An hour long sketch...

March 11, 2021 | 15 Comments

… actually, it might have been even longer!

Another Scottish castle – this time Glamis – done during a Zoom catchup with Esther. We’re trying to do this on a fortnightly basis and we’re continuing our theme of Scottish Castles (see also Cawdor and Midhope, Urquhart and Dunnotar)

I rarely spend this long doing a single sketch, but as I was more focused on the conversation than what was happening on the page, I worked at a leisurely pace this time.

Do you feel comfortable sketching and talking at the same time?



  • Yvonne says:

    Absolutely cannot (watercolour) sketch and talk at the same time. This is probably because I haven’t mastered the painting technique sufficiently for it to be automatic and so I have to devote my whole brain to the matter. That’s why at sketchmeets I tend to head off alone to find a subject/vantage point where there are no other sketchers. I can do ink/graphite sketches (which I’m much more accomplished at and where pausing isn’t such a potential disaster) while talking but I wouldn’t seek out opportunities to do that. So it’s probably a personality/brain thing too. For example, I also really dislike trying to cook and chat at the same time and guests are banished from my kitchen unless they have a very specific helping task to perform and promise not to chat 🙂

    • Joanna Howse says:

      I agree. If I talk and cook I forget to include the main ingredient ?

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Yvonne – totally understand!!!! I put a lot of effort in the early days to train myself for reflex sketching… but I always do my best work when I’m on my own and concentrating. I can’t cook and chat at the same time 🙂

      • Yvonne says:

        I’m encouraged that one day my own efforts will pay off and I’ll have mastered watercolour to the point where I *could* chat at the same time should I want to. I don’t drive, but I’m assuming it’ll be similar: novice drivers can’t/shouldn’t really talk because they need to concentrate on the process, but for experienced drivers it’s second nature for much of the time. Meanwhile, it’s very nice to see I’m not alone on the cook/chat front. The dominance of open plan kitchen/living areas in so many homes has often made me feel like I’m in a distinct minority and is one of the reasons why I’ve gravitated to interwar homes all my adult life.

  • Magdalena French says:

    I love sketching while chatting (or listening to a podcast or music), to me it’s like doodling – there’s no pressure as your critical mind is listening as well as interacting in the conversation leaving your creative mind free to explore and play ‘what if…’ without expectations

    • Yvonne says:

      That’s fascinating – I quite envy you! For me auditory/informational distraction (music is bad too because I’m a music professional) just increases the pressure and makes me anxious. And then I miss out on the visual observations and creative and technical explorations that I’m able to make when in a calm frame of mind. I find silence very freeing.

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Magdalena, yes I agree with that… though I must say listening and sketching is much easier than chatting while sketching. I love the way conversation is encoded into the lines and shapes on the page!

  • Dottie Best says:

    I meet with three other artists once or twice a week via Zoom. The very idea is to chat while working together. I’m finding this much more difficult than I expected. I can play with my fountain pens or do some low-level artistic task during this time. I can sketch an object or add watercolor to a sketch, but then I go silent and the other ladies wonder what’s up with me. Most of the time I zero in on the conversation and push my supplies around on my work space.

    I did a workshop with watercolorist Nita Engle a couple of times. She was a reclusive figure and not known for her “talking” anyway. She had a longtime friend who interacted with the artist wannabes trying out the techniques. She was fairly chatty, though, when demonstrating—up to a point. She would wax quite eloquent when showing us the supplies and how to set up for the painting she was doing that day. However, tere was always a significant moment when she started sounding a bit incoherent and then would go completely silent. That’s when I knew she was really painting—really in the zone. Her companion would step in and start talking about what Nita was doing. That’s how it is for me. I can dabble and talk, but I cannot seem to create and talk.

    • Cathy Ramsey says:

      what an interesting insight into a great painter, and a very creative work-around she set up for her workshops! thanks for sharing this with us.

    • Yvonne says:

      That is interesting. And makes a lot of sense. One of the beauties of online teaching platforms is that teachers have the option of painting for the video and then recording spoken commentary afterwards at the editing stage. I’ve noticed a few who do that (as opposed to recording commentary as they go) and it can work very well from a pedagogical viewpoint as well as being a boon for artists such as Nita Engle who go “non-verbal” once they start painting.

  • Cathy Ramsey says:

    What a good question, Liz! My sister and I try to get together once a week or so to paint, and we enjoy each other’s company immensely. But at some point things get quiet as we both focus. That will pass as the creative task shifts, and then we move back into chat territory. Til the next time all goes quiet.

  • Cathy Ramsey says:

    and that’s a beautiful sketch of the castle!

  • Cathy Ramsey says:

    You’d think I was chatting with someone right now, for the lack of focus I’m displaying, lol! I have questions about your sketch, Liz: did you start with paint, then come back with a pen.? That’s my guess, It seems like a more chat-friendly process, to have the big shapes in place before the more precise pen work takes form. Once the shapes are defined, it seems to me that it would be easier to split focus (at least for me personally). And if this is the case, did you talk while painting the shapes? I’m going to guess again that describing building shapes in paint is so second nature to you that the answer is yes, but maybe there was the slightest pause in there at the beginning? where you famously request: tell me what you’ve been up to!

  • Paul Koontz says:


    Sounds like the conversation that day helped you avoid the boredom or antsy feeling to move on to a new sketch that you’ve referred to many times. How did you like spending more time on this one? Seems like you had a sense early on that that would be the case, given the care you took with lines and paint. What is your assessment of the result, as compared to the more energetic, loose sketches that have become your trademark? (I love it, fwiw…it still has your distinctive freedom and character.) 😉



    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Paul,

      The last few that I did were actually done in less time than most of the other ones… I was still trying to listen to the conversations around me and was sketching other patrons who were not moving as much. So I think that time spent on each sketch was less towards the end of the week – when I started with paint. So 1-2 minute per sketch rather than 2-3 minutes per sketch 🙂

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