Addicted to sketching outside!

July 28, 2023 | 6 Comments

We’ve been having the most beautiful winter weather lately in Sydney (warm sunny days of 20C with no wind) and so if it’s a sunny day I’m desperate to get outside for some sketching.

I know that some of you are afraid to sketch on location as you are worried that people will see you, look over your shoulder or even speak to you. But if you put those thoughts aside for a moment… if it’s lovely weather don’t you just want to be outside enjoying it?

As for people noticing me, I’m finding lately that it happens very rarely! I think this is because in recent times I’m not sitting on the ground or on a stool, but simply finding a bench or low wall to sit on and so I’m hardly ever in conspicuous locations. Just for the record I actually love having conversations with other people mid-sketch and have no problem sitting in crazy obvious positions to sketch. It’s just that lately I’ve been choosing the most comfortable spots to sketch from. (Refer to this article for tips about what to do if you are afraid to sketch in public.) 

BTW I love being outside to sketch even when the weather is not so nice! I love getting fresh air (whether cold or hot), I enjoy the challenge of sketching in wild winds or trying to stay dry when it’s raining, and I just love being in my own little bubble while the world goes around me.

Anyway… to get back to my sketches… this article contains work done from two short outings – one to Milsons Point and one to Cockatoo Island – and I was experimenting with different ways of combining watercolour pencils and marker.

Milsons Point

It was School Holidays so Luna Park was packed and it was very noisy and busy while doing this sketch! This was the second sketch done in this square sketchbook so I was getting used to not having the height of the A4 and didn’t reach the ground in my sketch which I had hoped to do. Note: one of my tricks for urban sketching, if you have trouble fitting everything on your page, is to start at the top and work down. This is an example of that technique!)

Wendy Whitely’s Secret Garden (a favourite location with local sketchers) and I certainly enjoyed doing this sketch. This was the moment when I realized how nice it is to sketch right to the edge of the page!

A late solo lunch at a local cafe to finish off my outing.

Cockatoo Island


I normally go to Cockatoo Island in the morning… but on this occasion, I made a 3-hour afternoon visit.  Sketching two backlit subjects…

I was very happy with the colours and texture in the shaded side of the building at Woolwich Dock. How did I do that and how can I achieve a similar result in different coloured areas?

My notes on this page say ” This scene was really just an opportunity to try out a few things… not a serious sketch!”

Two more sketches trying out different techniques!

Final sketch on the island in the last 15 minutes before the ferry came. I’ve decided to leave this sketch as it was at the time.

And then I met up with Chris Haldane for dinner and did this quick sketch while waiting for her.

I’m really enjoying using a smaller book and the square format is great!


  • Patricia Wafer says:

    Great sketches, Liz. I have that same sketchbook and I like it a lot. Fits easily in my purse and not too heavy. Apropos of nothing I just wanted to mention a really interesting article this month on the Jackson’s Art Blog on Unbleached Titanium (Buff Titanium). I remember you had used it in the past and I have some Daniel Smith but never did much with it. It looks like it could be very interesting mixed with transparent strong colors. Probably more useful with oil paints but I just don’t have time for them at present. I have enough to do with watercolor and soft pastels and Foundations! I will look back and see if you have past posts about the color and I will play around with it. You have inspired me to sketch someplace special so this week I am going sketching at a farm that has a petting zoo for small farm animals and gorgeous flowers and now their huge fields of sunflowers just started blooming.

  • Patricia Wafer says:

    I did look up your past post about why you did and did not like it. I am not so concerned about opacity depending on the painting/sketch. I paint with gouache a fair bit and I like its opacity but I do also like the sparkle and transparency in watercolors. It just depends on what I am after. I will experiment!

  • Jamie C says:

    Such lovely details! I am in love with your tree sketches, ever since your Lane Cove days!

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