Tuesday, 5 August 2008
The Zorn Palette
I recently came across what is known as the Zorn palette, which consists of just yellow ochre, cadmium red, ivory black and white. Now whether Anders Zorn ever used this palette of colours is debatable, but it has been attributed to him. (Anders Zorn (1860-1920) was possibly Sweden’s best known artist and he specialised in painting portraits and nudes. I have used one of his charcoal sketches as inspiration for one of the projects in my online drawing course).
So I thought I’d have a go at using these four oil colours, but actually had a bit of trouble getting any kind of blue out of the ivory black. 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. However I just couldn’t get it to work. I just got grey!
But this got me thinking about just using three colours for painting (plus white if you are using oils or acrylics). There’s an American oil painter called Kevin MacPherson who paints outdoors a lot, and uses just cadmium red, Cadmium yellow, ultramarine blue and white, and with these he creates every colour he could possibly need, and all with great harmony!
So why not pare down your paints to just these four and have a go at mixing everything else. See what you can come up with.