Europe19: Adjusting to back home sketching

August 28, 2019 | 12 Comments

I thought I’d finished my Europe19 articles, but no! I still have to report on what it’s like being back home and how I’ve coped with it. You can read some initial thoughts in this earlier article but today I want to look at my sketching!

In summary: I haven’t gotten back to a good rhythm with my everyday sketching and there are three reasons why I think this is the case.

1. Too much work!

I’ve had a heavy workload due to my upcoming course – Watercolour On Location. Some weeks it has been day and night plus a full day of Saturday work so there has been little spare time for sketching. So even though I am loving what I’m doing right now, you can just imagine how much I’m missing having dedicated time to visit and sketch new places.

I have been sketching every time I go out (to a meeting, to the gym, catching up with friends etc) but I’m struggling to make time on the days that I’m just grinding away at my work at home. I’m not that excited by drawing objects or views inside my tiny flat – although I did sketch my work area this week! I have thought of a few projects to find some interesting things to sketch in my local area but I haven’t been able to implement my ideas due to my deadlines. So the inspiration and then subsequent motivation isn’t there. What’s the point of getting excited about a new project when I have to buckle down and focus on getting my new course ready? That’s a bit of a pathetic excuse I know – but how many of you can relate to that type of reasoning? It’s always hard to fit the sketching in – even when it’s supposed to be your job!

We always make time for the things that are important so I know that I just need to reassess my schedule!

2. Quiet cafe

I’ve been mainly sketching in the morning during my cafe visits but as my local weekday cafe has been fairly quiet when I’ve been there I haven’t gotten back into sketching people regularly. Once again this is a bit of a pathetic excuse as there are always staff to use as subjects – I don’t need lots of patrons to sketch people.

I did do a few more abstract coffee sketches a few weeks ago while I was still using the Moleskine (Volume 13 from the trip) but a new sketchbook (format and paper) changed that.

3. Different sketchbooks

When I first arrived home I kept using Volume 13 from my trip. But after a few days the contrast between the exciting Amsterdam sketches in the front of the book and the repetitive bits and pieces I was producing was too great so I decided to switch to another book. I wanted to go back to Stillman & Birn Alpha – either 8 x 10″ my usual large everyday sketchbook, or try the new square format. But I didn’t have an 8 x 10″ book on my shelves and the square books are not yet available in the stores in Australia. (Oh! the frustration of not having the sketchbook you feel like immediately at hand!?!)

So I finally decided to  get around to using a Hahnemuhle Watercolour book – A5 landscape – which I got in Amsterdam. This paper is very different from what I am used to so it was a nice challenge to try and work out how to use it. In summary I am enjoying the paper a lot, but the format is not working for me. It’s just too small and I am finding that it’s really limiting my sketching.  

1. I wish I had a portrait format to use.
2. I will do a proper review later of these books I promise – but please be patient!

So, these are three factors which have restricted the wonderful flow that I had when I was travelling in Europe but (and this is the important thing!) I am still doing what I can and I’m filling pages! 

It’s always hard to adjust back to normal life after an oversea trip so I expected it to be tough after such a long and amazing time away. But despite all my excuses above,  I’m actually very happy with what I have produced. Please note that the further you get in your creative journey, the higher your standards become. So what I think of as a good sketching rhythm these days is significantly more than it was a few years ago – and will definitely be different from what you would be happy with.

Okay – enough chit chat – here is a selection of my pages.


Have you been on a trip recently? How have you found being back home?

I would be especially interested to hear from people who were in Amsterdam – have you been able to keep some sketching momentum going after the excitement of the Symposium?



  • This is so true, Liz – I was only traveling for two weeks (one in Amsterdam and a few days in the West of Ireland), but it’s been hard to keep up the momentum, to sustain the energy and joy. I’m still sketching a good bit, but real life is there – there are bills to be paid, chores to be done, etc. I did experience the same after Porto, which was my first symposium. It was such a high. And then I felt a bit flat. But I tell myself I just have to pick up my sketching bag, and go out, even if it’s nowhere exotic, or sit at my desk and play with watercolours. It’s all part of the journey.

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Marie-Helene – so lovely to see you again in Amsterdam (and thanks for helping me out on Saturday morning!!!) All the best for just getting out and sketching!

  • Chris kopet says:

    I just got back from a three day stay at a small lake with hills and mountains surrounding it. Huge skies, people in kayaks and on the dock, charming cabins – it was fun to look around and sketch. Home seems dull by comparison. I am not so motivated but I still paint and do line sketches, the enthusiasm isn’t there.

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Chris – your break sounds lovely and glad you are still doing. the inspiration will come if we keep doing!

  • Isabelle V says:

    Hi Liz. I was in Amsterdam for one week ( first symposium and first solo travel). I was happy to go back home (Amsterdam and the symposium where a little bit overwhelming) but then I had a few days down. Fortunately, I had booked other workshops in august, and it was great to get back in the mood and motivation of drawing!

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Isabelle – yes totally understand if you found AMS overwhelming but great to hear about your other workshops!

  • Rockie Weymouth says:

    Off topic a bit … I would like to know how Liz does the date and lines beneath on the upper left corner of her sketchbook. Is there a past blog entry that explains that? It looks like she uses a stamp but that’s not mentioned in her supply list(?)

  • Carmel Campbell says:

    I went to Italy in May for a 10 day workshop. I found myself depressed when I got home. The building were so different and I had returned to what I was struggling with before I left…white block shaped buildings with lots of foliage. Life has moved on and I have gradually got back into the swing of things. I have met another sketcher. We sketch together twice a week, Having another sketching friend to talk to has really helped. I have also widen the subjects to sketch and am focusing more on the painting aspect of my sketching. So experimenting. Looking forward to Sketchfest in Brisbane next month.

  • Katie Clare says:

    Amsterdam followed by two weeks in Switzerland for me, so I had lots of adventures over the summer. Bit of a slump when I came home, which I am wriggling out of by doing some book binding, following Roz Stendahl’s techniques. I’m a bit messy with the glue! Learning new skills and watching the sketchbooks take shape has given my mood a good lift. Next job is to make a couple of lightweight pamphlet style sketchbooks – free instructions given on Roz’s website. I will put watercolour paper in these, all ready for Watercolour on Location. So, all that has perked me up…time to get my usual drawing/ painting schedule going again.

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