Friday, May 08, 2009

Portrait in Zorn

Bill - complete
oils 8 x 10

Bill - 2 hours
oils 8 x 10

EDIT: I thought I'd put the finished portrait here and compare it to the 2 hour session. I tweaked a few things, adjusted a few colour and now I'm calling it done. On to the next one!
I wanted to continue with the Zorn palette to work on a portrait and tonight there was a perfect chance as one of the images for the All Media Event on WetCanvas was a portrait.

This is my attempt after two hours. I still haven't got the angle of the head quite right, but its coming along. I quite like this limited palette for portraits and they especially suit the ruddy complexion of this individual.

I'll do some more work on it tomorrow and see if I can finish it off.

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?

Charcoal study

Head study 1

I haven't drawn with charcoal for ages, so pulled some out last night along with a piece of newsprint and played around with a study for a portrait. Charcoal is so versatile and goes from loose to tight with ease, depending on how you use it and what type it is.

I'm one of those people who like getting dirty and prefer vine or willow charcoal, but also use charcoal pencils to add detail. I don't often use charcoal powder but sometimes tone the paper by putting down a layer of charcoal then blending it lightly with some kitchen towel or a tissue. I use tortillons for blending small areas if I need to, such as eyes or lips where I want smooth transitions of shadows.

I'm still not 100% happy with the likeness I have for this study so will tweak it some more - another reason I like charcoal - its so easy to manipulate with a kneaded eraser or to add more charcoal to deepen shadows.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Inspiration Tuesday

Each Tuesday I choose an image that I allow others to use as they wish under a Creative Commons license.

Dandelions are one of the first things that bloom and in places they blanket the ground. Dandelions, while considered a nuisance by many gardeners, are one of the most beneficial herbal plants and are used to assist digestion. I use dandelion root which I dig in the fall to make a tincture that then lasts me til the next fall's harvest.

The leaves are bitter and eaten in spring when the plant is young as a vegetable and to help stimulate the appetite. The leaves are also a diuretic.

Monday, May 04, 2009

I need an apprentice

My blog is pushing 1,000 posts and now entering its 4th year. Sometimes I feel as if I've run out of words and inspiration to add more to it. I know that I still have information and art in my past, my present and my future, but sometimes it doesn't come out the way that I plan.

These last few weeks seem to be those of starts, but not finishes. There are sketches, half finished drawings, starts for oil paintings and now a lino block that I've started, but my body refuses to let me complete it.

With aging comes its own set of complaints and in my case its some arthritis in one hand - the drawing hand of course. It was exacerbated by an accident years ago when a sizable sliver of glass entered the joint of my forefinger on the right hand. It became infected almost instantly and was dealt with medically promptly. However the glass severed the nerve and there is a numbness from the joint to the fingertip which causes problems sometimes.

I started this lino cut a few days ago, but had to stop as my finger was too stiff and painful after extended pressure on it. I keep trying and may transfer the piece over to a softkut piece of vinyl that carves more easily and see how that works.

I think I need an apprentice. Isn't that what artists had years ago? A 'go fer' to mix paint, do the parts that the artist hated to do, like tedious backgrounds, and to cut lino blocks! Then I could come in and work on the fun part like printing. I've set Tripod with the task of searching online for an apprentice for me. He seems quite dedicated to the work...

There are still apprenticeships available in some areas, and while they may resemble in some ways the apprenticeships of years past, the workload is less strenuous and the life not so harsh in the 21st century. The passing down of skills from master to apprentice is age old and very valuable. Only now are people understanding the loss of information and skills that can only be produced through person to person sharing and not through a virtual connection.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Skintones in watercolour

The week's hectic pace has run over into the weekend and I ended up having to go to work for a meeting on Saturday which ran over. Then running around afterwards trying to do some errands ensured that I didn't get home til around 5, so the day was shot.

I haven't had time to many inroads into projects that desparately need attention and tend to go off on tangents in the form of drawings or small paintings that aren't truly inspired or destined for anywhere but 'the' drawer. You know, the one where pieces that you lose interest in or that don't work out go to spend their days.

I did play around with a watercolour portrait, just to keep my hand in. I am continually working on the right palette for cool skin tones. I'm a real fan of blues for shadows for people with fair colouring, but they can be easily overdone and need to be balanced with reds and yellows to add some warmth as well.

This watercolour paper is Bockington 140lb and is very pale blue. The image here is taken in daylight and is quite cool overall. The image at the beginning of the post taken under artificial light and you can see that it adds a warmer tone to the piece.

I even remembered to take a couple of progress shots while I was doing this that may be useful to see the process of how I work.