Eight weeks of weekday visits to Lane Cove

November 1, 2021 | 23 Comments

I’ve just completed 8 weeks of Monday-Friday visits to Lane Cove National Park for a sketch and walk … and I’m far from bored by it!

  • I still have lots of scenes to sketch and haven’t even done a watercolour sketch for each of the 30-something picnic areas in the park.
  • I’m still enjoying using two sketches and my Greenwood Journal is playing an important role in exploring new views during my walks
  • I’m still obsessed with looking at the trees and trying to identify them.

But there are a few challenges that I’m starting to have to deal with:

  • The weather is warming up and I’m not sure how best to handle hot days. Last week there were two days around 30C and I soon realised that I will need to seek out picnic tables with a roof so that I can have some solid shade to sit in. I’m also considering changing the time of the day to later in the afternoon so that I’m not there in the heat of the day. Morning would be better but the park doesn’t open until 9 am, so it wouldn’t fit within my schedule.
  • I have had one day when I didn’t feel like going… but as it’s now such a habit and an in-grained daily routine I went anyway without thinking about it. It was only when I started my Alpha sketch that I felt a lack of motivation. But I’m glad that I still sketched regardless.
  • I’m doing the same thing (technique and media) over and over. This is not necessarily a bad thing as I don’t have to think too hard on the days when I’m really busy. I don’t know about you, but often the barrier to getting a sketch done is mental – and if I don’t have to think too hard about what to sketch or how to sketch it, it’s much easier to start!

A number of people left some interesting comments last week (related to this article) and a common theme of struggling to maintain a regular sketching habit emerged. Personally, I find that building a routine is critical during my day-to-day life so that sketching just becomes part of my day no matter how busy I am. Previously my daily sketches were tied to getting a takeaway coffee after lunch – now it’s jumping in my car and going to Lane Cove park. It’s all about building a daily habit and then the sketching will happen almost automatically.

Hmm, putting this article together has made me assess what I want to do next.

Here are a few ideas:

  • experiment with different techniques
  • start tracking more systematically the picnic areas I visit and sketch – maybe start a map locating all the areas and all the picnic tables
  • start thinking more about composition and  start designing my sketches more – at the moment I’m just sketching instinctively
  • start sketching the river – I’ve been keeping this up my sleeve for later, but maybe the time has come to mix it up a little

I have more thoughts and ideas on this topic, but I’ll leave it for another occasion.

Here are my sketches from last week in the order I sketched them (marker sketch in my Greenwood during my walk and then watercolour sketch in my 8×10 Alpha nearby where I parked my car)


Monday Sketch 1: At my favourite spot – Blackbutt picnic area – looking back towards the road.

Monday Sketch 2: The Blackbutt trees at Commandment Rock. I’ve sketched these trees before but not from this position.

Tuesday Sketch 1: Angophora Picnic Area – this is the second time I’ve sketched here (the other was also in my Greenwood) but first time doing this view.

I’m trying to get to know some of the full-bark trees (in particular Sydney Peppermint and Rough-barked Apple) but it’s nearly impossible if I don’t find some leaves and gum nuts on the ground.

Tuesday Sketch 2: Back at Carter’s Creek –  the Sydney Blue Gum in the foreground is the tree I’ve sketched the most!

Wednesday Sketch 1: Back at Commandment Rock but this time during my walk. The small picnic table on the right is where I was sitting on Monday.

Wednesday Sketch 2: From the car at Cottonwood Glen. I really didn’t feel like doing this sketch but I’m glad that I made the effort. 🙂

Thursday Sketch 1: The first of the ‘hot’ days. I sat in some speckled shade to sketch this quirky picnic spot opposite Spoonbill.

Thursday Sketch 2: And then sketched more Blackbutt trees at Blue Wren.

Friday Sketch 1: The hottest day to date (31C – so not really that hot!) and as I had already done a walk in the morning I decided to do two sketches from the one covered picnic table. Looking towards the carpark…

Friday Sketch 2: Looking the other way towards two Sydney Blue Gums with long bark stockings.

So that’s a little update about my daily bush sketching!

It seems that at the moment my watercolour (and ink and pencil) sketches in my Alpha are more focused on trees, while I tend to do bigger scenes in my Greenwood. In some respects, they are very repetitive, but for me, every sketch records an event and is a unique record of each day. And that’s what everyday sketching is all about!

I would love to hear from you (in the comment section below) if you have any thoughts about methods for sketching more regularly – what works for you? What struggles do you have? This is a topic I’d like to discuss more 🙂

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



  • Sean Didier says:

    Liz, I just love how disciplined you are! I find it so inspiring! I find your tree drawings to be quite interesting…like individual portraits of each tree you encounter that day! I’m finding the Buildings course to be so challenging at the moment, that at times I need to step away from the concrete and draw something more organic like a tree or some flowers! So thanks for your blog post today! You always motivate me to get up and get drawing! Enjoy your day!

    • Liz Steel says:

      Thanks Sean!!! And yes I love combining trees with all my buildings sketches at the moment – a winning combo of structure and freedom!

  • Ann Robinson says:

    So inspirational Liz! Thank you,
    I have acquired so many art materials now but really need a push into being selective about what I use,.
    Can you talk us through how you do your tree sketches and with what (minimal) materials please ?

  • Maria Bergman says:

    Hi Liz
    This is such an interesting topic-how to maintain a daily sketching practice and mental attitude.
    For me, so much of whether I follow through with sketching every day depends on the kind of feedback I give myself: Why am I pursuing this? Is it worth the time? Am I making ‘progress’? Do I enjoy this? Is my inner critic discouraging?
    To succeed, for me, there is a fine line between being able to push through the times when sketching might not be as pleasurable and not pushing through: not treating sketching like a ‘job’. As a retired person, I’m encountering a bit of internal conflict. After 35 years of regimentation, I rebel emotionally against imposing similar pressures on myself now. So it’s really important for my efforts to be fun and feel as though I’m learning and growing. Your classes encourage all of that. And you as a role model are a perfect example. It’s so apparent how much you enjoy you practice. Thank you for your inspiration!

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Maria – yes! you raise a super important point about pushing yourself. And yes! the element of fun needs to be mantained. Thanks for sharing!

  • Laurence says:

    Hello Liz,
    great topic!!! For me, I make a difference between motivation and desire or “energy” to put myself into action. In fact, my motivation is always beautiful and present (the pleasure of drawing, the search for meditation,…) otherwise I will not ask myself the question, but the notion of “project” is another stakeholder in this story.
    It is to give a little “meaning” in my drawings: as apply teachings (through your courses or through the work of other painters / urbanketchers), as drawing every day in an intimate sketchbook, experimenting, discovering the world …
    I always find it very interesting to listen to the “why”, the “how” and the “for what” of each of us about it.
    Your blog is one of them. Thank you 🙂

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Laurence! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and yes ‘energy’ and ‘project’ are good things to consider!! thanks

  • Cheryl says:

    I love your tree sketches.

    I live in Florida and while I don’t sketch/paint daily, I do get outside a couple of times each week regardless of the weather. In summer it is quite hot and humid here, but I find that as long as you have shade and a breeze, it’s bearable. And being near water really helps. There is often a cool breeze of any body of water.

    I find that accountability helps me get out regularly. So I organize a weekly plein air group. By telling others that I will be at a location at a certain time/date, it forces me to follow through — even if no one else shows up. And I usually have someone to sketch with. We did this all through the COVID lockdowns. It really helped with the isolation and it was easy to maintain social distance.

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Cheryl – thanks for sharing and your plan for a weekly group is brilliant! Glad that you were able to do that even in lockdowns!

  • Janice Troyer says:

    It was interesting for me to read that even you sometimes don’t feel motivated to sketch. I struggle with it periodically, especially in the summer months when I’m so busy with gardening, hiking, birding…. which would ironically be the best time to be sketching (I”m in Alaska). A couple of years ago I made myself a New Year’s resolution to sketch every day even if it was for only 5 minutes. I was successful for the first 6 months (and then summer happened. :)) But one thing I did notice, on the days I was not motivated, I told myself, just set the timer and sketch 5 minutes. Most of the time, once the pen was in my hand, I sketched for a lot longer. It seemed just starting a sketch was the motivation I needed. And by sketching everyday, I did notice an improvement in my sketching. When I stop sketching, it is sooooo hard to start again. Taking classes certainly helps, as well. It’s a great topic. I’m taking your Buildings course now and it feels good to be sketching daily again. Janice

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Janice, yes I also don’t feel motivated to sketch at times… but actually, on reflection, the occasion mentioned in this article was more about energy levels (after a livestream) and I’ve realized that I should have a 5-minute option for my bush sketches as well. Totally understand your strategy! thanks for sharing!!!!

  • Jamie C says:

    I love these bush sketches so very much! I’m yearning for trees and with your sketches I can practically hear the leaves in the wind! The heat stops me from sketching outside quite frequently (I live in Phoenix, AZ so it’s quite hot!) I’ve found a wide brim hat is my only hope! And drinking water.

    My own daily sketching! Well, it’s a new month so I’m newly motivation to try some new routines! I totally am with you it must get built into routine. It does help me to read your daily sketching routine habits, and others, in order to begin seeing how I could do it daily myself. This month I’m aiming to apply some of the things that were most successful in the past, when I did maintain a daily practice. Food! When I’ve done the daily food sketches, inspired by your sketching diet, I found that since my sketchbook was with me already, instead of in the other room, I would paint. It also forces me to be looser and faster. My inner critic is too loud those times I’m not painting daily. I think if I give myself permission to be boring, it’ll help that habit hurdle. Do the repetitive food sketches, paint my outfits, maybe even just paint that cool building that just flashed by on the tv. I’m thinking that might be my gateway, so that when I do go and find myself sitting with a lovely view, I have the habit of pulling out the sketchbook, because I’m already carrying it, and I’ve already painted something that day. Easy to paint another.

    At least these are my initial thoughts on this lovely morning. Wish me luck! Building the habit is always the biggest hurdle!

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Jamie – as Ive been to Phoenix I understand about the heat… I just cant imagine sitting outside to sketch! And ah! sketching food – that is a great prompt. (and reminder to me as well!)

  • Lin Powell says:

    I do some art pretty well every day…sometimes for 5 min. Sometimes for 5 hrs. I work in a journal and do not stick to one type of art or art supply. Sometimes I do wild abstracts in acrylic, or poured inks, cut pages for peek-a-boos, water color a scene or water color a penned outline image more like a coloring book method. I tangle, doodle mindfully or mindlessly, or work on a mandala. I draw from life or from a photo or to remember a piece I’ve seen someone else do or from an internet or book art lesson. I copy a quote or blog note I have read and liked onto a page and then draw a picture that supports it. I will use water color pencils or ordinary pencil crayons. I do it all in a mixed media papered book and each page is totally different depending on the amount of time I have or the mood I’m in. It works for me because I am not locked into a theme or time restraint. My art is just for me, as a method of stress reduction or meditation, so I do not show it to anyone nor post it to social media. If it turns out well, great. If not, oh well, I’ll try something else tomorrow, or I might work on it another day and turn it into a completely different idea. No judgement. If I am totally “not in the mood”, I will just play with color mingling, color charts, or find a video that inspires me or leads me off down a brand new rabbit hole…anything so that in my mind I will know that I have not broken the routine of fitting a bit of art into my day.

    • Naomi Heck says:

      You hit the nail on the head as to why I am in a sketching slump and haven’t had the desire to sketch for the past 3 weeks. I was working on a travel sketch spread and could not decide on how to finish it so that it would be post-worthy or show-worthy. The more I agonized over it, the more deflated I felt, and I fell into a downward spiral losing all confidence. I am going to take the pressure off myself by sketching for my eyes only and follow your ideas (even as I am currently following the buildings course livestream). Thank you for sharing how you approach keeping your love of art alive!

    • Liz Steel says:

      Thanks for sharing Lin and very true!!!! Doing something even if only a 5 minute exercise is enough. Your comments made me realise that I should develop a quick technique for my bush scenes for the days when my energy is low.

  • Barbara A. says:

    Such lovely sketches, love to see the nature in your area. And such an interesting topic!
    As I am a beginner, i know that I have to sketch on a regular basis to achieve some progress.
    This said, I tried to develop the ‘daily’ habit of doing XY (be it writing a diary, be it knitting or jewelry making) following the advice to do it for 30 (or 100) consecutice days. In the end I only felt a great reiief when those days were over … My free time (as opposed to my job) is the time I want to decide WHAT i do. The most important is that I do something.
    What I found out about myself:
    When I want to draw THIS window, to make THIS bracelet I love taking the challenge and can be very strict/obsessive in practicing until I got it down.
    But when i rely on (as you wrote) “I’m doing the same thing (technique and media) over and over” – usually something preoccupies/bothers/worries me, something I can’t even name. Then the repetitive ‘technique’ keeps me in (kind of) a balance, makes me calm, able to see clear(er).
    Being creative on a regular basis grounds me, I feel more relaxed and as a bonus as I see a result: be it words, a bracelet, a sketch. I need variety.
    Sketching especially connects me with the event/the moment. The choice of what i (as a beginner) try to sketch tells me so much about how I was feeling. When end of August I spent 10 days in a small town at a lakeside, I was sitting for hours on a bench, every day, just enjoying all the greens of the trees and the different colours of the wate. So I tried to sketch trees and water mostly (living in a loud city without garden is hard in Corona times whithout a car while avoiding public transports). I only did a few sketches, but i filled page after page in my diary.

    • Liz Steel says:

      Thanks for sharing Barbara – I loved reading all your thoughts. And yes there is a balance between wanting to do something (and creating a discipline to help you do that more often) and feeling forced to do so.

  • Mary Anne Garland says:

    It was so wonderful to see this post this morning. I am a delinquent student having signed up for two of your courses months ago, but still haven’t engaged in the courses. Sometimes it’s just best not to know what is ahead for us and just keep going forward. Unable to jump into the coursework when I first subscribed, I frequently skip around the website while on the phone and dealing with other business, reading and getting a feel for the classes that wait for me. I admit that a few times, I’ve thought that maybe I was a bit premature in signing up. Covid and life have been a double whammy! Then yesterday, one of those glorious autumn days in Seattle, WA, demanded that I get outside and breathe in the colors and feelings of the season. And so, without a kit, I drove up the hill to a little park overlooking the city of Seattle in one direction and the Olympic Mountains across Puget Sound in another direction. The views were spectacular. And then I entered Parsons Garden, or rather I entered the pages of a Liz Steel journal. It was all there, the volumes, the shapes, the colors (of Seattle), light and shadows, lines and planes, and shifting edges. All of the concepts and snatches of data I have been absorbing from the website have stuck and have rearranged my thinking and ways of perceiving the environment, at this moment the view in front of me. It was so architectural. I had never before seen or experienced it in this way. Seeing your post this morning validated that experience. Nature is so elegant and so is the framework you have given us for looking, seeing, and visually articulating information. I love the thinking that goes into your approach and look forward to getting into the classroom. Soon, I hope. And the images you posted this morning, they are really lovely and very inviting. Thank you.

    • Liz Steel says:

      Thanks for sharing this lovely experience Mary Anne… and one of the most important skills to develop is that of seeing. Whilst it is best to have time to sketch as well, you can do a lot to develop your seeing skills even when too busy to sketch. Hope things settle down for you.

  • Lisa Mcnerney says:

    I do appreciate your encouragement to sketch. I love your work.

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