Lockdown Sketches

Sketch of a woman sketching done in watercolour and pens
Self-portrait of Liz McGrath drawing in her COVID-19 sketchbooks, Barwon Heads, 3 May 2020

Artist: Liz McGrath, Barwon Heads, Bellarine Peninsula
Medium: Watercolour paint – hundreds of sketches across multiple journals

Artist Statement: ‘In early 2020 I decided to make a sketch of my everyday life, each and every day. This idea was sparked in January while on holiday in Vietnam, travelling with my partner and our four teenagers. I made quick sketches in my travel journal, attempting to capture a colourful moment or a scene of street-life. My kids became interested, offering to share my drawings on social media, even setting up an Instagram page for the purpose. Back home in mid-January, ominous news of the COVID virus was appearing in the media but gave us no real inkling of just how strange and challenging the year would become. Coincidentally, I became committed to the idea of drawing and posting a sketch every day for the year as @everydaylizmc. As 2020 unfolded and revealed itself, my daily drawing practice became an important ritual. Through social media my sketches were shared with others and their feedback encouraged me to stick to my promise. Setting some simple guidelines I decided that all sketches had to be drawn directly from my life (not from photos) and each had to be completed in less than 45 minutes.

When Victoria locked down our household took on a very different shape. All our four children were living back at home, three of them studying remotely, and every desk space was occupied. My partner John, a public servant, converted the garden shed into his office, tapping away at a computer amid the secateurs and saws. As an art teacher in Special Ed I juggled both remote and face-to-face teaching roles, and had to go into work in an eerily quiet Geelong twice a week to conduct Zoom sessions from a studio set-up. But for most of the long quiet weeks our house was full, we were locked up together, we felt crowded, some felt trapped and we filled every space… much to the delight of our dog (and chooks). My daily drawing became a reassuring therapy, a simple meditation on gratitude, a moment’s pause to remember how lucky we were.

‘My daily drawing became a reassuring therapy.’ Liz McGrath

Even during the first lockdown, as case numbers spiralled worryingly and the future seemed foggy and unknown, drawing offered me space to reflect on how fortunate we really are… we have a cosy home, company, food and comforts, and live in a safe country. Wet washing hung on a clothes-horse might seem a mundane subject to draw, but it also expressed my gratitude at having a working washing machine and clean hot running water. Each day revealed a simple subject to celebrate: a teenager studying or sprawled on a couch, a meal, something I saw or picked up on a walk in the neighbourhood, something from our garden, someone at work. Facemasks featured: being sewn, washed or worn.

The feedback from followers on Instagram was so lovely, I connected with others in a special way, lots of conversations were sparked and new friendships were made. I live on the Bellarine Peninsula, so during the second lockdown we had more freedoms in regional Victoria than Melburnians. Many Melbourne friends tell me they found comfort in checking in with my daily drawings and looked forward to seeing what I would create next.

I’ve not missed a drawing day since late January 2020 - that’s almost 400 drawings. Each is quite modest in size and all are enclosed within hardbound sketchbooks. In my handbag I carry a sketching and painting kit that I’ve put together, so I’m always ready to draw when the right scene catches my eye - I rarely plan ahead. My sketchbooks fill, they pile up on my kitchen table and eventually they sit cheerily on a shelf - unique snapshots of the life of an everyday Victorian during an extraordinary time. Initially I planned to finish the project at the end of 2020, but as it’s has become a fixed part of my day I’ve decided to continue as long as I’m able.’

With the support of the Office for Suburban Development, one of Liz’s sketchbooks – as well as over 40 digital images depicting her sketches – have been acquired into Museum Victoria’s State Collection.

Join the mailing list and get the latest from our Museums direct to your inbox.

Share your thoughts to WIN

We'd love to hear about your experience with our website. Our survey takes less than 10 minutes and entries go in a draw to win a $100 gift voucher at our online store!