Last Week: Adjusting to everyday life

August 15, 2016 | 22 Comments

There is always some kind of adjustment when you get back home after a big adventure overseas, isn’t there?

I am often re-inspired to try new things (as I wrote about in my post-trip reflections) and to become more serious about documenting my daily life. So I come home motivated to sketch more.

But it normally doesn’t happen the way I imagine! The reality is that my sketching dries up dramatically and everyday life takes over much more quickly than I expect. Of course once I am back home, sketching non-stop is no longer the goal of each day, but still I would like to think that there will be a higher proportion of sketching for at least a few weeks. I find myself straight back into the work life as it was before the trip.

So last week was all about finding time to sketch and trying to work out a new approach. Despite struggling with some jetlag I have really hit the ground running and I’m back into my work straight away – with ambitious to-do lists each day.

For me the real challenge is working out how to schedule some time to sketch and giving myself permission to do so. So on Saturday I went to a local park to sketch a tree – putting into action the inspiration I got from Robyn Bauer’s activity “The Body Language of Trees”. I am not sure how I managed to forget that a local park is a great place to sketch.

As I was only 1/3 the way into Europe16 Volume 6, I have decided to continue using it and fill it up with everyday life. It is a bit too big to comfortably use as a daily sketchbook but I am hoping that it will merge the transition between sketching adventure and everyday grind.

So here are the pages:

Final two hours of sketching in London. Sketching St Paul’s before meeting up with some fellow travelling USKers – who? Check out the photo at the base of this blog post.

Talking too much to focus on my sketches!

Final trip sketching and a first few ‘back home experiences’ – where is my normal wallet?

Two days of ‘not much’ sketching.

Playing a few games with a Palladio building (that we didn’t visit) and a Saturday morning latte.

My tree sketch in context and a palette exploration – nothing to report yet but a little more here!

I know that finding the time or inspiration to sketch regularly in everyday life is a huge challenge for many of us, so I am wondering what is your major stumbling block?

A few ideas

  • not having time in the day – just flat out too busy all day
  • not knowing what to sketch and being uninspired by your humdrum surroundings
  • not giving yourself permission to set aside time to sketch.

Or is it something else: the Inner Critic or Art Supply Junkie Syndrome (collecting stuff but not knowing what to use)?

I would love to hear from you!


  • melinda mcnutt says:

    all of the above!

  • Cath Marcquenski says:

    My problem is constant interruptions from visitors! Family and friends come to stay in my house by a lake, which is lovely, but they stay 8 or 9 days at a time and disrupt my art habits. Once they leave it is tough to get back into the groove again. I did love following along with your Europe trip, Liz! Thank you for sharing!

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Cath – yes, visitors make it really hard unless you can sketch in front of them enough that they prompt you “why aren’t you sketching?”. Hope you get back into the groove soon!

  • “•not knowing what to sketch and being uninspired by your humdrum surroundings” Oh yeah, this is me. When I fight it – ignore it, declare “No!” or simply sit down, open my sketchbook and whip our my supplies – I win and usually have several sketches to show for it.

    • Liz Steel says:

      exactly Cheryl – the most uninteresting things we sketch often turn out to be the most meaningful down the track

  • Emily D. says:

    For me it’s finding something “interesting” to sketch. When I travel or go to things like festivals, it’s easy to find things. But in my every day life I can’t seem to find anything that makes me say, Yes! I must draw that!

  • Cathy Dwyer says:

    Hi Liz. It’s the not knowing what to sketch and being uninspired by the ordinary, everyday same old place thing that gets to me. After sketching in Paris and Manchester my hometown and the areas around it just don’t get me fired up.

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Cathy, I know that feeling, but how is it different, maybe celebrate its not being Paris or Manchester (BTW many people would think Manchester is an uninteresting place!)

  • Andrea Olynick says:

    Unfortunately all your suggestions apply to me. The only way I know how to get anything accomplished is to make a list and stick to it. If I am forced off the list then I must stay up late and complete the list. Extreme discipline. Also the conviction that losing sleep is worth it.

  • Diane says:

    Not knowing what to sketch in my everyday and being uninspired. I have the problem that I want to sketch when travelling but know I must sketch pretty much everyday to be able to sketch reasonably well when I do travel. So it is not something I can pick up every few months and expect satisfying results. Must do the in-between sketching to keep up my skills (such as they are.) Unlike you Liz I do not especially feel drawn to sketch unless I am doing or going somewhere new and more interesting.

    • Liz Steel says:

      thanks Diane – I struggle with the boriness of my life, but my motivation is keeping the skils up. It ultimately doesnt matter what you sketch, just as long as you are doing something regularly.

  • Having courage to start: it takes so much courage to believe I can do it “this time”, despite a shelf of sketchbooks that tell me I’ve been pulling off the miracle of recording everyday life for the past seven years.

    And that’s where a trip does help vs everyday life. When you’re doing something special, the fear of not recording it/missing the moment triumphs over the one that moans “can I really do this again?” However, in the everyday, there’s no unique compulsion that pushes you through and often the negative voice wins.

    I think that’s the particular struggle of capturing the everyday: believing that it’s worth it.

    That reminds me of a post likening the everyday record to the process by which beautiful sea glass is produced: “One can own buckets of pebbles from ocean walks, so many that they lose their meaning. But sea glass is rare and more easily recalled, a reminder that beauty can even come from trash.

    “Just so, even a few gleanings in your sketchbook that you would consider inconsequential can take on new meaning after years, and glow with a joy and light that illuminates your life perhaps to someone not yet born. It’s worth immersing the leftovers of your day in a humble effort at a sketchbook and letting them tumble about in the ocean of time. Some humble things are worth collecting.”

  • Pam Thorburn says:

    I live in Edinburgh so have a ton of things to sketch. I think sometimes the choice and the ‘overwhelmingness’ of such a great city can be a bit intimidating. I am planning next year to do a daily sketch diary, and that will include the mundane as much as it does the grandeur. But meanwhile I’m just trying to develop my drawing skills and use of water-colour. The other thing is, trying to work out what my ‘style’ is. Do I want precise detailed drawings, do I want neat or loose expressive drawings. Do I want to add shadow with colour or pen marks…all big issues for a beginner.

  • Ania Drozd says:

    Inner critic – “is it going to be good enough” type of dialog in my head…
    it’s just sketchbook, not a building a rocket! it should be a doodle;)

  • I recognise the ‘what will I draw syndrome’. I just completed the World Watercolor Month and decided to focus on all the knick knacks I had in my display cabinet. It turned out to be an inspired idea because I all I had to do was walk across the loungeroom and pick what I wanted to draw on that day. As the items were small they didn’t take too long to paint.

  • Stephanie Reitmajer says:

    Hi Liz,

    I’m feeling a little guilty I have failed to leave a comment for all these weeks. I have thoroughly enjoyed traveling with you through Europe. But, fails to tell you until now. I have shared your blog postings with my husband, who also has enjoyed your journey. I am new to art, picking up watercolor since I retired last year. I failed to give myself permission to spend time on art while working. And, the daily routine seemed to sap all my energy. It has already been a joyful journey to discover my buried treasure I now call “my art”. I am also new to sketching. We are planning a month journey to Europe, leaving Sept 6 from our home in Oregon, USA. We will travel to Czech Republic, Switzerland and northern Italy, with a quick flight to Manchester to visit family. (When in Europe right?). I plan to take my journal. I know my pages will not be as lovely as yours, but still hope to capture the trip through my new found artistic eye. Even living in the new time zone without work I tend to have days without my sketchbook. So, I think you are doing great to sketch as prolifically as you do. Take care, and thanks for all the inspiration. P.S. I totally understand the art supply junkie syndrome.


  • Tricia Kidd says:

    Hi Liz!! Thank you so much for your blog.I really love your drawings!
    I find it is my inner critic often sitting on my shoulder, making me feel a bit defeated, even before I start!
    I wanted to ask, do you have several sketchbooks going at the same time? A daily journal, architectural and travel books?
    Many thanks!! Tricia

  • Corinne McNamara says:

    I do best with prompts. Travel, online, and face-to-face classes help; I’m taking a face-to-face watercolor class and that gets me doing value and composition studies. The watercolor teacher prefers gritty urban scenes and back alleys; I like urban, but with buildings and landscape more than cars, vendors, and graffiti! The classes get me thinking about what to draw and looking at my neighborhood and local areas with more attention.

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