Saturday, June 25, 2022

Squared Crown Hill Trees (and Triad 3)


6/20/22 Crown Hill neighborhood

Eighth Avenue Northwest in Crown Hill is one of my favorite streets to sketch. A center divide between the two directions of traffic is lined with dense Zelkova trees. I thought that they had been trimmed in a weird, squared-off way to accommodate large trucks and buses, but a friend told me that the trimming has happened naturally as vehicles have hit the lower branches! I tend to sketch there in the fall to catch the color. Here’s a sketch I made in November when the backlighting was lovely. Several years earlier, there was more color by November, and another year the color was just starting in October.

On the day before the solstice, an overcast morning appointment brought me to Ballard, so I drove home by way of Eighth Northwest to see what the trees would be like to sketch in June. Lighting conditions weren’t the best that day, but I liked how each tree showed a fringe of soft light. It was a good test for primary triad 3.

After a few sketches, I had decided that primary triad 2, although slightly warmer than triad 1, was not doing it for me. I’ve swapped out the Caran d’Ache Turquoise Blue (171) for Caran d’Ache Ice Blue (185), which sounds cooler, but it’s closer to the Phthalocyanine Blue (162) that I was using in my original CMYK-based triad. Purplish Red (350) and Yellow (10) remain the same.

Primary triad 3

My choice may sound reasoned, but it’s probably more random than reasoned. I simply pulled out several blues I thought would work, made triad swatches, and picked the combo I liked best. It’s always interesting to make swatches because mixed triad hues never quite look the way I expect them to, which is part of the fun and excitement of using them. But the proof is always in the sketches – not the swatches. The hues in the sketch above might be cooler than I had intended, but ironically, it seems about right for our cooler-than-average June.

Traditionally, primary triads are made by mixing warms with warms or cools with cools. By mixing warms with cools, undesirable mud can sometimes result. That’s the basic concept, anyway, that I learned in a beginning watercolor class during my first year or two of sketching. Color mixing is more complex than that, however, and when I first learned about the primary triad based on CMYK hues, my head exploded: The three hues I think of as primaries are not necessarily red, yellow and blue at all!

Triad 1 is still in the running, but I haven’t used it often enough to decide whether it’s “right.” Ultimately, whether a triad is “right” is just a feeling and not a formula.


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