I was lucky enough to get to see the ROI exhibition in the Mall Galleries last month, the painting that stood out for me was a painting of a homeless person by Adebanji Alade. The most remarkable thing about the portrait was that it used the Zorn palette only Cadmium Red, Yellow Ochre, White and Black!
The link shows a demo of him making the painting. I was impressed by the range of colours from such a limited palette.
This palette is name after the Swedish artist Zorn who specialised in paintings of Scandinavian ladies on the way to have a bit of a goosepimply wash in a fjord, brrr.
This spurred me on to have a go and find a subject to try out the Zorn palette on. I’m a big fan of Bristol Drawing Club (http://bristoldrawingclub.blogspot.co.uk) where pub and sketching people meet seamlessly. What’s not to like? At one of these get togethers I sat opposite Jim for 60 seconds, sketching each other before we shuffled along to the next person, a bit like speed dating with pencils.
I ended up with this sketch, thank you Jim!
I thought I’d captured Jim as far as I could tell from our 60 second meeting, so I thought it was a good candidate to work up into a little painting.
First thing I did was to see what range of colours I could get out of this palette so started mixing. This is what I got…
I thought that was plenty of colours and set about painting using the sketch and some imagination to fill in the blanks in the sketch. I wanted to keep the colours separate and patchy and after an hour or two ended up with this…
OK, not a BP portrait award winner but a useful lesson For me on how useful and harmonised a limited palette can be and also a good reason to ignore anyone that is dogmatic about not using black in paintings, black and yellow ochre gave some beautiful olive greens.
Encouraged by this I had another crack, this time with a model called Ella who was darker skinned, I think the palette worked here too. Thanks Ella. It’s also pleasingly different to the Jim one.
When I was looking into limited palettes and in particular using black I stumbled across this article. http://willkempartschool.com/the-3-myths-of-black-in-mixing-paint-colours/ I was staggered to find a painter I was familiar with that painted large portraits using only Mars Violet (a dull red with a purple twinge), Blue-black and a bit of white.
Here’s one of his works…
Pretty amazing for such a limited palette eh? It shows that accurate tone trumps hue every time. I must have a go with this palette next time out.
The artist is Paul Elmsley, he’s considerably better known today than he was when I first thought about writing this a few days ago, now what else is he famous for?
I think he admitted himself that he was more cautious than he would have been with any other commission. Understandable I think and a pity if his career suffers. Thought this was a bit harsh ….