A classical music concert and some neocolor!

March 29, 2023 | 8 Comments

Last Friday evening I went to a concert at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music – it’s been years since I’ve been to a concert like this! I decided beforehand that I wasn’t going to try and sketch non-stop (as I’ve done in the past) because I really just wanted to focus on watching the performance so that I would have a better appreciation for the pieces. Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2 and Beethoven Symphony No. 5.

However, I did arrive early and managed to do a quick 15-minute sketch of ‘The Con’ before my music-loving companion arrived. It was nice to do another building sketch designed by Francis Greenway – this was originally the stables for Government House designed for Governor Macquarie.

Once seated I got out a few tools (coloured pencils, markers and my Fude) thinking that I might sketch during the third piece in the concert composed by Julia Vlahogiannis – a student of The Con. But I was impatient for the music to start and did this fun line and shape sketch during the Chancellor’s speech. Once Brahms PC2 started I was totally focused on the pianist and the orchestra.

I did a few quick sketches during Julia’s piece which I enjoyed very much. I was thinking about how to express the music with my marks rather than trying to ‘draw people’.

And then before Beethoven S5 started I put my sketching tools away! As my notes on the page say, I’m not a super fan of Symphony 5 (prefer 3, 6 and 9) but I absolutely loved seeing it performed live. So dramatic and fun to watch the music!

Thanks to all the performers for a great concert!

Earlier that evening, I sketched while waiting for my dinner (as described previously here)…

…and before that I went to Parker’s Art to get a few Neocolor I.  (Wax crayons by Caran d’Ache)

I have a set of Neocolor II (the water-soluble version) and I’ve been playing with them on a personal project but this is the first serious time doing a sketch with them. I started with a few shapes and lines, then added watercolour (having no idea exactly what would happen) then added some coloured pencils and allowed the sketch to evolve spontaneously. This is definitely my favourite way to work and I absolutely love extending the sketch outwards and adding colour intuitively!

BTW there is a little Neocolor I in The Con sketch above.

I’m not sure exactly how I am going to use these new tools but I love seeing Suhita’s use of them and a number of you have asked me if I’ve tried them. So this is another ‘stay tuned for more’ type of article! If you haven’t already noticed, I’m in a very experimental mood at the moment and having an absolute ball!

If you do use Neocolor I or II I’d love to hear from you in the comment section below – how do you use them? Why do you like using them?

(If you are reading this via email, please click on the article title link below and add a comment on my blog. Thanks!)


  • Phil Baker says:

    When I use colored wax pencils I get a lot of granularity rather than a smooth color, even on smooth paper. How do you deal with this? Also the pencil need constant sharpening. What do you use and how often for sharpening?

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Phil – I use Alpha paper, softer pencils and use hard pressure! I rarely sharpen a second time during a sketch (but I’m not using them a lot within the one sketch)

  • I love your posts when you go on sketching adventures and real-time experimentation. I’m using the Neocolor II’s as my principal watercolour palette in my kit. I paint with them using the brush to pick up the wash. You can see my kit here: https://www.instagram.com/p/CqS3N7yO9ujKykbXD8CWnmxlDQbo45sNI4kU0o0/

    I’m waiting for delivery of a Schmincke super granulating urban set, which I will add to the pans I have in my altoids smalls tin which sits very well on one of those magnet bull clips. I’m just having a hard time getting myself to carry more “stuff” with me when I go out. I think walking the Camino de Santiago last year ruined me… I’m a driven minimalist. I would likely get better and spend less money, if I didn’t experiment so much with other materials AND the Neocolor II’s cut into the tin last forever! I know you are not a water brush pen fan, but the thought of having to set up with a water cup, brushes and etc., gives me pause.

    So as a fan of the Neocolor II’s and a water brush… I look forward to anything you have to say about them. 😉

    • Liz Steel says:

      Thanks Lance and super interesting to hear about the way you use them… sounds perfect for the Camino! I will have to try picking up pigment from the stick.

  • Janet Turner says:

    Hi Liz, I’m enjoying the new (?) direction your sketching is taking – the graphic elements of colour, shapes and lines all work well together to produce an exciting expectant vibrant modernist look – viewing them sets off memories of Bernstein’s song “Something’s coming, something good”. As indeed it has.

    • Liz Steel says:

      Thanks Janet!!!! I would say that this is a recurring theme (since 2012!) but it’s a new variation with the new materials.

  • Laurence COULAUD says:

    Delighted to see your use of neocolor pencils and your research on this medium. I use them because (like colored pencils with more intensity), they bring the sketch to life through the dynamic stroke very gestural. I use them on a watercolor background… A treat!!
    ! I await further investigation on this subject.

    • Liz Steel says:

      Thanks Laurence! 🙂 You must have been one of the people who suggested neocolors to me. I’m loving them and starting to explore different marks!

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