Friday, July 9, 2021

Backyard Redux: Durer Primary Triad


7/4/21 Faber-Castell Albrecht Durer pencils in Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook

When I wrote about looking for a CMYK-based primary triad in the Faber-Castell palette and showed a sketch made with Polychromos, two readers requested seeing the Albrecht Durer triad. My first thought was that the triads would be the same – oil-based Polychromos and water-soluble Durer palettes are designed to be identical, and most hues do match closely – so what would be the point? But of course, the colored pencil geek was tickled to oblige.

Cadmium Yellow (107), Middle Purple Pink (125) and Phthalo Blue (110)

Rather than simply pulling out the same colors I’d found in Polychromos, I started from scratch and examined the Durer palette with fresh eyes. Cadmium Yellow (107) and Phthalo Blue (110) still both seemed to match the model Prismacolor triad (Process Red, Canary Yellow and True Blue) most closely, but this time I chose Middle Purple Pink (125) for the Process Red hue. Middle Purple Pink was an alternate I had considered when I was picking out the Polychromos triad, but I ended up choosing Fuchsia that time. It would be interesting to see how the different “red” would change the triad. For the darkest shadows, I used Dark Indigo (157).

Unlike the sweltering day that I had made my Polychromos tomato, it was a lovely 73 degrees with a breeze on the back deck when I sketched the backyard again. With harder Durer pencils, it took me a bit longer to build up enough layers of color, but as far as the triad goes, I think the three hues worked together well. In fact, I think the cooler Middle Purple Pink is a better choice than Fuchsia as a primary “red.”

Below I show an image of the sketch before spritzing. Somehow the drama of the spritzing moment didn’t seem as high with Durers as it does with Caran d’Ache Museum Aquarelles; the higher the pigment content, the greater the change when activated with water. Luckily for me, the spouse guy was in the kitchen just as I was about to do the magic, so I was able to ask him to capture the moment on video. (It’s a three-handed job, and when I’m out urban sketching, I usually have only two. Using my back-deck studio does have benefits.) To view the video, please see my Instagram post.

(Another benefit of my back-deck studio is being entertained by many birds. Among the ones I saw and/or heard as I sketched were grackles, hummingbirds, spotted towhees, juncos, flickers, finches, chickadees, Steller’s jays and crows. Ahhh, summer. . . no matter how long it lasts, it won’t seem long enough.)

The pre-spritz sketch


  1. Nice colorful darks. Thanks for giving us another look at a triad!

    1. The colored pencil geek is more than happy to oblige! ;-)


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