Monthly Archives: July 2017

drawing a coffee step by step

Mary asked me about my method with watercolour pencil.

The easiest way to explain it to show you. I have not attempted filming a work in progress yet  so I have taken photos along the way  and made lots of notes.

Drawing my coffee this morning at my local George Street Cafe in half an hour today . Jenny did an especially fancy design on top of the cappuccino that was a challenge to draw !  I also ordered a second coffee to drink , as I knew that this one would get cold by the time I 


Photos taken every five minutes





I start the initial drawing with the watercolour pencils, drawing the outlines and contours. I usually don’t use a pencil (HB) to put in lines unless I am trying to figure out where/how big to draw an object so that is fits on the page. (it not cutting off the top of the Eiffel Tower) 

The cup will not change, but the coffee pattern will  flatten as the chocolate sprinkles sink into the milk  (and I may want to drink it!) so I start drawing the coffee first.

If there are solid areas of colour I  draw the areas of an object in the actual colour of object. Ie Ultramarine for the coffee cup and Raw Umber for the ellipses of the coffee. This means that when you add the water from a waterbrush or paintbrush the outside lines can be softened and almost disappear. Then there is no issue of having an ‘outside’ line or the pencil mark on the paper.

I put the lightest colours in first (Ivory)  and leave the shape of the white areas of the froth by outlining it in dark (Walnut  Brown) . I know my pencils well and the colours that they produce when water is added (sometimes they can change, becoming more intense, bringing out the yellow, or green in a colour.) 











I tend to move all over the page, adding colour here and there, building up colour and trying to be patient to allow the page to dry before adding more.












  • The more colours you add and the more you drag colour across the page, the muddier it can become.
  • sometimes I draw on the page, sometimes I take the colour of the tip of the pencil with the waterbrush and paint it onto the page
  • remembering to sharpen pencils along the way to get hard lines for edges and fine lines

I hope this explains my process and provides an insight into the way I construct a drawing.  Another person will do it completely differently. 

Enjoy !

how do you use your watercolour pencils?

this weeks sketches

Today I have uploaded the sketches I have done this week. 

I am working ( that is not the right word as it is NOT work) on a few external projects on separate sheets of paper, so my sketchbook journal is not filling up as quickly as usual. 

I did manage some coffees, commuters and today’s breakfast.


I also drew on an envelope to send to my family who visited me recently and went to the mountains to see the sled dogs. This drawing on the envelope is from a photo they took 










drawings from my project – still a work in progress, 


Have a great week everyone, with lots of sketching.


Please let me know if there is any thing you would like me to talk about or explain or explore about my watercolour pencils and sketching.  

quick sketching and slow drawing

This blog was prompted by a conversation with one of my work colleagues and a sketcher about the time taken in completing a drawing.

The quickest is sketching I have ever done is as I walk behind someone  – it is done  real time.

Drawing is usually more studied –  at home , can be in one sitting or over several evenings.

(I have my own mental distinction between sketching and drawing which is highly subjective and changeable.)

Sketching while walking to work through Fitzroy Gardens. I’ve talked about sketchwalking  on my blog

The other quick sketching that comes to mind occurred in Barcelona at the Urban Sketching Symposium in 2013 in Richard Alomar’s workshop on Sketching Urban Place: People, Space and Street   You can read more about it on my blog at the time .  


Here are some of my notes at the time:

                quick!  quick! quick ! ” (it was a fast paced workshop)

                   “1 pencil , 1 sketch book – what‘s that in your hand ?–a second pencil – put it away!” 

                   We walked along the street  and told to stop, draw a Thumbnail square in sketchbook                  then have 30 seconds to draw the streetscene  we are looking down

                wow !  But after a few of these, my mind started to get into thinking  and seeing in that                 mode. So instead of spending the first precious 15 of the 30 seconds in a “mind freeze”                 when we stopped, I could look up and see the street scenes as major shapes and lines                 and shadows. I started to learn to see what is important. We also added notes around                      the thumbnail sketch – street names, feelings, colours of buildings etc

                  We repeated this with two minute sketches 

                 We then looked at the difference between two  sketches how much difference                              between the 30 sec and the two minute sketch?

                 how much more or less was capture the second time ?  



The longest drawing was done over a long time. It was actually on my table for months as a still life as I  attempted to figure out how to draw light lines over dark back grounds with my watercolour pencils. It involved experimenting with masking fluids, Click on the photo to read the process’

From still life – drawing a hat with some eggs in it in watercolour pencil on an 40cm x 55cm watercolour paper.

Creation of a birds nest hat

In everyday life my sketches take from five minutes to one hour.

I do drawings at home over a few evenings.  As they are in my journal, my sketches are part of my journalling process.

For example, here is this morning’s coffee drawn in about 20 minutes, with details added as I chatted to friends. I will not be going back to ‘finish’ the plate, teaspoon, background or any other details. I usually decide which part of the image is going to be the feature (in case time does become an issue).


MRBW day 4 – end

 Melbourne Rare Book Week continued …Monday to Sunday

Today I am continuing  last weeks summary of the first three days of Melbourne Rare Book Week (MRBW).   On this page are a selection of my sketches from over the past week. 

All of my MRBW sketches can be seen in my flickr album here. I still have a few more to add from the final day at the Fair. 

I attended 23 of the 60 events held in MRBW. The talks covered a wide variety of subjects. All of the speakers were so knowledgable about their topic and passionate about sharing their knowledge with the audience. I started to see familiar faces in the audience of some events at the week progressed and we talked about which events we had attended and why we were there. 

I have been thinking about how I approached the challenge of capturing these events on paper.

I had not been to many of the buildings or spaces that events were held in. And if I had, I did not know how they were going to set up on the day. I had between 45 minutes and 1 1/2 hours to sketch, with my watercolour pencils, Lamy Safari ink pen in my Moleskine Watercolour sketchbook.

I wanted to make each page unique, as each event was. I planned to do this through the use of colour, my position in the room or features of the room itself . I needed to make these decisions within a few minutes of arriving and take my place before the talk began. As part of MRBW , I did not book for any events so that I would not be taking the seating of a registered attendee. Many events were fully booked with a waiting list. 

I was fortunate to have access to a few places before hand and was able to access the collection and use some of the objects as background to the page. The books above are in the Melbourne Cricket Club Library. I could not resist the wonderful illustrated spines. 

It was an exciting and interesting week of sketching and book – my favourite combination !


MRBW days 1 to 3

Melbourne Rare Book Week    (MRBW) has begun again for another year!

      Melbourne Rare Book Week commenced in 2012 as a partnership between ANZAAB, the University of Melbourne and eight other literary institutions. 

      In 2017, over 60 free events will be held at libraries, literary and historical societies and            bookshops throughout Melbourne, attracting local, national and international visitors. Melbourne Rare Book Week is a major attraction for book collectors, librarians and all who have a love of words, print on paper and literary heritage. 

I am official urban sketcher for MRBW and will be attending as many events as possible over the next week, sketching at the talks. I hope to capture the essence of the people, the place and the events on the page. The talks go for 45 minutes to 2 hours. 

Here is a link to my sketches on my blog from 2016.   Melbourne Rare Book Week 
Last year I blogged every evening about that days events.

This year I am scanning my sketches and 

  • instagraming at the end of the day alissaduke1 
  • all sketches are posted on the MRBW facebookpage 

You can follow me there. 

Here are some sketches from the last three days. 





All events have been incredibly interesting and the speakers have shared their passion and knowledge of their specialised field of knowledge.  I am looking forward to the rest of the week !