Do you struggle to sketch regularly?

March 23, 2018 | 60 Comments

Here is a page in my sketchbook from last week where you can see that my intention to sketch each day didn’t become a reality.

This type of sketchbook spread is becoming a more common in recent times. I am wanting to do something about it.

New Project

Next week I will be sharing a new project I am working on, which has been designed to help me sketch more everyday stuff. I’m calling it Everyday Sketching (a term I already use for general sketches see here)  and the goal is to create a system to help me sketch more in the daily grind. But in the meantime I would love to find out if you experience a similar struggle.

Some questions for you

So, I would love to hear from you:

Do you struggle to sketch regularly?

What is the major stumbling block – time, subject matter, motivation? Or something else?

Have you found a way to sketch on a (almost) daily basis?



  • Sabine Koch says:

    I try to sketch daily but I struggle sometimes. More or less 😉 I am often to tired from work. I mostly work on my computer, so my eyes are tired in the evening. I hope, I will sketch more, when spring arrived and I can sit outside with my dog.

  • Carmel Campbell says:

    I sketch daily and have now for just on 4 years. I have 2 sketchbooks …I take one when I go out to sketch. The other stays in my studio next to my computer. The last thing I do at night is change my watercolor water, line up my pens and sketchbook for the morning. I folllow a lot of blogs and utube channels. Daily updates inspire me to focus on something or I start working through an art book. My sketchbook is next to my computer . Mind you I am retired so have time on my hands. However I started sketching on a daily basis before I retired. I get frustrated if i cannot get out to sketch.

    • Ania Drozd says:

      wow, Carmel, it looks like you’ve formed a solid habit – I think that is the way to go!

    • Suzanne says:

      Wow Carmel .. I’d love to be so organised and enthused.

      I find if I can’t do it “perfectly” I don’t do it at all and get frustrated by this.

    • Silvia says:

      Hi Carmel I’m new to sketching. What is a few of the blogs and utube you follow and like the most? Silvia

  • Sangeeta Patel says:

    I feel like the desire for “finished” pages in a sketchbook is the hinderance for me. I now have sketchbooks that are just for unfinished, random sketches or practicing. Also, I now sketch on random scraps of paper too just to free myself from the pressure of finished sketches.

    • I agree with that. Also I noticed that when I’m surrounded with people (or even 1 person) who make me feel guilty that I am “just sketching” or “wasting time on my hobby”, I tend to quid. I need people around me that give me energy and true and honest comments. That helped, as your ideas too. I have always sketching books with me in my handbag, bag pack, whatever. At home a drawer full of them in very size. Really fun to look at them after a while…

  • Joanne Ross says:

    I agree with Sangeeta Patel about the desire for “finished” looking stitches instead of all the jumbled “messes” it is possible to make along with the ones that work better. Another concern is the feeling of being watched as I sketch in public. It stops me from going outside of my own spaces.

  • Dottie Aiken says:

    I find it very hard to sketch every day. First, my schedule is very tight and often there is no time to “fit it in.” Second, when I go to a lovely place with a group, I don’t want to be unfriendly/unsocial when they want to talk and I’m looking off in the distance to sketch a face or a flower or tree. You almost always have to be in a group that’s sketching. Third, placing watercolor on drawings requires a setup (however you have narrowed down the supplies! That means you are again putting a barrier between you and the people you are with. So, the only thing that seems to work somewhat is to be by yourself. Travel by yourself (ugh!), go out sketching by yourself (no or little fun), or sketch just around where you live. I certainly haven’t gotten this figured out but I’m trying. I’ve tried having a smaller sketch book, taking pictures and then sketching later, and only doing pencil but nothing seems to help. Suggestions??

    • Mary Beth Person says:

      This is exactly my struggle: Be in the moment with a friend or group, or go off by myself to sketch. The first option in my estimation is out of the question/rude/dismissive of the relationships. My solutions so far have been:
      1) Take photos and sketch from them later (Altho I have had an Urban Sketcher tell me that this is not urban sketching, which “must be on location”. OK–guess I won’t call myself that, then. I have to do what works.)
      2) If possible, go back to a place that I discovered when with a group and have some time on my own with my sketchbook.
      3). If I am with people that know me and understand what I am doing, I will break off by myself for awhile and then rejoin them at an agreed location in 20-30 min, (I am TRYING to get faster at capturing the scene–a big goal for me.)
      4) I have joined a local (more like regional) Urban Sketching group, altho it is too far for me to go to their regular sketch outings. Occasionally, it is close enough (under an hour) to meet up and I have hopes of getting acquainted with someone from the group that might be likeminded and desirous of a sketching companion.
      Until then, I keep carving out the opportunities the best I can. “Stay Calm and Sketch On!”

    • Debbie Mack says:

      I agree that it’s hard to focus on sketching when you are with other people in a social situation. My solution now is that I try to arrive 30 minutes early( if I can) buy a drink and do some quick sketches while I wait for my friends. I keep my setup VERY basic and can pack up in seconds. I also keep a sketch kit in the car and arrive early to appointments ( dentist , doctor, picking up kids etc) and often sketch sitting in the car. Learnt this from Liz, a great tip.

    • Mary Beth Person says:

      Good ideas, Debbie.

  • I tend to enjoy days and sometimes up to 2 weeks of effortless daily sketching of everyday things. Then it all fizzles out. And there are times when I struggle with “sketcher’s block 5 – 8 or so days days at a time, which causes me much anguish. When the lack of inspiration and motivation becomes too much and I feel the depression coming on, I throw myself into my knitting and crocheting projects, They seems to calm me and help me get my mojo back and ease back into the manic cycle .

  • Jessica Raun says:

    I am new to sketching. Fear is the biggest impediment for me. My Inner Critic has a stranglehold on me! I want to sketch, get better, and enjoy the moment. Wrecking a page, not liking the outcome, or just being generally disappointed stops me. I am thinking about getting a warm-up sketch book. Generally I am happier with the result if I warm up first.

    • Lynn Fitzpatrick says:

      I have the same problem. I’m going to try your idea of a warm up sketch book.

    • Julie Noyes says:

      I’m also one to be a harsh inner critic. I recently picked up a bunch of cheap sketchbooks that have really helped me sketch everyday and not treat my sketchbooks so preciously. It’s been so helpful. The other thing I do is keep two sketchbooks going at the same time…one I post on my IG account and the other is just for me. Knowing that i’m never going to show the one to anyone makes me free and open to experimentation which ends up more often than not to be pretty good.

  • Mary Catharine McDonnell says:

    I sketch daily and have also been doing so for over four years. I have a sketchbook on the kitchen table and each day I draw something that I have around me, whether if be some pens, some flowers, some food or whatever! I make one drawing with my non dominant hand (right) and then my left hand. I find that this helps me slow down and see. The drawings are all continuous lines now. Most of the time I put watercolour on them as I draw with waterproof ink. i find the practice meditative and it has now become a daily routine. Lately I have been trying out some of the watercolour techniques and pigment combinations that I have learned from you in the SkN Watercolour course Liz!

  • Laura Hale says:

    Looking forward to your advice on getting into a daily habit.

  • Trudy Mason says:

    I like Mary Catharine McDonnell’s idea of first doing a drawing with her non dominant hand. This seems like a way to overcome preconceived ideas of what the sketch ‘should’ look like. I think using a different part of the brain as also beneficial. I have not been drawing much lately and the idea of having a sketch book on the table waiting for me sounds helpful. Lately I have spent too much time on the computer reading and thinking about art rather than making art. Today’s post was very timely. Thanks, somehow it helps to know others struggle with this as well. Finding a balance in one’s life that allows for productive creative time seems to be a universal problem.

  • Kate Powell says:

    am half of a partnership and so time can be problematic, but I still sketch most days. If I am not outright sketching outdoors or some such thing, I sketch projects I am working on. I also keep a stack of images to sketch from by the bed so if nothing else, I sketch at night…

    I think what keeps most people from sketching (other than newborns and business) is thinking about sketching, thinking about what to sketch, and thinking about if they are good enough to sketch THAT… whatever THAT is…

  • I also struggle to sketch everyday. It is time and subject matter that stops me. I too am held back by feeling confined in my home due to weather. It is also because of cold dark nights of winter, no motivation. As the sun has been peeking through lately I have wanted to sketch more. I do find intimidation in warming up, but I make sure I use the same sketchbook and not another. Someone told me that my sketchbook is for me and only me. Do not show it to others for fear of criticism. They were right. Since I keep it to myself I never worry if I screw up a page or two. Sometimes my best screwups are my best learning experiences. It acts as a journal of ALL my work, not just the best. The best I share on Instagram. Happy sketching.

  • Judy Kistler-Robinson says:

    Like others I often have a daily practice for a week, then it fizzles out due to my varied work schedule. The #oneweek100people2018 challenge helped, but also that week I didn’t have a work assignment for my job, so could go to the library to sketch people. When I do have a work assignment, I rarely sketch. But suggestions here to have a sketchbook on the dining table are great–now to replace my scanning Facebook mindlessly with sketching with left and right hands!
    Also like others, I have held myself back by not wanting to “mess up” pages in my nice S&B sketchbook. I am getting over that thanks to Liz’s Watercolor class (seeing her mess up a page with color mixes and trying out brush strokes was very liberating).
    I’ve always sketched people in meetings, on the train/plane, in the airport, at the restaurant, so I don’t mind people noticing me. Now my challenge is a see a tree or something I want to sketch while I’m driving and I can’t sketch in the moment.

  • Mayela Lameda-Lyver says:

    As a beginner, who started to learn how to draw and sketch last February, I struggle with several aspects of the daily drawing practice. First, I don’t want to wreck any of my good quality paper sketchbooks, so I settled for one that is not very expensive, it’s portable and still a good quality paper to see if that helps. Last year, I challenged myself to do a one minute drawings for 100 days to see if I could get into the habit of sketching. I did it. I made drawings of the little items around the house for 100 days and even for a bit longer and I stopped again. Having a full time job and a young child, plus cooking and taking care of your house doesn’t leave a lot of time to go outside and sketch something you like. If we add the weather to it, that makes it all that much complicated. I live in Canada and we have five months of very cold temperatures. I love urban sketching but that is only possible for me in the summer. I always bring my sketchbook with me in outings to museums with my son and I just cannot spend more than a 2-3 minutes looking at something to draw without paying attention to my son. How others urban sketchers do it?

  • I wake up naturally at around 4 am.. so I make a cuppa and draw for about 2-3 hours everyday.. I have been doing this for over 40 years.. if I don’t get to draw, I try to do it later, but I am not really worried about it. I am a full time artist so I am doing my painting, ceramics and drawing all day…

  • I don’t sketch daily. I don’t even sketch weekly, most of the time. I used to beat myself up about it, and think of it as a struggle. But I don’t do that to myself anymore because I have so many other things that I either want or need to do. Sketching is one of the things I want to do, of course, but so is gardening, and playing guitar, and going for long walks with my dog, etc., etc., etc. So I’ve decided that no matter how much or how little I actually sketch … I’m just not gonna worry about it. 🙂

    • Lis Barton says:

      I agree with you, Matthew, there are so many things I want to fit in every day and, like everyone, I have responsibilities also. So, like taking a daily long walk, I often take sketching things with me and stop on the way if something catches my eye or I take a break for coffee in cafe or at a stall and sketch. Urban sketching for me is fun and everything time I really stop and spend time sketching I feel refreshed by it, people may stop and. take a look or make a comment but that’s all part of it and people are rarely rude to unpleasant. I have tried various times to sketch or even draw every day but its soon becomes something that I ‘fail’ at and so become dispirited and feel defeated. I know I enjoy sketching very much, and yes sometimes it doesn’t go well, but that’s life; sometimes music practise dosen’t go well or cooking goes wrong but isn’t that how we learn? So yes, I’d love to sketch every day and enjoy that but I’m not going to take the enjoyment out of it by forcing myself to do it.

  • Bobbie Herron says:

    Thank you Carmel! Brilliant idea to lay out your ‘set-up’ in advance so it is right where you head in the morning. My goal for April is to work on Habit Building. No new projects, just nurture humble, useful habits. around daily physical, spiritual, and creative health. You just filled in a puzzle piece for me.

  • Janis Scilley says:

    I am a night owl, so I spend slot of time in my bedroom. I have a watercolor “station” set up in between my bed and my tv. Everyday I am reminded, and everyday I sketch. At my skill level I mostly copy from favorite web images I store in my phone. That way I always have something that inspires me to get sketching.
    I also love to see what Ohn Mar Win is up to on Instagram. She always has quick, daily inspirational ideas for watercolor exercises.
    I also like to sketch from athletic leisurewear catalogs. They always have the models in great athletic poses.

  • Darlene Williams says:

    I try to sketch daily then life gets in the way. Sometimes it a time issue, other is lack of subject matter and the pressure to have these prefect pages. Recently, I’ve set up two sketchbooks. One for the perfect page and one that is a jumble of things that work or didn’t, finished and not finished. While I like the perfect sketchbook, I’m staring to love the jumble of miscellaneous drawings that are imperfect. None this helps me with the daily habit of sketching. I know that when I did inktober last year I saw such improvement from that daily sketch, but couldn’t keep it going. Subject matter is the biggest issue.

  • Shirley Higgins says:

    After years of starting sketchbooks and abandoning them after a bad drawing I started a daily A5 sketch journal- inspired by Liz of course. By also using the back pages as a bullet journal, appointment diary, calender, shopping list, wish list, to do list, index, test page, and habit tracker it means I carry my journal with me everywhere, so I am more inclined to use it. Each day I complete doble page spread and by using a cheap cartridge journal there is no pressure. There are no rules – it can be something from my day, a copy of someone else’s work to learn from, something inspired by you tube, work from photos or an urban sketch or doodle. For both successful and less successful outcomes I try to improve/complete the page design with borders, text of what I learnt or what I did that day. If I don’t get to finish that day or don’t know how to complete it I leave it until I do, post it notes help me remember what I did that day until I get to finish it. Sometimes I have so many ideas I note them in the back for days when I don’t know what to draw, but if I am not motivated I have a ‘play day’ where I can just play with colours or flick and splash paint and then do blind contour drawings on top or just do an inspiring quote or try out new materials. There is no right or wrong and no judgement, just a personal record of my journey which so far is working for me. Each journal lasts 2 months and as I am on my 7th journal I have been doing this now for over a year, which is the longest I have ever stuck at anything. I just wish I had started doing this years ago.

  • Halina says:

    Yes, definitely struggling.
    I get stuck on Instagram looking at all the beautiful sketches\drawings\paintings from other people and get discouraged to put pen to paper to draw something on my own.

  • Chris Fitzgerald says:

    Do you struggle to sketch regularly?
    YES! I carry the sketchbook around, but the time doesn’t seem to happen unless I make plans for it in advance. I’d like to sketch “on the fly” but time seems to be a problem.

    What is the major stumbling block – time, subject matter, motivation? Or something else?
    Subject matter COULD be a problem. I am still hesitant to tackle people when I’m out in public.


  • It’s a struggle for all of us, isn’t it! I go through cycles of daily sketching and/or painting and then big droughts when I feel I can’t draw, I can’t paint, I can’t sketch. I don’t have children, so my life is not as busy, from that perspective. But I do have a husband, an elderly cat and a lively dog.
    Whenever I hit a block, it’s not generally because of lack of time of the bad weather, though. If Shari Blaukopf can sketch in the winter in Montreal (in her car!), surely I can handle the wet weather in Ireland!
    My blocks tend to occur when I start taking things too seriously, when I want my sketchbook to be as “good” as the last one I finished, or if I want my watercolours to look like “serious art”.
    When that happens, I need to remind myself that I am an amateur and that it should be fun. That it’s a journey, not a destination.
    Doing online challenges and courses also helps. I also go back to art books that I’ve had for years, like “The Creative License”, by Danny Gregory. Inspiration from artists like Liz and others helps me to keep art in my life, even when I’m not sketching. I read Deep Work, one of the books Liz mentioned in one of her posts about getting organised etc, and I found it very interesting and I’ve picked up some tips from it – some weeks I’m better at implementing these than others…

  • Julie-Anne Rogers says:

    I definitely struggle to find the time. Today I had planned to go out with the Sydney Sketchers but had to cancel because of an overload of committee work. I have been doing this way too often lately between the committee, a high maintenance career, and family health issues so I have decided to get rid of everything unnecessary that gives me stress. The committee has to go and I am dropping a few other things so that I can do the sketching and stitching that I love and that calms me down, making me able to cope with the stress that I can’t avoid.

    • Liz Steel says:

      Oh Julie-Anne – I hear you and have been in a similiar place before… sketching was certainly my escape from stress! All the best with dropping a few things and that the stress lifts for you.

  • Jean Edwards says:

    I’ve been daily sketching since 4th August 2012, so today is day 2039 of continuous daily sketching. When I set out it was just for a year, a personal challenge in the year leading up to my 50th birthday and a way of making myself get back into art after a long break. After about 4 months I knew I wouldn’t want to stop. I’ve developed some strategies to make sure I can do it. firstly I made a public commitment by starting a blog where I post daily. I allow myself a few minutes of mark making if I have a migraine – the thing that’s most likely to derail me. I have sketchbooks and pencils in every place I go, work, my car, every bag, so I can always sketch if I’m early for a class or meeting – sometimes I plan to get somewhere early then I can sketch. I’ve sought out people to sketch with – that’s how I discovered urbansketching, something I love. I take part in social media and collaborative challenges as another way of social sketching. This weekend we move to British Summer Time so I’ll have evenings and that will make life easier.
    Daily sketching has made art and making art so much present in my life, it’s led me to new friends and new experiences – for me the question is not how do I draw daily? it’s when and how do I stop?

  • Jorin Frosch says:

    I sketch every day (and when I say “every”, then I mean really every!) for the last two years. If I have a lot of work, if I am tired etc., I always find five minutes to sketch before I go to bed, it is a habit like brushing my teeth. It isn’t about the outcome, it isn’t about the subject – it’s only something that I “have” to do. I don’t think about the “why”, or the “what”, I only do it. For this, I have some permanent pens in different colours and a sketchbook for watercolour (if I have the time and the wish to colour it), that’s it. If I don’t know what to draw, I take my right hand, it is there every time and I can sketch it in different views. Sometimes, I like my drawings, sometimes not – who cares?!

  • It can be confronting looking at other people’s work, so give yourself a break. Those people you see only got where they are because they started as beginners and went from there. Put the phone away and have ago. As someone else commented your sketchbook is for you, you don’t have to show it to anyone. The more you practice the easier it becomes and let yourself have fun doing it.

  • Tina Koyama says:

    No, I don’t struggle with sketching daily — I just sketch daily — but I also have very low standards. 😉 A pocket-size sketchbook, 10 minutes, and I sketch a car parked in front of me, a fire hydrant, a potted plant on a doorstep. Ink only. On days when I have more time, I make larger, possibly more interesting sketches. But the key is keeping my standards low. Maybe you need to use a smaller sketchbook so you won’t feel like your daily sketches must be part of a weekly spread. That seems like built-in pressure that’s not necessarily productive.

    • Liz Steel says:

      thanks for sharing Tina. I have tried a small sketchbook but it hasn’t worked for me. am very happy to do a quick rough sketch in a bigger book. I think my problem is more motivation than pressure. It’s more to do with making my hobby into a business and somehow losing the fun and ‘just for me’ aspect.

    • Ania Drozd says:

      It is a common problem among creative people working commercially.
      There is a fantastic, honest post written by Rebecca Green that went viral this year, describing her struggle and process of reigniting her creative spark :

  • David Clark says:

    Hi Liz, love your blog. I found out about the recent 100 people one week challenge from it. Yes, I do struggle to sketch every day. I set out with good intentions, but work is so busy, and you come home exhausted, and just don’t notice the sketching opportunities right under your nose. And it really isn’t difficult to find inspiration – I’m always sketching at the weekends. I think it’s probably a state of mind – during the 100 people sketching I did sketch every day of the challenge.

  • Liz Steel says:

    thanks everyone for the wonderful comments! I hope to reply early next week!

  • Isabel Patchett says:

    I struggle with daily sketching and my main reason is due to the fact that I am a full time carer and my husband is unfortunately getting worse with his illness. I am also very critical of my own work and would waste time doing it over again trying to make it perfect!!. Now when I get a few spare minutes I will sit down and do a small sketch one that I can at least get finished and I leave it at that. If I am not happy with it I leave it do something else the next time Another thing I used to do when sketching was that I spent as much time writing about my sketch (day, where , product etc. etc.) as I did sketching, this took up too much of my precious time so now I do not do that I spend all my time just sketching and not writing I just put the date. Hope you are all enjoying the course. I would like to have the time to become more involved in it but I enjoy looking at all your wonderful work when in bed at night..

  • For the most part I do get to sketch most days, even if it is something small. But then I am retired and have the time to sketch. I remember when I was teaching that I would go for months without having the time to do anything unrelated to teaching. I am lucky to have a husband who is supportive of my passion too. On the days that for some reason sketching is an impossibility I feel like something is missing from my day.

  • Anne Lyle says:

    Like a lot of the other commenters, my sketching goes in fits and starts. I have a full-time job and also write novels, so finding time–and more importantly, mental energy–to sketch is hard! About all I can manage at the moment is keeping up with the Foundations assignments at weekends.

    I’m looking forward to hearing about the new project in the hope that it will give me some ideas for fitting more sketching into my busy life.

  • Lisa Holt says:

    Yes, I struggle to sketch on a regular basis. I came to the point where I had to ask myself “why” do I want to sketch. I realized for me, sketching is an escape, and a way to work through stress. So I don’t think to myself “I need to sketch every day”. Instead, I try to pay attention to how I feel. When I’m a bit frustrated/stressed/out of sorts, I try to remember that I will feel better if I sketch, so try to move around my calendar to make time to sketch. I’m trying to think of sketching as a tool instead of a have-to.

  • Suzanne says:

    Liz Steel … Happy Easter .. I know you don’t access your technology on Sundays but sending my comment while I can.

    Looking forward to your mentioned new project to help us sketch more regularly.

    I enjoyed your Watercolour sketching now.

  • Constance Smith says:

    HI Liz. I have been thinking about your question and reading the input from others. I know for myself I need to add more sketching into my routine, with the goal of doing better at composition and drawing, for my main goal of studio watercolor work to improve. You are a good planner, I would ask you, have you sat down lately and thought about your short-term and long-term goals? Where does daily sketching fit into them? You just finished a great online course on Watercolor which I participated in. Perhaps you need to take a break and evaluate. Burn out could be what is happening. I know for me I don’t just want to sketch to fill up sketchbooks. And I need to do it in daylight, working in the evenings on sketching is just not attractive to me. I’m wondering if I can pack a small sketchbook with me to work on in-between appointments when I can’t be at home during the day.

  • Shiho Nakaza says:

    I’ve been sketching daily for over 8 years now, ever since I joined Urban Sketchers. There were certainly many days I’ve struggled (one time I was too tired to draw anything other than my own hand before clock struck midnight), but at first I kept going because of nagging feeling that made me restless (as if I’m procrastinating on doing a chore), but sketching became something I look forward to, a small time out for myself from the daily grind. It’s got to the point where I ESPECIALLY need to sketch when I’m having a bad day to escape from the stress. I think I was able to continue my daily drawing for years because I learned to let go of how long I should spend on a sketch or how good my sketches should be. Most weekdays I spend maybe 10-20-minute during my lunch break on sketching (sometimes the entire day’s output is a 2-minute gesture sketch of someone). Some days I am not happy with my sketches, but they still serve as a visual diary of my life. I’ve been enjoying your insight and sketches for years now – here’s to more sketching together in the future!

  • Fay J says:

    Yes. I have all the good intentions but, recently, sketching’s fallen by the wayside. I haven’t done anything for about three weeks – rubbish “spring” weather hasn’t helped – but I have got a trip to Japan next month and plan to do some while I’m there.
    I have also got some rock concerts coming up this year, and they’re good for people sketching (but usually from photos after the event).

  • Lyn Anderson says:

    I am so impressed! You have made me think I could do something like that if I can make my self exercise, no matter what; I can maybe make myself paint, no matter what. Thanks for your post.

  • rosalee scriven says:

    Why do we seem to put sketching activity to the bottom of the priority list? Is it because it can be awkward to get
    out your sketching supplies? I find I often have everything I need with me, but don’t use it – because…I don’t know… I have never been able to paint “on location” either, and I wish I knew what it was that hampers me.

  • Keshna Donia says:

    I’ve been struggling to fill up my sketchbook. But the more I search the more I see that everyday objects are just fine. Typically I like to start at the beginning of the month. But just starting regardless of the day is just fine.

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