A sketching review of 2021

December 31, 2021 | 8 Comments

It’s time for my Yearly Review article, sharing thoughts about the sketching I managed to do during 2021.

So here is my official sketchbook photo for the year. 🙂

This collection includes:

  • 14 x Everyday sketching books (mostly 8x 10 Softcover Alpha with one 8×10 Softcover Gamma and one 8.5 x 5.5 Softcover Alpha – all by Stillman and Birn)
  • 6 x A4 portrait Moleskine watercolour book from my big Road Trip to NSW, VIC and ACT
  • 1 x Clairefontaine Goldline Natural sketchbook in the large square format 30x30cm from two weeks Staycation in my LGA (Local Government Area)
  • 1 x A4 portrait Moleskine watercolour book from my current Summer Break
  • 2 x Greenwood Journals – my walking sketchbooks

Total: 24 sketchbooks

Last year I filled 22 sketchbooks from my everyday sketching and travels (and used a few smaller books) so this collection represents increased sketching!

I’ve also got two sketchbooks that I’m working in at the moment – Large Alpha 11 x14 spiral bound and another Greenwood Journal.

More about the big spiral book next week (but so far I’m loving it!)

Before I get to my analysis of my work from 2021, I just have to say a huge thank you to everyone who left a comment in yesterday’s post. I’m really loving reading all your goals – it’s very inspirational, so thanks for taking the time to share.

I also need to add my usual disclaimer not to compare your output with mine. I sketch quickly and frequently, so please don’t be discouraged by my pile of books. If you review your own sketching for the year, compare it with last year – have you developed your work? have other things distracted you? have you become unmotivated? Ask these questions without judgment and celebrate any wins! Even one half-filled sketchbook is an achievement!

Ok, enough preamble… onto the review!



As I reviewed my sketchbooks there were very clear phases to the year and these were reflected in my sketches.


Jan to mid-April: Designing my pages and lots of cafe sketching

  • During this period I ran my Sketchbook Design course for the first time. I focused a lot on the design of my pages but didn’t have that much time for getting out sketching so there are a lot of sketches done from photos.
  • Due to my workload at the time I spent a few hours most afternoons working at my local cafe, so cafe sketches were dominant this period.
  • I had set myself a goal (see below) of making more of an effort to go out on sketching outings. I tried to do this in Jan-Feb but it was a struggle and even on days when I did go out, I didn’t manage to get into a state of flow.

Mid-April to end of May: My big road trip

  • Hard to find the words to describe how amazing this trip was! I travelled to so many incredible places and loved having 6 weeks to focus on sketching.
  • I fell in love with my own state and how many beautiful historic towns it contains.
  • I discovered the work of JimmyB (James Barnet) which has given me an interesting focus for sketching in Sydney
  • I revived my old interest in native plants and habitats and this also has become a big part of my life since.

June: Lots of local sketching and Edges

  • In the month after my big trip I sketched a lot in Sydney  – including tracking down JimmyB buildings (here and here). This was a great way to keep the feel of my trip alive and changed the way I saw the centre of Sydney. I discovered that JimmyB was even more significant than I initially realised.
  • As I missed being outside sketching so much I started getting takeaway coffee and sketching more of my local suburb again.
  • This tied in nicely with the start of a Group Run-through of Edges (which was long overdue!)
  • I started looking at native flora and doing a few sketches of trees.
  • I also had a few outings as part of workshop prep. Note: I taught one workshop for teenagers (the only one I’ve done since Feb 2020) and the other one scheduled was cancelled due to the long Sydney lockdown….

July-August: Lockdown Part 1 – Teacups and Palladio

Our second lockdown was a little harder for me than the first. I started a few lockdown projects that really helped…

  • A teacup sketch a day was a great way to add something special to each day.
  • Working through Palladio’s Villas was a really good way to create meaning to some photo sketching and do some research.  I always love a reason to read my Palladio books!
  • I also really really loved continuing the Group Run-through of Edges and starting one for Sketchbook Design.

Early Sept: Staycation – My LGA

  • As I was unable to go on my scheduled two week trip to the north coast, I decided to explore my LGA (which was the only part of Sydney I was allowed to explore as part of my daily exercise).
  • I had an incredible two weeks getting to know nearby suburbs including very fancy houses and lots of different bush areas.
  • I became obsessed with Sydney Blue Gum trees and realised how amazing Lane Cove National Park was.
  • I also started using a Greenwood Journal as a dedicated book for sketches while walking.

Mid-Sept – Dec: Lockdown Part 2 and beyond with lots of architecture sketching

  • After my staycation I established a new routine of going to Lane Cove National Park each weekday for a walk and sketch. I managed to do this for 15 weeks without missing a day.
  • These visits to the bush meant that I no longer felt locked down and when things started opening up, I was loving my daily routine so much that I didn’t change it.
  • I continued with my teacup project for the length of the Sydney lockdown – and ended up with over 100 teacup sketches.
  • I started using Copic markers in my Greenwood Journal which are working perfectly for me.
  • And finally, I hosted a 12-week Group Run-through of Buildings and this got me sketching buildings locally even more!

Even though the last few months have flown by, this year has felt super long. I can hardly believe that I launched Sketchbook Design this year! And I’ve had so much variety in my sketching. It’s been totally wonderful to go through all my 2021 books this week in detail.


In January I set some goals... and then (as often is the case) I more or less forgot about them during the year. But having said that, I’ve generally worked on all of them throughout the year. I’ve also had secondary Monthly art goals which I share exclusively inside my monthly newsletter. And even though it sometimes takes me two months to tackle them I’ve been happy with my progress.

So my Goals for 2021 were:

1. Set aside time for some serious sketching sessions

2. Do more sketching on location

3. Tell better stories

4. Continue to develop my sketchbook layouts

5. Continue to go live


How did I go with them?

1. I think that my intention with this goal was to make more time at home during the day(or evening) to sketch. Obviously, during lockdown this happened, but for the rest of the year, I haven’t really established any consistent sketching habits. There was a period Sept-Oct where I did do some ‘just for me’ sketching in the evenings but that has fallen away lately. And just for the record, I haven’t shared anything publicly about this ‘just for me’ sketching – I don’t intend to until it starts having an impact on my everyday sketching

2. Well I’ve definitely achieved this goal as I’ve never done more sketching on location before. The Road Trip and then My LGA Staycation have made me much more motivated to sketch scenes close to home. And there are no words to describe how much I love my regular visits to Lane Cove National Park. Even though it’s repetitive there is still enough to keep me inspired and I also really enjoy reliving the visits as I flipped through my books this week.

3. Telling better stories is something that I think I will always need to work on… but this year I’ve definitely recorded more of my everyday life in my sketchbook. I still want to tell more stories through sketches of objects at home but overall this year I have written more notes and I’ve loved re-reading them this year. I have a few ideas of how to make my text more meaningful next year. 🙂

4. The two Group Run-throughs of my Sketchbook Design course have definitely had a big impact on my layouts and I’m spending more time designing my pages. But like everything else, it’s an ongoing process!

5. I’m not exactly sure what I intended by this goal to go live more. I have done a LOT of livestreams inside my SketchingNow courses and there is no doubt that these are the highlight of each week. These Group Run-throughs have certainly had a huge impact on my sketching this year – as I work through the lessons of my various courses with an incredible bunch of sketchers from around the world.

This article is getting long…  

2021 is quickly drawing to a close for me and I want to publish this article tonight. So I’ll leave my reflections and musings at this point and simply wrap-up by saying a huge thankyou!

Thank you for following my adventures this year and if you have left a comment at any time, thanks for taking the time to respond. You have no idea how much I appreciate your comments and support.

I hope your 2021 was a good year (despite all the craziness around us)  and I’m looking forward to sharing my 2022 adventures with you!

Happy New Year my friends!


  • Elaine h mcgann says:

    Your words and drawing/painting offer so much interest and support to me. I cannot always keep up with classes and livestreams due to very poor internet access. Nonetheless your work and your outlook on life are constant gifts to me. Gratitude and best wishes for 2022.

  • Sandra Ingram says:

    What a fantastic year, Liz! It was fun sharing so much of it with you. Happy New Year!

  • Martine says:

    Happy new year to you too, Liz!

  • Sydney Brown says:

    Three of us started taking your classes this year, and they have had a huge impact on the lives of my husband, my sister, and me. I started with Foundations but was unable to finish it when the group run through of Buildings started, where I realized the fun of sketching and learning with people all over the world, in addition to building my confidence sketching architecture. I am looking forward to the group run through of Foundations, and in the meantime I have challenged myself to do 100 sketches before it starts (I have done 52 so far). Plus I broke down and bought myself a fountain pen, which is so fun to sketch with. Thank you, thank you, thank you Liz!

  • Michelle Watson says:

    Happy New Year Liz,
    I really enjoyed this post, it inspired me to have a count up of my sketchbooks, 18 in total for this year, some are not yet filled, but I was amazed at how many I had!
    And I won’t even get started on the fountain pens and ink I have now amassed, it’s so addictive.

    All the very best for a great 2022

  • Pam Cunningham says:

    Hello Liz..and Happy 2022..with wishes that we will soon move beyond the Pandemic and return to a less “restricted” lifestyle;.
    Throughout the past two years,I have thoroughly enjoyed following your adventures through your Blog. Your enthusiasm, your motivated attitude, your depth of knowledge and skill are very uplifting as I sometimes feel the day to day plodding less than inspirational. For the first time in several years, I have picked up my sketchbook daily and, finally feel that my sketching skills are actually improving. Love your classes, listen to your various interviews with great interest and feel the positive “bug” to create as a result of your enthusiasm which is “catching”. Thank you for all that you do and please continue to create in such an upbeat way!

  • Jamie C says:

    What a wonderful way to review the year, by going through one’s sketchbooks! You have certainly achieved your goals and more! I want to deeply thank you for all you share and teach through each year. Happy New Year!

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