Feeling a little Zorn this morning.

24 January, 2016. I’ve been interested in a limited palette for years. Typically, my paint kit includes a warm and cool of each primary, a green for mixing neutrals, and white. That’s eight tubes of paint. Sometimes I’ll even limit myself to one of each primary, plus white. In watercolor I don’t use white at all, but still rely on mixtures coming out of the circle of color. My approach to color has always come out of the triad, so I always found the Zorn palette interesting, but a curiosity more than anything else. Interesting, in that it’s just four tubes of oil, and curious because it’s not a triad at all: Vermilion, Yellow Ochre, Ivory Black, and White. No blue whatsoever. Cool colors come from black.

Anyhow, I thought it might be fun to finally explore the Zorn palette a little bit and perhaps introduce it to my painting students as we begin to learn about color theory and color mixing. So here’s my thirty minute oil sketch testing the boundaries of this weird-to-me palette of paints.

As I usually do with my plein air work, I tinted the surface with a burnt umber and used a thin dark wash to roughly block in the key information. Upon reflection, it occurs to me that using a tinted ground of Yellow Ochre might harmonize a bit better with the Zorn palette. I’ll give that a go next time.

I tend to work from dark to light, locating the shadow shapes using pretty general marks. These are generally located as well, and will get corrected as I work.

Shapes get “carved in” as I work from the general to the specific. At this point I began to realize some of the potential of this palette.

Half an hour later, here’s the 8 x 10 inch sketch. (Oil on panel.)



  1. sdf · February 2, 2016

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    • azorch · February 2, 2016

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