Tag Archives: Anders Leonard Zorn

Adventures with a Limited Palette

For those of you who know me, you know that I usually spend a chunk of time almost every summer in southwestern France. It inspires me and I get many paintings done while I am there. For various boring reasons I was not able to go in 2012, so I am getting a little antsy about going back this year, so antsy in fact, that I just booked my airline ticket. They don’t get any cheaper after January.

Ideas of what I will paint and what supplies I will take have already started to flash into my consciousness. In 2012 I took twelve 14” x 14”, pre-cut canvases (that is the only way I can fit them in my suitcase). I also gave myself the challenge of taking only three colors of paint plus black and white, to see if I could create interesting paintings. The colors that I chose were vermillion, cerulean blue and raw sienna. Someone had given me a case of raw sienna. I did not try the colors before I left.

Well, as some of you may have guessed, this unique combination did not work. Raw sienna and cerulean blue make for an unhappy green. I needed yellow and as soon as I got it I was happy. Cadmium yellow, vermillion and raw sienna did make an interesting orange. Here are a few examples of my four-color, limited palette:


I like the idea of painting with a limited palette. There are several advantages.
• Color harmony is easier to achieve.
• Learning to mix a few colors is to achieve the desired color, value and intensity.
• You don’t have to carry numerous tubes of paint when you travel or paint outside.

Recently, I came across an article written by Adriana Guidi. She describes the palette that was made famous by Swedish painter Anders Leonard Zorn (1860-1920), which is often known as the Zorn Palette. “Zorn’s preferred palette was of four earthy colors: yellow ochre, vermilion, ivory black and white.” Here is her version of the palette:

Guidi-Zorn limited 4colorpalette

Adriana Guidi, Zorn limited 4 color palette

The top row is simply Yellow Ochre mixed with varying amounts of Titanium White, while the middle row has a little Mars Black mixed in as well. The bottom row is a blend of Cadmium Red Light and Yellow Ochre, again with varying levels of white.

I am attracted to Zorn’s palette, and am thinking about using it in France, although I may have a little trouble with having no blue.

Do you paint with a limited palette or are you attracted to limited colors?