Peppermint and Turpentine - a step by step of a bush sketch

November 10, 2021 | 2 Comments

A number of you have been asking for an explanation of how I do my bush (forest) sketches. I have already shared a few progress photos of my Greenwood (marker) sketches here, but today I will do a similar process for my ink, watercolour pencil and watercolour sketches in my Alpha sketchbook.

I’ve been a little reluctant to share a step-by-step of my sketch because I’m still very much in experimental mode and I’m constantly tweaking the process. I work in a very non-traditional way as a rule and these bush sketches are no exception. I love mixing up line and shape.

I also generally don’t include as much texture in my work… but this is just the mood I’m in at the moment. I suspect that at some stage I will radically reduce the amount of line (both ink and pencil) but right now I feel a need to feel the edges. (A concept from my Foundations course).

So I don’t want you to think that I’m sharing a lesson on how to sketch bush/forest scenes similar to mine –  okay? These images are simply a record of my steps for one of my sketches last week.

If you want instruction on landscapes please refer to Edges Lesson 2 (including recent livestreams), Watercolour Lesson 2 and Watercolour On Location Lesson 3. The recent Edges Group Run-through has been particularly influential in helping me develop my approach.

My Lane Cove National Park sketches are very important as a ‘just for me’ sketching session in the middle of my workday with the goal of finding and maintaining a flow while being surrounded by nature. Stopping to take photos at various stages did interrupt my flow a little on this occasion and I ended up doing more pencil work than usual. 🙂

I rarely take photos of the bush scenes I’m sketching, since a photo flattens the scene so much that it’s hard to read. So this article does not include a photo of the scene I was sketching at the time.

But here is a photo of a typical picnic area in Lane Cove National Park taken on a wet day which gives you a general idea of what I’m constantly sketching.

On this occasion, I sketched two trees – a Sydney Peppermint and a Turpentine – at one of the smaller picnic areas. I sat in my car as it was a hot day and I wanted to sit in some shade. This meant even lighting – perfect for taking photos.

Enough general comments… here are my steps for this sketch.

A few quick minimal setup lines (another Foundations concept) to decide on the composition.

Drawing the main edges in ink (refer Edges course) with my 55 degree fude pen. These edges are usually the foreground and middle ground tree trunks and some of the edges describing the foliage.

Adding texture (round 1) – to tree trunks and other bits of foliage. See here for more about the pencils I’m using.

First watercolour wash for the background (for more about my bush mixes see here)

Adding some more texture – using the WCPs and ink into wet washes at times. 🙂

Then paint on top….

And finally more paint. This is where the sketch was when I was finished. It took me about 20 minutes to get to this point with lots of rapid mark making!

Note: Most of my bush sketches are done within 15-30 minutes.

Please let me know (in the comment section below) if you have any questions!


This particular sketch was done at the Echidna picnic area.

An echidna is an Australian marsupial that is a mix of a hedgehog and anteater (it’s called a spiny anteater). I saw my first one last week digging a hole by the track along the river and a fellow walker told me that she sees them often.

I also met Rob, a local photographer, who gave me lots of tips for seeing more wildlife. He has some better photos of an echidna here and lots of other amazing animals found at Lane Cove National Park. So I’m now on the lookout for goannas (lace monitors)!


  • David Campbell says:

    Great “not a lesson” outline of the process! Practical information, but also showed me that though I “know” my processes, I haven’t thought about them as distinct steps with an aim. I will be more mindful now. Thanks too for inspiring me to reacquaint myself with echidnas… so interesting.

    • Liz Steel says:

      Thanks David!!!! It’s always good to document your work and really try and break it down into steps. And yes echidnas are very special!

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