RoadTrip2021: More Blue Mountains sketching

April 23, 2021 | 13 Comments

I’m having an absolutely fabulous time during the first week of my big 6 week road trip. It’s been wonderful to have Chris Haldane join me – we’ve seen a great variety of places in a short period of time and we’ve had so much fun!

We’re having relaxing days (going from location to location without any pressure to be anywhere at a certain time) followed by productive nights finishing our pages and posting to Instagram. Yesterday we spent 4 hours on these tasks – 30 min wait at lunch, 1 hr at our B&B before dinner, 30 mins waiting for dinner and 2 hours after dinner. Finishing our pages includes adding final touches to our sketches (I rarely do very much), researching the history of the places we have been, adding text and drawing maps. It’s a great feeling to have time to finish my sketchbook pages each day.

I’ve been really loving using A4 Portrait format Moleskine for the page layout point of view, but have been having some problems with the paper – especially in the first few days when doing landscapes. Generally the properties of Moleskine paper suits my style perfectly allowing me to do quick sketches with lots of wet in wet and wet in damp (see more here). But the paper in this book is not great – too textured on one side and too absorbent (and appears to pill) on the smoother side. So I’ve been trying lots of different things. I’ve worked out a few strategies for getting the effects that I want and it’s getting easier to use.

So needless to say, it has been a very full first few days of my trip! But today, I’m finally getting around to sharing a little more with you!

Starting Day 2 with cafe sketching

Starting the morning with a great coffee at the Red Door Cafe…


Sketching the tree outside to experiment with the best approach to this paper – decided that moving a wash around on the page (stroke and swipe) can produce the best results.


Boar’s Head

Cahill’s Lookout is a favourite spot of mine – with a great view of Boar’s Head (which I think is just as impressive as the Three Sisters) and Narrowneck.


Trying two different approaches. It was much harder to implement the stroke and swipe approach on location and the smooth side of the paper was behaving differently.


Full spread – nice to do two vertical landscapes!


Megalong Valley

We drove down into the Megalong Valley to visit a tearoom – it was lovely to sit outside and sketch the view…


… and have tea and scones at the same time. Still struggling with the paper in this one, but having fun experimenting.


We then drove further into the valley. Here is a church with a lychgate – I had to take a photo as the place we were staying had one too!


The hunt for a rusty barn for Chris to sketch (a favourite subject of hers) but this one wasn’t quite right!


Govett’s Leap lookout – Pulpit Rock

My favourite spot in the Blue Mountains is Pulpit Rock but it is currently closed due to bushfire damage from last year. But I was happy to sketch it from Govett’s Leap


Super happy that I was able to see the view over the railing when I sat on my stool!


Here is my sketch on the smoother side of the paper – the washes were a little flat…


So I experimented on the rough side as well. I think the rough side is better but I really have to watch the water. This was a nothing spread until I added some design… and an afternoon latte to it.


And here is the hero shot!


Sketching in ‘our’ garden

Our B&B was part of a truly gorgeous house and garden, so we finished the day sketching in it.


I did a few little sketches – still testing my strategies for the paper!


Completed Spreads from Day 1

See this article for description of the adventures from the day.

Final teacup sketch at home and morning tea at Wentworth Falls.

Sublime Point – Katoomba cafe – soup for lunch.

Three Sisters

All up it was a fantastic start to my trip and despite some frustrations with the paper, I’m really loving filling my sketchbook and having time to focus on my sketching again!


  • Laurence says:

    WHOUAH !!! What beauty in the landscapes as well as in the sketches!
    Good luck for the coming weeks 🙂

  • Dory Rice says:

    Love your Blue Mountain sketches! Would you mind giving a quick explanation of what you mean by your ” stroke and swipe approach”? I live in a rural area so do mostly nature sketching, no buildings, but have a bad back so have to be quick as both standing and sitting are problematic.

    Thanks! And enjoy the rest of your adventure!

    • Liz Steel says:

      Thanks Dory – I’ll share more about the paper and my technique soon, but basically I put down a stroke of juicy-watery wash (as described in my Watercolour course) and then modify the amount of water by swiping/ moving the paint around

  • Sophie Vancaillie says:

    I’m loving this, I don’t know this part of the world at all, thank you for taking us all along with you!
    I’d also love some ideas at how you go about dealing with paper that doesn’t behave as expected.

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Sophie – glad you are enjoying it! Lots more interesting things to come.
      Comments about paper are written in these pages, but basically I vary water and pigment and test wet on dry and wet in wet. I’ll try and write more about it once I’m caught up on my daily articles!

  • Barbara McCafferty Weeks says:

    Seeing your great travel sketches and commentary is giving me wanderlust!

  • Jamie C says:

    Stunning views! Stunning sketches! Such a gorgeous start to your trip! Loving the finished pages, and that extra time to finish them off really makes a huge difference! Hope the paper settles into some agreeable behavior soon, though!

    • Liz Steel says:

      Thanks Jamie! The Blue Mountains are really special!
      Paper is going ok now – difficult for landscapes and garden scenes but ok for architecture!

  • Paul says:

    Life’s too short to be fighting with paper Liz. Ditch the Moleskine and go back to Stillman&Birn or other much better watercolour sketchbooks. Nice to see you travelling again. I don’t expect to be able to travel until next year.

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Paul – I bought 7 sketchbooks and will be in remote areas where no sketchbooks to buy will be available. I love every other aspect of the book so it’s still my preference. Paper is getting easier to master 🙂
      It’s amazing to be travelling again like this – hope you are able to do so soon!

  • Auj Seine says:

    It is interesting what artists see. In that first photo you have of Boar’s head I am captivated by the foreground of branches and bushes. I see loads of texture there.
    So enjoying your road trip with you.

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