Last Week: Doing lots of sketching

December 24, 2018 | 8 Comments

I want to get back to the discipline of sharing my everyday sketches on a regular basis, so I am reviving the “last week” series. I have written two general articles about my everyday sketching recently – one after coming back from my big European trip, and one after my recent Californian adventures.

I also started a project earlier in the year to help keep up my general sketching but due to all my travel this year, that project was abandoned until recently. The idea was good but the timing back then wasn’t perfect. Now is a much better time for me.

So… how is my sketching going during this crazy part of the year?

Answer: It’s going great.

In fact I would say it’s as good as it’s ever been. That is a rather bold statement to make but my sketchbooks at the moment are definitely on par with my best periods of sketching everyday life. (I know this for a fact as I have been flipping through my old books recently and have been amazed at the looseness, colour and energy of my sketchbook pages from around 2014).

But in some aspects I think my recent stuff might be my best everyday sketching ever because I’ve been sketching things that are a stretch for me, and I’ve managed to do a lot despite being distracted by some demanding projects. But regardless of whether it is the best or not, it makes me very happy to be so satisfied with what I have been achieving lately!

I did share a number of reasons why my sketching is going well at the moment recently (check that out here) but the basic reason is that I’m motivated and carving out time! I’ve trimmed my Instagram usage and giving myself permission to hang around for a few extra minutes wherever I am, in order to do a sketch. I’m still not sketching everywhere I would like but it’s going really well.

And my sketching has been fairly varied. Here is my sketching prompt schedule for the last month of so. Only two categories which I didn’t tackle.

Anyway… I better start with the sketchbook pages as there are a lot of them! I’m sharing every page in my sketchbook since Friday 7th December – just over two weeks worth. So perhaps you might like to make a cuppa first.

Here goes…

Morning coffee and a guy writing Xmas cards for the last day of work – was he a teacher?

A working Saturday so that means my usual cafe visit. On this day I was interested in overlapping people to create depth and I tried a background wash around the coffee.

A combined birthday party for my 1 year old nephew and my 3 year old niece.

What I wrote on instagram at the time:
There is always a lot going on when I visit and I’m often on Aunty duty. But I’m trying to sketch more. The kids love it when I sketch their toys/favourite things. I used to do this a lot more when I only had 1 or 2 nephews but now that there are more children, it is harder to sit down and sketch. And yes, there is always the threat of a smudge or more serious mishap but that’s part of the fun.

A few paint swatches at the end of the day.

A visit to Chatswood for some admin and so I went to a new cafe for my morning coffee and planning session.

I had lots of chores and a bit of waiting time, but not much time to sketch. This was all that I managed.

What were all the chores about?

Well, I bought a new car! Here is my old one (which I had had for 14 years) just before I traded it in.

The next day I didn’t have much time to sketch at the cafe but I still managed a quick line drawing in addition to my coffee.

I had a meeting in The Rocks so I walked past Barrangaroo and did a quick sketch of the latest construction there. This building is in the most sketchable phase so I will have to come back and do some more!

Wednesday – I left my sketchbook at home but I was able to rip out a page from my Ciak Bullet Journal. I actually enjoyed working on this non-watercolour paper.

My new blue cup which I shared last week, with a warmup line sketch of Savannah City Hall. That seems a little random, but it was actually part of the big illustration project I was working on all month.

Sketching trees from the carpark after my visit to the gym – using a waterbrush.

Finally in the evening, I got a chance to sketch my new car – Mazda 3 (if you are interested SP25 GT in Machine Grey). I’ve decided to focus on sketching cars at the moment as it is a bit topical. This sketch was done from a photo and I was interested to realise that I drew the wheels way too small.

I know that when you are sketching a scene which includes people it makes it easy to ‘hang their heads’ from the eyeline, but when you are sitting down that doesn’t work. I was interested in the different heights in this scene.

Another post-gym waterbrush sketch – this is a bit heavy but it was fun to do. My waterbush was running out of water so the washes are a bit dry.

And so ends sketchbook #110!

I really loved using the soft cover Alpha 5.5 x 8.5 but as I was only a week away from having a mini stay-cation I decided to switch it up and move back to the bigger book – the softcover Alpha 8 x 10.

The larger size was a little shock to the system so this first spread feels very open with lots of white space. (Note: this is not a bad thing!)

Another teacup warmup sketch before illustration work, a simple line drawing in the CBD Westfield food court and sketching on the train (thinking about overlapping and varied head heights and how to achieve a sense of volume when sketching people from the back).

Catching up with Chris Haldane and sketching some people in context. I could write a whole article about this sketch. Maybe I will!

Another Saturday workday so another Saturday cafe visit. This spread is very blue.

The next time I was in the cafe I got excited that I could sketch two people wearing green, matching the umbrellas. Another waterbrush carpark sketch in the afternoon.

Sometimes it is not appropriate to sketch people. On this occasion, shortly after I started sketching this mother and son I realised she was crying, so I abandoned the sketch as it would have been intruding to continue. I have since found out that her partner had passed away – how tragic.

Another carpark tree (using a waterbrush) in the afternoon.

An early morning appointment meant a different cafe – Kurtosh – for my morning coffee. This was a bit of a watery mess at the time but I rather like its soft quality now.

After an ’emergency’ meeting with my designers to go through some tech stuff which we needed to sort/complete before the break, I headed to Greenwich in order to go across to Cockatoo Island. I had just missed one ferry so I had 50 minutes wait and sketched this house from my car. I did the same sketch 11 years ago in my 2nd sketchbook. So I will have to share a comparison later.

Next I sketched the view from Greenwich wharf across to the island.

The reason for the short visit to Cockatoo was to hang out with Pat Southern-Pearce and Jane Blundell. Pat is in Australia for a few months and it was wonderful to spend a few hours with her as we normally only say ‘hi’ at symposiums.

Here is my sketch of the back of the big sheds on a grey day.

After lunch I got to test out Pat’s fun crayons on Stillman and Birn Nova paper. I had to get back to work but it was great to be out sketching for a few hours.

A big surprise on this day was the brand new cups at my local cafe. I’m a happy girl as they are turquoise – my favourite colour. The owner Ken, had renovated the sign recently so I spend this morning sketching it.

Although it didn’t make a very coherent double page I had a lot of fun documenting the craziness of my workspace while I worked on the illustration project. I don’t have a lot of layout space in my current office so I had to be a little creative.

A neat sketch of a house in Mosman before an appointment and then I wanted to document all my recent purchases from Larrypost.

Note: Although I get bored if I sketch too many standalone objects, I really like having them scattered through my sketchbook, especially if most of my pages are scenes from my outings. Mixing it up is one of my big rules!

A quiet day at the cafe so I had fun overlapping objects to create a sense of depth. (BTW this is something I explain more fully in my SketchingNow Edges course!)

I had the last appointment with my wonderful hairdresser (she is retiring) and I sketched from the car before I drove off so at least I had a sketch from this outing – a red-brick church sketch done with a waterbrush. Note: I am trying to use a waterbrush more often at the moment to see if I can work out a way to produce acceptable results.

Another warmup sketch of Savannah City Hall before a big illustration session which went from 2pm until 9.30pm at night.

Another Saturday morning of work (final touches on the illustration project) so another Cafe Feoh visit on a wet day.

And then mid-morning I was free! Yay!

This page was done in between my household chores. Red shoes which were on sale, recording the fact that I am using my blue Hedgren bag at the moment (keeping my red bag for trips) and a very quick sketch of Uig, Isle of Lewis, as I was thinking about Scotland in the evening.

Finally, today I had brunch with a friend at the very popular local cafe, Goodfields. I was extremely impressed that the owner George, said “Hi Liz” when he saw me. Not only did he remember that I was a sketcher (I visited once back in October) but he remembered my name – wow! The food was incredible.

And then I headed to Chatswood for some shopping chores. Here is a tree loosely based on those in Chatswood Chase. A fitting way to end this mega article. I’m not big on Christmas (you can read more here) but I find Xmas trees fun to sketch.

I hope that whatever you are doing this week, you have a wonderful time! Happy Holidays!



  • Judy KR says:

    I’m so impressed with your new focus on sketching people and remember your visit to Texas in October 2017 when you started sketching people more. And new subjects of trees and cars! A question: when you start a sketch like the city hall on 12/12, do you start at the top of the page and work down, or somewhere in the middle? I’m always cutting off part of the car or the top of the building because I’ve not left enough room. Or not measured? Perhaps I will learn in Foundations how to plan for this? Looking forward to the challenge in 2019.

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Judy. I’m still not sketching my friends like I did with you ?
      Yes. I will explain measuring in Foundations but if I’m not measuring I like to start at the top. That way if I run out of room I stop earlier and say ‘it’s only of the top of building’. That’s muxh better than losing the top ?

  • Great to see some of the subjects you picked to sketch and the recurrence of your cups which are a bit of a comfort sketch subject for all of us to see. Looks like you’ve been very busy. How fun to sketch with Pat and Jane.

  • Love these sketches, Liz! And congratulations on the new car!
    And, yes please, would love a whole tutorial on sketching people in context!!

  • Jeanette Webb says:

    Hi Liz,

    love your sketches etc. have been following you for ages online etc. I’m just curious, is that sketch of your post gym workout in Turramurra? (End of book #110). It looks like the car park at the back of Turramurra shops. I think I spotted you there a month or so back with your red sketch bag. Then thought I must be going mad, because I had just been looking at your blog on my phone while I was sitting in my car waiting to pick up my son from the station.

    Jeanette Webb

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Jeanette – small world. Yes! it’s turramurra that would have been me! I have to be on my best behaviour all the time it seems.

      • Jeanette Webb says:

        Wow, brushes with fame! So I’m not going mad after all. Don’t worry I won’t tell anyone if I catch you misbehaving! Next time I spot you I’ll say hello. (Or if you’re heading into the gym and there’s some crazy middle aged woman in a silver forester tooting and waving at you, don’t panic it’ll just me me).
        Keep up the lovely work.
        Jeanette Webb

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