Wednesday, September 8, 2021

A Street of Maples (and Another Blue)


9/5/21 Maple Leaf neighborhood

These are the variety of Japanese maples that are dark reddish most of the year, then turn brighter in the fall. Their challenging summer color prompted me to give them a try when I first began studying the CMYK-based triad in Kathleen Moore’s class in June. Now that these trees are turning, I gave them another try with a different triad, which I’m still having fun tweaking.

Although I liked the green I mixed from the slightly cooler Middle Cobalt Blue (660) last week, I’m still intrigued by how different the mixes look with the warmer but extremely intense Phthalocyanine Blue (162) (both Caran d’Ache Museum Aquarelles). This time I tried Supracolor’s Gentian Blue (370), which is much closer in warmth to Phthalocyanine but slightly less intense. This sketch was not a good test for mixing greens, so I’ll save that for later, but the straight Gentian Blue I used for street shadows makes a striking contrast with the warm trees.

These maples offer a challenging range of hues: The foliage is mostly dark red-orange, but their shaded underbelly has a muddy greenish cast. When I use my full range of pencils, trying to capture the colors “accurately” usually frustrates me. A huge benefit of staying with a primary triad is that it keeps me from trying to be too realistic. The sky, too, was a challenge on this day: It was cloudy when I put in the background, but then the sun came out just long enough to cast those ground shadows!

Supracolor's Gentian Blue (370) compared with Museum Aquarelle's Phthalocyanine Blue (162)


  1. Great color combo! One of my favorite colors is the russet color for the trees. You are right, the blue looks great next to the trees!

    1. Thanks! I do love this triad for fall trees! I'm looking forward to using it a lot in the next couple months!


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