Well, hello Anders!

Using the Zorn Palette
ochre, mars black, cadmium red, titanium white

I’ll be the first to admit that I am not, and I repeat, NOT, a figurative painter. I went down this path when my beginning painting class had an assignment to paint self-portraits. The search was on for a color palette that would use a straight forward, limited number of colors. It was down that path that I met the man of my dreams. Well, hello Anders, new in town?

Anders was Anders Zorn, a Swedish born painter (1860-1920) and contemporary of John Singer Sargent. He was a highly successful (read wealthy) artist, well-known for his portrait  of society swells and full-figured nudes (though to the best of my knowledge, not nudes of society patrons!) and self-portraits. But that’s not what sent my heart all pitter-patter. It was his limited palette:


  • Titanium White
  • Yellow Ochre
  • Cadmium Red
  • Ivory Black

This four-color palette produces skin tones that can be supplemented with umber, sienna and cool reds, extending the range even further. The simplicity of this system means the painter is not overwhelmed with choices, and the mastery of mixing these colors feels attainable.

detail of self portrait Mondrian

Self portrait with Mondrian

This week I was finally able to return to working on two self portraits (using the Zorn palette) and here’s a peek of where they are at now. I’ve added alizarin crimson and Mars black, and of course cobalt blue for the eye color. I am jokingly referring to these works in progress as my mug shots–

PS. I have a certain reluctance to share them at this stage of painting because they are so unfinished. Yep, the face is too wide, the ear too high, the hair needs to be added to better frame the face, and let’s not even talk about what has to happen to the hat! Putting works-in-progress out for public viewing is like taking and posting a selfie when first getting out of bed, before teeth brushing and shower. I’m sure some folks look divine; I’m not one of them.



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