Being satisfied with simple sketches

August 18, 2016 | 18 Comments

As I look back through my Europe16 books I am really liking the simplest pieces. I am constantly amazed at how satisfied I am with them – they contain enough information to record the essence of the place and/or the moment. And the best part of all is that I actually did them! It really takes little time and effort to pull out a pen and draw a few lines*.

Here is an (almost) single line drawing of Portree – I really wanted to sketch this part of the Isle of Skye in watercolour but it was too late in the day and the wonderful light had disappeared. The temptation was not to bother at all but I’m really happy that I have this sketch instead.

And here is another sketch that I did after I had eaten my fish and chips. At the time I was thinking that I would just do the absolute minimum linework and then complete both linework and paint from a photo reference and memory back at my B&B. But before I had gone very far into the drawing, I decided that I liked this crazy incomplete sketch the way it was. I think it accurately records the tension between my travelling exhaustion and my sketching obsession, especially as I had to shrink a few buildings to fit them into the sketch!

If you missed it, the full adventures from this particular day are included in this article.


Takeaway thought:

Don’t set the bar too high. Simply taking a line for a walk (I love that expression) is a great thing to do!



* don’t let your inner critic take a ‘few lines on a page’ too seriously. It’s only a sketch!


  • These sketches are beautiful, that’s why. :)))

  • Diane says:

    I like these drawings a lot and have to admit these sketches are more like what I do since I am always travelling with not-sketchers. Sometimes I’ll add a simple wash later but often leave them as they are. Only very occasionally am I in one place long enough to do sketch and watercolor in one go.

  • Elsie Hickey-Wilson says:

    Oh, I do love that idea of “taking a line for a walk!” Thanks!
    Also, I just signed up for “Buildings”! So excited!
    Love the simplicity of the sketches above.

  • Gordon Scott says:

    I draw an paint in various medium but I have one or two quick ink sketches in which I really captured something – I don’t know what, but when I look at them I think ‘that’s exactly what I meant’.

  • Jeanette Gillings says:

    I’ve just signed up for the Buildings course! Can’t wait. I also love the expression “taking a line for a walk”. I will try to remember that when I stress out over my “lines”. Sometimes I just say “oh well, leave that and make another line”

    • Liz Steel says:

      Yay Jeanette – I can’t wait for Buildings either. We will be taking a line for a walk in Lesson 1 – stay tuned

  • I love the ‘taking the line for a walk’ sort of sketching too! I do it a lot when I’m tired and want to bring more of it into my work. Maybe exhaustion/ very short time makes for a great editor? because there’s a simplicity and a focus to these little pieces.

  • Peter Joscelyne says:

    Ah Liz, your simple sketch of the waterfront at Portree transported me right back to when I stayed in Portree a cuppla years back. And that underscores your point about these simple sketches and your day-to-day journal….like you say capturing the essence of the place or moment..Great wisdom shared, thank you.

  • Christine Rae says:

    Simple sketches are what I’m aiming for. I’m still at the stage of agonising over the small details, but I’ll get there I’m sure (thanks to the Foundations course which I’m currently doing!) Today I was so excited to take delivery of 2 Rosemary & Co brushes which I have treated myself to – a size 8 travel brush and a 1/2″ dagger. What do you recommend I use to store my new dagger in when I take it out and about?

    • Liz Steel says:

      I took photos of my setup today – go to sketching tools and you will see my toothbrush container – or wait to next week when I publish it.

  • April Stewart says:

    Hey Liz! I love what you captured with the boat sketch. I agree with you the white works and evokes a feeling with not many pen lines.
    I am enjoying my travel -size and regular dagger brush from Rosemary. Thanks for all the info you shared with the class in Lucca. I have ordered some DS colors and can’t wait to play around with some Potters Pink ;-). Both my sketching and use of watercolor are improving through practice ( and educational mistakes 🙂
    Thanks for sharing so much through your blog posts etc. Cheers, April from Alabama.

  • Dale Curry says:

    Hi Liz
    Great sketch or Portee
    Can I ask you few questions please ?
    Are they about A5 size or smaller and were they don with fountain pen or fibre tip???
    Do you use black indian ink?????
    Thanks and best wishes
    Dale Adelaide

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