Sketching Autumn Leaves in a New Sketchbook

This week I did a sketch of autumn leaves using both a new sketchbook and a fairly new-to-me palette of colors. I am not sure that was very smart. I should only try one new thing at a time!

The sketchbook I used is called: The Perfect Sketchbook. It was a kickstarter project featured on Indiegogo.

This is a casebound journal made with recycled leather and features an elastic band, and ribbon. It is a very attractive sketchbook and has my name engraved on the front.

“The Perfect Sketchbook” ™

I like the B5 size which is close to 8″ x 10″. The Perfect Sketchbook is filled with 290 gsm coldpress Fabriano Artistico. I haven’t had too much experience painting on this paper before. One of the things I like about this paper is that you can lift color fairly easily. Two things I didn’t care for were 1) The paper tended to curl a lot while painting my washes (although it eventually flattened out) and 2) It seemed to take a longer time to dry than other papers I have used in my sketchbooks. To be fair, my subject was painted using the negative painting method which uses more water and lots of layers. It could be this sketchbook will perform far differently when painting a simple sketch with less layers.

The first six colors I used for this sketch are part of Steve Mitchell’s “Favorite Eight:” Prussian Blue, Azo Green, Indian Yellow, Quinacridone Red, and Transparent Red Iron Oxide made by M. Graham. I have only used these colors once or twice so they are very new-to-me and I am still learning how to mix them. The last three colors: Quinacridone Gold, Quinacridone Burnt Orange, and New Gamboge made by Daniel Smith are on my everyday palette.

I began by sketching my primary leaves lightly in pencil and then painting an under-painting of Azo Green, Indian Yellow and Transparent Red Iron Oxide. In this photo the paint is still wet.

Under Painting
© Annie Glacken

After the under-painting dried completely, I began forming the primary leaves by painting the area around them with a darker version of the previous colors.

Primary Leaves
© Annie Glacken

Next, I added the secondary leaves by painting the area around them with darker colors. In addition, I added some more color to the primary leaves being careful to paint around the veins.

Secondary Leaves
© Annie Glacken

I decided I needed to add some darks in places in the background in order to bring the leaves forward. To do this I went back to my usual palette and used Quinacridone Burnt Orange. In addition, I darkened the secondary leaves with Quinacridone Gold to push them back. I also brightened the primary leaves with some New Gamboge. Texture was added with a bit of splatter.

Crisp Autumn Leaves
© Annie Glacken

I have to say that I am still trying to learn how to mix Steve’s palette of his “Favorite Eight.” This looks a little “muddy” to me. I am used to more vibrant colors on my palette so these colors seem more muted to me by comparison.  It is all a learning experience.  Even the “failures” help us learn.

In the future I am making a note to self, “Only try one new thing at a time.”

Happy painting and sketching!




10 Replies to “Sketching Autumn Leaves in a New Sketchbook”

  1. Anyway, I like your painting, the colors, the “blur”, I love it. And this leather sketchbook is pretty.
    About Fabriano Artistico paper, I read they changed the formulation. Some botanical painting artists, whom this paper was their favorite say it’s not yet so fabulous. So you are probably right about “less layers painting”.
    I don’t know a lot M Graham watercolors because in Europe, it’s difficult to get them at a good price. Amazon is really expensive about them. My daughter brought me two tubes of them at a ridiculous low price compare to amazon, from Canada. Perhaps you could try with mono-pigments watercolors to be less “muddy” like you think it is. But I must say the colors you used are some of my favorite, Prussian blue, Red iron oxide, Indian yellow, Quin Gold… All the best for autumn colors… Thanks for sharing you step by step.

    • Hi Laurence. Thanks for the compliment. I did try to “lose” or “blur” the edges of my leaves. As far as the Fabriano paper, I did hear about the changes to their paper. This is the first time I have used it in a sketchbook. Maybe next time, I will like it better if I use a little less water. The page is still a little buckled. My favorite watercolors are Daniel Smith (especially Quin. Gold) and Winsor Newton brands. I wanted to give these M. Graham colors a go because I like the mixes Steve Mitchell on the Mind of Watercolor can get with them. I just need to experiment with them some more. Thanks for the comment!

  2. I am a huge fan of new gamboge [since my alltimefavorite aureolin is no longer considered light fast] I’m never quite sure of the Indian yellow and the oxides. I always want something brighter. I’ve been looking for a really nice orange. Transp pyrrol orange is on my palette now, but it’s awfully red…

    • Robin, I love New Gamboge also. I do think it is a little brighter than the Indian Yellow for some reason. As far as your transparent pyrrol orange, I need to try that one. Can you add the New Gamboge to it to cut the red? The only problem is that Daniel Smith changed their formulation and New Gamboge is now made with two pigments: PY97 and PY 110 which when mixing with the Pyrrol Orange PO 71 would make a mix of three which might dull it a little. It is difficult to find a nice bright orange that is transparent. Thanks for commenting!

      • If I can make a suggestion, Schmincke has a great “transparent orange” PO71….I have not compared with Pyrrol orange (I have not) to see if it looks different.

  3. This is beautiful, Annie! I love everything about it and don’t think that it looks muddy, just muted, which is often what autumn looks like to me. A framable sketchbook piece!

    • Thank you for the nice compliment Tonya! I guess the colors are so different for me they will take some time to get used to them. I still prefer my Daniel Smith and Winsor Newton colors the best. Although I do like the Azo Green a lot when mixing greens.

  4. Thank you for sharing your pretty sketch of Autumn Leaves. After seeing it I got out by sketch book and paints!

    • Faye I am glad you like it and were inspired to get out your sketchbook and paint. Thanks for commenting!