I have been experimenting with using a limited palette for painting, and am trying the Zorn palette. This is based on a palette used by Anders Zorn, a Swedish painter who excelled in painting water and portraits, especially nudes and eventually incorporated the nudes and the water. He also became very proficient in watercolour and painted some of his best work in that medium. He also had excellent drawing skills as well as turning his hand to etching and sculpture!
The oil palette that he used consisted of only four colours, yellow ochre, cadmium red light, ivory black and white. This provides a warm palette that works beautifully for portraits, as Zorn showed. I'm trying it in a landscape here - a study of the same path that I painted in Chocolate Road, and the lack of blue can be limited to achieve those shadows. Obviously Zorn must have used blue in some of his paintings, especially water. Some individuals add ultramarine blue to the palette to expand the range of colours.
Les Demoiselles Schwartz
1889, oil, 39½ x 26½. Collection the Louvre, Paris, France
Ivory black is a sort of blueish black and the theory is that by placing a grey made from the black and white next to an orange made from the red, yellow and white, the orange will make the grey look bluish. This is because the eye picks up the orange and then ‘invents’ the complementary blue colour.
David Rourke, from the blog All the Strange Hours, has an interesting post about using a limited palette and it would be good to experiment with the various combinations of warm colours.
Using a limited palette does make you become more creative in mixing and choosing colours instead of just reaching for another tube of colour. I will continue to experiment with the Zorn palette and see what I can do with it for a portrait.
Any other Zorn experimenters out there?