Recent sketches: Local experiments

June 10, 2022 | 6 Comments

It’s easy to feel a little flat and/or uninspired when you return home after a big sketching trip. I used to struggle to keep the sketching up after a big overseas trip but in the last few years I’ve found that travelling locally actually helps my everyday sketching.

After last year’s big road trip I started sketching JimmyB buildings here in Sydney and I also revived an old interest in the bush (Australian term for forest) and identifying gum trees. And well, I’ve done a lot of bush sketching in the last 12 months, haven’t I?

This time around, it’s more about materials than subject matter. So even though I don’t think that my local Village Green is a very interesting space (it was exciting for the first few weeks only) I’m really inspired to continue my experiments with coloured pencils and watercolour. And in fact, because the scenes are so mundane/everyday-ish (ie. I literally return to the same spot to sketch every day) I’m feeling a certain freedom to go a little crazy with colours! And it feels really good to push myself beyond a safe place.

I do think that it’s really important that your everyday sketchbook is a place where you can take risks and have a licence to experiment, play and try new things.

And so I’m sharing my recent sketches in this article – some of them have really garish colour pencil marks under the watercolour washes.

I’m not sure where these types of sketches are leading… but it’s certainly a fun journey and it’s keeping me excited to continue sketching the same scenes over and over again.


Village Green: Lift building (lifts down to the basement carpark under the Green)

St Albans: Going a little wild with the CP colours. I didn’t have my paints with me on this occasion so the paint was applied back home. I also had the wrong sketchbook with me so this was done on Moleskine watercolour paper.


Village Green: Even more crazy colours!!

Village Green: Tricky scene with the background building in shadows and the lightweight rotunda in front of it.

Village Green: Starting with big shadow shapes in CP which created a lot of resist when I started to paint.

Village Green looking at the back of the Spanish Mission building. This is the most I have sketched of this scene in the one sketch.

St Albans Door: I was a little distracted at the time chatting to my developer (for the SketchingNow website) so I wasn’t focusing on my sketch much.

Freezing cold windy morning (for us) and sketching before an appointment. Was intending to add paint later, but like it as it is.

Two white Mosman houses in the shade.

And here are a few completed spreads.


This sketchbook which I started on the Monday after my trip (less than three weeks ago) is now practically finished. Doing colour charts in the lead up to the Live Version of Watercolour and doing daily Baroque Direct Watercolour sketches are the main reasons why I’m going through so many sketchbook pages at the moment!


  • Tina Koyama says:

    I have sketched the houses visible through my studio window many, many times, and I agree — the ideal way to experiment with media, color palettes, triads, whatever! The subject matter is familiar, so it’s easier to focus on process. Your CP/watercolor combos are quite vibrant and outside your usual palette!

  • Lance Whipple says:

    Hi Liz… I am planning my kit for walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain. It will need to be small and super light to carry in a backpack with everything else I will need for 30-40 days of walking. I am currently considering a 6 watercolor palette. If you were to carry just a few watercolor pencils what would they be for fast sketching, and combining with washes? Thanks in advance.

  • Jamie C says:

    I’ve been very uninspired to sketch my local things and seeing your experiments really helps give me ideas! I love what you are doing with your experiments!

    • Liz Steel says:

      I hope it helps Jamie – the funny thing is that after writing this article I had a week of being bored with the everyday scenes. So inspiration definitely comes and goes!

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