Vlog 5 Playing with new art materials - markers!

December 5, 2016 | 19 Comments

Another week has gone by, and it’s another week where I feel as if I didn’t do the sketching I had planned. But I still managed to fill my usual quota of pages despite a heavy head cold for most of the week.

This week the theme is playing with new art materials – the result of visiting the Jasco showroom.

(Note: If you can’t see the embedded video click the top image or direct link here.)

I know that it’s hard not to get excited when we see rows upon rows of coloured paints, pens, pencils etc. and yes it’s fun to test out new stuff. I am the same as everyone – “oh ah, I would love to have one of each!”

But, honestly, I am really happy with my current sketching kit – in fact, more than happy – I love my selection of tools and paint colours. Sure I might tweak a colour here and there, but overall it’s fairly stable, and my big goal is to get more out of my kit, as it is today. It’s not to collect more art supplies in some vague hope that my work will magically improve if I have a new colour or pen.

I also think that it takes a lot of time and a concentrated effort to get to know a new tool and how best to use it in my own work. I don’t always feel like putting in that effort, so sometimes new materials don’t get used much.

Having said that, trying something different can be really good to get me out of a rut and to get me improvising more. I am always looking for different fast tools, something that I can use for a 30 second sketch, something that can apply colour easier than watercolour.

It’s been really good for me to use some markers again this week, and I really do love them (it’s the architect in me!) But they will never be a serious substitute for watercolour.

So are you obsessed with buying more art materials all the time? Do you make a conscious effort to test them fully, or do you normally have a little bit of a play, get frustrated that you can’t master them immediately and then never touch them again?

I would love to hear your thoughts (or confessions)!

If you would like to learn the essential concepts for fast sketching, to develop your own style and be more confident sketching on location, please check out my online course: SketchingNow Foundations. 12 in-depth lessons to take your sketching to the next level.



  • Pat Oblak says:

    Many thanks for all you do, you are always inspiring me. Have you had enough time to evaluate your grey mix? My guess was originally DS Ultramarine Blue, DS Van Dyke Brown and DS Trans Pyrrol Orange, but then I revised it by changing out the Ultramarine for DS Cerulean Blue Chromium. Are you ready to reveal your experimental mix?
    Hoping that you are feeling better and thanking you again,
    Pat Oblak, Miami

  • Magdalena French says:

    Liz, you hit the nail on the head for me with regards to getting to know what tools & materials I have in my kit… in short, I don’t know my tools & materials well enough – I am sooo impatient to get the desired result that I chop & change my tools in the hope that this will give me the result I’m looking for – and no surprises I’m rarely happy with my results. The timing of your vlog couldn’t have been better as I only just reluctantly admitted that I seriously need to spend time on really getting to know my tools & materials only then do I stand a chance of achieving what I want on a regular basis… Thanks for your generosity in sharing, regards Magdalena

  • I’m addicted to buying new paintboxes but…how to ‘season’ the mixing areas so the paint soesn’t bead up so horribl.y? Any suggestions would be most welcome Liz. I’ve been testing applications of soap + salt/sugar, even coca cola (it dissolves teeth so why not?). I am resorting to Comet. There has to be a way to fix this!
    Cheers Carolg

  • Great to see your tests and hear your opinions. I don’t really change my materials much. Like you, I don’t think a material will change my sketching much. I find it is so much easier just to use what I know well. I loved seeing how your paints are stored on hooks at the end. What do you keep them in?

  • Joyce Stein says:

    Here in the USA I’ve used two methods to ‘season’ the mixing area on a few different palettes. I use Soft Scrub (a less abrasive version of Comet). I sometimes resort to using a foam sponge called Magic Eraser which has the ability, when dampened, to remove paint (and if you’re not careful, all the way down to remove the watercolor paper!).

  • Emily says:

    I love looking at new watercolors! But the thing is I have two palettes–an 18 well one, and a 12 well one, and if they’re full, there’s just no more room for color. 🙂 So I have to wait until a color runs out for me to try a new one. All of that leads to me really having to learn to play with colors and see what they do. One example is transparent pyrrol orange. I put it in my travel kit and I was sort of disenchanted with it–but now I really want to work with it and see what I can get it to do when it comes to mixing reds, etc, because it’s in the box until it’s gone, or I decide that it’s just not working for me.

  • Ania Drozd says:

    I love your “coffee bullet journal” page Liz. The last tea cup looks awesome 😀

  • Tina Koyama says:

    I’m always tempted to try something new, and sometimes it works out well, but like you, I’ve discovered that it takes a long time to get to know a product, so it’s often better to just stick with it for a while. For my first few years as an urban sketcher, I used watercolors because I thought that was what “all” urban sketchers used. But I was almost always frustrated by them, and they gave me a lot of logistical problems (needing to sit down, trying to hold everything, etc). The past year or so, I’ve been moving more and more toward colored pencils, and I’ve been using them exclusively for color since I got back from Manchester, and I’m so much happier! But it took me a long time to figure out that just because lots of sketchers use one thing, it’s not necessarily the best for me. I had to figure that out for myself, after a lot of trial and error.


    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Tina – that is so great to hear about your journey and use of coloured pencils. It is funny that people feel this pressure to use watercolour… but it makes the USK community so much richer to have many media represented.

  • Andrea Palma says:

    This was great, Liz. A good reminder to slow down and not get too carried away. I do have some products I tried a few times and never went back to. One was Derwent Inktense Sticks. I liked their Inktense pencils, but the sticks, not so much. It is nice if you can try things out before purchasing, because I never would have bought those, had I known.

    Any markers or inks that bleed through paper are immediately scratched off my list, so that’s another thing I won’t buy.

    BUT, I do love trying new supplies and especially like watercolors that have interesting effects.

    All that said, I know I currently don’t play with each one of my materials enough. I have quite a variety, and that makes it difficult. But it is a nice “problem” to have, and I know I will get around to using them eventually. I have learned not to buy many markers, though, because they dry up.

    I think I will have to try that softcover Stillman and Birn! (But first fill up some of my current sketchbooks!!!!)

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Andrea – thanks for your comments… oh! so true. (for the record I haven’t tried the inktense sticks)

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