MyLGA2021: Obsessed with blue gums

September 10, 2021 | 14 Comments

My two-week break is coming to an end and in short, it’s been just what I needed! And interestingly it followed the essence of the trip I had planned. My plan was to spend one week doing a mini-road trip driving up the coast of NSW exploring new coastal areas and then one week at Port Macquarie. This second week would have followed the pattern of previous trips where I basically go for numerous walks on the beach and end up sketching the beaches (especially Flynn’s Beach ) over and over.

What I ended up doing in my own LGA (Local Government Area of Ku-ring-gai) was to spend the first week exploring different suburbs and going to the edges (north, south, east and west) of the area. But in the second week I settled into a pattern of visiting Lane Cove National Park each day for a walk and a sketch. And most of my sketches seemed to include at least one Sydney blue gum tree!

Much of my LGA used to be Blue Gum High Forest and the best remnant forest is Dalrymple-Hay Reserve in St Ives. I drove there on Monday intending to walk through it. But it was a little too quiet (I only go solo walking in the bush if there are other people around) so I just sketched this view from my car. (BTW bush = Australian for forest.)

The good thing about Lane Cove National Park (LCNP) is that there are always people, bikes and cars around (too much on the weekend, but just the right number during the week) and so that became my go-to destination. I also like sketching the picnic areas surrounded by bush – not only as there are places to sit (at tables, on the grass or from my car)  but also because I like the spaces and the random elements of tables and BBQs.

I’ve spent most of my break exploring the different parts of LCNP and having fun mixing ink, watercolour and colour pencils (both oil/wax based pencils and watercolour pencils). As mentioned in last week’s article, I’m really loving the tactile experience of drawing with pencil and mixing it with paint.

I ended up using the same colours (pencils and watercolour mixes) for all the sketches. They might all look similar but there are subtle differences – each time I was experimenting with different ways to create texture. 

I’m absolutely loving being in the bush so much (walking as well as a little sketching) – being amongst the trees, and birds (especially the whip birds) and water dragons. I’m not so keen about the mosquitos or the brush turkeys who seem to be more common and aggressive. Thankfully no snakes, spiders or ticks. Ha! I can’t mention the bush without some of the ‘scary’ stuff! 🙂

Here is my collection of blue gum sketches. There are other sketches with other types of trees from Lane Cove National Park, Ku-ring-gai Wildflower Garden, Davidson Park (part of Garigal National Park) and Bobbin Head (part of Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park) but I’ll keep them for a separate article.

LCNP: Carters Creek

LCNP: Cottonwood Glen

LCNP: Fern Valley (sitting right next to a whip bird)

LCNP: Carters Creek again (there is a story behind this tree that dates back to my teenage years)

LCNP: Haynes Flat (I got into a lovely conversation with a fellow walker and forgot to finish the treetops in this one)

Another location: Blue Gum Park in Chatswood

LCNP: Back at Carters Creek this afternoon to finish off the week!

And just so this article includes all the blue gums from my break, I’m re-sharing my first blue gum sketch at The Glades Reserve.


  • Liesa Miller says:

    Hi Liz,

    I love these sketches and the way they show discovering new views and elements while sketching similar scenes over and over. They illustrate that we can find interesting subjects around us without having to go to a completely new place or subject for inspiration.

    One question: what watercolor colors are you using to mix your beautiful blue-grey-greens?


  • Sydney Brown says:

    These are beautiful! We are headed up to Redwood National park in Northern California in a couple of weeks and hope to do some sketching there, so it is encouraging to see your paintings without man made objects in them.

  • Fiona Campbell says:

    Hi Liz,
    Really love these sketches. Obviously I’ve never experienced the bush but these sketches are so atmospheric with gorgeous blue/grey/greens. They are loose and lively with lots of woody & leafy textures. I have a sense of a very different kind of forest to the one I’m used to !

  • Angela Hallinan says:

    Hi Liz, I’m really enjoying your Eucalyptus sketches, particularly as I too am restricted to sketching the bush and finding it much harder than I thought it would be. My problem is working out whether to do some background, greeny washes first before I do the feature trees or whether to work the background in after I’ve done the bulk of the tree, or trees. I’m aiming for a fairly loose sketch . Do you start with the trees or start with the background?

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi angela- I think the bush is hard!!! So many open canopies and plants.
      I don’t work traditionally as a rule! For these sketches I drew foreground trees etc in ink and done pencil then added light background wash between the trees. I then worked up all parts of the sketch together. 🙂

  • manuela says:

    Hi Liz

    There’s something truly enchanting about these paintings. There’s a warmth and presence in them that draw the eye in, and encourages you to sit with them for a while.
    Beautiful work.

  • Alan Barbour says:

    This is useful; we have a lot of eucalyptus here in California.

    On another (and completely off-topic) note, I have finally discovered a very good alternative to the bulldog clips for holding things onto my support board. There is significant variation in the strengths of the springs among the bulldog clips, but even the weaker ones are still hard to use with my old hands, which have some residual repetitive stress injuries. Here are the clips (courtesy of “Mind of Watercolor”), right size and a good price. Being flat, they also stow easily in bag/purse/field kit/pocket, and being relatively narrow they are easier to place than bulldog clips:

  • Jamie C says:

    These are stunning! Your textures bring the forests alive and I can practically hear the birds and smell the trees!

Leave a Reply