Why I don't rely on feeling inspired in order to sketch

July 4, 2022 | 11 Comments


Last time I did a ‘Recent Sketches’ update I discussed how I got a new dose of inspiration sketching back home after my Hunter trip. This was due to my experimentation with coloured pencils and watercolour and so even though I was sketching the same scenes over and over they felt new and fresh.

However, after three weeks of inspiration, I suddenly started feeling a bit bored with my local Village Green.

But did that stop me from sketching?
No! not at all!

There are two main reasons why I still sketch every day even though I’m not feeling inspired…

1. I have linked a few habits together.
So whenever I go out for a coffee I sit in the sun as I drink it and while I’m doing that I sketch! The three things are tied together and so the sketching just happens. (Of course if it’s a rainy day I have to adjust the ‘sitting in the sun’ part and find a sheltered spot to sit.)

2. I love the act of sketching out on location.
It really doesn’t matter what I’m sketching, I just love feeling edges as I draw and playing with colour (whether that’s coloured pencil or watercolour) on my page. There is also something special about being outside with my sketchbook – being in my own little bubble while the world goes past me – that really gets my creative juices pumping. I suppose it’s similar to the way that white noise can improve focus and productivity.

I could share more about why it’s beneficial to sketch the same scene/s repeatedly but for today I just want to share my two motivations for pushing through any feeling of boredom. And this makes me think of a favourite quote from Charles Hawthorne:

“Anything under the sun is beautiful if you have the vision—it is the seeing of the thing that makes it so. The world is waiting for people with vision – it is not interested in mere pictures.

We must teach ourselves to see the beauty of the ugly, to see the beauty of the commonplace. It is so much greater to make much out of little than to make little out of much—better to make a big thing out of a little subject than to make a little thing out of a big one.”

Ah! those words are inspiring! I don’t need to be constantly travelling to new interesting places to create beautiful art – I just need vision!

So with that lofty thought, here are my everyday pages…

Bored with the Village Green but enjoying the sun. (BTW this was the first spread in Sketchbook No. 161)

Pulling apart the scene – part of a new shape exercise I shared with my Watercolour group last week.

Tired after the first livestream as part of the  Live Version of the Watercolour course so all I could manage was a simple sketch of two chimneys. On the right, I was trying to put together a set of Faber Castell Polychromos coloured pencils. More about this in the future.

Another morning Village Green view and a quick sketch at Mosman in my car before an appointment.

Fun zoom catchup with my friend Frannie – hearing all about a recent USK France event.

A colour chart is always a good way to fill up a spread!

Coffee and composite colour capital that you have seen before.

After a few days of feeling ‘blah’ about sketching the Village Green I got excited again. And that was because using CPs helped me see some shapes in a different way and I also enjoyed adding a few blocky figures to the sketch.

Another morning when I couldn’t be bothered to get my paints out again and I focused on a small part of the Village Green. A few other bits and pieces filled up the spread.

Doing a few watercolour experiments as part of my prep for the weekly livestream for my Watercolour course.

And then the next day I was back to mixing CPs and watercolour again… exploring ways of modifying the hue of the acidic Bruynzeel greens.

A week or so ago, the new cafe Olea on the Village Green opened. I had a coffee there during its first week (sitting on its terrace) but had been waiting for an overcast/rainy day before having my morning coffee inside. In the end, I didn’t bother waiting! It has a really gorgeous interior that will be a nice challenge to master. This first sketch was simply an exercise in exploring the elements.

A simple line drawing from my car before meeting MIke for brunch. Was thinking about adding colour to it later but the rest of the day was busy so I left it as it was at the time.

Back at Olea. On this occasion I was a little distracted by talking to staff and the stylist and photographer who were doing a photo shoot and so didn’t attempt a full coloured interior sketch

Third day in a row – lovely breakfast at Olea and simple sketch of the end of the counter. I can see lots of different versions of this marble in the future.

Quick rough sketch before an appointment in Mosman and my current/favourite cup at the moment. While doing this page I decided to do the final push for the 30×30 challenge.

Monday morning and the maintenance guys!

Got distracted by 6 magpies while doing this sketch of three trees.

Using up my last Dine Voucher (a post-lockdown measure from the NSW Government) with a truffle breakfast – yum!

Back at Lane Cove National Park playing with CP and watercolour to record the different colours of the tree trunks. And another direct watercolour teacup.

Afternoon coffee and sketch meant that I could visit St Albans and sketch this door again.

A big ink spill changed the character of this page! It was fun to try and cover some of it up!

And just like that, another sketchbook is completed (in a little under 3 weeks!) The boredom experience at the start of the book has now disappeared!

What about you…

Do you only sketch when you feel inspired to do so? Or do you sketch even when you are feeling a little bored and uninspired?

I would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.

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


  • Tina Koyama says:

    Like you, I sketch daily, whether I’m “inspired” or not, and I don’t get bored. I can sketch the same subject multiple times because I make it fresh for myself by changing the composition or the primary triad (my current 2 interests). I enjoy seeing how you change things up for yourself!

  • Laurence says:

    Hello Liz
    This is such an interesting and essential topic in any creative work! Who doesn’t ask themselves?
    And to know that for you too, Liz, this question comes back, comforts me. I believe that doubt (perhaps lack of inspiration…) advances my “artistic” research and my sketches. It also makes me think about the purpose of my work: but why do I draw? And I think I have found an answer: I draw because I need it, it is a necessity in my life, it is my meditation. And what I like most about my artistic work is the moment when I draw, and especially, as you say, when I draw on the spot, outside. It is a total harmony with…. I don’t know what… it’s very mysterious and maybe that’s why it’s so enjoyable!
    I can say so much on this subject, but I keep it short!
    Another source of inspiration and progression is to look at the work of other artists. This is always wonderful as an enrichment in every way.
    And you are a good example of this: your artistic work, your courses, your blog,… What support and inspiration for me!!!
    Thank you Liz for sharing your thoughts, your sketches, your enthusiasm 🙂

  • Yvonne Carpenter says:

    Hi Liz!
    I did not sketch everyday until this year, and always had motivation issues, sometimes going a whole week between sketches. But since I pushed to form my daily sketching habit, it has been a joy! It is the same with exercise – I know I will run, hike or just walk everyday too, so half the time I combine the two activities. If I go for a run, I usually sketch later, but if I go for a hike or just a walk, then I sketch during. It has also helped me be more realistic about the art supplies I carry! If I take something out with me a whole week and don’t touch it, I question whether I really need it on the road. I have trimmed my kit down quite a bit! I now have to learn to “feel safe” with a SINGLE sketchbook, lol! I often have 5 or 6 going, with different shapes and paper. Not knowing what will catch my attention that day, I end up carrying several, which does weight more than it has to. The direct watercolor challenge I participated on last month helped me a lot with that as I knew I was going to use watercolor, so I always had my “good paper” sketchbook and a few loose pieces of paper. It was such a relief to carry a single sketchbook! My next challenge will be to use only one sketchbook at a time instead of hopping around several. But I digress! The daily sketch habit has deeply helped me not be bored and find beauty in the mundane, often ignored, sightings! Yesterday I sketched the overflowing garbage dumpsters behind a popular snack place in town – the amount of trash pilled in the large dumpsters right there in plain sight was an eye sore and begged to be sketched, lol! I got rained on 3 times, but went back during the little rain breaks to finish it up! I also saw the ratio of sketches I do on location versus from photo completely change since my daily sketching habit was formed. I used to sketch from photos 80% to 90% of the time, and in the winter probably 95 to 99%! Now I only sketch from photos once a week in a zoom session with friends, but even then I still go out afterwards and sketch again on location. So maybe only 3 to 5% of my sketches now are from photos. I also don’t fear anymore sitting in public and sketching. It seems that the hardest part of forming a sketching habit is to start it – after you start, it seems to become part of your daily life and you find inspiration on really anything in front of you!

  • maria bergman says:

    Hi Liz
    Enjoyed this post so much!
    Would you share some infor about the tools you sketched in your last spread under “Time to Switch Gears”?

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Maria – Sorry.. you will just have to wait 🙂 It’s not fair of me to tease so much isn’t it???

  • Arlene Walsh says:

    Hi Liz, I really enjoyed reading this and looking closely at your sketches. I have just returned from Menorca and had promised myself I would sketch every day. Did that happen? No, I’m ashamed to say. I found it so hard not to put too much detail in my sketches. This made it so long to do a sketch, I just made excuses why I shouldn’t do it. I felt bad about spending so much time on a sketch when my husband was waiting around. I really need to loosen up and be quicker at sketching.

  • Cathryn Allan says:

    Hello Liz,
    I have really enjoyed reading your blogs over the last little while, but this one really hit home to me. I feel the urge to pick up a pencil/paint brush each day but sometimes don’t have the inspiration or imagination or discipline to put something down. So this is when I pick up my fineliner pen, half shut my eyes and just doodle or scribble on the page, I usually focus on a floral theme, as a continual line drawing can develop into flowers, trees or leafy vegetation. I Cauthen choose to add colour, often I don’t, as 9/10 I ‘ruin a good sketch with paint’. Thanks again for your inspiration.

  • Martine says:

    I just returned from a holiday to France and I don’t feel really inspired by my usual surroundings, but this article sure made me realise I just have to start sketching again inspired or not. Thanks 🙂

  • Mona K. says:

    I rather not wait for “inspiration” but do the hard work of making drawing a daily habit whether I feel like it or not. Kind of like practicing the scales on the piano everyday. That said, I am working on discipline or making it into a habit. I’m looking for other routines to stack sketching with, like your daily coffee breaks and park walks.

  • Liz Steel says:

    Thanks for sharing everyone! I loved reading all your comments!

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