A Chat with Liz Steel & Be Who You Are

I wrote in December about my love of fountain pens and especially the company Goulet Pens who offer such brilliant service. The owner Brian Goulet is also known for his generous video content, demonstrating specific products, answering questions, and now, interviewing guests. This week he interviewed the irrepressibly enthusiastic sketcher Liz Steel.

I've enjoyed Liz's work online for most of the nine years since she started sketching and have seen her grow from her early efforts to a professional blogger/sketcher who teaches, leads, and enthuses full-time. 

In this video, Australian Liz talks about her love of fountain pens; how anyone can flourish by practicing a little, consistently; how learning the fundamentals of seeing serves you well.

Liz mentions her 12-week online course Foundations, which I took last year. If you are thinking of trying it and have any questions, ask away.

Make a great big cup of tea and enjoy. Not to overwhelm you or anything, but check out the wall of sketchbooks, all 150 of them, on the shelves behind Liz in the interview!

Some Encouraging Take-Aways

  • Nine years ago, Liz had never held a paintbrush!
  • She spends about 20-30 minutes a day sketching
  • She often finds it hard to fit in to her busy schedule, but especially likes sketching in the moments when waiting for people
  • Liz says, get over your 'bad handwriting': it's yours and you can always improve it if you want to
  • Fountain pens improve your handwriting
  • Get any pen, ink it up, get it flowing: you will improve

Goulet Pens caters primarily to fountain pen enthusiasts rather than artists, so this subject is a bit of a departure from Brian's comfort zone. But you can hear his growing enthusiasm as Liz makes sketching seem like something even he could do. 

What works for Liz is to put her personal passions and her background in architecture to work in her art. Her foundational understanding of drawing helps her to sketch fast but she emphasizes that the fundamentals can be both taught and learned.

Be Who You Are

What works for you?

For years I tried to live according to the strengths of those around me, rather than my own. Sometimes we overlook our unique gifts and assume they don't count for much because we know them so well. What comes easily to me, might be a mighty stretch for you. What I see you doing may baffle me and make me want to give up. Let's stop looking at others and cultivate the simple creative things we are suited for and do naturally, while of course trying to grow and stretch too. 

I recently realized a ridiculously obvious truth. What I do every day, is what I actually do. Brilliant, I know. I specialize in projections of goodness in the future. "One day I will finish that project or learn about those paints or visit that sketching group." Meanwhile I'm tinkering around with some creative things, not realizing that they actually count. They are what I do. So do them.

Types of Sketchbooks

I find three types of sketchbooks come naturally to me:

  • a travel journal, on the very rare occasion that I travel
  • nature journaling, but mostly in spring
  • an everyday book: what's on my mind, but with fun creativity thrown in

The travel journal has the convenient blessing of a natural beginning and end. When you come home, the book is done. Since that's also when the laundry resumes, this suits my purpose. I'm willing to pull out all the stops on a trip, but just can't keep up the pace that Liz does, completing a sketchbook a month. And that's ok. I am home-educating three children and am still mom to three adult children.

And then there's nature journaling. I find it very hard to sketch in the winter: the blank page of winter, I call it. But I love recording the arrival of spring. I found myself doing so each year, then not keeping up the pace in other seasons. One solution: A Sketchbook of Springs. Keep it real.

But what I enjoy most is keeping the everyday notebook in which I unburden myself of everything I have on my plate. Book lists, ideas, quotes, plans, hopes, appointments, notes from talks, what's going in a gift parcel, flowers in a new jug, too lovely not to record: the daily lot of my life, the things that fill my mind.  And often in the form of drawings. 

I enjoy using an ink pen so I try to get a notebook with ink-friendly paper. I want to carry this about, so small is fine. I'm trying to be budget-minded, so what I already own is just fine too. Doing it everyday, injecting some creativity into waits at the dentist, for jury duty, or creatively listening, are enough.

Giving myself permission to enjoy what flows naturally with my daily life lets me stop the guilty comparison and get on with what I'm actually able to do.

What do you naturally like to do, to create? Or what could you imagine fitting naturally into your daily round, with perhaps the special treat excursion into another style of journal when you can?

Other Sketchbook Possibilities?

Next week I'll post the first of a series looking at some possible themes of sketchbooks. Don't let them condemn you. Enjoy learning about the possibilities. Perhaps one of them will be a good fit for you.