Sketching standing up (and with new tools)

September 19, 2022 | 10 Comments

I had a number of goals with my sketching today:

  • do the drawing exercise as part of the Watercolour On Location Intro Lesson 4
  • think more about the concepts I discovered while doing the Intro Lesson 2 exercise (see here for more about that )

As a part of the general prep for the Live Version of Watercolour On Location I wanted to start:

  • focusing more on sketching complex scenes
  • sketching standing up (I haven’t done this for a long time)
  • thinking through the concepts and exercises of Lesson 1 and 2
  • testing the Pilot marker brush pens.

This morning’s sketch was a quick 5 minute drawing looking down Pacific Hwy and I wanted to test the accuracy of my reflex drawing skills (something I discuss in Intro Lesson 4).

So I started with a 10-second pencil outline and then drew quickly in ink using my 55 degree fude. I then added a little colour/value using two Pilot Brush Pens (with a felt marker-style tip). I recently got one from LarryPost and like it so much that I bought two more. (see this article for more details)

Back home I overlaid my sketch on a photo and was pleased with the accuracy of my sketch (considering the speed I did it and the fact that I did no measuring). I know that my object brain wants me to draw distant objects too large and that I never foreshorten enough.

I also decided to document the ink that I have put in these Pilot Marker Brush Pens. I wasn’t happy with the green (I want it to be more like Indanthrone Blue) so I changed the ink in the cartridge to a blue/black combo. I also have grey ink in one and a raw sienna colour in the other pen. All inks are water-soluble and selections are based on what I currently have in my collection.

I’m still very much in testing mode – to see if these ink selections will work for me and to see if these pens are the best tool I could be using. I’m not sure how long the marker tip will last and so I’m already considering whether putting ink in waterbrushes might work better. So stay tuned for more explorations!

This afternoon I visited Lane Cove National Park (as I often do) and decided to do a few sketches standing up. I’ve become rather ‘soft’ lately and mostly sketch from a seat position – and in fact, normally sit down on a bench and then look for something to sketch. But really it’s so much better to look for something interesting to sketch to start with. Being able to stand and sketch comfortably means that you have many more options in terms of view and time.

 I want to get back to doing more sketches standing up  in my everyday life and I want to explore different techniques if I don’t have time to get my support board and watercolour paints out.

This afternoon I used the same techniques as I did for my morning sketch. Lines with fude pen and then values using my blue and my grey marker pens. While doing these sketches I finally flushed out the green ink and I also discovered that the Mouse Grey isn’t very water-soluble. So I think I will look for an alternative.

I really enjoyed doing these three sketches! Here they are individually…


All three sketches were done in 35 minutes… so it seems that approach is a really good option for sketching complex scenes in the in-between moments of my daily life.

Do you ever sketch standing up? Are you comfortable holding your book and sketching tools? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.

I’m looking forward to exploring this technique more in the coming weeks as we work through Watercolour On Location!

And finally, if you missed the announcement on Friday…


I’m hosting a public livestream on YouTube next week that is open for anyone to attend.

 This will be a chance to connect with me in real-time as I go through the main concepts of the course and answer your questions.

Here are the details:
Free Watercolour On Location Livestream on Youtube:
Wednesday 21 Sept 9:00am (AEST),
Tuesday 20 Sept 4:00pm (PDT), 7:00pm (EDT), 11:00pm (GMT)

This link will work for the replay as well if you can’t make it live.


I hope to see you there!


  • Laurence COULAUD says:

    Hello Liz,
    This subject interests me particularly because I try to find a fast, effective and satisfying method to sketch, paint, with felts while standing.
    I first noticed that you need a medium-sized notebook (A5) with a hard cover. Then for felts, I know the Pilot Marker brush pens which are great, but I also use water reserve brushes that I fill with ink, acrylic ink, Indian ink, and so I can make my color mixtures or I dilute with water.
    It is a pleasure to use them to draw people:)

  • Sydney Brown says:

    I tried sketching while standing just to see what it was like. After 5 minutes I knew I was going to want a support for my sketch book. I got the Field Easel Art Bag. I have tried it out and it helps, but I still don’t want to stand all that long to sketch. Useful for quick value studies and color studies, but then I want to find a place to sit to do actual painting.

  • Celeste Uzee says:

    I just got a Stablo easel/sketchbook support, and it’s pretty amazing for stand up sketching/painting.

  • Tina Koyama says:

    I have almost always sketched standing (11 years now) except when I’m in a class or on the rare occasions when I want to take an hour+ for a sketch. Otherwise, I almost always finish in 30-40 minutes, so it’s not a hardship to stand. I love being able to see more (I’m so short anyway 😉 ) and to be able to move quickly a few inches or feet in one direction or another for a better composition. Preferring to stand is also the main reason I switched from wc to wc pencils years ago. Pencils are much less cumbersome than paints when one is standing. If you still have your Walkit (Cecilia’s design), that’s the concept I use (but not her bag): all tools exposed and standing upright so they are easy to grab without unzipping, unsnapping, unwrapping, etc. This blog post shows my current setup:

    • Liz Steel says:

      Thanks for sharing Tina! Yes pencils or pens (or markers) are much easier standing up than paint and I can imagine that the size of your book is a big factor. My current A4 book IS heavy to start with.

  • Tina Koyama says:

    Oh, I forgot to address the sketchbook: My favorite size is an A5 hardback, and I have no problem holding it while standing. A larger book like you prefer might be a problem, though.

  • Janet Kingwill says:

    Hi, I have a piece of stiff but light corregated plastic to clip my paper or open sketchbook on,I have vecro strips glued on to the upper left corner of the board and the underside of a small watercolor box. I use a clip on small water container or a water brush. I hold a paper towel to blot my brush and I’m all set. Works very well,I’ve used this set up for years now. Always inspired by your work.

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