Going through SketchingNow Foundations in the new year

December 21, 2018 | 13 Comments

As part of the preparation for my next SketchingNow course – Watercolour On Location – I want to go back through my Foundations course as a starting point. I always love going back to basics, as whenever I do, I find that my sketching skills are improved in unexpected ways. In particular, I find that reminding myself of core concepts, really helps to sharpen my observation, which in turn helps my fast reflex sketching.

Back in 2014 I found that the process of putting the lessons together radically improved the accuracy of my sketches and every time I have gone through the course (my Foundations Fridays series in 2016 and 2017) I have picked up new stuff. More about Foundation Fridays shortly.

And as we are coming up to the start of a new year I was thinking that working through the 12 week Foundations course would be a great way to establish a solid habit of regular sketching. But it it would be even better if I could do it with others! I absolutely LOVE the inspiration and buzz that comes from an active group going through a SketchingNow course together, so I’m offering a Run-Through of Foundations starting in the first week of January.


I’m proposing to go through the course starting from 2 January – with a timetable of one lesson a week and I would love people to join me. I will be opening up new question sections for each lesson and will be actively participating in the classroom for the next three months. I’m even planning to add new prompts for each lesson to make it more interesting for people who are doing the course for a second (or third) time, or for people who are more experienced sketchers. And I will be applying the Foundations concepts to some new subjects – currently my focus is on drawing people and cars, and also telling stories about my everyday life.

My hope is that a vibrant supportive group will go through Foundations together – kick-starting everyone’s sketching for 2019.

Note: If you have enrolled in either the first run of the course in 2014 or in the self-directed course since 2015, you can be part of this automatically. Please check your inbox for an email from me with more details.


So what is included in the Foundations course? The best answer is to check out this video.


As mentioned earlier, in 2016 and 2017, I went through Foundations and applied the concepts to some new subject matter.

These articles give more information about what we look at in the course and I thought it would be helpful to create an index to make it easier to read them.

Lesson 1: Knowing (and loving) your Materials

2016: Using a water soluble pencil

2017: Revisiting my water soluble pencil as I don’t use it much

Lesson 2: Feeling Edges

2016: Continuous line sketches of my coffees and a local house

2017: Continuous line sketches in New Zealand

Lesson 3: Abstracting Shapes

2016: Shape sketching of a cathedral, coffee cups and cafe tables and chairs

2017: Starting with shapes for a complex scene in Auckland, NZ

Lesson 4: Constructing Volumes

2016: Volumes sketching of a fire station, more coffee cups and cafe views

2017: Volume sketch of my peacock teacup and comparison of the three ways of visual thinking drawing a tree

Lesson 5: Measured Setup

2016: Working out how to accurately draw a latte glass and saucer

2017: Measuring the relationships between three random objects on my desk

Lesson 6: Minimal Setup

2016: Coffee cups and beach scenes quickly and loosely

2017: Recent approaches to minimal setup – more NZ sketches and one of Castle Howard Yorkshire UK

Lesson 7: Putting It All Together

2016: Coffee different ways!

2017: Detailed step-by-step of a teacup sketch

Lesson 8: Balancing Line and Colour

2016: Two different approaches to sketching a cafe counter

2017: More architectural examples of mixing line and colour – Palladio and St James Sydney

Lesson 9: Composing the View

2016: Using a view finder to sketch Mosman Art Gallery

2017: Comparing a viewfinder sketch of my neighbour’s roof with a looser version

Lesson 10: Creating a Focus

2016: Thumbnail explorations of a busy scene in Sydney’s downtown (lots of interesting discussion as well!)

2017: Creating different stories about the view of my neighbour’s property

Lesson 11: Working from a Focus

2016: A range of examples – Melbourne, Singapore, Norfolk Island

2017: Some local shops and more examples from NZ

Lesson 12: Reviewing your Work

2016: A few thoughts about reviewing your own work and my takeaways from the 2016 run-through

2017: Examples of how I reviewed my work at the end of my first sketchbook and my takeaways

Wow! I have forgotten how much I work I did for those Foundation Fridays series and how much fun I had doing it.



Sign up for Foundations


Anyway, that’s more than enough for today, isn’t it?

I trust that you can sense how excited I am about going through Foundations again! And I really hope that we will create an incredible community of people sketching now.

Will you be joining?

Foundations is now available as a self-directed course. Start anytime you want. Find out more here.


  • Nancy Nordquist says:

    This is terrific! Thank you, Liz. I did the original course in 2014, and it was a big boost to my sketching practice. I look forward to a review, and I am sure that it will be as rewarding as the first experience.

  • Mathilde says:

    I am all for it! Although I am still working on lesson 8 I am so looking forward to do it all over again.

  • Rachael Ayres says:

    What a pity that you are starting right at the beginning of camping season! Is it necessary to join then or would I be able to do this course later in a self-directed way? It was going to be my big purchase item next year to complement the watercolour I did this year (which in some ways was a bit like trying to run before I could walk)

    • Liz Steel says:

      You can do it anytime – it’s open all the time so no need to work through the course at the same time. Sadly there is no time which suits everyone.

  • Jo-Christy Brown says:

    What exciting news, Liz! I lived the Foundations Course and have referred back to it often!

    Now I can’t wait for January!

    Thank you fir the continued inoiratuon and generosity! Happy Holidays…Peace and Blessings…

    JC in Austin, Tx

  • Myriam Michaud says:

    Hello Liz!

    I would like to do the Foundation Course starting the 2nd of january but I’m a little bit hesitant. You see I live in Canada and it’s winter here. I don’t imagine myself doing sketches outside. Is there many exercices that we have to do outdoor?


    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Myriam, there are a combination of indoor and outdoor exercises. Some of the outdoor exercises can be done in cafes (ie. public places). Due to the winter months I am ok with people taking photos of their local area to work off (as long as they explain this) and then when it warms up they can go outside and do it ‘properly’. Hope that helps

  • Rae says:

    Hi Liz, which Stillman and Birn alpha sketch book should I get? The landscape A4 size? I also love the cream paper version in the same weight paper- would that be ok?
    I’m in, lovely time of year to do this course!

    Thanks, Rae

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Rae, If you love the cream – get it. As for the size… as long as it is A5 size as a minimum then it will be fine. So many factors and personal preferences go into finding the best format for YOU that it is hard for me to be prescriptive. If you want a good generous size I love the 8×10 but the smaller landscape is good too

  • Jay Johnston says:

    Hi Liz
    So happy you decided to do this. I took the watercolor class live (so to speak) and it was fun having a group of peers to comment on and watch as they were going thru the class. I had started the Foundations class, really liked it but missed the live interaction. Now it’s fun to see everybody and be able to participate in the discussion forum and other aspects that make this seem more dynamic.

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Jay. I know that you have been plugging away at the course on your own (well done!) but so glad you like the re-run. With all my travel these days it’s hard to find a 12 week block when I could host it. ? enjoy!!!

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