New SketchingNow Course for 2016: Buildings

May 3, 2016 | 58 Comments


I know I use the phrase “I am super excited” a lot… but seriously this is BIG, really big for me.

After laying the Foundations (ways of seeing, how to sight measure and ways to start sketching on location) and looking at different ways of treating Edges, I am now ready to focus in on the topic that I am most passionate about:

empowering people to have fun sketching architecture!

When you attempt to sketch a complex building:

  • Are you unsure where to start?
  • Do your angles always look wrong?
  • Does your finished sketch look like a cardboard box?
  • If you add colour, does it turn out too heavy and flat?

I am designing SketchingNow Buildings to address those challenges and without the need for technical perspective! (Note: Perspective needs a course of its own.)

The content of this course is an expanded version of what I’ve taught in face to face workshops in Australia and the Urban Sketchers Symposiums in Brazil and Singapore.

I am always blown away by the work that is produced after people start to understand and see buildings in a different way.


SketchingNow Buildings will provide strategies for sketching accurately as well as more loosely.

The course will be run as a weekly course (with lots of interaction from me) at the beginning of September and will consist of 4 lessons and 2 Review weeks – a bit more information is available over on my SketchingNow site. I only offer my SketchingNow courses once in this interactive way – so this will be a ‘never-to-be-repeated’ event.


Full details will be coming in August but I am telling you now because:

  1. I just can’t keep quiet about it any longer. I have had this scheduled for over 12 months and now that my book is in the final stages I can start preparing the written content and filming on-locations demos. It will be practically impossible for me to hide the fact that I am working on it from you! Though I will not be giving away the content – just teasing you with some behind the scenes stuff.
  2. If you are interested in doing this course but don’t know what I mean by Feeling Edges, Abstracting Shapes and Constructing Volumes or how to sight measure or have never sketched out on location, I recommend you work through my Foundations course first as I will be assuming all of that knowledge for Buildings – so we can really focus in on the good stuff! Foundations is a 12 lesson course so if you start now you will be ready to get the most out of SketchingNow Buildings in September.
  3. I want people to know it is coming… and to write it in their diaries. The interactive version of my SketchingNow courses is SO much fun – I really feel a strong connection with all the people doing the course, and with the inclusion of two Review Weeks this time, I will have even more interaction with everyone who enrolls. And, even more importantly, there is an incredible buzz within a SketchingNow group created when everyone does the exercises at the same time! So please share this page with anyone whom you think will be interested.

But, the biggest reason to tell you now is because I want to hear from you, to hear about your struggles with drawing buildings, so that I can incorporate them into the course material. The more feedback I get the more I will be able to ensure that this course is what YOU need it to be.

So please leave a comment below, or send me a message privately – I really want to hear from you!

Subscribe to my mailing list for my monthly newsletters including first notification of my new SketchingNow Online Sketching Courses and face-to-face workshops.


  • Shelley Boyd says:

    Wow, YAY!!! So excited for an architecture specific course. Can’t wait. As for struggles, I have had trouble representing the textures of building materials – I feel that so often the brick work adds such warmth and strength to the building but if I slip into drawing every brick the whole can be lost. And as always, watching you sketch and watercolour from start to finish is so helpful, instructive and inspiring! Would be curious to see you do the same with markers.
    I’ll be signing up ASAP!

    • Liz Steel says:

      Ah! thanks Shelley. And great point about markers… I actually got them out today to do an extra instructional illustration for my book.

  • Cathy Dwyer says:

    Hi Liz. I need this course!!! I have so much trouble drawing buildings and I just can’t figure out why. My biggest problem is proportion-my buildings always look cartoonish and beyond wonky. I also never get the whole building on the page-I start too big. And I run out of room-I put my first line in the wrong place. Oh boy do I ever need help! I’ll be first in line for sign-up.

  • Olga Solhaug says:

    So good to hear! My buildings looks not natural and walls textures looks like a mess. Would be nice to learn from you, i follow your Fb and instagram, Liz! 🙂

    Hugs from Norway!

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hey- Norway…I love your country (only spent a few days there on my first ever sketching trip in 2007)… thanks for the comment. Yes textures is a good point…in fact we look at that in the Edges course too.

  • Minnie Kim says:

    Yay!!! This is THE course i was looking for!! Perfect time for everything! I’m planning to take the other two courses after I’m done with a project, so september is actually perfect for me.
    I was wondering where I should stop when drawing buildings. If I go too much it looks messy and I always regret this. For example, textures of the building, so many windows or pipes all around. Maybe some tips regarding shadows or dark parts of thr building would be great as well.
    Thanks a lot! And so excited for your new lesson!

  • Elizabeth says:

    Is it September yet? I am so excited about this course, Liz! Of course this means I need to get back on track with the Foundations and Edges courses until September.

    I first discovered you and your work a few years ago when on a search for architectural sketching. Architecture is my primary interest in drawing and photography (I totally relate to your drawings of the classical orders – I photograph them regularly in detail photos, but haven’t ventured into sketching them beyond the Ionic), and this class has been at the top of my wish list. Thank you for sharing all that you do and the great effort you put into all of your ventures.

    • Liz Steel says:

      thanks elizabeth – great to hear about another classical orders fan… I still haven’t drawn them accurately- the book I quoted in that blogpost explains how to draw them accurately (gives all the dimension setouts) I never imagined I would be painting them with watercolour for my own book when I purchased that book.

  • Perfect for September before it gets too cold and wintery here in the northeast — of the U.S. I’m excited

  • Carole Jurack says:

    Well, is September here yet? We haven’t even had a proper spring…I’ve always been fascinated with architecture and overwhelmed by all the pieces parts. Have done much photography but never thinking I could actually “sketch” it … looking forward to the new class. I’ve read other comments above and have to say that a “starting place” and “sizing” so the sketch fits on the paper would be #1 on my How To list … so enjoying the Edges course and I can see how that learning will segue into the new course. You are a dynamo and I know the new course will have more info, demos and exercises in it than we will be able to digest in just 4 lessons! Already marked my calendar! Thanks for all you do and for your passion in presenting these opportunities to us!

    • Liz Steel says:

      thanks Carole… no its not September yet as I have to put the course material together and that will exciting in itself. All this comments are so helpful!

  • Mary Catharine McDonnell says:

    Thanks Liz for offering this new course. I really love the way that you draw buildings and make them look alive and fresh while also capturing their essence and their uniqueness. I’ll revisit Foundations and Edges before September, so that I can get the most out of your generous instructions!

  • Janet Bracewell says:

    Excited about this new class! I think I’d like to learn more about the decision-making process for “how many lines are enough.” By that, I mean when on location or traveling, for example, time is always short and there are so many decisions to be made about which lines to place and which ones can be left out but your building still looks like what you see. What are the most important lines, shadows etc. to place on the page that conveys the style, ornamentation, texture, so you instantly recognize the building or landmark?

    • Liz Steel says:

      thanks Janet! loving everyones comments and so far all your main concerns are things that I have planned for the course, but it is great to hear them all now.

  • Kate says:

    By the Grace of God, I’ll be with you in September too! My building proportions are usually wrong when i sketch without a viewfinder – and I haven’t even finished Foundations yet, so I’m glad it won’t start until September . I live near the suburb of Houston, TX that was flooded two weeks ago, and went out to sketch a shopping area that was literally an island then. The sketch was satisfying because the viewfinder works, but frustrating because I had to keep adjusting it. It wasn’t a spontaneous session. I even thought briefly about putting a grid on window film for my car window, lol. Perhaps as I practice, practice, practice, I wont have to work as hard to get the results I want….maybe 🙂

    • Liz Steel says:

      thanks Kate… and oh! I love that comment about the grid on the windscreen… brilliant! (a little insane but it is certainly the best idea I have heard for a long while- ha!) Viewfinder is painful but helpful. I am going to be pulling mine out tomorrow!

  • Hi Liz,

    Hello from London. All of the above!
    I love sketching cityscapes but architecture and buildings frightens me a little:-) yet when I see them in sketchbooks or books about sketching I’m always so jealous (in a good way:-)

    Look forward to tackling this.

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Tina (I love London!) yes a big difference between cityscapes and buildings… but come Sept you will have your sketchbook full!

  • Carmel Campbell says:

    Hi Liz, I am excited about your new course. I think I am mainly interested in the process. When to stop, what to leave out. How to make my sketches of building come alive. They are stiff . Looking forward to September.

  • Michele Warner says:

    How wonderful! I’m looking forward to it! My biggest problem with buildings is one I’m sure you can help me with. I practiced architecture for over 20 years, and every time I draw buildings, I become obsessed with the detail and recording everything exactly as it is. I also tend to draw them as “elevations”. I need help loosening up and getting to the essence of the building. I just don’t know what to include or what to leave out! Also, there is always the question of how much to do in ink and how much to leave to watercolor. Can’t wait until September!

    • Liz Steel says:

      thanks Michele… you know I used to draw a LOT of elevational sketches too, so I will be sharing the secrets to my transition.

  • Sandra James-Talbot says:

    If it’s anything like Foundations and Edges, this course will be amazing – I can’t wait. I have problems with consistency of colour – for instance, I’ll be back and forth between ink and watercolour, and decide to add a bit more colour to a building but find I’ve used it all and mix some more but it’s not quite the same, so I go over the bit I’ve already done as well and it ends up looking heavy. Also I would love to know what order you should paint things in, eg should you do all the shadows at once, last so the colours are consistent? I do end up overworking my pictures because of this lack of knowledge. I need to be more methodical and understand what bits to paint when. Roll on September!

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Sandra! Indeed roll on September (but oh! so much for me to do first!) Great points and hope they will be all addressed in the course.

  • susie says:

    Wow, Liz, another wonderful course to look forward to, thank you!
    I try not to do any sort of buildings, ever! Which means I should do lots of them till I get it right, so your new course will be really helpful.
    As so many have mentioned, I too have trouble with proportions, details, shadows, colors of stonework and a little bit with perspective.
    I make some parts too big, some too small, I get caught up in the details too soon and put in way too many…..I get fiddley. I don’t know what to leave out and still have a good rendition. Getting the lights and darks balanced is tricky, too.
    Everything, eh?
    Your other courses have helped immensely, I can’t wait to go along on this one, too.
    Thank you so much!

    • Liz Steel says:

      thanks Susie – glad you have enjoyed the other courses… this is one is very special for me to put together. Thanks for your list… all helpful!

  • Lynne Butt says:

    Buildings are scary! I don’t know where to start and then I loose my place if there are a lot of ledges and changes in plane. I tag along with the London Urban Sketchers but usually end up doing small details or telephone boxes!

    • Liz Steel says:

      HI Lynne – there is nothing wrong with sketching small details but I hope that SketchingNow Buildings will make buildings less scary!

  • Jean Smtih says:

    I’m “super excited” too, Liz! I have the most trouble visualizing how to start the building so that everything I want in the drawing fits correctly on the page. . . What size square or how long the first edge should be so that I don’t run out of space or the drawing doesn’t come out too small. I also tend to get too wrapped up in detail.

  • Julia Blackbourn says:

    I’m so glad to hear about this! Sketching architecture is my favorite thing and I’ve improved my general sketching skills greatly since taking both of your previous courses. Getting the building angles right is still easily bungled, but “embracing the wonky” is a forgiving stance, thanks to you. Can’t wait to get your book too!

  • Karen Miller says:

    We live in a small town and there are few ornate buildings to practice on. We will be in France in October and Spain and Pirtugal next March and I am itching to be able to capture ornament without driving myself crazy.

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Karen – yes ways of applying ornament will be a part of the course… and oh! France, Spain and Portugal! Wonderful!

  • Michelle None says:

    So many books cover how to draw the outlines of buildings in perspective, and then say something like “fill in the details” and stop all instruction there. I struggle with the finishing touches….window sills, layered door frames, indentations, and roof lines. I’d love to see how to add those accents in detail.

    • Liz Steel says:

      Oh Michelle -Exactly! this is precisely what I am planning to teach in this Buildings course. “the Details” is actually where depth and solidity is created!

  • Lauren Grant says:

    Hi Liz, So excited to take this course in September! You are an inspiration and I love your teaching style and work. Fresh, bright, light and loose. I would like to learn about detailing buildings as well as how to get the texture of the buildings incorporated into my sketches and watercolors. I struggle with finishing with just the right amount of detail. Not too much and not enough added. Looking forward from New England to taking your class. Thank you !!

    • Liz Steel says:

      thanks Lauren – it is great to hear that everyone is struggling with the issue that I have been focusing on …hmm, not great that you are all struggling! I didn’t mean that, but I am excited with the content I have to share!

  • Debi Kistler says:

    I can’t wait to take your course. I have a hard time knowing what to leave out of a building so it looks realistic, but can be done quickly. Also, when i do a preliminary sketch with a pencil then my pen lines tend to be too tight and I don’t get the loose sketch I want, but without these lines I sometimes get my angles way too wonky. Thank you for sharing your skill and expertise with us!

  • Debi Kistler says:

    I thought of something else… When sketching on a bleak, cloudy day where there are no shadows or when a building is completely in shadow, how do you give it form and life? Obviously, sketching at the perfect time of day with perfect shadows would be ideal, it just seems that seldom happens for me.

  • Julie-Anne Rogers says:

    Hi Liz. I’m definitely going to be in this one! One of my problems that I have with buildings is showing depth. I get perspective – although I am not great at it – but that isn’t the only part of showing depth. Mine often look really flat and I would love some tips on this.

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Julie-Anne – yes you are so spot on. Perspective is important but there are so many other elements that add depth… plan to look at a lot of these in Buildings

  • Corinne van der Vorst says:

    Hello Liz, I look forward to your next course Buildings! I learned so much from your previous courses Foundations and Edges. And about my struggles: I often have some difficulties drawing a white building on a cloudy day when you don’t see the shadows very well. I end up with a drawing that doesn’t look very lively.
    Can’t wait for your course to start!

  • Angela Clarke says:

    Hi Liz

    So looking forward to this course. I am equally passionate about drawing architecture and this forms the main body of my work, however…whilst I can draw I struggle to find an easy flow and looseness which you seemingly capture so effortlessly. I get bogged down and districted by detail and a 10 minute sketch turns into a marathon of getting lost in my lines and then I see that my proportions have spiralled out of control. You must have guessed by now I am somewhat fearful of the pen but I have stopped ripping out the bad pages of my sketchbook and now just turn the page thanks to you!

    Also when you add watercolour to your buildings, do you follow any watercolour rules? I ask because I attended a watercolour course and whilst I really enjoy the paint I did get a bit lost in the theory (such as limited palette, choosing cool/ warm colours combinations etc).

    Best wishes

    Angela (Foundations completed, Edges almost completed!)

  • Ed Naramor says:

    I want to take this course but I am taking Foundations now and need to take Edges next. Will Buildings be available as a self directed course like Foundations is now? I am very happy with Foundations but moving slowly.

    • Liz Steel says:

      hi Ed. Yes buildings will be self directed next year. You dont have to do edges before Buildings and as long as you have done the first 6 lessons of foundations then you should be fine. I will make this clear when the registration opens

  • Sharon Kasstan says:

    Windows get me every time! How much detail to put in and the best way to simplify columns and rows of Windows. My buildings look so straight and rigid, I’d love to get a bit of character and looseness into them!

  • Kishwar Nensey says:

    Hi.. I have enrolled for both your Foundations and Edges courses… I find your instructions and examples amazing!!! I couldn’t keep up with the live course but am completing the lessons now… Am also SUPER excited about a dedicated course for architectural drawing!!! I get nervous, don’t know where to start, my angles always seem wonky and oh ! The frustration I feel! Since I love to do plein air watercolors, I do want to learn how to sketch
    Roofs, doors, windows and everything!!!
    Looking forward…
    Kish (from India!!!)

  • Kate Simpson says:

    Hi Liz, I live in a crowded city (with great buildings!) and I have trouble isolating a building from the crowd and finding an interesting angle/composition to sketch from. So happy that you’ve developed this course! — Kate (from Philadelphia)

  • Sylvie Corbin says:

    Hi Liz, I’m so happy for this new course. I bought your Edges and Foundations courses. You are a great teacher. I learned so much. I can’t wait for The Buidings course.

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