, 2020 | 3 Comments

It’s no secret that I’m obsessed with sketching using shapes. Switching my visual thinking from edges to shapes (and in particular starting my sketches with shapes) has had such an impact on my work over the years and I believe it’s the secret to strong painting and working more quickly and loosely!

This week as part of my Foundations Group Run-through I went a little overboard with my bonus videos. Lesson 3 already has a lot of bonus material from last year… and I just added to it! I just can’t help myself!!! I ended up filming  30 minutes of video showing a few different colour thumbnails of the view from my balcony in differing light. It never ceases to amaze me how objects change colour during the day and how they are often radically different from what our object brain thinks.

This is a more advanced application of using shapes and something we look at in more detail in my intermediate course: Watercolour On Location which will be returning in a few months time. But the main point of this particular exercise was the first step where I simplified the scene into the big shapes and this is what helped me achieve three very different versions of the same scene. They are not ‘proper’ sketches but simple colour studies (some of the washes are a bit questionable) but it was such a fantastic exercise to do! This demo is available to anyone who has enrolled in Foundations anytime – it’s in the Self Directed classroom – Lesson 3: Bonus Material. I hope you enjoy watching it!

I’m keen to actually do some more careful versions of this view now! But today I just did another quick sketch playing with pigment. By the way, I used three of my blue pigments in this sketch – can you work out which ones and where I used them?

And here are some other versions of the same view which I have done previously.

Last week’s edges version – see more here.

17 March 2020 – in the early days of staying at home. More here.

Sketch from a bonus video in the Edges course which I did last year.


August 2017. Back home after a big trip using new tools – see more here

Some viewfinder and thumbnail studies – March 2017 as part of another Foundations Friday series. See here and here.


Feb 2017 (just after moving into this apartment – see more here.

If you haven’t worked it out already, I’m actually quite happy to sketch the same scene over and over….



  • Tonya RB Dale says:

    I confess–I am so *not* looking forward to this next lesson, “abstracting shapes.” It just doesn’t sound like me at all–but thanks to all of the materials (including the wealth of updates you’ve mentioned here), I’m gathering my courage to give it a try. Shapes! Argh!!! Thanks, Liz, for your help and encouragement for us newbies! Let’s see if this next week of practice on this subject flunks me out of the class or keeps me moving forward ;D

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Tonya… I totally understand as I used to much prefer lines to shapes… but you never know… you might fall in love with shapes! Regardless… try to have fun and enjoy the journey!

  • Vivien Rebsdat says:

    I wanted to try the shapes approach for some time already. Thanks for the „push“. Looking foreward to see what it does to my sketches, how it feels etc.
    In didnt dare to try yet. I guess it feels like more freedom when sketching. Lets see!

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