Sabbatical No. 2 and the Sydney Opera House

December 26, 2016 | 10 Comments

Last week I took my second sabbatical and I knew from the start that it was going to be a challenge. Not only was it the week before Christmas but also I had lots of home chores to do, and numerous appointments.

I further discovered, after chatting to Sean McCabe (from whom I got the sabbatical concept) and a few people from the seanwes community during the week, that most people find the second sabbatical hard. The first one is a novelty but the second seems to contain a tension between guilt for not working, high expectations of what could be achieved and a conviction that rest should be the priority. One week is not enough to try and do all three and that was exactly how I felt!

However while deciding what I should be doing, I had a little sketching outing with two friends in The Rocks area. I did this warmup sketch (starting with shape first) of our view from Foundations park whilst still maintaining a constant conversation (ie. I was somewhat distracted). This was done in my A4 moleskine watercolour book which I use for sketch outings.

And I then did a second version in my current daily sketchbook (A5 landscape Stillman and Birn Alpha softcover 8.5 x 5.5) drawing the lines first.

After lunch the others left and I wandered around Millers Point, stopping briefly to do this sketch (standing up).

I still had 1.5 hours until my dentist appointment so I found myself sitting at one of my favourite spots in Sydney, the small park called Hickson Road Reserve that is just out from under the Harbour Bridge with views of the Sydney Opera House (SOH) and the city. I know that it is very cliche to sketch the SOH but I just love it, and find it a wonderful subject for experimental sketching.

I had plenty of time, it was a gorgeous summer’s day with a pleasant breeze and so I just let the sketch happen!

And then did another more experimental version.

Ah! it was so good to be out sketching like this – I have really missed being able to do this often in 2016. Despite the need for catching up on home chores during my sabbatical week, this sketching just for me was exactly what I needed!

Let’s hope that I will be about to schedule more times like this in 2017. I love catching up with my sketching friends, but to do my best work, to reach the state of flow which I am always searching for, and to connect fully with my subject matter, I need to be sketching by myself.

It was also wonderful to have this quiet, calm moment to pause within the craziness of December.

What about you? Did you find any quiet moments last week to sketch?

And finally I hope you had a wonderful (Christmas) weekend.


  • Carole Jurack says:

    Lovely sketches of the SOH as usual. I have been playing with acrylics this past week as I am in Maine at the moment and acrylics were what I had on hand! Fun trying something new. Meantime we went off to Norway, ME for lunch and to visit friends and a huge building called the Gingerbread House which is pretty much the gateway to Norway, abandoned for many years and now in the throes of being revitalized, sparked my interest. I told my husband that when “they” finished the house I would surely have to sketch it. Well, I may not wait for it to be finished but might try my hand at it. It is HUGE and very decorative and will surely employ every trick you taught us during the Buildings Course. I think I will break it down into “parts” and work my way up to the whole of the building. Will take some photos of it as well. It will be quite an endeavor! Stay tuned …

    • Liz Steel says:

      oh- acrylics are fun (not that I have done more than a little play with them) and that Gingerbread houses sounds amazing. looking forward to hearing how you go! Happy New Year!

  • Carmel Campbell says:

    It is winter in the States. I spent Christmas Eve in my favorite coffee shop and filled a whole accordion sketchbook of people. It was something I had wanted to try to for a while. I also painted each page in the coffee shop. You could see in the last couple of sketches I was tired. On Christmas Day I watched the start of the Sydney to Hobart yacht race and marveled at the harbor. I will be in Sydney in less than 8 weeks! I love your sketch of the Opera House. This is one building I want to sketch when I am in Sydney. I do hope you continue to take time for yourself to sketch in 2017. Everyone needs to recharge themselves.

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Carmel – so glad you got that coffee shop sketching time. Looking forward to seeing you in Sydney soon. Happy New Year!

  • Ann Fortenberry says:

    I really like that last experimental painting of the opera house, Liz. Magic happens when you experiment.

  • I appreciate your reports on how the sabbaticals are going. I read through all of Seanwes’s info and love the concept. He had mentioned that the first one is great and the 2nd is much harder. We’ve been thinking that we need to Just. Do. It. Maybe this year….?

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Robin, it took me a number of times to hear about the concept to realise that I COULD do it. Next year is a little messy with me because of previous commitments and a number of overseas trips, but I will be sticking to it as much as possible.

  • Philippa Granwal says:

    Just wanted to tell you how much I appreciate your blog. The images are lovely and the information great and the time it takes in a busy life needs to be recognised! So thank you, dear Liz. It is generous of you. Look after yourself in the coming year with those sabbaticals and don’t overdo it! And continue with your lovely creating which gives such pleasure.

Leave a Reply