A sketching review of 2018

December 31, 2018 | 11 Comments

It’s that time of year again, when I reflect on what I have done in the past 12 months and in particular what I have sketched. And part of this is to collect all my books in the one spot – and later tonight (it’s already NYE here) I will look through them all.

I know most of you geek out about the actual books (‘what book are you using? did you really fill all those books? what book should I use?’) but honestly, I’m more interested in what actually happened inside. This year has definitely had its ‘ups’ but also some ‘downs’ as well, but it’s ending on a high, especially in regard to my sketching.

I have tried to divide the year into nine different phases. It’s a bit of a simplification but here goes!

1. SketchingNow Watercolour – Jan to mid February

I started the year with the biggest project of the last 18 months, namely creating and running SketchingNow Watercolour for the first time. It was an incredible experience, but a bit overwhelming at times with lots of images posted into the classroom and non-stop questions! I was still finishing off the lessons as well, so the whole 6 weeks were just off-the-scale crazy! And it was the hottest time of the year as well, and I just wanted to visit the beach and have a summer vacation!

Lesson learnt: I won’t be running a course in January again! Correction: I mean a NEW course! Going through an existing course is actually a good idea for the new year. (If somehow you missed it, I am doing a re-run of Foundations starting Wednesday 2 Jan!)

Articles about SketchingNow Watercolour

2. Perth trip – Late February

Soon after the end of Watercolour I headed to Perth for a week at the end of February – to hang out with Lynne Chapman (and hubby John) and the USK Perth gang. I had a lovely time and it was a good break. My sketching was a bit blah though – but that’s not surprising coming off a big SketchingNow course.

More about my Perth trip

3. A slump – March to May

For the next month or so I hit the wall a little bit. So I had a few months of not feeling like working hard, being active or sketching regularly! I wasn’t that worried about it as I knew that my pace of work which I had been going at for the last 5 years was not sustainable. I was thankful that I was able to slow down and put most of my own stuff on hold but I still had some other projects to do – such as Karen Abend’s Sketchbook Revival and preparing for my workshops in Italy and Porto and my big European trip May-July.

A few articles during this period talking about sketching struggles – here and here and here!

4. Big trip: Palladian Odyssey and Italian adventures – May

This sketch above was done as soon as I arrived in Vicenza (without any sleep) and it signified that I was back on track – my sketching was flowing again. I then had a wonderful fortnight teaching two Palladian Tours in the Veneto. There are no words to describe how much I love teaching these travel sketching workshops. Not only do I adore this part of the world, but there is a special bond which forms during the week as we all see improvement in our sketching.

BTW we just had a few cancellations for the 2019 tours so there are a few last minute spots available – check it out here.

After the PO tours were finished I spent a little over a week sketching in Verona, Florence and Umbria. The Umbrian visit was ‘serious work’ – planning for our Umbrian Tours in 2019. (These are sold out but please email Mike if you want to go on the waiting list).

A huge thanks to Mike for everything he has done to make these Italian tours happen!

Palladian Odyssey articles

5. Big trip: Scotland and Poland adventures – June to mid July

After my teaching in Italy I spend a week with my sister and family in the Isle of Lewis (Scotland), a dedicated sketching week in Krakow (Poland) with Esther Semmens, and then a week of work in a small fishing village in Fife (Scotland). I feel so thankful that my ‘work travel’ to Europe gives me the opportunity to visit my sister and family regularly and Lewis is becoming a second home for me.

One of the highlights of my big trip this year was how much work I was able to do. That sounds a little sad, but the mindset shift to seeing the trip as ‘remote working’ not ‘vacation’ really helped get everything done this year and it means that it’s easier for me to fit travel into my schedule!

2018 Lewis sketches here and here

Krakow sketches

Fife sketching here and here

6. Big trip: USK Symposium in Porto and week in Lisbon, Portugal – mid July to early August

I’m not sure what to say about my stay in Portugal. So good! The symposium was outstanding this year and I made new friends and had lots of fun sketching with other USKers before and after the Symposium. It was a perfect way to end my big trip!

My Porto and Lisbon adventures

7. Teaching season – August to end October

When I got home from Europe I spent a lot of the next 2.5 months teaching. I taught at the first Sydney Pen Show, two USK 10×10 workshops and nine private workshops for architects (in Sydney and Brisbane). And oh! I also re-opened SketchingNow Watercolour – which involves a lot of tech/admin work behind the scenes.

In terms of my sketching during this season – I used the architect classes to keep me accountable. Every week I would show the group all the sketches I had done since the last time I taught them. I had a lot of outings each week so my sketches were quite varied. They were also varied because I used three different sized sketchbooks!

And before I knew it, it was time to pack my bags and head overseas again!

Report on the Sydney Pen Show and my workshops

Article on my everyday sketching during this period

8. Californian inspiration – end October to mid November

I had three weeks in San Francisco/Bay Area and LA area including attending the first ever Sketchkon – which was great! However the biggest thing about this trip was all the quality time I had with local artists in SF and LA. I felt greatly inspired and really enjoyed having a wide range of subjects to sketch (as opposed to lots of European architecture!)

My Californian adventures

9. Establishing some sustainable systems

I keep hinting at what I’ve done in the past two months, but I really put a lot of effort into getting myself organised in many aspects of life. I’ve been sharing the ways that I have been sketching more of my daily life, but there have been other things going on as well.

Trying to start a business and support oneself being an artist is a big undertaking (a bit crazy in fact!) and what I’ve been doing in the past few years (non-stop crazy hours) is not sustainable. So I have been trying to create new systems and habits so that my work life is better balanced.

You might think that the above summary of my 2018 adventures is a lot of stuff, but it’s only part of the story. As well as all the outward activities I spent a lot of my time on the admin and tech side of things this year. Developing and maintaining your own online school with a local design agency is a bottomless pit of time and I’m glad for all my architectural project management skills to (mostly) keep on top of it all.

Articles about my recent everyday sketch here and here

My thoughts on my 2018 sketching

In terms of sketching this year I have continued to develop my watercolour sketching and am doing more paint-only work (direct watercolour). I am including many more people in my book (still lots of things to work on when it comes to people sketching but it’s happening.) One thing that has been missing from my work this week is teacup sketching. Only a handful and I’m not really sure why. I also wish that I sketched in my local area more – that is, outside of the local cafes!

It has been an incredible year in terms of travel and travel sketching, SketchingNow watercolour and to top it off, I’m pleased with my at home sketching at the moment. So despite the slump earlier in the year, I’m ending the year very happy!

Have you reflected on your year of sketching? How did you go this year? I would love to hear in the comments section.

Finally… thank you!

I’m super thankful for all the amazing work of Chantal Vincent which she does in the background. And my parents also continue to support me in many little ways. Thanks!

A huge thanks also to YOU! This blog is an important part of everything I do. Sharing my adventures, and more importantly, my thoughts about my sketching adventures, helps to keep my creative juices flowing. Your comments and continual support really spur me on to keep at it. So thanks!

I hope your 2018 was a good year and I’m looking forward to sharing my 2019 adventures with you!

Happy New Year my friends!



  • Thank you Liz for sharing your sketchbooks, your travels, your thoughts, your tips, and your life with us all. Wishing you a very happy New Year!

  • Anne Marie Percival says:

    What a bumper year..and thanks for sharing so so generously. You are a true inspiration.

  • Suzanne says:

    Thank you Liz for sharing your work and inspiring those of us who are just starting out sketching…even though at the latter end of our lives!!
    Will look forward to your newsletter and other posts in the year ahead

  • Sharon Stover says:

    Happy New Year Liz! Thank you for all you do. Your generosity is much appreciated and your stamina amazing. See you in Umbria!

  • Mary Evelyn Hoffman says:

    What you do for others is commendable!! Am glad you’ve figured out the importance for downtime. As Stephen Covey says you must “sharpen the saw” to be productive!!! Good going for this next year too!!!

  • Mary Beth Person says:

    Your segment in the Sketchbook Skool “Seeing” course three years ago is what FINALLY got me going on my own “art journey”. Working in a sketchbook was the key: private, small scale, portable, no fussiness and not necessarily finished. Now, three years and all your online courses later, my sketchbook and has become a place of freedom, joy and great personal growth. My location does not allow for the sketching community that I so long for, so your consistent online presence has been a huge encouragement and inspiration to me. THANK YOU for working so hard to produce quality instruction and for being as vulnerable as you are in sharing your personal journey. It has made all the difference for me!

  • manav verma says:

    Hey Liz… I think what you have created in these past years with so many sketchbooks. I think its a museum collection now and a legacy to carry forward for generations to come and admire……..you are requested to visit india sometime…..good wishes

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