Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Fall Color Class, Weeks 1 and 2


10/13/23 wet-in-wet watercolor practice

Last February when I took Kathleen Moore’s Winter Sketchbook + Watercolor class, we worked mostly from photos by necessity. Kathleen, however, is a big advocate for working plein air, so as long as the weather is decent, I knew she would encourage painting from life in her Fall Color Watercolor class. Fall session would be a crapshoot, though – sometimes we have gorgeous October days; sometimes autumn is just a premature winter – but I kept my fingers crossed. At least for weeks 1 and 2, our luck held out, and I was able to do all my homework on location.

Week 1 was an in-class exercise to help us loosen up (at right). Color was first splashed onto paper randomly and abstractly, then we drew a leaf over the color. Clear water was applied to the leaf shape, and then we painted the leaf’s colors wet-in-wet while still remaining loose.

For week 2, we viewed several pre-recorded video lessons and demos about drawing and painting trees and foliage. The assignment was to sketch at least three trees from life using watercolors and/or ink. Since I draw trees regularly with colored pencils and ink, during this course, I’m focusing on pushing myself to use watercolor, especially on location with my new standing palette.

You already saw the maple in Ballard in my post about the USk troll outing (below). Using a wet-in-wet approach, I had a lot of trouble with water. I flooded the page with too much, and after sopping up the excess, most of the paint came with it. Then the sopped-up page was too dry, so I had to apply more water, then more paint. The result was colors duller than I wanted (though in retrospect, they reflect the rainy day). I used watercolor pencils last to add some texture to the foliage.

10/15/23 maple tree, Ballard neighborhood

After a couple of days of heavy rain, Wednesday was one of those glorious October days I always hope for – an ideal opportunity to finish my homework. I drove to Crown Hill to sketch a street lined with Zelkova trees. These are among my favorites on my fall leaf-peeping tour and even in summer. Sketching in a warm car, I had the opposite problem as the Ballard maple: My initial water started drying too fast. Feeling the time pressure, I painted rather hastily, but I do like the high contrast I achieved between Daniel Smith Carbazole Violet and Green Gold, the two new paints I added to my palette (see yesterday’s post).

10/18/23 Zelkova trees, Crown Hill neighborhood

The afternoon was just as beautiful and also warmer, so for my third sketch, I took my new palette for a walk. While the previous two were done in my A5 Hahnemühle Akademie sketchbook, I made the sketch below in my daily-carry A6 Hahnemühle. I noticed two things right away that were different from using the A5: First, it was easier to control the water simply because the wet-in-wet area was smaller in the A6 sketchbook. But more important, the 100 percent cotton paper in the A6 was easier to work with wet-in-wet.

10/18/23 Maple Leaf neighborhood

All of that said, I was least happy with the tree’s form in the third sketch: It looks like a flat leaf. I think I did the best in terms of form in the first sketch of the maple in Ballard, but I admit that it was mostly “a happy accident” and not intentional. I was too busy trying to manage the water on my page to think about form.

Unbelievably, the next day was almost as beautiful, so I couldn’t resist going out for one more tree (OK, so I’m also an over-achieving student; what else is new?), again in my A6 Hahnemühle (below). My intention was to use ink to draw the exposed branches, but ink often seems too stark, so at the last moment, I changed my mind and used a violet colored pencil instead.

The 100 percent cotton paper is definitely easier to work with. I might have to bite the bullet and buy another in the A5 size. Either that or never work larger than A6, which would be OK, too. By the time I got to this sketch, I was convinced: Holy cow, I love the secondary triad in my new palette! Especially Daniel Smith Carbazole Violet! Considering that I purchased only two new paints, Carbazole is certainly earning its keep.

10/19/23 Maple trees, Maple Leaf neighborhood

As for my new pink paint box, it is still a bit awkward to hold along with the sketchbook in one hand, but I’m learning to get used to it.


  1. Thank you for sharing these exercises, Tina. Ohn Mar Win recently posted a youtube video in which she splashed autumn hues on a page, then cut from it elements of fall-themed nature shapes. She collaged these onto another sheet, then drew the rest of the item--added berry stems, acorn caps, leaf veins. Your first technique here reminds me of it.

    1. You're welcome! That collage technique sounds interesting and very fun!

    2. I do a lot of painting and colouring every fall--loved Ohn Mar Win's ideas...thank you!

  2. Thanks for all the autumn treats in your trees. I’ m missing that here…no real trees to speak of. We have one last week here so I am crossing my fingers that there will still be some autumn colors when we get back.

    1. Joan, is that you? I've never been to Italy in the fall... maybe all the color is in the vineyard country and not in the city.


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