Sketchbook Strategies Part 2: The plan and a few goals

April 17, 2021 | 16 Comments

Further to yesterday’s article, I want to share a few things that I’m intending to do with my sketches/sketchbooks during my upcoming NSW/VIC Road Trip.

I’ve had less time to formulate these goals but these are the main ideas floating around in my head at the moment.

1. Focusing more on documenting my adventures rather than just doing a few big watercolour sketches per day.

So this will include adding more:

  • maps
  • simple line drawings
  • text and description of places and events
  • humour – I’d like to include “moments of the day” as I did back in 2009 (All sketches from that trip here, and a good example of my moments here)

I’m thinking about an incredible mini-workshop by Richard Alomar in Paraty as part of the Urban Symposium in 2014 – see here.

2. Spend more time designing pages and trying new things.

A few ideas to start with:

  • A new way to start my day. In the above photo you can see my experiments with a new layout and creating different guidelines – both in my 8×10 book and then in the A4 Moleskine. This new layout has quite distinct margins on the side of the page which should help to create variety with the other spreads during the day. If you are wondering more about my guidelines here (also Sketchbook Design lesson 4) and my date stamp here.
  • My favourite pages are always ones that contain a variety of subject matter (such as coffee and view) so I want to focus more on drawing objects!
  • Explore different ways to incorporate landscape sketches into the portrait format sketchbook (as mentioned in yesterday’s article)

3. As for my art…

I’m not setting any specific goals (apart from those mentioned above)  as I know that the act of sketching all day, day after day will generate lots of ideas. Even though I have sketched consistently since March last year, it’s this type of sustained sketching that I’ve missed a lot. 

A few random thoughts

  • Six weeks is a LONG time to do a road trip – will I get tired of it? (My previous record was 4 weeks road trip in the UK (Wales, England and Scotland) in 2009 – my first solo overseas trip)
  • How many sketchbooks should I pack? My guess is that I will fill one per week (so six books) but do I throw in an extra one or two? Ah! the dilemmas when the weight of my suitcase is not a problem!
  • How will a big Australian trip compare with an overseas one? For starters, I’m excited to realise that there is no jet lag, no language barriers and no need to worry about pickpockets! It will be strange (but good) to remain in the same time zone and this will be very handy for my work projects and keeping in touch with family in Sydney (not that I do much of that normally!) And it’s great that I don’t have to take my travel kettle with me! (Note: Yes, this is a random list!)
  • Will I be able to find good coffee in every town I visit? How many tearooms will I visit? (Just for the record I don’t eat many scones these days!)
  • How cold will it really be? My first plan was to start this trip in March but I postponed it so that I wouldn’t have to cope with hot weather (it’s much easier to be able to sit in the sun and/or the shade rather than just find shady spots). But now the seasons have changed and the temperatures at down to 0C at night and in the day around between 10-20C (but feeling more like 5-10C). This is colder than I’m used to so I’m definitely throwing in my warmer jacket. I’m thinking a lot about the crazy cold weather we had in Umbria in 2019 here and here.
  • Will I be able to avoid driving at dusk? I don’t want to hit a kangaroo! I just did some research and discovered that the hot spots for kangaroo accidents in NSW are Broken Hill, Deniliquin, Dubbo and in Victoria they are Heathcote, Dunkeld and Mildura. Some of those locations are on my itinerary!
  • How many unsealed roads will I have to drive on?
  • Will I become an expert at rear angled parking – and which degree (30,45 or 60) is the best? Note: Lots of country towns have really wide streets so this is the best form of parking.
  • How many amazing interactions with locals will I have? This is one of the things I’m looking forward to the most! Travelling solo for most of the trip will mean that I’ll have more of these than if I was with friends all the time.


Further reading

If you are interested in some similar sketchbook strategies here are a few from previous trips:



Well, that’s about all the ‘trip prep’ that I have time for… it’s time to start packing!

I plan to be active on Instagram (with lots of stories Monday- Saturday) but hope to publish updates here as I normally do when I travel overseas.

I’m so incredibly thankful for the freedoms which we are experiencing here in Australia. Currently there are few COVID restrictions here and life is almost back to normal for most of us. I’m very aware that things are still tough for a lot of you so I’m sending you a big hug! And I hope that you will be able to cope with seeing all my adventures. 🙂

Looking forward to sharing this journey with you!


  • Frannie says:

    I am still finding it super exciting when reading about your trip prep. When I read your thought about the risk of low temperature, presumably you’ll be able to sketch from your car unlike in 2019 when you were in Italy during the few days of cold and rain. These words “Italy” and “cold” don’t feel like they belong to the same sentence, do they? I am looking froward to discovering the many parts of Australia that I have not seen yet. Have fun!

    • Liz Steel says:

      Thanks Frannie – I’ll be better prepared for the cold and yes, can sketch from the car or at least warm up between sketches!

  • Andy says:

    Liz, I love your enthusiasm here (and in the old post from Brazil). Know that it is truly infectious. I am inspired to go make maps and walking tour layouts of parts of my own city! Thank you.

  • Dawn Holder says:

    Thank you, Liz, for your trip prep updates. They are very inspiring! Hope you have a wonderful time on your trip!

  • Zoe says:

    Six weeks is long but time to savor. I needed rest overs during my last 3 week visit to America’s South, spending a rest time in Alabama and Mississippi. I drew less but observed more.

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Zoe – yes it’s a long time but I like living out of a suitcase and don’t have a lot of driving per day

  • Christy says:

    Hi Liz,
    I am so excited for your trip and to enjoy it with you through your posts and IG. It will definitely be interesting to see your sketchbook designs tell your story over the length of your trip!

  • Maria Schnabel says:

    I’m excited to follow your trip and take notes for a future trip for me. Good luck!

  • Tina Koyama says:

    Oh, I loved Richard’s activity in Paraty, too! And I swore I would do it whenever I traveled…. but never did. 🙁 Have a wonderful trip!

  • Laurence says:

    I can’t wait for your journey to begin because I discover so much teaching in your travel diaries: your new artistic approaches but also your emotions in front of the place.
    See you soon, then 🙂

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