Last Week: Not focusing on sketching?

April 11, 2016 | 13 Comments

Last week when I was writing up my thoughts about my “Out of Action” week I realised that right at the moment sketching is not my focus. And this was proved emphatically when I realised that I’ve had some new paint tubes for the last month that have been sitting unopened.

So far, this year has been all about:

  • working on some big projects,
  • writing a book,
  • redesigning my blog,
  • relaunching Edges and
  • establishing some back of house systems so that I’m working smarter.

I am still sketching regularly but I am not going out of my way to ‘do a sketch’ and if it wasn’t for my morning lattes I might have abandoned my sketchbook for days on end! So herein lies a huge benefit of a daily ritual and despite the repetitive nature of sketching my coffee every morning (ie. in danger of becoming boring?) , it is keeping me sketching and doing something each day.

There are times when I am really focused on my art, when I am working on a project, when preparing for a new online class, or when trying to develop one aspect that needs work. But that is not the case right now.

I am not worried about the fact that I am ‘just going through the motions’ a little at the moment, because as I saw last week, I am starting to do interesting things with my lattes. However I had a big lightbulb moment on Saturday evening when I put aside two hours to do a few ‘collection’ sketches. Carving out some time to ‘do art just for me ’ rather than just trying to squeeze it in, was a great feeling! Oh! I  realised what I’ve been missing.

A few other comments:

  • Please don’t ever compare my output with yours. When I say its a lean week for me, it is relative to my normal week. ALWAYS analyse your own work relative to your own practices and experience.
  • There is no doubt that the habit of putting together these weekly wrap up posts is keeping me thinking about my weekly output, which is a good thing! It is possible that my sketching would have slid further if I hadn’t created this self-imposed weekly check in!
  • Thanks for letting me ramble each week – I really appreciate it!

So here is last week’s collection of sketches:


Starting off with a re-post of my first sketch on Monday morning.

Playing with coloured pencils and more lattes…

A few days when I expected that I wouldn’t have time to sketch, so I bunched my text together. More about that cuppa sketch here.

My big launch day for Edges so my latte sketch was all about playing with lines and colours and thinking about lost and found edges. I decided to add an image of the very helpful google sheet I set up for the last 50-odd tasks that needed to be done before the launch.

Friday: latte sketch of the week, a grid-locked traffic sketch and a crazy quote from John Ruskin about Palladio that I had to record.

Here’s a closer look at that latte sketch!

Saturday: a weekly cafe planning visit on the weekend (oops! that is not supposed to happen, weekends are supposed to be work-free), a little collage and then I decided to record my current summer work wardrobe.

Sometimes I am tempted to think that there is nothing interesting happening that is ‘sketchable’ but recording what things are like right now make can make the most fascinating images to review a few years down the track.

Finally opening up the Alvaro Castagnet set of Daniel Smith 5mL tubes that I bought on sale in Melbourne. I bought this kit because of a new colour that you can only get in this set: Burnt Sienna Light. This colour is very similar to Winsor and Newton Burnt Sienna (a orange earth colour PR101) and I am keen to test it out more.

Those of my readers who are used to the WN Burnt Sienna might have found that Burnt Sinena in other brands is quite a different colour – more of a semi-opaque earth red (rather than orange) colour ( PBr7) and that is because WN ueses a different pigment from the other brands. The most similar DS colours are Quin Burnt Orange which doesn’t mix as neutral a grey with Ultramarine and Transparent Red Oxide (what I use) which is a highly reactive crazy colour so it isn’t suitable for beginners or people who want more control. Therefore adding this colour to the range is great news. It’s just very frustrating that you can only get this colour by buying the Alvaro whole set and I hope that DS will release it as a stand alone colour soon. Read more about this set on Jane Blundell’s blog.

I also have a collection of brushes that I want to play with. Speaking of brushes, it was lovely to be featured on the Rosemary Brushes blog here.

Anyway… I started the week deciding that I wasn’t focused on my sketching, but I thinking now that things are about to change.

I am really LOVING getting lots of comments in these “last week” posts. It is so great to hear from my readers because I love connecting with you thought your comments.

So what are you focusing on right now? What are you working on with your sketching?


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  • Delilah says:

    I love seeing your daily latte sketches. I want to start doing something like that, developing a routine to sketch. And getting out to do so because at home I tend to play with or watch my kittens play, as I’m doing right now. I do have a nice commission to get started this week, though, so I feel like I’m not entirely a lazy bum. Just mostly.

  • Shirley Ann miller says:

    I’m trying to find a way to keep a daily sketching journal. I guess it can’t be forced. I am sketching in sketchbooks as an urban sketcher a lot now, but I don’t have a feel for recording my life in a sketchbook. But I am wishing to do that. Thank you for sharing your process, it helps. And you drawings and sketches are an inspiration as well.

  • Shirley Ann miller says:

    I’m trying to find a way to keep a daily sketching journal. I guess it can’t be forced. I am sketching in sketchbooks as an urban sketcher a lot now, but I don’t have a feel for recording my life in a sketchbook. But I am wishing to do that. Thank you for sharing your process, it helps. And your drawings and sketches are an inspiration as well.

  • Joanne McCabe says:

    Right now, I’m trying to develop intuition of how light interacts with objects to convey volume. For so long, however, I’ve only worked with crappy light — too broad/weak, changing/boring orientation, etc. But to ever learn how to compensate for less-than-ideal situations, I knew I had to explore light in a more controlled environment.

    Thus, this last weekend, I went to our local Ikea store (the best place around here to get lamps), and picked up a couple of goose-neck pin lights. Super cheap, super long, and super snakey necks that I can crank around any which way, and it’s like “Oh! So THAT’S what a cylinder does when a light come in from this angle, or that!” it’s been a major illumination, that’s for sure, in just these couple of days.

    Bad light is like bad materials: one can muddle through, but the results will likely be muddle-y, and it’s a harder (and more frustrating) way to learn.

  • stacey vadaj says:

    I love when you’re “not sketching” because that’s when you do random drawings that turn out so well. love the lattes and the wardrobe drawings.

  • Jane Wilson says:

    Liz, your posts are like rich meals, I don’t always have time for more than a quick bite, but I read all of this one, and really enjoyed it. I liked what you had to said about only comparing yourself to yourself, and am inspired by your daily latte drawings, simple but persistent. I think if I managed that and a shower every day and nothing else, I would feel I had accomplished something. This week I am obsessed with finishing a little sketchbook for the Sketchbook Project in Brooklyn. ( For $60 you can support their cause, they send you a blank sketchbook and you fill it and send it back and they put it in their library. They also scan your book and you get a link. They have a mobile van with sketchbooks to view that goes to different cities. Very cool. I decided to draw some of a salt and pepper shaker collection I have as a theme, and I am using fountain pens in different colors. I’ve discovered that the paper is thinner than I would ordinarily choose, so there is showthrough, but I’ve decided not to care as it is the act of drawing and finishing this that is important right now. I’ve also enjoyed reading some of your journaling from your spiritual life – peaceful thoughts.

    • Diego Akel says:

      “Rich meals”, great definition Jane! Each time the posts from Liz get more delicious, by the way! 😀

    • Liz Steel says:

      thanks so much Jane. I love the phrase simple but persistent. And yes, I know all about Sketchbook Project. I participated in a few of their very early ones, but prefer to keep my own artwork or give it to a friend.

  • Diego Akel says:

    So nice to read the posts of your processes Liz, I think everybody who reads here who is an artist (or work in some creative level) relates with it somehow. Right now I’m begin to work in a commissioned work in animation, which will consumes a lot of time in the next few weeks, but I’m really enjoying to spent time on my sketchbooks; it’s almost an year since I’ve started to use them as a personal recording of my life, writing, scribbing, drawing, painting, using collage and so on… and has become more interesting to make on each new book (I’ve been also binding my own sketchbooks, which adds even more to the fun of it). So, it has become a sort of challenge to myself to make the journal recordings even in busy work agendas and stuff. Right for instance, I just drew the animation stand ready to animate, and wrote a little bit of the details. I totally agree with you Liz, the time will bring the real nature of our drawings. In future times these little and (quite often we so think of it) silly impressions on paper will reveal themselves as real treasures bring by our time-machines sketchbooks. Long live to the daily drawing recordings in sketchbooks! 😀

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