Thoughts on my everyday sketching after my big road trip

June 25, 2021 | 12 Comments

It’s time to bring you up to date with what I’ve been doing in my everyday sketching since I got home from my big road trip. So you might want to make yourself a hot drink before proceeding as this is a long article! 🙂

Every time I go on a big sketching trip I return full of inspiration with a determination to sketch more in my daily life. But there is always some degree of difficulty achieving this.

Obviously going from full-time travel sketching (ie. the main focus of every day when I’m away is to sketch) back to everyday life, with lots of work and other things to catch up on, means that it’s really hard to sketch as much as I would like. Sketching goes from being the main activity in the day to being something that has to fit into the in-between moments of my life.

This time I had a lot on my plate as soon as I got home… I had to prep for a fun sketching architecture workshop for teenagers as part of the Stepping Stones program run by Sherwin Centre for Culture and Ideas (SCCI). I never got a chance to do a full report but photos are included later in this article.

I also had to get ready for the Group Run-through of Edges and get back into the regular routine of being actively involved in the course and hosting weekly livestreams.

I had a lot of outings in the first few weeks back home which was really good for keeping me on the move and out in the sun. Oh! I’m really missing all the fresh air and Vitamin D and it’s been hard to be back to spending most of my time indoors.

I also tried to create two ‘new’ habits.

1. Doing a local sketch on the way to my afternoon cafe session

Last year, when the number of patrons in my local cafe was restricted,  I would get a takeaway coffee rather than sitting in and using an in-demand table. I would then wander the streets to find something to sketch while I drank my coffee. But for the last 8 months or so, I’ve become quite dependent on sitting inside the cafe and having a super productive work session. It seems that cafe white noise is exactly what I need to help me do some of my ‘harder’ tasks. And the fun interactions that I have with the staff always help me over the hump of the early afternoon.

The result of these cafe visits is a lack of outside sketches and so in the last few weeks, I’ve started doing a local sketch before I reach the cafe. This has been good, but I’m not spending as much time on the sketch as I did last year. So another strategy I’ve been considering is to get a takeaway 2 times a week so that my focus on those afternoons is totally on sketching.

I’m not sure if you have experienced a similar thing, but I find that making little tweaks to my daily schedule can have a huge impact on the amount of sketching I achieve!

2. Reinstating my Friday sketch outings

I tried having weekly (or even fortnightly) outings at the start of the year, but it was a real struggle! I didn’t have a plan or know where to go and so I had little motivation to make the time to get out.

The first week back from my trip I didn’t manage a dedicated outing, but I had two chances to sketch in Chippendale as part of that sketching architecture workshop, so that was a good start. But the other two weeks I have gone into the City to sketch some JimmyB (James Barnet) buildings.

Hmm, that leads me to a third thing… (I always seem to sneak in an extra point, don’t I?)

3. Doing some serious post-trip research

As you all know I love history and really want to understand the background or science behind the things I sketch and the places I’ve been. After a big trip to Italy I would come home and start reading some Palladio books (or do some other Italian architectural research) but that normally makes me long to be back there and as a result, I find my local area a bit dull.

But this time, the research I’m doing is all relevant to Sydney! And so this is getting me more excited about my local area.

For example, I bought a book and did some internet searching on JimmyB and the more I read, the more I’m realising how significant he was to the design of Sydney. So JimmyB has been a really important way of keeping a thread from my trip weaving through my everyday work. But I’ve also been doing other research (non-architectural!) which should start impacting my sketching soon. So stay tuned for that.


I have a lot of pages to share with you (it was an epic scanning session)… and this collection includes every page I’ve done with the exception of two spreads containing SCCI workshop prep and four spreads done especially for my Edges livestreams.

As always, it’s been great for me to put them all together like this and realise that I’ve been fairly productive. I’ve been sketching a good amount despite having very full work days.

However, I’ve been struggling a little bit with the format of the book (8×10 Alpha) which is a little strange as it is not too dissimilar from the A4 portrait Moleskine which I absolutely loved using during my trip. I still need to think a little more about why this is. But, while I keep ruminating about design, here is the big collection…


First day back to work – a crazy sketch from a back lane during a walk, my black and white teacup and some Manganese Blue Hue swatches.

Two Hansa Yellow Medium tubes (part of the kit for the SCCI workshop) and a continuous line sketch on the way to an appointment. A little washi tape for interest.

The Old Clare Hotel – site visit to plan the SCCI workshop.

A Mosman shop sketched from my car before an appointment and direct watercolour sketch of people in Goodfields. Oh! so out of practice!

A few bits and pieces.

Going back to my ‘morning cafe’ for a change.

First afternoon of the new habit of sketching before Goodfields. Does this mean I had two cafe work sessions in one day? That’s unusual!

A direct watercolour landscape which you have seen before, but here it is the context of the whole spread.

Workshop day: Local architect Brain Zulaikha who was also part of the workshop, gave us a great tour of the area around the Old Clare Hotel. He was involved in the design of the whole precinct and during this tour, I did some crazy quick sketches.

A few photos…

We had a great location on the rooftop of the Old Clare Hotel on a beautiful winter’s day. I had a blast! Thanks to everyone who attended and I hope that you continue to use your sketching kit! 🙂 Thanks also to The Art Scene and Derivan for helping with the kits.

After the morning workshop, I had a ‘wind-down’ session at Goodfields. Two members of the staff decided that I needed to have some bread and butter pudding!

Back at St Albans – sketching before my cafe visit.

A busy day at Crows Nest with a little time to sketch between the morning meeting (with lunch) and an afternoon appointment. As I said, I had a lot of outings in the first few weeks!

Finishing Sketchbook 144 with a direct watercolour verandahed building.

Start of Sketchbook 145. Hmmm, didn’t finish this page. It was done as prep for an Edges livestream.

Sitting under the shelter of the taxi stand on a cold wet day. Turned out to be the coldest day for 30 years!

I was a little chilled by the time I made it to the cafe, so I needed something hearty. The hot water bottles were delivered that morning and caused a brief real-life interruption to the first Edges livestream.

The sketches from my first JimmyB sketching day. More here.

The next day I went to Terrigal to spend time with friends. We had a great catch up which included a short sketching session by the beach.

Beautiful setting on a gorgeous day and it was fun to be recognised by a local artist. So lovely to see you again Ray!

Public Holiday Monday was a good excuse to have a truffle breakfast! I’ve been saving my $25 Dine voucher (from the NSW government) for this!

A direct watercolour sketch that didn’t go to plan so I couldn’t resist pulling my pen out to define some edges.

Coffee cup and teacup – more here.

Starting to get organised. A few more spaces are coloured in since you last saw this page!

Second JimmyB sketching day – more here.

And my details page again.

A busy Saturday sorting my art cupboard with a short break in Goodfields.

Bits and pieces. I’ll share more about the Melaleuca sketch in the future.

Sketching my dinner and my Edges teacup as prep for this week’s livestream.

Arriving early for a coffee catchup. Those of you who have done Watercolour On Location… do you recognise this place?

Some swatches explained during Edges Livestream 3 and another cup sketch this time with brown ink. I also discussed this sketch during the livestream.

Bits and pieces from yesterday. And another teacup sketch – experimenting with my water-soluble Lamy Turquoise ink for something different.

And I’m now up to date. What a great feeling that is.

This has certainly been an epic blogpost and I hope that you have enjoyed seeing my pages in their entirety like this. Please let me know if there is any page or sketch that you would like me to talk about more.

How is your everyday sketching going at the moment? I would love to hear about your successes and/or struggles. Please share in the comments section below!


  • Maria Lopes says:

    I loved reading you and I am curious about the news…
    I like the design,graphics off the pages! Very cute!
    And always with lots of ideas and work! It’s very inspiring ? Thanks and Congratulations!

  • Kate Powell says:

    For those of us who work full time USk sketching time is always hard (and owning your own business you can’t cop out!) That is why I sketch from photos or sketch the cats or something in our home a couple nights a week after technically I’ve gone to bed. I also sketch statues we have in our home, which is a bit more fun, as they are open to more interpretation. Otherwise, I would always be sketching the same couple of views, out our studio windows at work, and while I have many many sketches looking toward the Willamette and toward the NW hills, they’ve been done to death.

  • Kate Powell says:

    BTW, your six week trip around home was the most fun to see. More fun than Europe — maybe because I’ve not visited AU. I hope your lockdown goes fast… It has been nice to think that my friends down under were free to move about.

    • Liz Steel says:

      Thanks Kate – when you wrote your message only parts of Sydney were locked down (not mine!) but we all are now! 🙂

  • Martine says:

    Wow, what an enormous amount of sketches! So impressed! And I loved this weeks Edges livestream although I watched the replay as 1 am is a bit too late (or early 😉 ) for me.

  • mary anne garland says:

    Thank you so much for the time you invest in putting all of these thoughts, ideas, and images together for us. They are brilliant! A truly wonderful reminder of the importance of details…. the little things. They’re the stuff of life and sometimes they are just too easy to pass by. You remind us to stop and smell the roses or in your case, to pause and have a cup of tea. Bravo!

  • David Campbell says:

    This complete sequence goes to show that a lot of sketchbook pages can be more plain and simple, but at the same time they frame the showstopper spreads mixed in. My practice is more intermittent than I want, I struggle with finding the time. I ought to do more little things and focus less on the grand. p.s was great to see the kid’s works, well done everyone!

    • Liz Steel says:

      Thanks David, yes, those plain pages have an important place in the narrative of the whole book… and its one of the reasons why I do these epic posts 🙂

Leave a Reply