Melbourne Trip 2016 Part 3: Sketching Architecture Workshop

March 16, 2016 | 10 Comments


The second half of my trip was all about my 2 day Sketching Architecture workshop in North Melbourne – which was so amazing! I had a ball and was completely blown away by the quality of the work done over the two days.

So without any further ado, I will go through what we did.

The first morning was spent in a local park doing some warm-up exercises drawing boxes – in edges, shapes and volumes.

And then we walked back up the hill to look at some important issues when sketching buildings that have nothing to do with perspective, but are all about volumes and depth. Ok… I am a bit over dramatic, perspective always helps, but we weren’t worrying about it at this stage.

By the way, the nice blue building behind is The Auction Rooms Cafe where we had lunch together on the second day.

Look at this amazing work from the first morning – wow wow wow!

After lunch we tackled the complex architecture of the North Melbourne Town Hall.

This is a rare occasion when I did a complete demo – lots of fun!

Not quite as much fun was some of the locals that came up asking for money or abusing us. “Its just shapes on a page” one fellow was shouting at us. Oh! he was so right!

Once again amazing work! What a great first day.

Day 2 was all about perspective in the morning, and how to survive the forecasted 36C temperatures.

From the comfort of a cafe, I did a detailed explanation of all the important principles of perspective and then my pointless (perspective) approach. Then I then took the group out to this intersection and we spent a bit of time analyzing it in terms of eyeline and vanishing points before I sat down and start my sketch. And of course, part of the discussion was how these things changed once I sat down.
This is a rather complex scene with two interesting buildings on the corner. On the left a simple(ish) shop with a verandah wrapping around it and on the right, a highly decorative corner pub (with some quirky spacing). I did a demo of both buildings and then let everyone choose which of the two they would draw.

Neither options were super easy, but the reality is that any building you want to sketch on location is always much more complicated than the simple box diagrams you see in a standard explanation of perspective. So it is essential that you combine the principles of perspective with an understanding of buildings so you can tackle something more complicated. With all the skills that were developed on the first day (what I refer to as ‘understanding building skills’), everyone had some strategies in place to deal with these complexities.

Every single person nailed the overall perspective principles! So exciting!

Once again the group’s work was so incredibly impressive – here is what they all did.

Each time I teach perspective I learn so much and get a few more ideas for next time. On this occasion I finished the session by showing them how little I use perspective these days when I sketch. I am getting more and more convinced that perspective’s main role is to help your observational skills.


After lunch we were all a little weary and it was HOT! But we had a lovely little interlude before the final sketching session.

Bernard, one of the group, shared with us some tips on drawing cars! Not only was it great to look through his wonderful sketchbooks (so many amazing sketches of cool cars), but it was very interesting to compare some of the ways he draws cars with my architecture sketching principles! Thanks Bernard for providing an extra treat for the workshop!

We found a shady spot (once again on one of the wonderful wide grassed median strips of North Melbourne) and I did one more quick and loose demo – I might share a little more about this in the future.


The final sketch session was all about loosening up and having fun. After the intense morning, it was great to see people just going for it and the results were very exciting. Sadly, it started to rain a few minutes before the workshop was due to end and everyone left before I got a chance to take some final photos.

It was a REALLY GREAT two days – thanks to everyone that was part of it.

I love all the content that I teach, but there is something really special for me about these architecture workshops. It is a chance to combine all my skills as an architect with my hands-on experience of obsessive sketching on location. I do so many things instinctively as a result of my architectural training that it is really fun to be able to codify these in a visual way so I can share with others.

So it’s great that I start the same workshop again tomorrow, here in Sydney. Two weeks ago I was watching the shadow areas on the pavement and worrying about dealing with extreme heat. This week it is looking for overhead shelter and worrying about rain! Ah! the joys of sketching on location workshops!





  • Ania says:

    I had great time Liz. And i’ve learn so much in two days!

  • Dries says:

    Why would locals ask for money? You where in a public space right?

  • Jacqueline says:

    I was sketching at the beach in southern California (where I live) the other week and there was a homeless man who kept bothering my friend and I. He was obviously mentally ill, which is sad, but it was a bit disconcerting at times. Especially when he started throwing a tennis ball around behind me. I just kept calm and carried on sketching and hoped he didn’t hit me!

    • Liz Steel says:

      Oh that would have been tough. Our ‘friends’ were not in 100% in control. Only rarely happens that I have problems like this when sketching on the streets

  • Emily says:

    Wow, what a great workshop! I wish I’d been able to attend. I love reading your write-ups and seeing the work the students do!

    • Liz Steel says:

      Thanks Emily – would love you to be part of a workshop one day!!!! No idea where you live but it’s a dream of mine to take the show on the road.

  • Marian Hookham says:

    Thanks Liz. Excellent workshop. Learned heaps! Was able to tackle St Mary’s cathedral following week which wouldn’t have been even a vague possibility before the workshop.

    • Liz Steel says:

      thank you Marian! loved having you in the workshop and you can’t imagine how great it is to hear about you tackling St Marys! well done!!! Yay!

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