When do you sketch?

March 18, 2022 | 12 Comments

This is a question that was recently asked in the forum of my Foundations course and it led to an interesting discussion amongst the group. Naturally, I started thinking about this topic as well and made an interesting discovery.

While I do try to have regular dedicated sketching outings (something that I can schedule into my workday as a full-time artist/teacher) most of my sketching is done during the in-between moments ie. in my personal downtime. And there are three regular occasions when I try to incorporate my sketching with another activity (what James Clear calls Habit Stacking).

These three are:

1. Tea/Coffee breaks

These are either at home or going out and getting a takeaway. At home, I nearly always pause when I drink a hot beverage. This gives me thinking time (an important part of my work as a teacher and business owner) and so I often use this time to sketch. If I can’t think of anything else I sketch my coffee/tea… or more recently my teapot. (see more about this here).

Most workdays I go out for a walk (either in the morning before the start of my workday or at lunchtime) to get a coffee from a cafe and do a sketch of my local area. I love sketching on location so much that it doesn’t matter at all to me that I sketch the same places over and over.


2. Exercise

At the moment this involves walking in my local area and/or walking in the bush at Lane Cove National Park. I don’t always do a sketch when I do my local walks but I would like to change that and at least do a simple line drawing every time I go out.


3. Outings outside my local area

These outings can be appointments, meetings, or social occasions. Even if I only do a quick drawing from my car (often just before I drive home) I like to have some visual record of the outing.

This is a big topic and one that I love discussing… but one other thing that I do to motivate myself to spend more time creating art is simply to review the many hours per week (and sometimes per day!!!) that I waste on social media and consuming content. 

As for my recent sketching….

I’ve just started a new sketchbook and after a few months using spiral-bound books it feels so amazing to be back to my favourite format – 8×10 softcover Alpha.

So here are the spreads from this week with a few comments about how I found time to do these sketches (and yes, I managed to get back to Lane Cove this week!)

Morning coffee at home while I planned the week and then a lunchtime walk and sketch of Village Green while sipping my afternoon takeaway.

Afternoon visit to Lane Cove National Park (with short walk) and doing this week’s Foundations homework. Everything was very soggy!

Another early afternoon walk, takeaway coffee and sketch of the Village Green.

More of the same – lunchtime coffee, walk and sketch in the Village Green and then afternoon walk and sketch in Lane Cove.

Sketching my Foundations Cup (Mark II) during my morning tea break and then more Foundations homework during my afternoon tea break. For those of you who were part of Livestream 10 this week, I ended up doing a spontaneous version of the roofs rather than coming up with a designed composition. 🙂

Afternoon walk and then evening cuppa while finishing my pages. This week I suddenly realised that if I want to start doing some sketching in the evening all I have to do is sit at my desk when I drink my evening cup of herbal tea rather than drink it in my reclining chair while watching something on my ipad!

So there you have it – all of these sketches were associated with either tea/coffee or exercise. And this has been a great start to a new sketchbook!

Final thought

I like to remind myself that we always make time for the things that are important to us.

So what about you? Do you find it a struggle to find time to sketch? Do you have any strategies in place to help you?

I would love to hear from you in the comment section below. (If you are reading this via email, please click on the article title link below and add a comment on my blog. Thanks!)


  • Rob says:

    Nice article Liz. It’s good to have a daily routine. The funny thing is that I have plenty of time to sketch, but never seem able to motivate myself to start sketching. I usually struggle with the most fundamental questions: why should I sketch in the first place and most importantly what should I sketch. My daily routine is too monotonous to find different subjects. Even though I am a tea lover, drinking from nice cups, I don’t seem to be pulled towards sketching my daily tea cups.
    Well, just some thoughts I have been struggling with, and will probably not solve easily.

    • Donna says:

      If you enjoy sketching once you get started, and it’s something that you want to do, have you tried just–starting? I find I have to push, even force, myself to get going sometimes because I overthink it and find excuses not to draw. Don’t think, don’t get your logical brain too involved – just pick up a pen or pencil and just start drawing *something*. I hope that might help!

  • maria bergman says:

    You are such an inspirarion and symbol of strength and determination to me.
    With the improved weather I’ve recently taken myself for sketching walks in my park which is 1 block from my house and along the Bay. So convenient, beautiful, with no reason not to go.
    I’ve found if I do it without thinking about it,- just do it-, it works.
    I’m a bad procrastinator and give myself 50 reasons why I should not sketch–too busy, fear of failure, time not right, too tired, other priorities–to name a few. It’s a psychological battle with myself. It’s a delicate balance which often is toppled if I allow any discouraging thoughts at all.
    On an encouraging note, my self assessment, and understanding is helping to push through this mental mine field. I’m feeding on the great feelings of accomplishment when I do! Hurray!

  • Bobbie Bruno says:

    Yesterday I took a walk to the plaza and sat on a bench. I intentionally wanted to connect my walk with a sketch. I stopped long enough to just be for a few minutes and appreciate my surroundings. After settling for a couple of minutes, I set my phone timer for 15 minutes to do a quick line sketch. I so enjoyed the feeling of no pressure to produce something special. Today I will take my sketchbook for a walk and see where we stop for 15 minutes?? Thank you for all your support and encouragement??

    • Ellen Agger says:

      Great idea to give yourself a time limit. I will do that today on my walk! I can always stop more than once for more sketches.

  • Ellen Agger says:

    Such an important and interesting topic. Thanks, as always, LIz, for sharing your thoughts on this one. I think about sketching all the time! I have, at times, done at least one sketch every day, which is what I strive for. But that has fallen aside these days. I expose myself to videos, your classes, looking at other artists’ work, etc., but that really has limitations to moving my own sketching forward and sometimes feels like I’m just procrastinating for no apparent reason. One must actually sketch (and self-assess, as Maria stated before me) to improve! It’s really quite simple. I’m at the point in my sketching journey where I want to open my sketchbook and sketch spontaneously, without an assignment or guidance from outside. I loved doing the OneWeek100People challenge recently, as this gave me a focus for my sketches but I could do whatever I felt like doing at the time. I sketched a bit on location, on Zoom presentations (talking/moving heads) and from a few photos. Since I want to do more urban sketching in my small city (buildings, machinery used to build buildings and nature), I regularly take my small sketchbook and 2 pens with me, if not my small bag of paints, travel brushes, water bottle, etc. I have a foldable stool too, but don’t often take that so I have the (sometimes fun) challenge of finding a bench or picnic table or ledge to perch on. I have even sketched standing up, although not my fave experience, and it only works for line work. Better weather is coming in my area so that is also a great encouragement for on location sketching. So to answer your question: I sketch at different times for different reasons to capture different stories.

  • Great question, and one I frequently ponder, quite honestly: WHEN will I get to draw??? Teaching art and directing a large staff of several dozen art teachers all day long sometimes leaves little enough time for me. I’ve discovered combining things I love makes it not only possible, but meaningful as well. I tend to focus my drawings on people and places. I’m also a serious cyclist. Turns out those activities are highly compatible, and I will seldom peddle off without a sketchbook and pen in my pocket. Fifteen or twenty miles down the road I may encounter a place that intrigues me and I will stop for a few minutes of “bike sketching.” I think the important thing is to turn it into a practice, whatever it is we choose to do.

  • Yvonne Carpenter says:

    Hi Liz!
    Great topic indeed. I have never had a schedule to sketch, I always do it when I feel like, but that means letting life happenings and your mood dictate your day. That is ok, but it can be a trap, I found out. I have on occasion not sketched for days in a roll, which made feel bad and long for it. So this year, one of my resolutions was to sketch everyday and so far I have. I try to do it first thing in the day, after my morning chores, but sometimes it is done right before bed, or any time in between! I too spend way too much time on social media or online in general, unfortunately, and can only imagine where my art journey would be today if even half of that time was spent sketching instead, lol! Anyway, in the summer I do sketch in the mornings consistently, but in the winter I tend to be all over the place as my on-location sketching production is much lower. When I am home sketching from a photo, unfortunately the computer is right in front of me and often times causes distractions and sidetracks me. Therefore I am looking forward to warmer weather when I can walk to town and sketch or ride to the town next door! Until then, I will deal with my “no-fixed-schedule” sketching!

  • Peter Brell says:

    Hi Liz,
    I agree with a lot of the previous comments… I am a procrastinator and need motivation. I prefer to sketch with other people for the company. I sometimes sketch people on the train ( hoping they don’t notice) and often when I am travelling as a sketch evokes memories more than a photo. It is good to discuss issues as it reveals that we are all in the same boat!
    Cheers, Peter Brell.

  • Carlos Baciadonne says:

    I’m retired, seems I have all the time in the world, well, yes but I have a life For me sketching/painting in the early hours of the afternoon is the best time chores done, and my mind is free ready to get involved in some sort of art. After 2hours my concentration decrease and the creating juices are running low Time to go out walk get in the garden, or just observe the bush, or in the last few weeks, ducks with seven ducklings

  • Beverley Clark White says:

    hello, Liz, I have a hard time doing my sketching, and it is not a “regular” habit…I seem to sketch in periods of not sketching at all, and then that is all I do is sketch….different things spark my interest, and then I find I am easily distracted to do something else….my mind scatters allot, and I cannot seem to keep my focus as I once did….Bev

  • Robyn Blake says:

    It is reassuring to realise I am not alone in finding time to sketch every day. Funny thing is this morning I was working out a sustainable routine for my activities and up came this topic. A friend said “if you have a committed routine you don’t have to make a decision about doing that activity.” So, hopefully I can incorporate a habit of sketching a lot more often!

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