First few days in Newcastle

May 11, 2022 | 22 Comments

I’ve had a wonderful first few days here in Newcastle. Despite a lot of rain forecasted, it’s been mainly dry and the rain hasn’t affected my sketching plans at all. (Super thankful for that!)


I’ve been to Newcastle many times in my life but nearly exclusively for day trips (including some workshops a few years ago) and so although I have lots of memories I have no idea of how the bits fit together. I have no sense of Newcastle as a whole so I was really looking forward to this trip. (BTW Newcastle is only two hours drive north of Sydney.)

So far I can report that Newcastle is even more interesting and sketchable than I expected!


I’ve been exploring different ways of combining coloured pencils with watercolour, and I’ve also started using watercolour pencils again. Note: WCPs have been part of my sketching kit since the early days and I’ve been using them quite a lot in the last 8 months or so.

I haven’t yet come up with a technique that I’m really happy with, but I’m loving the process of experimentation. I could have easily just gone back to my standard way of working but I’m in the mood to do something different. So I’m intentionally taking risks (ie. happy for a sketch not to work) which is something I didn’t really do last year on my big road trip.

I think that one of the most important aspects of being an artist is to listen to your inner voice and be true to it. So this means sometimes doing things that are not as popular with others.  I’m most inspired by artists who are always evolving, trying new things and pushing themselves out of their comfort zone. Even though I might sometimes miss seeing new examples of work in their early style I greatly respect their need to grow and develop. And personally, I’m happiest when I’m taking risks as my creative juices are flowing most freely.

I guess that some of you just want me to go back to watercolour and/or ink and wash!  🙂 But, as mentioned above, I simply have a desire to combine coloured pencils with paint at the moment. I’m loving the vibrant colours, creamy opaqueness and texture that pencils give me. And I’m excited to see how that combines with the transparency, granulation and pigment party of watercolour. At heart I think that I’m more of a mixed media artist than a traditional watercolorist but I can’t see myself ever giving up watercolour totally. 🙂

As you will see in this collection of sketches I’m still doing my usual line drawings, ink and wash and direct watercolour sketches but there is quite a bit of pencil thrown in too.

I have no idea where this is leading me, but I’m enjoying the journey.

So here is a summary of my first few days in Newcastle. (Warning: This is a long post!)

Saturday – The River and the Ocean

My first stop in Newcastle was the Visitor Information Centre to pick up a map and some brochures. I was impressed by the number of walking trail guides!

And then I walked along the foreshore in the Honeysuckle area. My first view was of a container ship arriving – an iconic Newcastle scene due to its industrial past and its present active port.

Despite having all my coloured pencils with me the first sketch was watercolour.

For the other sketch on this page I did use CPs but this was mainly due to the fact that I coloured it later in the day while waiting for my dinner to be cooked. Both of these small sketches were warmups.


I found myself walking towards the Customs House – it’s one of two James Barnet buildings in Newcastle. I had to abandon the sketch because it was too cold and windy. I feel a little out of practice… 1. One month since I’ve sketched on location with watercolour (and using a new palette with a slightly different layout of colours) 2. Two months since I last sketched a fancy building on location.

Here is the finished spread which also includes a map of the part of Newcastle that I’ll be exploring the most. You can see the river along the top (the Hunter River) and the ocean below. After checking into my AirBnB I headed for the beaches.

It was lovely to sit and do a sketch of Bar Beach at the end of the day. This Moleskine paper (the rougher side) has a little more texture than I like when using coloured pencil, so I ended up adding lots of layers and ink to this sketch.

I couldn’t really see what I was drawing so after finishing the above sketch I went for a walk.

And then started to climb the hill.

I didn’t quite make it to the top, but enjoyed the view from half-way. Ah! what a nice first afternoon in Newcastle.

Monday – Coastline Day

After a wonderful Sunday attending a local church and talking to some people whom I haven’t seen in years and years, I started Monday by adding some watercolour pencils to my kit.

I did this sketch of Newcastle Beach while chatting to Jane Blundell on the phone – so I’m not sure exactly what steps I used. But I know that it contains watercolour, coloured pencils and watercolour pencils.

Here is the full spread with another quick pencil and watercolour sketch I did during my coastal walk.

A lovely brunch at Estabar and a record of the WCPs that I added to my kit that morning – a mix of Faber Castell, Caran d’ache and one Inktense.

The sun was still shining so I walked out to Nobby’s Point.

And did this sketch from the sand dunes.

Once again I used both CP and WCPs in this sketch (but most were WCPs)

Here is a more classic view of Nobby’s Head from the beach. There are some covered tables here so I might come back later in the week.

Time for another coffee – this time at the Blue Door overlooking Merewether Beach.

The clouds were getting very dark and the wind was strong!

So I did a little sketch with ink and coloured pencils (mostly Luminance) and then later in the afternoon added watercolour over the top.

I had a few chores to do and then late afternoon I went out again.

Walking along the ANZAC Memorial Walk/Bridge

The light was beautiful!

And the views stunning!

The sun was going down really quickly so I did a simple line drawing.

Here is the full spread – including a quick sketch of the Bogey Hole. Another spot I need to return to later in my stay.

Tuesday – Grand Buildings

A relaxed start to the day with a lovely breakfast at Three Monkeys Cafe.

I really liked the effect of applying a grey watercolour wash over the red CP lines. Really lively colour in the shadow areas.

Next stop – the magnificent Christ Church Cathedral designed by John Horbury Hunt. I thought I would try that technique again – adding lots of CP lines and then painting over the top.

Three colours: Pale Brown, Mid Terracotta and Ultramarine Coloursoft. This is the blue I used a few weeks ago in a Lane Cove sketch – I really love my Ultramarine pencil.

Here is the finished spread. As always there is a little more that I could do to this sketch… but I’ll leave it as it is.

Back along the foreshore enjoying watching another ship come in…

… and the beautiful colours!

Worried that I was going to get caught in a downpour I sheltered in a local cafe, but the storm just passed by. And for the record, I don’t sketch every coffee I drink or cafe I visit. 🙂

Keen to explore the idea of using CP in shadow areas, I moved on to Civic Park and started a sketch of City Hall. Was getting a little tired at this point and so this was as far as I got at the time. I still had a good walk back to my AirBnB.

Back in the apartment I added a few more washes to complete the sketch. Later in the afternoon I sketched a cup of tea – yes, I am travelling with a teacup from home (two in fact!). And then I did some swatches to test further the idea of layering watercolour over CP. It seems that darker washes over vibrant CP are the most exciting. Stay tuned for more exploration of this.

And so there you have it – all my sketches from my first few days in Newcastle. It’s been a productive start! I’m enjoying exploring this wonderful city at a fairly relaxed pace (for me). 


  • Maria Bergman says:

    Love following your journey! Thank you for sharing!

  • Inge Hoogendoorn says:

    Absolutely gorgeous. I so love travelling through Australia with you. Keep it up.

  • Christien Van Driel says:

    I love travelling with you! Your sketches, photos and the stories are so great! Thank you for sharing Liz!

  • Jamie C says:

    I feel I’m on vacation with you! Lovely photos and sketches! The weeks of CP and mark making are really showing up in these sketches! I’m loving seeing how it unfolds over time!

  • Jeanette Lee Atkinson says:

    I like it that you are switching up techniques and materials – very exciting sketches. If you always do the same thing, eventually you won’t be perfecting the technique – you’ll be going through the motions. And when you go back to an old technique/medium your understanding of it will be enriched by your foray into something else!

    • Liz Steel says:

      Thanks Jeanette – I agree totally. It’s really easy to get stuck in a rut and stop improving. Mixing things up always helps!

  • Tina Koyama says:

    I’m happy to hear that you are continuing your explorations with CPs whether your followers want you to or not! 😉 Seriously, you don’t have to explain — be and do who you are!

    • Liz Steel says:

      Thanks Tina! And I’m not apologising for my ue of CP – just thought that it was a good opportunity to share some thoughts about listening to the voice inside and to push yourself outside your comfort zone! 🙂

  • Cynthia Hyde says:

    Welcome to Newcastle! I was so excited to see this post, and find out you are in town, after I sat down to have a break from playing with the new watercolours I’d just picked up today based on reading your posts about your own palette. If you happen to be looking for supplies visit Adamstown Art – it’s our local watercolourist’s dream shop, tucked inside Adamstown Newsagent (10 min from centre of Newcastle). Happy painting, and enjoy your stay. Just wish the weather was better for you.

    • Liz Steel says:

      Thanks Cynthia – I’m a massive fan of Newcastle… and yes I’ve known about Adamstown Art for a while so it was on my must-do list! 🙂

  • Stephanie says:

    I love that you are experimenting with WCP and CPs with washes – I hope you continue to do so. Your sketches are beautiful as always! Three monkeys and Christ Church are my favorites, if I had to choose. :0) I also love the photo of the ANZAC memorial at sunset – I’m an avid reader of WW I history. Thank you for sharing your sketches and wonderful photos Liz!

    • Stephanie says:

      p.s. perhaps a new course on CP/WCP and watercolour in your future? ;0)

      • Liz Steel says:

        Stephanie – I’m not really using them much differently from the way I have used WCPs for many years! There are already some demos of this inside existing SketchingNow courses – Lesson 1 and 8 of Foundations and Lesson 3 in Edges. 🙂

    • Liz Steel says:

      Thanks Stephanie – there is a really interesting glow from some of the CPs – eg. the red and the blue in the two sketches you mentioned!

  • Barbara Ross says:

    Hurray! A road trip! I thoroughly enjoyed the last one. I’m intrigued by the mixing of media here … love the big church and the red storefront … but also keep coming back to look at the Monday sunset line drawing. Not sure why, but it seems to be particularly « in the groove ». Anyway, I shall stay tuned. Happy trails.

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Barbara – not a serious road trip as I did last year… but I will be sharing more about a few towns I’m visiting.
      Glad you like that line drawing – I did really enjoy that! 🙂

  • Elora says:


    I always look forward to your posts. I enjoy seeing you experiment with media, and it has inspired me to do likewise. I also feel a little surge of joy whenever I see Bible verses in your work – I love that you do that, and it adds an extra layer of depth to things. Thanks for the virtual tour of Newcastle 🙂

    • Liz Steel says:

      Thanks so much for the comment Elora and always super special to hear from someone who appreciates the word of God. It’s the way I start everyday – the best way!!!!

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