Sketching everyday life and making it memorable

October 20, 2014 | 5 Comments

I’m a huge advocate for the discipline of sketching regularly and using a daily illustrated journal of your life as the means of doing this (something I owe to Danny Gregory).

I love the way that keeping a sketchbook of your life creates a record of your life AND your creative journey at the same.

The way these two blend together produces something far more meaningful than simply a sum of the two parts.


Sketching Challenges

But for me, and I guess many others, there are two particular challenges. One is finding the time to sketch and ‘journal’ on the busy day and the other is finding something to draw – especially when we feel that our life is made up of the same grind.

There are a few great lists available (such as the everyday matters list) that provide lots of ideas as to what to draw – but for me, I want to draw something that is part of my day and not a random object.

Teacup sketching

I do not take a long time to sketch (a bit of an understatement I know… I am very speedy) but some days I just work flat out and the idea of making time to sketch seems difficult. I also find that on the busy days I have plenty of ideas of things to sketch and then the next day when I have a little time I draw a blank. Many years ago I discovered that sketching my evening cup of tea was a time and a subject matter that I could devote to a sketch no matter how busy or uninspired I was.

But these days I am resisting using this fall back subject matter – unless there is a reason – such as this day: historic last Taylors of Harrogate Earl Grey tea. The importer has changed and I don’t know where to buy in bulk anymore!

On the other hand sketching teacups is a great way to warmup when I have illustration work to do.

But I digress…

New developments in my everyday sketching

I am very pleased at a few developments in my daily sketchbook post Brazil trip. Once again, I acknowledge the light bulb moment of the Unfolding a Story activity (are you tired of me mentioning this yet?) Although fairly subtle, there is a shift in my thinking – I am being more experimental, letting the pages become more random and adding more notes. For some reason notating my sketches really hits a sweet spot for me and the pages that I like the best are the ones that are made of boring stuff with lots of silly comments.

So here are a few examples and ideas I have been exploring…

Some nothing days… a few things I bought from The ArtScene (which if you missed it… now stock Daniel Smith) and a craving I had for baked beans in the morning for breakfast! (some of the details I share are SO interesting aren’t they?) These are either end of the day wind-down sketches after my computer is switched off – or early morning sketches to get my creative juices pumping.

A messy random page with trivia but also including the big achievements of the week – trying to rapidly come up to speed with WordPress and SketchUp (it is amazing that I have survived all these years without using this great programme.)

A day when I was working so flat out but I was amused by a ‘trying hard’ fashion magazine I received. I had to draw an image from it and then the rest of the day was recorded in text. I love the idea of including more text in a graphic way. This page has given me some exciting ideas that I want to work out more in coming weeks.

A day when all I did was work flat out on my SketchingNow website – evening break for a sketch…”what shall I draw?” I didn’t want to sketch my computer (how boring!) but it was the only thing I could think of that was relevant. Somehow because it was describing my day it became meaningful and I enjoyed sketching it a lot.

Stuck in a car park and my new printer… I will talk more about my latest super fast watercolour pencil approach separately.

A family visit… sketching the stuff on the floor that was the evidence a visit of a sweet little girl visiting my studio. Talking about my niece I have to share this with you from last week

My almost 3 year old niece (S) who loves visiting Aunty Liz’s studio and getting into thing she shouldn’t. My brother(B) just emailed me this conversation he had with her one morning:

S: Auntie Liz likes photos!
B: Right; what does she like photos of?
S: [Looks up in the air] Work!
B: OK; what does she do for work?
S: Ketching!!!
B: What does she sketch?
S: In Brazil: work and work and work.

It is a total myth that my life is just one of travel and tearoom visits – there are hours and hours of grind and hard work sitting in-front of a computer  (like many other people).

Many days I don’t get out of the house (don’t have the ‘excitement’ of struggling with peak-hour traffic to get to my workplace)… but everyday is an adventure – achievements and little things to be thankful for. I am often amazed how much I do manage to achieve and I love that my current freelance lifestyle gives me to the freedom to sneak time to record these.

I can make a colourful page in my sketchbook out of any day and linking it with what I read from the Bible in the morning is a very precious record of the eternal and the everyday – living every day as it comes.

Ok… still got more to catch up with but that is a good start!

Update: As I look at this page in Feb 2020 I’m amazed at how many wonderful memories these ‘boring’ sketches contain.

These pages document a momentous period in my life – the weeks just before I started my SketchingNow courses. I had no idea at the time how much that would change my life. So it’s very very special to have these sketches.


  • Liz Steel says:

    yay – let me know how you go.
    Working at home has a lot of up sides but it is hard in some ways – you never switch off and I miss the buzz of the office environment!

  • Liz Steel says:

    thanks Nora – I sure do love what I do!

  • So envious of a job that allows you to work from home. I think work can become a grind for all of us but you do indeed make the most of each and every day, Liz. I too like the pages with words but then I consider myself a wordsmith of sorts anyway. At the rate I'm going, I need to start a good sketchbook journal routine. I'm not having time or energy for much else and I like the visual story of life.

  • Lots of wonderful loose gestural paintings! Awesome. Great to see a hard working artist who loves what they do! Happy Painting, Nora.

  • Your comment about linking the eternal with the everyday is so profound. You are such an inspiration!

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