For the coffee drinkers...

November 8, 2023 | 18 Comments

In the past few months I’ve sketched more cups of coffee than teacups so I thought I would put a little collection together for those of you who only drink coffee. 🙂

My coffee cup sketches are different from my teacup sketches in that they are normally done under a limited time constraint.

  • When I do my teacup sketches I slow down and sip my tea while exploring ways of recording complex patterns on my page. Teacup sketching generally is a special sketching event.
  • When I sketch coffee cups I’m normally thinking about something else and the sketch is just a quick way to record a moment in colour and texture in my sketchbook.

Here are some of the occasions when I will sketch a coffee cup…

  • I’m with a friend and it’s a quick way to record the occasion while still being focused on the conversation (reflex sketching)
  • It’s a quick cafe visit on the way to an appointment. Sometimes I do a simple continuous line drawing of the cafe scene but if I want a little colour on my page I’ll do a quick coffee sketch
  • I’ve decided to have a work session in a cafe (I love catching up on written content surrounded by the white noise of the people around me). The purpose of the cafe visit is to work so I normally don’t have the time or inclination to focus on sketching. So once again a coffee sketch is a way to record the event.
  • If it’s a really wet morning (or I’m crazy busy) and I skip my morning walk and sketch, I might sometimes do a sketch of my morning coffee at home.

On all these occasions I’m not really focused on my sketch and as a result, my coffee sketches have become playful and therefore I willingly accept the wonky. They are also a good subject to explore techniques and mixing media.

So here are a few of my coffee sketches from the last few months…

Note:  Some of the sketches below were done during my dry media period (Aug- Sept) and even though I’m back to using watercolour in most sketches, I’m still doing the occasional pencil and marker sketch if the time is limited.

Coffee with friends

Olea Lindfield

Chippendale cafe


Coffee before appointments


On this occasion I had time for a sketch of the view too!

Roseville Cafe

Four Ate Five (Surry Hills) before teaching a workshop

Paddock On Crown (Surry Hills) before teaching another workshop.

North Sydney cafe


Cafe work sessions (all at Goodfields Lindfield)


Coffees at Home

So there you have it. I found more coffee sketches than I expected!

It’s great to have a subject matter that I’m very relaxed about sketching. I’m happy to go for it even when I don’t have much time or focus. Do you ever do sketching like this?


  • Maria says:

    I do sketching like that all the time!
    I have a notebook where I sketched every single coffee I had during Melbournes long lockdown.

    I’m still look for the ‘best’ coffee colour – what do you use?

    • Liz Steel says:

      Great to hear Maria. I use Monte Amiata Natural Sienna as the base and sometimes modify it with some Transparent Red Oxide

  • Lois says:

    I love this. Your loose, casual style really appeals to me and makes me have confidence that one day I will be able to sketch as you do. Right now I’m still getting my “sea legs” and need to focus more time each day to practice. I love all of the sketches but the last set of watercolor ones have a dreamy quality that I really am drawn to. Thank you for sharing. You’re teaching me that my art doesn’t have to be strictly an exact representation of reality. It can be a interpretation of what I see. Your workshops are on my Christmas wish list. 🙂

    • Liz Steel says:

      Thanks Lois – would love to have you in one of my courses!

    • Susanna says:

      I completely agree, Lois! Liz’s style has always appealed to me so much!
      Liz is a terrific teacher; I’ve taken all but the Teacups course (some twice) over past 4 years. I now sketch a lot and am slowly getting beyond my subconscious drive to sketch an exact representation. In addition to regular practice, the most important thing for me using a sketchbook that can take watercolor but is not at all “precious” (and remembering to challenge myself to take risks.
      Hope you get a Liz Christmas present!

  • Genny Pringle says:

    I love these! As usual, Liz, your work is so inspiring! The only problem is…you make it look easy, and it’s not. Your color choice and line work and mark making are true art. Now, I’ll have to pull out some saucers and see if I can find a way to make simple cups of coffee into works of art.

    • Liz Steel says:

      Thanks Genny – I’ve done SO many coffee cups over the years and they are still not that easy for me either! 🙂

  • Pamela thomson says:

    I want all of these. You express so much with bold swipes and confidence. All the media choices work. I want to start doing this kind of sketch, quick, intuitive and full of personality. I know it takes time and PRACTICE. Thank you always for your encouragement, sharing, and gentle challenges. Your classes have added so much to my life.

    • Liz Steel says:

      Thanks Pamela – love having you in the courses and on the livestreams! 🙂

    • Susanna says:

      “quick, intuitive and full of personality”….how I want to sketch like this!, too, Pamela!

      Besides Liz’s courses, the best thing I’ve done for towards this goal is challenging myself this year to to a simple sketch every day. I started on New Years Day ’23 with a watercolor sketch of my mug as the tea brewed and the goal of doing some sort of sketch each day for a few weeks, if possible.
      By February, I didn’t want to stop! I use a simple 6×9 sketchbook with mixed media paper and vary tools & techniques. I’m so tired at the end of some days that I just do a super-quick 1-minute contour or blind sketch.

      Initially, I was motivated to keep the streak going, but now after more than 300 daily sketches, I LOVE this daily practice and can see significant improvement in my sketches, esp eye-hand coordination & confidence.
      I plan to keep going in 2024 and am considering using only watercolor because I want to get better making mixes & taking more risks. Blind contours with watercolor brush when I’m really tired?? Sounds like a fun challenge!

  • Kare Furman says:

    It’s so lovely to see the artist (you) appreciate the artist (the Barista) in these moments. The beautiful designs in the coffees seem a mutual connecting of beauty and inspiration. Thank you for sharing them.

    • Liz Steel says:

      Yes indeed Kare – sometimes the baristas create special coffee art for me – they are actually super hard to paint negatively!

  • Marta Bielecka says:

    What tools did you use for the first cup after the “Cafe work sessions (all at Goodfields Lindfield)” writing?

  • Patricia Wafer says:

    Liz, what is that beautiful lavender blue color you used in some of these sketches? That is such a gorgeous blue! I’m really studying those Shadows they’re just beautiful!

    • Patricia Wafer says:

      Also after studying the Shadows again I think I could get a similar effect using some of my Neocolor crayons for adding some texture and adjusting the color in the shadows. And I do have some good Derwent color soft colored pencils I can try too. You have so many great ideas for things to try!

    • Liz Steel says:

      HI Patricia – well spotted! the first few sketches have a lavender marker and the last few use a neocolor II under my watercolour washes – its a light blue crayon but the watercolour washes add the lavender hue. I’m a bit obsessed at the moment with these complex shadow colours!

  • Jamie C says:

    Almost makes me wish I drank coffee as an access to this type of sketch and noting events!

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