Video: Flip-through of my three CA-TX sketchbooks

October 13, 2017 | 3 Comments

Here is a quick flip-through of the three Stillman & Birn Alpha sketchbooks which I filled during my recent 3 week trip to California (the Bay Area) and Texas (Austin and Dallas). To take the pressure off producing ‘good sketches’ I chose the Alpha books over Moleskine A4 landscape watercolour books which I normally use for big overseas trips.

As a result of using the more casual Alpha paper I was a lot more experimental with my sketching ie. attempted to do a lot of super fast sketches!) It was so good to simply focus on doing sketches ‘just for me’ without any expectations – more about it in this article.

Having three different sized books wasn’t something I particularly planned – it just happened that way. But it was good to have the additional challenge of changing formats a number of times during the one trip.

I intend to share more details about many of the sketches from the trip, but I think it is important to see my sketchbooks in their entirety first. I’m much more interested in creating a record of my travels and thinking about the book as a whole, rather than creating individual masterpieces.

The trip included attending a business conference, so you will see lots of written notes from the six excellent talks at seanwes2017. I will write a separate article explaining the conference and sharing some of my takeaways.

If you can’t see the embedded video click here.

Please let me know if you have any questions or if there are any specific sketches or aspects of my travel sketching which you would like me to discuss!



  • Hello Liz, I am a writer based in Toronto who just stumbled upon your website – I love your sketchings. I am enquiring now as to whether you are available to create illustrations for a book, as the type of sketches you do (as well as the travel experience you have) is well suited to the type of drawings I’m looking for. The book is completed and edited, and we are presently looking for illustrators to create a series of pen and/ or ink sketches – up to 15 – of various urban and rural scenes. The book is about walking el camino de santiago (the french route). If you’re interested can you send me a note at the e-mail below and let me know if you are available for this type of work, what your process is, what your fee-range and type is (hourly rate or flat fee according to project). Also, if you’re available for a brief skype (15 minutes maximum) that would be great. Thanks kindly, Mia

  • chas says:

    Hi Liz
    Could you be a bit more explicit about which sketch books you usually use on your “big overseas trips”? You say that you usually use the Moleskine A4 Landscape books, but I know from reading your BLOG a few years ago that you said you were disappointed by the paper in the “new” version of those books. Do you have a secret source of supply for the old books that you would like to tell us about or is there something else going on here? Is there an “even newer” version than the old, new, and newer versions?
    Sorry to bring this up but I have been assiduously avoiding the Moleskine because of those old postings and I do like their size and binding so if they have become usable after further improvements I would like to know about that. And, how to identify the usable version versus the not so usable as I’m sure many stores don’t sell enough of these that I can just assume anything on the shelf is the new improved version.

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Chas, Moleskine did improve the quality of the paper in their current books so it is much better than the batch that was in stores during 2014. It still has a mechanical grain and a noticeable front and back, but the differences are not as great as they were back when I wrote my article – I added a note to my original review. I would say the new paper is 90% of what the old paper… it is acceptable and despite the above features is still my favourite paper overall as the sizing works well for my wet approach. I did buy 16 x A4 books at the time but I only have one left, and my sketchbooks during this years trips have all been the new books.

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