Monday, April 27, 2020

Gouache Portrait Using the Zorn Palette

Here's a sample of the new video "Color in Practice" (Link to YouTube)

By adding a bright red and a couple of dull yellows to black and white, you can paint with the appearance of full color. 

Post cover by J.C. Leyendecker
That makes a small gamut of colors that was popular with the early illustrated magazines because they could print them with just two colors, black and red.

This palette of colors is often associated with Swedish painter Anders Zorn. Although Zorn often used a fuller palette that included blues and greens, he has become associated with this limited palette, which is well worth trying out. Zorn used vermilion for the red, but I'm substituting pyrrole red instead of the more toxic vermilion or cadmium.

For this location sketch, I paint the underpainting in advance in the studio with casein, but you could use acrylic-gouache, or gouache mixed with some acrylic matte medium for the underpainting. It’s a thin layer of raw sienna casein mixed with white. 

On location, I start by drawing the main perspective lines with a brush, showing the edge of the counter and the vertical column. I cover most of the underpainting with semi-opaque layers of gray mixed from white and black. I look for big gradations, which I apply with layers of black and white. 

I paint the computer first because it’s so important. But that means that in order to paint the objects behind it I have to paint them around it. Greg arrives at his workstation. I say, “You don’t have to hold still. I’ll just paint you while you’re working.” 

With gouache I can opaquely cover those background areas that I had already defined. I add the tiny final accents in bright red.
Previous post about the Zorn palette.
The full video is available at Gumroad as an HD download or lifetime streaming 
or at Sellfy.  


A Colonel of Truth said...


Joe P said...

Leyendecker was just so incredibly good. I still cant fully wrap my head around his design sense. It blows my mind every time

Néstor Domínguez said...

Hi James! I think that nobody has asked this, but it really drives me crazy:
When layering the first transparent layers of gouache, colors tend to increase their chroma, which is great for getting bright colors. But sometimes you need to match the same color painting over a part of the image that is not white anymore. This might come due to mistakes made or because the subject has changed (position, atmosphere...) or other reasons. So as to face this situation I can only think of 3 approaches all with its own caveats:
1. Trying to approximate to the original transparent color using a mix of white to cover the darker color added by mistake. The problem here is that the mix is always dull.
2. Covering with a thick layer of white and then add the original color transparently. This is what I usually try to do for small details but it is very easy to rise the white paint and end up with a dull color as well.
3. Trying to remove the paint using water and absorbing paper. (this option always helps but you never get white again)

When working indoors over a planned project you can be careful with those special areas of bright color but what happens when quickly sketching outdoors? Should I be resigned to get dull colors if mistakes happen? Any tricks?

Great thanks!