A big day of sketching (and some continuous lines)

July 17, 2023 | 14 Comments

Last week I had a big day of sketching filling 10 double-page spreads in my A4 Alpha book!

Most of my recent sketching has been done during in-between moments while hanging out with family so it was a nice treat for me to have a solo outing.

I intended to do a lot of continuous line drawing as this is what we are looking at this week in Foundations but after a few sketches, I found myself switching to shapes and then experimenting with markers and watercolour pencil (WCP). I’m still mainly using WCP this month while I’m spending time with family.

I started the day with my usual takeaway coffee and Village Green sketch. On this occasion, I started with a blue marker shadow shape and then added WCP colours using continuous lines. My sister and family turned up to hang out for a little while but they were catching up with a friend so I had the rest of the day to myself.

Note: The markers referred to in this article are all GoldFaber Aqua Dual Markers by Faber Castell and the WCPs are all Albrecht Durer also by Faber Castell.


I had an 8-minute wait for the train so I just started drawing. I wasn’t intending to draw as large as this but I just kept going and managed to fill a double-page spread with a single line!

Note: Continuous line drawing is a perfect technique when you don’t know how much time you have!

My first stop was a late morning tea at The Tea Cosy tearoom. The sketches I did here were also done using continuous lines (embracing the wonkiness!) and some fun colouring with WCPs.

Here is the full spread. Some of the shapes were infilled with WCP continuous lines (such as the crocheted flowers). A little marker was added on top of the WCP.


I was heading for Millers Point but on the way I noticed that the shadows on the Garrison Church were perfect. So I sat down and started this sketch with marker shadow shapes (and so ended my continuous line sketching for the day!)

BTW this is the second time I’ve sketched this church this year – see this article for another version (which was far more colourful!)



After the marker I added WCP and then some simple watercolour washes. And then once that was dry I added more WCP.

I was happier with the sketch before I added the watercolour washes so at this point I decided not to use watercolour again for the rest of the day. (Don’t worry, watercolour will return soon!)

Next stop: Miller’s Point

This sketch was all about the towering brick hotel next to the cream terrace houses. I also like the fact that the sky comes down to the groundline due to the fact that I was on top of a hill.

This scene is a great example of the differences between shade and cast shadow and shadows on light objects vs dark objects.

Next, I walked to Barangaroo and did this sketch with WCP and markers again but this time I added plain water over the top. (Note: I normally add watercolour over WCP.)

I was in a bit too much of a loose mood to do this curved white building justice… so I’ll have to try and do a more precise version on another occasion.

While sketching my Bourke St Bakery coffee I discovered a new marker technique using one of my almost run-out markers. Playing with this technique became the theme for the rest of the day.

Another fun new-ish building in Barangaroo that I’ve been wanting to sketch for a while. It was such a beautiful warm day and I enjoyed sitting in the sun for this.

A Neocolor II sky was added later back home (I wasn’t carrying Neocolors with me on this outing).

Then I ended up at Martin Place and sketched this building on George St nearby. It’s the former Equitable Life Assurance Society of America Building by Edward Raht and one of the most dramatic building facades in Sydney IMHO.

This sketch was per experimentation – trying a number of different things and not bothering to be too precise.

I walked up Martin Place and then sat down on a bench and started sketching Sydney Hospital. I wasn’t sure if I had the energy for all those arches so I started with the kiosk and the corner tower. And then I felt in the mood to keep going.

Note: This is one of the huge benefits of using dry media – it is so easy to extend a sketch and work spontaneously.

The last sketch of the day was an interior – the JP Morgan ‘sky lounge’ – which is always fun to draw!

What a great day of sketching!

Here are photos of the full double-page spreads showing how I varied the size and position of each sketch and added text blocks to create a pleasing flow of pages.

My pace on this day was very relaxed… I was just walking around and stopping to sketch whenever I felt like it. So imagine my surprise at the end of the day when I realised that I’d filled 20 pages! (ie. 10 double-page spreads.)

Something special always happens when I sketch all day – my creative juices flow freely and I’m filled with new ideas to explore. (BTW this is something we look at in my Watercolour On Location course)

Have you ever had a big day of sketching? Did something special happen with your work as a result of continuing to sketch through the afternoon?

I would love to hear about your experiences in the comment section below. (If you are reading this via email, please click on the article title link below and add a comment on my blog. Thanks!)

Finally… please don’t compare my output with yours. I have a fast natural pace and finish most of my sketches within 20-30 minutes. 🙂



  • Patty Habegger says:

    Last week I went to the town of Yangshuo an hour and a half bus ride. I sketched in my hotel room and outdoors! When I sketched outdoors, a tour boat came by, well, actually three came by. They came by so fast that I couldn’t keep up sketching! So my boat is actually a composite of two boats. I started sketching one and then finished up with the next boat! Sketching outdoors is fun and challenging!

  • Emily D. says:

    I LOVE this! I’m going to Scotland in the fall and this is just the kind of thing I want to be doing! (Of course I also have watercolors planned 🙂 )I love seeing how you work with other media; it’s giving me such good ideas.

  • Isabelle Walkowiak says:

    I really enjoyed this post. I am impressed of how much you “play” with your supplies and have fun with it. You are making it very tempting to get a few more watercolor pencils and use these on my travels instead of watercolor only.
    Thank you for your last note! It came right on queue as I was wondering how long your day was! It made me feel better to know that you are a fast sketcher and these took about 20 to 30 minutes. A quick question: in most of these sketches, did you use watercolor pencils for the sky? Thank you, Isabelle

    • Liz Steel says:

      Thanks Isabelle. WCPs make sketching in the in-between moments so much easier! But take your time to sketch at your own pace.
      The skies
      – Garrison Church = watercolour
      – White Barangaroo BUilding = marker (2 colours) and WCP plus water
      – other skies – Neocolor II crayons (2 colours) plus water

  • Susan Court says:

    Hi Liz, your posts are inspiring. Today I took myself off to Lawrence a gold mining town in Otago( 90mins through stunning landscapes) for a day of sketching. I’m thinking about shapes and shadows and the angles of roofs and buildings. I’m trying out a process Mario Linhares has recently posted on Instagram. The same view- panorama over 2 full page spreads. The first view was quick watercolour wash outline/ pen details and added more colour and WCP when I got home , the second page is folded over – 2nd view in pen and ink (blk & urban grey). The 3rd view a continuation of the view in ink and WC. It took me 2 hours. Interesting how much detail I put in with the pens. I met a lovely young French girl who has just finished her art studies and is touring around NZ with her sister at the cafe and we share sketchbooks- she was using prismacolour pencils in a handmade journal . It was beautiful and such an amazing experience to meet a fellow sketcher. I then headed up the hill and painted one of the churches- layering different watercolour washes- thinking shadows. I didn’t get as much done as I’d intended but I have so much fun trying the concepts from your courses.

  • Donella Robbins says:

    I enjoy your plein air sketching and as a teacher I appreciate your comments, suggestions and list of supplies. I’m heading to Italy with my daughter in 5 weeks and your book on Architecture has given me the necessary information to help me make beautiful memories.

    Thank you,
    Donella R.

  • Haven’t visited for quite a while. I love how your combined materials and used whatever felt right at the moment. It looks like you moved from one interesting spot to another without having to stop for anything. That’s one of the benefits of having a day to sketch by yourself. Great to see these!

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Joan – lovely to have you visit and leave some comments! Yes it was a very special day -some days it’s harder to find things to sketch and comfy spots to sit.

  • Jamie C says:

    What a massive day of sketching! Looks like you had great fun! Ten A4 double spreads?! Those are big sketches! I’m using the alpha A4 hardcover right now, and I’ve never even tried a full size double spread sketch! It looks so fun, though!

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