06 August 2009

Portrait Painting with the Zorn Palette


The summer term at Watts started a few weeks ago. One class I'm taking is Portrait Painting Fundamentals taught by Meadow Gist. The class explores several approaches and palettes using photos and a live model.

This first portrait was painted from a high-quality (i.e. good contrast and strong shadow patterns) photo reference provided in class. Briefly, I pencil-sketched the image onto canvas board, fixed it, then prepared the underpainting. I used burnt umber, but a mix of ivory black and cad red would work too. Finally, I over-painted using the "Zorn" palette (cad red light, yellow ochre, ivory black, titanium white). The overpainting was done in a single 5-hour session. The Zorn palette has been used widely and discussed often. Google for more information.

The pencil sketch step seemed messy and unnecessary. Even with a fixative, I ended up loosing most of the drawing anyway when I added the burnt umber ground. My personal preference is to rough-in with a paintbrush before underpainting.

The next assignment in this class is to paint a portrait by the direct method, which means no preliminary underpainting. Big kid stuff, like taking the training wheels off a bicycle.

Nicky 2009, 12 x 9, oil on canvas board

11 comments:

  1. It is a very successful portrait! Beautiful light!

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  2. This has a very nice feel about it. I hope you are enjoying yourself, would love to know if you will stick to this later.

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  3. Joanne, Thanks for your comment and visit. I learned a lot from this portrait about the power of strong lighting.

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  4. Tina, Thanks for the kind words. Planning to be here as long as it takes to get good, which I'm beginning to realize might be a while. My daughter is starting her junior year in high school. Will continue my own classes at least until she graduates. Maybe longer...

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  5. Wow! You are doing some great work. Stay with it and we are all going to hear a lot from you.
    God bless and keep it up.

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  6. I so respect your zeal and intellect and interest in trained expression - the light envelops the subject and looks natural not at all forced or artificial.

    Just beautiful work and mission. My best.

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  7. Wow! So dramatic. Love the extreme lighting. Very effective.

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  8. John, Thank you. Nice to know there are like minds out there in the world. I'm keeping an eye on your blog. Enjoy the flow and balance in your photo-abstractions. Always amazes me how little actual detail is needed to create a satisfying composition. Best regards.

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  9. R, Thanks for the kind words and visit. Enjoyed visiting your blog. Lots of good content there.

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  10. This is a wonderful head study. The face does not become disturbing as happens so often with dramatic lighting.

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  11. Hey, nice site you have here! Keep up the excellent work!
    Portrait Painting

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