Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A portrait in four colors


Oil on canvas paper
Last night I went to Kate's Studio (Monday night is portrait night). It can be so relaxing to paint something from life, as opposed to the commissions I've been working on lately which have all been from photos!

 I may be teaching a workshop in the spring about using a very limited color palette, specifically the one used by Anders Zorn, a famous Swedish painter. Four colors- ivory black, white, yellow ochre, and cad. red light. I've been experimenting with that palette and used it for this painting. Not only will those colors give you a wonderful variety of skin and hair colors, but all the colors relate to each other in a way that they don't with a larger palette. And, as a bonus, it seems to give you more space on your palette, because when you're mixing colors, you can often use something you've already mixed and just add to it.

10 comments:

Linda Popple said...

Beautiful, rich skin tones. Amazing what can be done with only four colors. Very nice!!

mike rooney studios said...

cant wait to see you do some plein air landscapes done in the Zorn palette!

Janice Thurston said...

Nice job. Seeing your portraits from Kates makes me really hungry to do some.

Christine said...

I have been painting from life (people) on Thursday evenings, and have been using a limited palette as well, but I am going to switch from Cad. Yellow med. to yellow ochre and see how that goes. I would love to take a workshop with you. Maybe I could talk my friend Jane Neroni into doing it too, if it is open.

Anne Winthrop Cordin said...

Nice work! Love the limited palette too.

Karen Bruson said...

I admire your ability to simplify shapes. Something I haven't mastered as yet.

DGehman said...

Just for fun, I searched on "ochre" at the Kremer Pigmente site... at least 40 types and an unbelievable range of hues. http://kremerpigments.com/shopus/

And somebody, somewhere on the Web asserts that Zorn used vermilion, a hugely rich (and hugely toxic) color.

A fun project for a PhD candidate in museum restoration... pin down all the yellows, golds, purples and reds that could be mixed with 40 different ochres + vermilion.

DGehman said...

(For some reason, the ochre search works only in Internet Explorer, returning 65 hits... in Firefox, I get only one ochre, a synthetic...)

Kathy Weber said...

Thanks, Linda!

Mike- I think I might have to add a blue to do a landscape. Just listened to an interview with Scott Christenson and found out that he's a BIG admirer of Zorn

Janice- it would be great to see you at Kate's- wish you would come some night.

Thanks, Christine, Anne, and Karen.

And Dave, that's really interesting- I will look at the 40 types of ochre! I guess the days are gone when one could buy lovely but extremely toxic pigments.

DGehman said...

Hmm - I'm wrong about the ochre count. The list is much shorter, as Kremer sells different particle sizes of the same pigment, listing each one separately. Even so, the range of hues is pretty amazing.

Kremer has several vermilions and six or so cinnabars.

Of course, this only works if you want to mull your own oils. Doubtless you could do this the way the old masters did -- if there are no restrictions on indentured servants in Rhode Island...