Monday, November 22, 2010

A Change of Palette

I have been threatening to use Anders Zorn's palette for a long time.  On Saturday's outing I did it.  In addition, I decided to prepare a canvas or two in the studio so that the ground was dry as opposed to working into a wet coloured ground.  The target was a value 6 (white being 10) ground using burnt sienna and ultramarine blue to make a warm grey surface to work from.

Set Up with Dry Dark Ground

Awfully dark you say.  When I checked the canvas with my value scale (Already dry) I found it to be 2 steps dark.  Seems I had a hi intensity light on when I did the prep.  So I painted too dark as a result.  Just like a bright day in the landscape.  I decided to use it as it was.

I squeezed out a Zorn palette of Ivory Black, Yellow Ochre, and Terra Rosa, plus Flake (Lead) White.

Zorn Palette

You can see the Zorn pigments below my regular palette used the day before.  The colours are way less intense (you can mix a close approximation of these - a good exercise).  The red is a cool red, the yellow is warm, and the black is your cool blue.  With this approach of a short palette every colour you mix will be harmonious eliminating that concern.

Here is what I did with the subject as seen in the top photo.

Zorn's Shelter, 11x14, Oil on Canvas

An interesting array of colours.  Greens, blue (see the eves on the shelter, a couple of cloud strokes in the sky), oranges, violets, reds, yellows - all muted.  With the dark ground showing through I found it difficult to lighten the image.  It was overcast in my mind, so perhaps I came half way to my vision.  Since I had a dry ground to work from I decided to dry brush the painting so a considerable amount of broken colour exists.  I used one #8 Filbert bristle brush, wiping only to keep it dry.  With this approach you have to develop a way to keep colours clean - its all in the brush handling.


  1. I really like the rich colors. Very nice!

  2. Thanks Karla. I am working on another using this palette but a lighter ground. I'll post it so you can make comparisons. The palette lends itself to a tonalist appearance.