Category Archives: Zorn Palette

First Exploit into Writing

 

Learning the Limited Palette

I was honored to be asked to write a blog post on the Zorn Palette for the Portrait Society of America.  My first exploit into writing!!!  Still prefer to paint!!! You can view it on their website under “Blog”. http://portraitsociety.org

December 10, 2019    Robin Wellner

There is something so magical about capturing someone’s essence on canvas. I’m fascinated and frustrated in equal measures as I try to learn to be a better portrait artist. I love the energy of painting from life, be it people or landscapes. Several years ago, I came across information on the Zorn Palette and thought, “Wow, only four colors!” White, yellow ochre, cadmium red and Ivory black – and variations. I’ve experimented with various limited palettes, but after looking at Anders Zorn’s portraits, I knew it was worth considering and experimenting with. 

Anders Zorn, Self Portrait with Model, 1896

Anders Zorn was a pre-eminent Swedish artist (1860-1920). He began as a watercolorist, painting beautiful landscapes, seascapes, as well as some portraits. In 1887, Zorn and his wife traveled with the English painter Alice Miller to Cornwall on England’s southwest coast. In the village of St. Ives in England, they found a wonderful fishing setting as well as a colony of international artists. Their visit lasted through the winter and was transformative for Anders Zorn as a painter. These painters inspired Anders Zorn to begin to paint in oils. An American artist, Edward Simmons, claimed to “help the Swede” to set his palette. This initial palette was black, white and yellow ochre. After the addition of red, this became Anders Zorn’s initial palette. This palette is evident in his painting Self Portrait with Model painted in 1896. It’s obvious as you look further at Zorn’s work that he did not limit himself to just that palette. There are many paintings that obviously have blues, greens and purples that could never have been created with the typical “Zorn” palette, but there are many incredible portraits that seem to have been painted with just those four colors.

                                Close-up of Zorn’s four-color palette

In my mission to learn portraiture, it was great to simplify the color aspect of my decision-making and focus more on the person in front of me. I found it quite liberating and rarely restrictive, unless the model wore blue or some vibrant purple. Since I was predominantly focused on their faces, it usually wasn’t a problem. Occasionally I will add ultramarine blue to my palette if the model wears blue. I also discovered that I was able to handle virtually any skin tone – brown, black or Caucasian – with those four colors. In my experimentation, I decided to use Cadmium Red Medium as my red. I found it more neutral than Cadmium Red Light or Vermilion. The other advantage to this palette was that I was virtually guaranteed color harmony because of the limited colors.

As time progressed and I became comfortable using this palette, I realized it would be a great asset to teaching. It simplified the color aspect of portrait painting, allowing more time to consider other aspects. Now prior to a workshop, I give my students homework and ask that they do color charts with those four colors. I developed a YouTube video that shows the process of doing a color chart, so they can follow along. As a result, they arrive at the workshop familiar with the range of skin tones they can achieve and are usually excited about the process. For those who may not have painted recently, it gets them to experiment with the paint before they come to the workshop.

Robin Wellner, Todd, oil, 16 x 20″

I don’t limit myself solely to using the Zorn palette when I do portraits, but I have found it a wonderful tool for learning. In this huge challenge of portrait painting, I’m grateful for anything to speed my learning! What tools have you learned to speed up that process?

Portrait Society member and Cecilia Beaux Forum guest writer Robin Wellner is an avid learner and works hard at trying to hone her skills as a portrait artist. She developed and teaches a workshop using the Zorn limited palette, “Alla Prima Portraits, using the Zorn Palette.” She hopes to pass on anything she’s learned to assist other artists who are passionate about painting the portrait.                  

Robin Wellner, Rara, 12×16″

 

 

 
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Alla Prima Portraits using the Zorn Palette

Alla Prima Portraits using the Zorn Palette 

3-day Workshop with Robin Wellner

 October 5, 6 and 7 – 10-5 pm – MacDowell Art Center, Matthews, NC

$450 (includes model fee)

https://apm.activecommunities.com/matthewsfun/Activity_Search/1874

Painting portraits is challenging – but incredibly rewarding! Using a limited palette that we know works makes the color choices so much easier. One look at Anders Zorn’s paintings is enough proof that this palette can produce some incredibly beautiful portraits. Using the Zorn Palette will give you freedom and versatility and allow you to concentrate on some of the other aspects of portrait work. Robin Wellner has been working with the Zorn Palette for several years and is offering a workshop to share what she has learned about this palette, as well as other hints about creating a realistic portrait and likeness. 
The workshop will start each morning with a demo and instruction. After lunch, you will have the opportunity to paint a live model. There is nothing like painting from life — even if you choose to work from photos in the future. The insights you gain will transfer to your photo work. Instruction will include values, color, painting shapes rather than lines, specifics on painting features, and measuring for an accurate likeness. 
As an artist, Robin Wellner specializes in portrait and figure work, as well as plein air and landscapes. Her portraits have been featured in several national shows, such as, American Women Artists, Oil Painters of American, Richeson Portrait and Figure shows. 
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Alla Prima Portrait Workshop Using the Zorn Palette

3-Day Intensive Workshop with Robin Wellner

Friday, Saturday and Sunday – October 6, 7 and 8, 2017 – 9:30am – 5pm

ClearWater Artist Studios, Concord, NC

$375, plus $50* model fee per person

*model fee waived if you register by September 15th

What do all of these paintings have in common???  They were all painted with only four colors!  White, yellow ochre, cadmium red and ivory black.

 

Portraits are challenging  — but so rewarding!  Simplifying my palette to something that I know works, has given me freedom to focus on other details of my work.  Anders Zorn’s limited palette gives me a beautiful range of skin tones and I’m virtually guaranteed color harmony in my painting.

Painting Each Other

I’m offering a three day workshop on this palette and other aspects of portraiture October 6, 7 and 8th, 2017 at the ClearWater Artist Studios in Concord, NC.  We will start each morning with instruction and a demo, painting the model “alla prima” (wet-on-wet) from life.  After lunch, you will all have the opportunity to paint the model with lots of one-on-one instruction and gentle critiquing.  We will focus on color, values, specifics on facial features, painting shapes rather than lines and learning to measure for an accurate likeness. There is nothing like painting from life!  Even if you choose to paint from photos in the future, painting from life will give you valuable information that will help you in that work.

“I honestly think that this class, for me, was truly perfect. Frustrating, but honestly what I needed – to be pushed and challenged and to learn more every session.  I loved it!”
 
“You are changing my way of looking at portrait models. I am ready to jump to the next level and I feel like I could do more with you.  I want you to be a mentor and teacher.”
 

ClearWater Studios offers a beautiful space in Concord, NC for this workshop. Once you register, I will send you a list of supplies and your first assignment!  Yes, I’m giving you homework!  You’ll come to the workshop prepared and already on the road to mastering some aspects of the Zorn palette.

Advanced registration is required.  Spaces are limited to make sure you get plenty of one-on-one instruction. Supply list and additional information will be sent upon registration.  Tuition will be refunded if cancellation is done 30 days before the workshop.  If for any reason the workshop is cancelled all tuition will be refunded.

I hope you’ll join us!  Please feel free to email me with questions or for more information.

Registration below or on my “Teaching/Workshop” page.




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