MyLGA2021: A quick update - forests, grand houses and working in two sketchbooks

September 3, 2021 | 7 Comments

So I’m close to the end of the first week of my break exploring my Local Government Area and it’s been amazing! So far I’ve been to its perimeters – finding the most northern, southern, western and eastern points – which all have to do with water and bush (Australian for forest). As each one of my outings is based around some walking, I’m getting lots of exercise too.

I’m finding new wonderful places to explore and sketch (to come back to when things open up again) but, more importantly, without the pressure of travel (such as I had during my 6-week road trip earlier in the year) I’ve had more time to experiment and think about art.

I’m really enjoying using ink, paint and pencils (both coloured pencils and watercolour pencils) in a really loose way, not worrying about whether I’m creating masterpieces, but simply doing what I can and having a lot of fun.

I’m finding it particularly satisfying to draw with line as it gives me a special tactile experience of my subject and this is especially nice when sketching the bush. (To use Foundations terms I’ve been feeling the edges!)

And so this sketch of a remnant Blue Gum High Forest at The Glades Reserve in Wahroonga is more about the pencil work than the paint! (For me anyway, as that is the part I remember the most!) The pale blue pencil (which is not accurate to the colour of the trees – they are more grey) makes me very happy! (It’s Caran d’Ache Light Blue Museum watercolour pencil.)

My two sketchbook strategy is working great. I don’t have a consistent way to use them so each day I use more of one than the other. It feels a little weird to have the narrative of my life split over two books, but now that I’ve accepted that, it’s totally fine. I’m absolutely loving the large size of the 30×30 Clairefontaine Goldline Natural book. The thin paper holds up well enough with lots of watery washes and yet as it’s not ‘good’ watercolour paper, it’s giving me a certain freedom to experiment.

 I’m also loving the Greenwood Journal! I’m using it for extremely rapid (under 1 minute) thumbnail sketches which are completely judgment-free! These rough sketches are all about capturing my first impression in the moment – just focusing on the main volumes, shapes and edges. These sketches and the pages don’t have to be pretty and this is very liberating!

Of course, I’m constantly tweaking my approach to thumbnails (trying different pens, pencils and colours) and taking a little time to neaten my scribbly writing within reason. This type of rapid sketching is exactly the style of sketching I used to do as an architect when I was designing buildings.

I’m doing a combination of thumbnail sketches while standing up (pausing during my walks) and a few under 30-minute sketches (or first passes) in my Goldline if I’m in a totally remote area or in my car. I’m also doing a lot of sketches at night from photos. If I have done a quick thumbnail on location I have a tactile relationship with my subject and so my sketch is not copying a photo as such – I have my experience and memory from a few hours prior to inform my sketch.

I’m also doing a little experimenting with shapes and abstraction. This photo shows one of my quick thumbnails in my Greenwood (done standing up mid-walk) and then one of my nighttime watercolour experiments in my big Goldline sketchbook. I really enjoyed exploring the massive mansions along Burns Rd, Wahroonga.


It has been really exciting to have some new ideas forming this week – they have to do with how I’m thinking about my subject visually! I’m finding that revisiting the basics (from my Foundations course) – Feeling Edges, Abstracting Shapes and Constructing Volumes – is really helping me do some new things. My concept of spiral learning (Foundations Lesson 12) is really kicking in for me at the moment and that’s very exciting and invigorating. I truly believe that returning to the foundational concepts of art and seeing them in a new way is the secret to developing your work.

So much for a quick update… but it feels good to have documented my thoughts and feelings halfway through this little break!


  • Laurence says:

    Always nice to follow your blog and your work. They are a great help for my artistic reflection!
    I use at least two sketchbooks, depending on whether I draw outside or inside. One to take stock of my day, the others to experiment.
    Thus, I discovered a few months ago the pleasure of drawing with quality colored pencils (this has its importance ..) Luminance and Pastel pencil by Caran d’Ache, Polychromos by Faber Castell,… I use them in addition to watercolor or directly to simply draw shapes and edges.
    they enriched my work by working more in finesse (complement of my watercolor), by expanding my color palette (especially for greens), by releasing my line especially to sketch people,…. Full of creation at your fingertips!
    That said, I’m starting to get a well-stocked pencil kit and I never forget it when I go out.
    I can’t look forward to learning more about your new experience!
    I am still your student 🙂

  • Jamie C says:

    Sounds like a great break and generating all sorts of ideas! Loving those gum trees! The blue pencil adds such aliveness!

  • Julie Kok says:

    I also love your gum trees. Very inspiring! I have been walking along the Warburton Rail Trail in Victoria (within 5kms of my LGA) with my sketch book. I have started with just my soluble ink and water which I’m really pleased with. Next week i will venture out with my watercolour paints and pencils as my fingers are itching seeing your coloured work!

  • Maria Lopes says:

    So, a little revolution in your Work! Always so much fun and work, is great to folow you! It is always an encouragement for me!
    Continuation of good work and vacation!
    As a thank you for your great contribution for me to have lost the ‘fear’ of watercolors, here I leave my last work. I hope you are proud ?
    Maria Lopes

  • Sandy Scheff says:

    Hello from Texas, USA. Love your paintings but have a question about the blue gum trees. Never having seen one, I notice that some are darker at the bottom. Is this bark that peals away as they grow? I noticed our crepe myrtle trees do that also.

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Sandy, These trees are referred to as ‘partial barks’ – a stocking of bark at the base and smooth above. I love them!

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