30x30 Direct Watercolour 2022 in 12 days

June 17, 2020 | 4 Comments

I’m normally traveling in Europe during June and so the 30×30 Direct Watercolour challenge in previous years has been pretty easy for me to achieve. But this year being home I wasn’t sure how I would go as it’s normally hard to find time for ‘decent sketching’ when I have a heavy workload.

My Virtual European Trip project which has been going for 7 weeks now, has proved to me that I can set aside time for some serious sketching. But up until the beginning of June I wasn’t doing many paint-only sketches. I’ve been finding that the Hahemuehle Watercolour Book wasn’t creating crisp edges and I was struggling to resist the urge to pull out my ink pen! So I knew that the 30×30 challenge would be a great opportunity to work out how to produce quick paint-only sketches on the Hahemuehle paper.

I wanted to do my sketches in 10-15 minutes as there is a real tendency to fiddle and overwork direct watercolour sketches. Without the strong edges of ink lines I had to really be in control of my brush strokes and the consistency of my washes to achieve the edges I wanted. In the most part I did achieve this goal, though for a number of sketches I walked away to let the first pass fully dry (this is something which wouldn’t happen on location). Most of my sketches were of super complex and decorative buildings – this isn’t the easiest subject matter to do in quick direct watercolour sketches…but ah! I always love a challenge.

I started the month slowly trying various techniques and then last week it all clicked in place for me. I was virtual-traveling in Venice and ended up hardly using my pen at all! And… drum-roll please… the result was that I completed 30 sketches on the 12th of the month.

I’ve been experimenting with a rigger, a 1/8″ one stroke flat brush and an extended point brush. At the moment the one stroke is my favourite but I’m still testing the others.

In addition to my virtual trip sketches, I was also doing direct watercolour in my everyday book – Stillman and Birn Alpha. My morning coffee sketch is nearly always direct watercolour/paint-only but after the first day I didn’t count any of these in my 30.

So here is my 30×30 collection in full. Get ready for some scrolling.

Everyday sketches

As mentioned above, I’ve done more direct watercolour coffee cups this month, but this is the only one I’m counting as part of my 30.

A local church… I still haven’t found my flow out on location yet.

Setting up for my livestreams for my SketchingNow courses. More about that later!

A very loose and experimental version of the coffee machine at Goodfields during an early morning visit before all the people arrive!

Some very experimental sketches during a very late night (12 midnight – 2am) Zoom session with Paul Wang and Suhita Shirodkar and some friends. They are running some fun Sketching PlayLab Zoom sessions which are highly recommended!

Teacup sketches

Only one so far this month!

Italy sketches

Most of my direct watercolour sketches have been done as part of my Virtual Trip sketching project – a few of Palladio buildings in the Veneto and then the rest are from last week sketching Venice.


So there you have it… my 30×30 collection for this year.

Are you doing the challenge? How is it going?



  • Maggie Marszewski says:

    I took your advice regarding a virtual trip and have been using photos from my vacations in the direct to watercolor challenge. It’s been a lot of fun!

  • I started the challenge but really didn’t have a plan for how to keep the mojo going and quit after about a week! I must admit I was also intimidated by the high quality of the work posted on the facebook page. I definitely admire the intent of the challenge but I think I will try again next year. I’m looking forward to the upcoming Watercolor on Locations course!

    • Liz Steel says:

      Thanks for sharing Melanie – yes! it is hard to keep it up for a full month and there is some great work being done. The important thing with a challenge is to set realistic goals for yourself.

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