Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Yosemite Palette

My everyday-carry urban palette

By the time you read this, I will be somewhere in Yosemite National Park! Yosemite has been on my bucket list ever since I first saw Ansel Adams’ Moon and Half Dome decades ago. I don’t know why it took us so long to bring it up to the top of our list, but we’re finally there!

Although I always take a look at my sketch kit before I travel, I didn’t need to make any major changes – my everyday-carry sketch kit has been a lean machine (both at home and away) for quite some time now.

The one thing I seriously reviewed, however, was my colored pencil palette. Going from my typical urban palette to Yosemite’s granite, waterfalls and sequoias took a bit of thinking. As I always do before I travel, I did a little Google image research of the landscape I would be seeing – in this case, the Sierra Nevada. Of course, I couldn’t remove all my usual urban colors, because I was going to spend a couple of days in the Bay Area first. And they all had to fit within the 23 available slots in my Tran Portfolio Pencil Case (two of the 25 slots are permanently assigned to a white pencil and a cheap conventional brush). The exercise required some critical sampling and making judicious choices.

Shown above is my typical urban palette. (All colors are Caran d’Ache Museum Aquarelles except 217, which is Faber-Castell’s Albrecht Durer Middle Cadmium Red. A brick red that I’ve been using frequently on the Tudors in my neighborhood, it is surprisingly lacking in the Museum palette.) This is basically the same palette I’ve been using since February after my minimal sketch kit challenge ended. I finally took out the cherry blossom pink I had optimistically carried for months. Just recently I’ve been carrying a neon orange/neon green bicolored pencil, which is so useful in construction zones (probably less so in Yosemite, but who knows about San Jose?).
My Yosemite palette

I retained all the above and added the carefully selected four shown at right – three earthy tones that were missing from my urban palette, plus indigo, which I thought might come in handy for rocky shadows.

I’ll let you know in a few days whether my selection turned out to be useful! Or you can see for yourself now on Instagram.


  1. You will need all the greens for sure and mosquito repellent!

  2. If you're going there because of Ansel Adams photos, all you need is a Blackwing and white paper (grin). Hope you and Greg have a great time.

  3. Wish I had seen this post before I saw so many of your sketches from Yosemite. I would have been analyzing each painting to see what colors you used.


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