Sunday, April 9, 2023

The Pink (and Supporting Palette) Continues


4/6/23 Bryant neighborhood

4/5/23 Green Lake neighborhood

As the UW Quad’s sakura finally hit their peak, cherries all over town are suddenly joining the pink party. The morning before the sketch outing, I was walking on a street near Green Lake where I hadn’t been in more than a week, and suddenly all the small, usually unattractive cherries had burst into bloom. This one (at right), just outside the former Om Culture building, looked a bit disheveled, like she’d just gotten up from a long nap, but nothing was keeping her from the party.

It was pouring the next morning when I had to go out for an appointment. Driving through the Bryant neighborhood on my way home, I spotted a street (top of post) with plum trees on one side (on the right), now on the downside of their peak, and a few small cherries on the other side just hitting their prime. Sketched through my wet windshield, they partied on.

Color notes: Although I had done my pink research in anticipation of petal-peeping season, I didn’t give much thought to the supporting color palette other than choosing some violets for blossom shadows. It wasn’t until I was actually in the field that I realized I hadn’t finished my research. I had gotten so used to either primary or secondary triad palettes that the pink threw me for a loop: Which supporting colors would go well with pink? So I experimented on the fly.

An easy natural, of course, is green – it’s a complement. I used that trio – pink with variations of green and violet – as my basic limited palette for many sketches. But on days when I brought in cyan for the bright sky, I started appreciating blue as part of the mix. The sketch I made near Green Lake began with pink and green. Then I spotted some tiny red triangles – the closed umbrellas in front of Rosita’s Mexican Restaurant. I didn’t want to bring red into the mix, so I impulsively made them cyan (Caran d’Ache Museum Aquarelle Phthalocyanine Blue 162) instead.

That’s when I remembered something Eleanor Doughty suggested during her Urban Sketching: Create Expressive Cityscapes course on Domestika. A fan of limited palettes, she recommends using no more than five colors. If she brings in a color from outside the limited range she has established for a sketch, she tries to use it in at least one more spot so the color won’t be random. It’s a sound principle for a cohesive sketch.

Having made the umbrellas blue, I used the same blue pencil to darken or neutralize the pink and green I had used elsewhere, hoping for color cohesiveness. I like that dreary backdrop for the partying pink tree on an overcast day. When I tried using the same combo of colors at the UW Quad that afternoon, however, I didn’t like it – the cyan came on too strong and stole the show from the delicate pink.

Notes in my color journal

In the Bryant neighborhood sketch (top of post), I used a less intense blue – Museum Aquarelle Night Blue (149). It seems like dark blue should be too cool for spring sketching, but maybe I’m influenced by our ongoing morning temps in the high 30s and low 40s. I like this limited palette, which could be considered a primary triad with pink stepping in for red (plus a bit of Supracolor Aubergine 099). I made a note of it in my color journal for reference next spring.

Her take on limited palettes is not the only thing I like about Ellie’s Domestika course and her fresh, unique approach to urban sketching. She is known for using a wide range of media, but her usage is not random — she explains and demos, step by step, how each choice of medium contributes to the vibrancy of the finished work. I especially appreciate her intuitive yet practical approach to perspective, stated simply: You don’t have to know 2-point or 3-point perspective to draw beautifully expressive buildings! Then she goes on to explain how she does it, which is refreshingly straightforward.

Although her style is very different from mine, I gleaned plenty of ideas and tips (like that limited palette tip) that I can incorporate into my own style.

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