About Liz Steel

February 23, 2016 |
Sketching on Location

I am a Sydney based artist and architect. Since discovering watercolour in a field kit in 2006 I have not stopped painting my life in my sketchbook.
My architectural background gives me an analytical and conceptual approach to art.

This is my personal blog where I share sketches of my daily life and my exciting overseas adventures. In the past five years I have travelled extensively sketching and recording every moment, including an 11 week trip in 2010.

My work is constantly changing and developing but I am passionate about spontaneous sketches in watercolour. Most of my work to date has been ink and wash but I also enjoy experimenting with mixed media – pencil, pen, watercolour pencil and watercolour.

My favourite subjects are Renaissance/Baroque architecture, urban spaces and local tearooms. Yes, tea… I drink a lot of tea and sketch a lot of teacups… but I will sketch and paint anything!

I do numerous architectural illustrations for local and international clients – previous commissions include work for Lend Lease Australia, Redrow London and House of St Barnabas, London.

I teach on-location sketching workshops, and travel sketching holidays throughout Australia.

Since Nov 2014 I also offer online SketchingNow classes. In depth lessons explaining the concepts behind my spontaneous sketching.

I am also one of the teachers at Sketchbook Skool  – teaching in the Seeing course alongside Danny Gregory, Koojse Koene, Brenda Swenson, Cathy Johnson and Andrea Joseph.

Urban Sketchers
I am the Sydney correspondent for the international group of Urban Sketchers and the founder of Urban Sketchers Australia.

Email Liz

Photo © DomLee

My personal story

I have been drawing in some way all my life but never been able to keep a sketchbook like I always thought I should. A friend introduced me to watercolor pans in a field kit in December 2006 and I instantly feel in love with them. Inspired by her use of them and Danny Gregory’s books I started my own in Jan 2007 with the intention to sketch regularly as ’training’ for a trip to Europe in September that year. Not only did I achieve that goal but the almost-daily habit has become an end in itself!

Slowing down and appreciating life
One of the things that I love about sketching is the fact that it slows you down, making you stop to look and appreciate the world around you…and especially the every day things that you often are too busy to notice.

Sketching and being an architect
As an architect sketching is the way that I think and communicate. I draw all the time when I am trying to solve a design problem – it is a almost a reflex action of my brain and the simple action of drawing over and over can reveal solutions. Once I have a solution I draw to explain what is in my head. But when I started sketching from life, I had to make a big switch – I had to stop and learn to look.

This stopping and looking has helped my design skills as an architect. The observation needed for sketching gives me insights into the mind of the original architect and the discoveries that I translate to paper seem to be permanently registered and inscribed into my memory for inspiration and re-interpretation in my own real life projects.

On location
I sketch anywhere, anytime but especially enjoy sketching on location. I thrive on sketching in outdoor conditions that can’t be controlled – hot, cold (not that we have real cold in Australia!) glary sun or rain, wind, insects, curious onlookers or uncomfortable seating arrangements. It is these variables that often lead to a more exciting and dynamic sketch than I would produce in the calm and controlled environment of a studio.

I am happy to sit down anywhere in order to get a sketch…on the pavement(sidewalk), on the side of a mountain…but naturally prefer the comfort of a good café (of course this includes a good cup of quality tea and some scones!)

Having fun Your own way
The most important thing for me is the excitement of really starting to ‘see’ the world around me. Often the visual exploration of an object or scene give me a real buzz – in a way, the resultant sketch is less important than this discovery although I think this excitement is often reflected in the sketch.

Also my sketchbook journal is the celebration of the little things in life – the everyday becomes special and worthy to record and it is a great way to realize how much we have to be thankful for – even in hard times.

The final thing is that my sketchbook is MINE – it is there for me to fill with sketches of the things I like, the things that I want to remember, the way I want to sketch or the way I want to develop my skills.

101016 29th Intl Sketchcrawl 01

And because it is mine looking through these pages will reveal a few things about me – firstly I drink and sketch a lot of cups of tea, secondly I have a liking for sketching crazy over the top Baroque architecture…but thirdly and most importantly I am a Christian…I am leaving by far the best and most important thing in my life till last!! My ‘religion’ is not just something that I add on to my life by going to church once a week. I have a real relationship(don’t really like that word but it is the best one) with my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. I start every day with hearing from Him in His word (the Bible) and often record these thoughts in my book so that I can carry with me throughout the day. You will often see these on the side of my pages.

I waited patiently for the LORD; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry.
He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.
And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD.
Blessed is that man that maketh the LORD his trust…
Psalm 40:1-4

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