Sketching with my nieces and nephews: A new strategy

January 10, 2024 | 12 Comments

I love letting children do stuff in my sketchbook and over the years I’ve tried different strategies. As I want all the pages of my sketchbook to tie together in some way I’m always exploring ways of letting go but still having some degree of control. 🙂


Last January I was drawing in my book and then letting my nephew and niece add colour using my coloured pencils. I then added some sketchbook design to finish off the page. See this article for details.

This worked well initially but the next time they weren’t as interested and so it was a bit of a messy page. I then bought loose paper that they drew on and I then glued selected pieces into my sketchbook. BTW getting to use Auntie Liz’s art supplies is more important than what they draw on.


And then in recent months, I’ve simply let them do whatever they want on pages in the back of my current sketchbook. I pull out my current sketching kit and let them do what they want (trying to limit their work to a few pages!)

I’m often trying to follow the adult conversation in the room (catching up with my brother and sister-in-law) at the same time as directing the kids, drawing, making colour suggestions, sharpening pencils, giving tips etc.

It can be a little chaotic and I’m never sure when the kids will suddenly lose interest, so working in the back pages of my sketchbook is the easiest option.


Over Christmas, they had a lot of fun colouring in the Australian-themed Christmas drawings which were on an Amazon box. (How cool is this idea?)

To facilitate this I put together a dedicated set of watercolour pencils (WCP) for them to use so they are not going through my art supplies as much. (It can be hard to find stuff after they have been going through the pockets of my bag!)

I’m really happy with this new idea of bringing with me a WCP set just for the kids!


Last week I started drawing my nephew’s new fireman outfit (he was running around at the time) as a way of drawing more objects (one of my goals for the year). But as soon as he saw what I was doing he asked if he could colour it.

We then started a serious sketching session!

I asked for an object which I could draw and then he added colour using the Albrecht Durer pencils. While he was just about finished colouring I had the idea of adding watercolour (or just water) over the top.

This was really successful as we are working on the sketches together and the watercolour/water layer helps me modify the colouring-in. I’m giving tips along the way but sometimes the pencil work turns out too heavy and sometimes too light or scribbly. So using watercolour pencils is brilliant. Lots of options!


The next day we did the same thing again!

My nephew suggested that I come over EVERY day to sketch with him. 🙂


I also have some softcover booklets by Super5 that I’ve had for years and then used. I bring these with me every time I visit so if they feel like sketching from scratch they draw in these books.


I love that my sweet 6-year-old nephew enjoys drawing so much!

We are having SO much fun and even when we are not drawing together he is constantly saying to me “Auntie Liz, you could sketch this!” It’s his way of prompting me to start the next sketching session.

They are growing up so quickly! It’s nice to have these pages in my sketchbooks as a way of remembering these special times.


  • Ruth Bosveld says:

    I loved this post, Liz. Happy times!

  • Christi Tompkins says:

    This is my favorite post, ever. You are creating so many rich memories with them! By the way, I was very excited to see that you will be drawing more household items this year. Aside from “what’s in your sketch kit,” household items seem to draw my interest the most.

  • Shari Blaukopf says:

    I agree with Christi. What a great post! Drawing with you must be a huge highlight for them. And getting to use your supplies. Plus, of course they are adorable.

  • Christiane Bouchart d’Orval says:

    I agree with Christi and Shari -Hi, Shari, I live in Montreal too ?) ! I was very excited to see this as I sketch a lot with my seven grandchildren, and yes, they have a set of Derwent watercolor pencils just for them as well as watercolors, Neocolors 2, Tombows and and Posca pens. I think that having sketched with your nephews is wonderful. They have an amazing talent. Great job to begin 2024 !!

  • Patricia Wafer says:

    Great post, Liz! It’s always great getting kids involved in drawing and coloring. They all want to do it and they think we are experts because we’re big! When I got my neighbor’s girls some water soluble crayons and a sketchbook for Christmas they asked me to draw a rose and then show them how the water brush worked. They wanted me to draw a rose and then put water on it which I did. After that they were off drawing and using the water brush. All they needed was one demo.

  • Alan Barbour says:

    SO different from my childhood art experiences! Now approaching eighty, I am trying to learn sketching. Struggling to overcome a lifetime of internalized conviction that I am incompetent at anything artistic, I have slowly gravitated to something approaching the way you are guiding your young relatives: watercolor pencils, fineliner, more WC pencils, and waterbrush.

    Lucky kids!

  • Mary Eastwood says:

    What a great post & I can so relate! I live with my daughter & family and the kids ( 5 & 9) are always dropping into my side of the house to visit. My desk & easel are set up in my art room with supplies out & ready to go. I also have a cart that sits beside my desk with paper, brushes watercolour & coloured pencils and markers etc that they know they can use So visiting is easy and fun. They arrive wanting to paint or draw and they just sit down and do it! We often draw & paint together. One of the games we play is my granddaughter will say we are are drawing something specific – for example a cat – and then we switch each others papers and pick another specific – bowl or bird or birthday etc. We keep switching so that the drawings are done by us both. Loads of fun and often done while watching a kids baking show. Great memories!

  • Kirsten McCorkell says:

    Have you come across ‘How to Draw People for the Artistically Anxious ‘by John Bigwood? Worth a look.

  • Jamie C says:

    So wonderful! Is he a budding artist, I wonder?

  • Liz Steel says:

    thanks for all the comments everyone! yes we have so much fun and its a special time!

  • Melissa Fischer says:

    This is delightful! I am often drawing with my whichever of my ten grandchildren are old enough. I really like your idea of watercolor pencils for them to use, along with a few other supplies. You always give me good ideas!

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