Blue Monday: Colored pencils in a range of blues

Harlequin checks in shades of blue, purple and green, drawn with colored pencil.

A checkered grid ranging from deep navy blue to electric purple and teal.

Harlequin diamonds and cool blues, greens and purples on a deep violet background make for a colorful Blue Monday! Sometimes it’s fun to take some of the materials from a project and make an abstract color study.

A mix of blue, green and purple colored pencils displayed on a color wheel made of swatches from each pencil.

I used a mix of Faber-Castell’s Polychromos pencils and Caran D’Ache’s Supracolor Soft Aquarelle pencils for the Polyphemus moth project.

These are the pencils I used to create the blue tones in the drawing Polyphemus Moth on a Japanese Brocade. Clockwise from the top: Faber-Castell Polychromos Sky Blue 9201-146; F-C Prussian Blue 9201-246; Caran D’Ache Supracolor 3888-111; F-C Ultramarine 9201-120; F-C Cobalt Green 9201-156; F-C Delft Blue 9201-141; F-C Light Ultramarine 9201-140; F-C Cobalt Turquoise 9201-153; C-D’A 3888-131; F-C Indianthrene Blue 9201-247.

Hope your Monday is a cheerful shade of blue!


Blue Monday: Cerulean blue

Winslow Homer, “Flower Garden and Bungalow, Bermuda.” Watercolor on paper, reproduced as art print. Source: via Wrenaissance on Pinterest

Cerulean. adj. From Latin caeruleus, dark blue. First known use in 1662. Resembling the blue of the sky. From Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary.

When most artists want to paint a sky, cerulean blue is most likely the first watercolor pigment they think of using. Interestingly, the color was only invented in the early 19th century and was first sold as an artist’s color in 1861 by G. Rowney. Cerulean blue (color index PB 35) has the chemical name of Cobalt (II) stannate and is the result of heating tin salts with cobalt. It was invented at around the same time as the other modern cobalt pigments, including cobalt blue and cobalt green.

John Singer Sargent, “Giudecca.” Watercolor on paper. Source: via Wrenaissance on Pinterest

Cerulean blue was quickly adopted by the Impressionists, who enthusiastically experimented with all the new chemical compounds that were being developed as color pigments during the Industrial Revolution. Monet’s Gare-St. Lazare station series is frequently cited as being one of the earliest professional uses of cerulean blue in art.

Claude Monet, “Gare-St. Lazare Station,” 1877. Oil on canvas. Source: via Wrenaissance on Pinterest

Cerulean blue is often described as a neutral blue, or even slightly on the green side of the blue spectrum. Personally, I find it to be a reddish blue when compared to my other favorite sky pigment, manganese blue. As watercolor pigments, both granulate in washes, but cerulean to me has a more delicate and even pattern as it settles, while manganese tends to form rivulets.

A color chart showing how Cerulean Blue mixes with other watercolors.

Top: Gradated wash of Holbein Cerulean Blue watercolor. Row 2, L to R: Cerulean with Cadmium Lemon; Alizarin Crimson; Cadmium Orange; Permanent Magenta. Row 3, L to R: Opera; Cadmium Yellow Medium; Potter’s Pink; New Gamboge. Row 4, L to R: Vermilion; Jaune Brillant; Cadmium Red Medium; Hansa Yellow. Row 5, L to R: Naples Yellow; Violet Grey; Yellow Ochre; Dioxazine Purple.

The graduated wash at the top shows cerulean blue’s fine-grained reticulations. Don’t you just love the lively, clear lime greens formed with cadmium lemon and Hansa yellow? The cleanest violets in the chart are formed by mixing Opera, alizarin crimson and Permanent Magenta with cerulean. I think mixing cerulean with the warmer reds on the chart gives some great shadow tones for painting flesh, while the warmer yellows and earth yellows result in some yummy, earthy, olive shades.

How do you like to use cerulean blue?

Information resources:

Blue Mondays: An occasional series about one of my favorite colors

Artist Wren Allen has many shades of blue on her watercolor palette!

Shades of blue: all the blue watercolors currently in my paintbox. Clockwise from top: Holbein Cerulean Blue; Holbein Cobalt Blue; Holbein Compose Blue; Daniel Smith Genuine Lapis Lazuli; Windsor Newton Indigo; Daniel Smith Manganese Blue Hue; Holbein Manganese Blue; Daniel Smith Natural Sleeping Beauty Turquoise Genuine; Daniel Smith Ultramarine Blue; Maimeri Ultramarine Blue Dark.

I love all shades of blue: Cerulean, indigo, prussian, French ultramarine, turquoise, duck egg and sky.

Turquoise has to be my favorite of them all. I think I was imprinted on sky blue by my mother while I was just an infant. When I look at old photos of where we lived when I was a baby, the kitchen was painted a pale turquoise. So was my nursery.

Learn more about blue pigments and paint in this occasional series about this mystical color. Instead of feeling blue on Monday, let’s paint it blue!

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