Edges Course Refresher and the 30x30 Direct Watercolour challenge

May 27, 2020 | 1 Comment

I’m super excited to announce that I’m hosting a Course Refresher for SketchingNow Edges, starting next week, Monday 01 June. The idea is to go through the course in four weeks as preparation for the return of Watercolour On Location, which is coming back really soon! 

Edges is normally an eight week course with two weeks per each lesson. But for this Course Refresher we’ll be going through more quickly – one week per lesson. So some people won’t be able to do all the exercises (there is a lot of content in this course) but we’ll all be able to brush up on the main concepts. These concepts are important to understand before going through the lessons in Watercolour On Location – more about that next week.

Edges is the second course that I put together and was the result of realizing that thinking about edges is the secret weapon when it comes to working in ink and wash. It picks up on some important concepts from Foundations and develops them further.

I really love the content in this course as it contains the concepts that I am constantly using when I sketch in ink and wash. It covers a very broad range of subject matter – sketching monuments, scenes with layers of trees and landscaping, streetscapes, work spaces, houses, food, teacups and even sketching faces. I particularly enjoyed the last lesson where I explained my favourite way of sketching with lost and found edges.

Edges also contains more than ten different on-location demos – which are all the more special to me now after our time of lockdown. Some of these demos are really fun and experimental.

Edges also contains a ‘Tea Break” in each lesson where I show how the concepts apply to my teacup sketching. Just for fun!


Why Edges are important for Ink and Wash

One of the big challenges when it comes to working in ink and wash, is deciding how many lines to draw. It’s so easy to get caught up drawing too much! I know because I’ve been there and done that!

When I started sketching, my go-to subject matter was buildings (being an architect this is not surprising is it?) and these are made up of lots of hard crisp edges. So drawing in ink makes a lot of sense and I felt comfortable doing so.


However, when I tried softer objects (such as this 130 year old cup with lots of delicate fluting) I soon realised that ink was too harsh. So here is an attempt at limiting the ink lines and relying on my paint instead. Sketch from 2009.

I also found that when I sketched complex scenes out on location I had to be even more careful about what I was drawing in ink as there was a real danger of adding too much detail and ending up with a sketch that was ‘all over the place’ and lacking in depth and focus. Drawing every detail also takes a lot of time.

Here are two very early sketches (of the Old Square in Prague and the delightful village of Portsoy in Scotland) where I was trying to draw everything. And yes, my work has changed a lot!

So what I discovered was that I needed to:

  • be more deliberate about which edges to draw in ink
  • learn how to distinguish between edges that were hard or soft and/or edges that represented a change in plane or a change in colour
  • start prioritising my edges to make sure that the eye was drawn to the important ones.

This image, of Waterfall Cottage, shows a very deliberate use of ink for the hard edges of the building and foreground elements.

Once I had a framework in my head for analysing the edges in my subject matter, I found my sketches became much more convincing. I started relying on the paint edges to do the work, and using ink much more sparingly. My sketching also became more fun!

Can you relate to some of these challenges? Are these the kind of questions which go through your head when you are out sketching?

This framework is what I share in the Edges Course.


Edges and Looser Sketches

Thinking about edges is also important if you want to create looser sketches – but that’s another topic.

Click here to read more about that.


Edges and Direct Watercolour

Thinking about edges is also super important when it comes to starting your sketches with watercolour – direct watercolour.

When working this way there are a lot of things I have to think about while putting down my first few brush strokes. I need to think about whether the shape should have soft or hard edges – at the same time as thinking about accuracy of the shape as well as the value and hue of the wash.

Because I’m thinking of so many things at once when I’m working direct with watercolour it’s sometimes hard to control the wetness of my washes. So I also have to think carefully about whether to wait for the washes on the page to dry before going any further with my sketch. Sometimes when I’m working quickly and in the flow, I don’t want to wait and therefore switch to ink in order to preserve (or describe) the important hard edges. So this is why my usual direct watercolour sketches contain some ink lines which are added in the middle of the sketching process.

There are numerous demonstrations in the Edges Course that describe this process – and in fact there are a number of direct watercolour sketches without any ink in the bonus videos from last year.

The month of June is when Marc Taro Holmes hosts his 30×30 Direct Watercolour challenge and I always join in (see my 30×30 work and thoughts here).

As it ties so nicely into many of the concepts in the Edges course, I’m going to add a special gallery into the classroom so that the Edges gang can share their direct watercolour sketches there. If you have done Edges at any time you can post your work for the challenge inside in the Edges classroom.


Find out more about SketchingNow Edges



Please let me know if you have any questions about the course.

And before you ask…

  • All my SketchingNow Courses have lifetime access.
  • If you purchased Edges previously, you can be part of this Course Refresher. Just visit your Edges classroom (via My Courses) and check out the schedule.

I’m really looking forward to going through the Edges lessons again with an inspiring group of sketchers!

1 Comment

  • Fabienne Dreelan says:

    Oh wow that’s so interesting – the importance of ‘edges’!! I loved seeing some of your earlier works as examples of trying to draw too much detail! Whilst I would be completely chuffed if I was able to draw/paint these two scenes myself, I can see how your style has changed/developed over time to producing the most amazing sketches with a lot less information!! Less is definitely more in this case!

    I’d love to do some (actually all;-) of your courses at some stage – I’d have to start right at the beginning with the ‘foundations course’ so that I can hopefully become better at drawing! If I can end up reproducing something like your many finished sketches – especially your famous teacup ones – I’d be over the moon:)) It never ceases to amaze me how you make a few ‘wobbly’ lines, blobs of paint in the right places & lil ‘scribbles’ to represent the roses or floral designs on your teacups look soooo fantastic!! Love them!!

Notice: Undefined variable: commenter in /nas/content/live/lizsteelblog/wp-content/themes/lizsteel/functions.php on line 1211

Notice: Undefined variable: commenter in /nas/content/live/lizsteelblog/wp-content/themes/lizsteel/functions.php on line 1215

Notice: Undefined variable: commenter in /nas/content/live/lizsteelblog/wp-content/themes/lizsteel/functions.php on line 1219

Leave a Reply