A sketching outing to the city

December 1, 2021 | 3 Comments

Last week I headed into the City (downtown) to sketch some complex architecture – part of the Group Run-through of my Buildings course. It was over five months since my last outing so it felt great to be out and surrounded by buildings.

The first challenge of the day was getting on the ferry as for some reason the government decided a number of weeks ago to refund most of the funds on my transport card… and I had all kinds of trouble accessing the app and paying for my trip. This meant that I didn’t sketch on the ride as much as I would have liked but I did manage 3 super quick line drawings as we approached Circular Quay.

It was great to see the city coming back to life after our big lockdown but it still feels weird to be in Circular Quay when it’s so quiet.

There was rain forecast on this particular day, but not until the afternoon, so I hoped that I would get a few hours of sketching in.

I walked up George St until I reached Town Hall and then did my warmup sketch of it.

This is one of the most complicated buildings in Sydney and I remember a time when I thought it was super hard. But thanks to the seven-step system which I teach inside the Buildings course, I’m able to sketch any building, no matter how complex, with a degree of freedom. I had so much fun mixing my line (in this case Caran d’Ache museum pencils) and shape (watercolour) while doing this spontaneous sketch.

Next, I wandered back to Martin Place and sat opposite the GPO – a James Barnet masterpiece. Back in June, I sketched the corner of this building from George St, but the trees are full of leaves now so it was not possible to revisit that view. I sketched the tower early last year as part of another Buildings Group Run-through (wow! Feb 2020 feels like decades ago now) and didn’t feel in the mood for all these bays.

So in the end I decided to do a single bay… and even then I didn’t do the full height of the building. I started at the balustrade that marks the top of the building as designed by JimmyB and didn’t make it down as far as the ground level. But it was fun to focus just on the rhythm and details of the windows.

After my big Road Trip I decided that, if possible, I would track down a JimmyB building every trip into the City. So next I headed to the Justice and Police Museum which was a much more manageable scale for my mood.

I had so much fun doing this one and experimenting with wet-in-wet washes. Ah! it’s such a treat to be sketching on location again.

But as I had a lot of work waiting for me at home (and my daily visit to Lane Cove National Park) I did this sketch in 10 minutes so I could catch an earlier ferry.

I’ll just have to tackle this building – Department of Lands (another JimmyB masterpiece) – on another outing! 🙂


  • Kimberly Ester says:

    Hi Liz. I so enjoy hearing about your sketching adventures! You always seem to have so much going on I didn’t realize you hadn’t been on location (in the city) for 5 months. It’s helpful and inspiring to see your strategies, like just doing the one bay for example depending on time/mood/energy. I love your continued experiments into the abstract like in your warm up exercise and the Justice and Police Museum.

    • Liz Steel says:

      Thanks Kimberley – yes we went into lockdown just after my last trip and I’ve been sketching local almost exclusively since then.
      And yes, as I was sitting looking at the GPO building I was thinking ‘I don’t feel like sketching this building… but hey, one bay is doable and at least I have a record of sitting here’

  • Jamie C says:

    Jimmy B is quite recognizable to me now, since you’ve been sharing him. He really left a significant imprint in your region! How wonderful to be able to get out again after 5 months!

Leave a Reply