Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Zorn palette

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?


Cathyann said...

Thanks for the information on Zorn. I will try it and let you know! I am used to a more colorful palette but this should be a good change of pace and opportunity to learn something new.

Vi said...

I love the Zorn palette, and used in almost exclusively for about two years. I learned so much, and I still learn from it.

I really like the landscape you did with it. Most people ignore what one can do with greens!

Jeanette said...

Its a very useful palette from what I see so far CathyAnn, I hope you enjoy trying it.

I can see the appeal Vi. I think it will remain on my list for a long time too.

Teresa Mallen said...

Lovely landscape Jeanette! I like the look a limited palette gives. It is unifying and often quietly powerful. I also think that limiting the palette is a great way to master colour mixing.
I think many artists end up limiting their palette rather unconsciously as they start developing their own unique style. We often seem to end up gravitating towards certain colour families, warm or cool, etc.

Jeanette said...

Thanks Teresa. I'm quite liking the limited palette, especially for skin tones. It helps my ability to see colours and values and eliminates muddying the image - well not quite so much. :)

J.R.Segura said...

Nice trying of zorn's palette. I use a different kind of limited palette that consists on ultramarine blue, yellow ochre, burnt sienna, crimson red and white. Maybe I have to try the zorn limited palette. Nice work you got in here!