Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Harbinger of Fall


8/29/21 from our upstairs deck

A maple behind a house across the street has become my early harbinger of fall. It’s one of the first to start turning, usually in late August. Last year I sketched it with just a touch of color on Aug. 23. This year, I noticed the color around then, but I didn’t get around to sketching it until Aug. 29.

Despite being overly dry, it’s been a delightful summer for sketching, and we’ve been lucky to have only one bout of smoke so far (knock on wood). I’m always wistful when the first trees start to turn, but I feel that way even more so this year: It’s been a joy for USk Seattle to meet up again, but once the weather gets wet and then cold, it’s going to be hard to find sheltered, outdoor areas. Our usual indoor mainstays that we depend on every winter may not be safe options as the Delta variant continues to rage. It’s a difficult dilemma.

Technical note: When I want a neutral dark, I tend to fall back on Payne’s Grey. With the primary triad I have been using lately, though, Payne’s Grey sometimes can’t to hold its own against those extremely vivid hues. I’ve lately been trying a black Caran d’Ache Museum Aquarelle when I want a really strong shadow. In this case, I even used it for the background trees behind the maple. In reality, they were a very dark green, much darker than the maple, and I was afraid that if I had mixed the three primaries to get the value as dark as I wanted, the result would compete with the maple.

Using black pigment is often frowned upon by painters who enjoy mixing their darks, and I can understand the fun in that challenge. Maybe next time I’ll resist black and see if I can achieve a mixed dark from this triad that doesn’t come off as downright garish.  


  1. You have been able to create such wonderful sketches with your primary watercolor pencils!I am so grateful to have some cooler weather too. Look forward to seeing what your sketch group comes up with!

    1. Thanks, Cathy! Working with a triad has really given me an exciting challenge even with ordinary scenes!

  2. Your colors are really good! I don't have any black paint on my watercolor palette but they sneak it into the sets of watercolor pencils I have. Usually I can resist them and tend to mix indigo, purple and sepia to get a really dark color. That way I can sway it a little one way or the other. We have discussed what our options will be for winter sketching and Zoom may end up what we use since the numbers are going up with the Delta variant. I'll continue my solo sketching like always too.


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