Friday, September 3, 2021

Green Lake Sweet Gums (and New Blue)


8/31/21 Green Lake

A regular stop on my annual leaf-peeping tour is a stand of trees at Green Lake that I had been generically referring to as maples, but I learned that they are actually sweet gums (at right in my sketch; the stand at left are a different kind of tree). During my first year as a sketcher, dazzled by their color, I bravely sketched these trees, but I remember having much difficulty with perspective, scope and scale. Since then, I have sketched them every few years (here’s 2013 and 2016), yet it’s still a challenging composition.

A few days ago, I stood in my usual spot to sketch them, when it occurred to me: Why do I make it so hard on myself? If I just step back a ways, the perspective would be easier, and the composition would probably be better, too.

In the sketch above, I tried Middle Cobalt Blue (660)
instead of Phthalocyanine Blue (162).

Technical note: Although I’ve been enjoying the intensity of the primary triad I’ve been using lately (Caran d’Ache Purplish Red 350, Lemon Yellow 240, Phthalocyanine Blue 162), sometimes that warm cyan seems a bit too intense. For this sketch, I swapped out 162 for Middle Cobalt Blue 660, which is my favorite blue for Seattle skies (when it’s actually blue and not Payne’s Grey, that is). It’s a bit cooler than Phthalocyanine and also less intense. I think I prefer the green it makes with Lemon Yellow compared to Phthalocyanine. I added a bit of black under the trees to keep those distant areas both cool and dark.

An interesting challenge about using a triad with such an intense Purplish Red is finding the right balance in the dark shaded areas of the trees so that they read as shade and not as red leaves (trees on the left). If you’ve never tried sketching with a primary triad, I recommend it. It’s a fun challenge!


  1. I think that the cobalt blue works better. It isn't quite as intense and with your use of it in the sky there is nice harmony in this.

    1. Thanks! I like the harmony too, but I'm still experimenting with other blues to find the right balance. Fun to play around!


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