End of Year City Break: Part 2

December 23, 2019 | 2 Comments


Following on from last week’s article, here is part 2 of my five day City Break.

It was a really fantastic week – I got so much work done (reviewing this year and planning 2020) and I had a lot of fun being a tourist in my hometown. And I did a lot of sketching.

Last week marked the start of a month-long Sketching Diet- sketching everything I eat! I’ve done this numerous times since 2008 and will share more details in a future post. I wasn’t worrying about what I ate, just the fact that I recorded it. This was tough at times, especially when I was hungry, but it was a great discipline as it made me get my paints out on occasions when I normally wouldn’t.

Also, all the food sketches scattered through my book created some fun pages and interesting compositions.

I was using a Hahnmuhle Watercolour Book – A4 landscape – and I loved using it a lot! And yes, I promise to write a full review soon.

Here are the pages…


On Wednesday I decided to combine all my food onto one spread so that it didn’t feel as if all I did was eat. This worked well, but I thought the other pages from the day where a little boring compositionally. I realised that I love the variety of combining food with other sketches.

Garrison Church (as shared previously here) and a few colour swatches checking the granulation on this paper.

A very quick direct watercolour sketch from the MCA cafe.

I normally only come here when I have international visitors, but I realized last week that it is a fantastic cafe to go to when I want to work. Such a great outlook even when half of the view is blocked by a big cruise ship.

And then final sketch of the day was another quick direct watercolour sketch of St Marys. Hmm, actually I sketched my dinner afterwards with friends, but that’s included in my food spread above.

It was nice to be able to walk ‘home’ from church after attending the mid-week meeting. I don’t think I have ever seen the Xmas lights in Martin Place as I would never be in this part of town in the evening.


A fancy breakfast at a top cafe – Industry Beans. The coffee was excellent!

As most of the top cafes in town are really busy before 9am, I stopped and sketched the Christmas tree in Martin Place first.

It was a very hot day (forecast of 41C) with bad smoke haze so I went to the Westfield food court to work but the air conditioning wasn’t that strong and soon it got very busy with people eating Asian food.

Somehow I ended up at Queen Victoria Building at The Tea Salon having a very naughty ‘lunch’. I was sitting opposite the door to a shop with very strong air conditioning so it was nice and cool. The smoke haze was visible inside the building…

and the Xmas shoppers were getting to me, so I retreated to my hotel room to continue working. (It was about 36.5C by then.)

By 3pm I noticed that the temperature had started to drop to a nice 32C! So I went down to Circular Quay for my afternoon coffee. I think that the smoke haze had started to lift by then but it was still very heavy and I didn’t want to sit around sketching in it.

So a quick coffee and some sushi and fruit for dinner so I could return to my Level 17 hotel room.


A hotel breakfast and some work until noon. As the smoke haze had lifted I headed to the Botanic Gardens. I haven’t sketched this structure for years- since Edges?

A late lunch in the gardens and then a quick sketch in the succulent garden…

And then as it was hot (and smoke haze descending again) I did a quick distance sketch of Government House sitting under the shade of a tree and being attacked by ants.

I ended up doing another SOH sketch – this time from the gardens.

I ended the day by roaming The Rocks doing a few more sketches. This one was all about simplifying a complex scene into a few big shapes and having fun with granulation.

And this one was all about working as loose and as quickly as possible – just to stretch myself.

I finished off the week with a loose sketch of Cadman’s Cottage and sketching my dinner (of course!)

If you are interested in seeing a flip-through of all my sketches please check out this video on my Instagram.

What a fun week of work and sketching! Staying in a hotel in the city made a big difference to how I saw my hometown, and without the pressure of getting home, I was more relaxed and sketched more. Have you ever been a tourist in your own city?



  • Joanne Kalvaitis says:

    It’s so impressive to see the number of sketches you do in a day, Liz?

    • Liz Steel says:

      Thanks Joanne – only the last day was a dedicated sketching day… and even then I didnt start until 12 noon 🙂 I’m a bit out of control, I know!

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