My first half of the 30x30 direct watercolour challenge

June 19, 2018 | 7 Comments

Because I’m travelling at the moment I haven’t been able to blog consistently, but I have been keeping up with Marc Taro Holmes’ #30x30directwatercolor2018 challenge.

Here is the first half of my sketches… keep scrolling and I will share a few thoughts at the end.

01. Vicenza: Palladio’s Loggia

02. Vicenza: Palladio’s Basilica

03. Vicenza: Palladio’s Loggia (again!)

04. Vicenza: Monte Berico

05. Verona: Ponte Vecchio

06. Verona: Dinner

07. Florence: Duomo side view

08. Florence: Duomo again!

09. Florence: Coffee and cornetto

10. Umbria: window

11. Assisi: Roman Temple of Minerva

12. Umbrian landscape

13. Last Italian coffee for this trip

14. Glasgow: First Scottish coffee in the bottom corner of page.

15. Glasgow: Earl Grey Tea and Lemon Torte

A few thoughts:

Because I’m travelling, I’m sketching a lot – six days a week – so this challenge is a lot easier for me at the moment than it would have been if I had been at home. However I have to make a conscious decision to create a paint-only sketch each day since it is not my normal way of working.

I’ve had to strongly resist adding lines at times. In fact, I started numerous sketches with the intention of being a paint-only piece but either the time constraints (not a lot of time), the amount of water I was using in my washes (too much water) or the subject matter (too complex) meant that I had to cave in and use my pen. I have realised more clearly the benefits of mixing paint and line – it’s the fastest and most flexible way to sketch (for me anyway).

My general approach is to do at least 80% of the sketch in the first pass as I don’t want to have to wait for paint to dry. I then add some addition colour for darker areas or a ‘pastier’ wash for the details. But to do this the first pass needs to be almost dry so I have been starting the areas that need a second layer. And in addition to this, I like leaving a lot of white space. The side view of Florence Duomo is a good example of this – I did the full building in one pass, starting with the dome, and then at the end came back and added another layer to the shady side of the dome.

Subject matter: it is much easier to sketch simple subjects – objects such as coffee cups, food, and windows. Because of the bad weather in Scotland and/or being with family I’m ‘copping out’ a little and sketching my coffee/tea a lot. This is easy for me to fit in everyday so not much of a challenge. So I am hoping that I will take more risks in the second half of the month.

Are you doing the challenge? How is it going?



  • Emily DeArdo says:

    I’m not doing the challenge, BUT–in the spirit of you, I am sketching my coffee during my weekly coffee dates. 🙂 I have an “artist date” once a week (from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way), and I go to a cafe and order a coffee or a tea, and I sketch it, quickly, before it gets too cold! 🙂 It’s mostly pen and watercolor, but last week I did watercolor pencils and that was fun.

  • Robin Gookins says:

    I have made my direct watercolor sketches every day. I rarely get more than 3 likes, which I know is not supposed to matter to me. It is interesting to me that one painting I did that I thought was pretty bad received more likes than others that I thought were good. I am learning a lot from this challenge but I really want to use my pen a little bit. But so far, I haven’t.

  • Flory says:

    Thank you for sharing your challenge sketches, Liz. (The yummy treats make me quite hungry!) It’s both enjoyable and educational to study them and read your comments. Some are essentially line sketches using the brush, while others exemplify color and shadow shapes. All are lovely! I’m having fun with the challenge and have managed to keep up so far! Flory

  • pbass wil says:

    Enjoying your latest! I always do.
    Slight tangent: I see you chose W&N PottersPink. Is it very different from DSmith’s?? Does it rewet as well as the DS? Have you ever tried Schminke’s PP?
    I think I’ll get one, and my reflex would be to just go DS, but if you didn’t, I’m thinking there must be good reason!
    Thanks in advance, – pbass

    • Liz Steel says:

      The DS is more insipid and also doesn’t set – runs a lot all over adjacent pans in my palette. WN is much better. I haven’t tried Schmincke but want to as a few people in my watercolour course thought it granulated more.

  • Joni River says:

    Im doing the challenge too. Im used to do direct ink drawings and them apply some watercolor. At the beginning it was strange to work with watercolor directly (and a little bit scary!) but now im more confortable. I feel like when i started sketching on ink. For the challenge im working on a A3 format divided in 4 miniature drawings of the same place.
    Sometimes i try to follow tips (usually from books) but i feel a little “tense”,I prefer to draw not thinking about it and letting the brush to go. So im trying to have the balance between learning something new and letting me to flow.

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