- Lesson Details
Learn the fundamentals of oil painting with acclaimed artist and instructor Charles Hu.
This course breaks down the entire process of oil painting and is intended for beginning and experienced artists alike. Charles explains the important concepts of gesture, shape design, and composition. You will also learn what materials are needed, how to get set up, and the techniques used to apply paint.
After taking this course, you will be on your way to oil painting from life using a variety of different subjects and palettes.
In this lesson, Charles introduces the famous Zorn palette and explains how it can be utilized in figure painting. You will learn how to enhance a painting by understanding warm vs cool.
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a little bit of a color, so we will be using only black and white
and we're gonna add two additional colors, which is the
cadmium medium and also the
yellow ochre. If you don't have a cadmium red medium you can also use scarlet
light. You know as long as it's kinda a deep red it will be fine.
And so we got black, white,
and then basically red and then yellow. And this
actually has a name to it, we call it the Zorn pallet where Zorn is coming from
a Swedish artist, his name is Anders Zorn and
so he did actually a self portrait and he was holding a pallet
and then you can see very obviously those four colors were on this
pallet so everybody was very excited about and knowing that because he
just is such a tremendous painter, definitely
on top of my list and also was someone that really
still very, kinda very influential to me, my work
and because I just loved the French impressionist
that, you know, that style that's also
those John Singer Sargents and also the Spanish
painter Joaquin Sorolla. They were about the same time period
about 1860 to about 1920s. And
just, you know, I would really suggest you guys check out
these three painters, they are my top three on the list, you know, especially
back in school and that's somebody I really, you know,
study from. And but everybody has their
niche I guess. So John Singer Sargent he
has - I think he had the best draftsmanship, especially on the portrait. He just has such
a tremendous sense of detail
and Joaquin Sorolla just this vibrant color,
great energy, great gesture in his composition, his work,
and color more vibrant, had Spanish colors,
you know a lot of purple and orange and yellows. And Zorn is,
which is more gloomy, a lot more grays, just a lot more
calmer. I guess the older I get I just like things looking more soothing, more
calm. And definitely Zorn is someone I would be looking
more lately than probably than the John Singer Sargent or the Joaquin Sorolla.
But anyways so that's who I'm gonna be using.
It's not - obviously it's not gonna give you a full spectrum of color, the colors
are not gonna look extremely pretty but so we're just gonna focus still
on value and just push the temperature a little bit, maybe get
a little orange, some pink.
we got the black, red, yellow, and white. Black is gonna be your
blue, obviously really dark blue. And we can still
come up with a kinda earthy green with a black and blue and the yellow.
Right. And then so we still have that primaries clear with the blue
and red and yellow
and also like we can get orange, we can
get pink, so we still can get some variety but again it's not gonna be super
saturated because, you know, it's just not the pallet for it.
Okay. So I have a model selected.
We're still working on - this is still 16 by 20
Fredrix canvas board. So I'm gonna wash a tone
first, like I did with the black and white.
So I'm gonna take my largest brush, this is size 14
broad size. Again after a couple
days of painting it's get worn out more and more. As you can see it -
need to pick out a new one pretty soon. It's gonna start wearing everything out
especially when we scribble hard into the canvas.
with that tone. So I'm gonna - now I'm actually gonna
dip my brushes all the way down to my gamsol because I do
need to get it wet. So I'm still gonna take my black.
I'm not gonna use just pure black. I don't think
I want to because I wanna try to get some color in there.
I'm gonna add a little bit of red, okay. I did mention
when working with the black and white for that wash
you want to pick a transparent color. Although
the red is not a transparent color but
I'm gonna, once I put a lot of gamsol in there it's gonna dilute and
it's gonna turn transparent.
I'm gonna warm it up a little bit.
Scribble in, keep it
the intersection a little bit lighter and drier.
So I have this actually slightly warm tone as you can see.
This is a little bit - you know it's not pure black.
Again when you're washing your ground
almost it's like just start getting that canvas kind of active.
So get it working and it's actually this exciting process.
Just feels like it's, you know, time to go.
Again my putting down this tone
it's like if you have a value
down to the canvas and also, like I said, keep that canvas a little bit wet so
when you sketch it will be easy to, you know,
drag those paints.
I wanted to get a little bit darker because
we're just gonna focus more on the top and just kinda fade
out. Usually that's the case.
So let's get -
put your drawing down. I'm gonna take my small
Just a darker version of what's up there.
So I'm thinking of my gestures,
I wanna put her head somewhere right here and then kinda swing
down, you know, this way. I haven't decided
if I wanna put the full figure or if I wanna just be
cropped. The thing is because
this is 16 by 20 and if I do wanna put a full figure
in there, the head is probably gonna be
like this size.
For me to be able to get the whole figure in there. And then
as you can see coming in here.
Here's her arms and this -
Well actually her leg will probably be about here.
If I do wanna, like I said, if I do wanna put the full figure in there
that will be - the head will be small.
I guess we can work
off this. The thing is I just don't like to work with a very
small head. I think this might be okay because most of her face is in a shadow.
Because it's just had to work into
the detail with such a small head. Let me still...
Well I guess let's just
go for it. I'm just gonna get the whole figure in. I was just gonna show you guys
the idea of how small the head needs to be to put the full figure inside.
My lay in's kinda crude. So I'm just
drawing a little bit.
through. Get a sense of what goes behind.
Again I'm looking at this kinda diamond shape of her thigh.
You can see, also in proportion you see
how it gets larger towards, you know,
below her waist line. The hip and the thigh.
kinda blocking some of that, like that darker
Wipe out the arm.
So don't get confused.
So her ear is about right there.
Okay I'm gonna switch to a little bit larger brushes.
I still wanna just to block in that shadow. So I'm still gonna
just use this
again not wet.
Here's the knee.
Again notice me - I still chisel.
So what happened is, if I screw up my proportions
it will still give you that linear stretch.
Give you a sense of that long
length but it probably still looks okay.
A shadow right in here.
Swing down like this to her hand.
Okay I'm gonna put a little more darker dot
in her hair.
Dealing with some real colors. So if I'm looking, analyzing the pictures -
okay so first of all we got this great kinda grayish
background, somewhat she's gonna be,
you know, inferenced by the
gray. I'm not sure if I'm gonna do the gray background, I might just,
you know, keep it dark because I wanna pop up that figure.
Okay. If I look into the shadow carefully sometimes
I seem a little about a yellowish, almost greenish
reflections, color. Almost you can see, almost feel
slightly yellow, it feels slightly yellow. Some areas
that reflected from the ground gets somewhat these kinda blue
kinda gray. And so I think the -
and then also her skin obviously
is more - she has more of this kinda porcelain, pinkish skin.
So that's actually her actual skin tone. So I'll keep that in mind because that's gonna help
me to keep the color kinda color harmonized. You know her skin
color is gonna be shifting out from that pinkish
color, it's gonna be darker or lighter or cooler or warmer.
And obviously, you know, certain areas get a little more orange because the
tan - usually the arm is exposed to the sun more and it gets a little bit orange.
And you can see the lighter part, when it gets really light, it can
see actually it gets more cooler highlight
It's not very yellow, you know, it's not like the yellow spotlight.
It's just, again, the green environment that
influence of that light. So actually it makes her half tone feel a little more warmer.
You can see the half tone has a little bit of orange to it. Sometimes the reflected light -
obviously these got very warm, the reflected light bounces from
this thigh, you know, bounces from this thigh into her,
into the shadows. So let's see
what we have here. So let me -
so I'm still gonna kind of
block in the shadow color.
Let me clean out these
wet areas, I'm just gonna push it out to the side.
Just use some of the black and yellow. You can see start getting that green.
Obviously the shadow is not
What I'm gonna do is...
I'm mixing that gray because I know some of the gray
is gonna kick it up into the shadows.
So we got this kinda
a purplish, grayish
Just add a little bit of orange.
Make it a little bit
So her arm comes in a little more.
blast some of the light in there.
So pretty much just kinda drag all the colors.
She's still got that pink, orange.
So just a general color
Keep it a little bit grayer.
Get to her face, it's got a little bit orange.
The ear is
really warm, usually the smaller areas
tend to be more warm because the blood is more closer
to the surface.
When we get down to the lower arm it also gets a little bit
Also feel like this
area has a little more, a little bit of yellow to it.
Again we're still at that searching
stage. Still trying to find, you know, find the shape
in relationship to the shadows, even the proportions too
So I'm gonna start kinda merging to my shadows and my pallet again,
my pallet has a gradation, dark to light, and within that, like I said, there's gonna be half tone
area and then within light there's gonna shift different temperatures and with the
shadows gonna shift different temperatures and I have this gray area. In turn if I need to
cool things off, I need to gray down a certain color,
or I can use, if I need the gray to help me to harmonize I can use
you know, use this gray.
So I'm still, at this stage, kinda almost still kinda
non colorish and though I can push the color back
in it I wanna get a little
bit of half tone.
And the thing is when you start laying more colors on your
pallet and those colors
will start coming out, will start to appear on your
pallet. So I wanna get a little bit warmer.
So you got half tone on the side
because most of the light is hitting on the side.
When you go up it's where the shadows are.
And so the warm looks warmer and here it gets
a little cooler, grayer again. So I'm in this area right here,
right, this is my half tone. So if I wanna take it still in light - I mean still in
this value but it's gonna be a little bit cooler, almost greener, so I can take
this, usually take that gray or
just take, you know, just mix right next to it
and make sure to keep about
the same - still have that red
relationship to it but now it's cooler and a little bit greener.
This side looks a little bit yellower,
probably not that yellow.
I'm painting, I'm also sculpting the plane. That's why
I keep it more kinda sculpting type of strokes.
It will be better, especially dealing with the figure.
So help you to get a sense of where those planes are,
help you to make a decision of where the values,
and if you wanna shift the color temperature. For
example, I know here's middle plane, top plane it's a little bit warmer, when I turn to the side it
gets lighter. And in this case lighter, also a little grayer. So I come over here, I need to be
lighter, maybe a little bit grayer. But I don't want to use a true gray because
then it's gonna feel kinda dead. So I still wanna add a little
of the red.
Again just to see how everything works.
And one other thing, most important about color mixing, is you wanna make sure that the color
that you're mixing and the value
need to be really clear, like exactly what that color and that value is.
Don't get into this kinda no land
zone which is not quite sure what it is
and make sure every note that you put down it's really
clear for example.
You know it's the right note
Make it really clear.
Again always better to push
things a little more.
In terms of value wise, keep it stronger
come back in, introduce
secondary color if you want, which I will be
interesting like, again,
somewhat reflect the light, that greenish reflect the light
Again it looks a little more, again a little more greener on top even more now.
Once I start putting the surrounding area
it looks a little bit more green to me.
and I wanna see if I want to clear off that -
clarify those silhouettes a little bit.
Do it right here.
I think I blocked some of those darker
because you probably don't want to show...
Switch to my broad grip.
Because again, most of the time you see I'm painting like this, like how I hold a pencil
and that's when I start trying to make things a little more precise,
sculpt in the plane, but when I'm holding it like this,
again it kind of frees me up
and I'm looking at the larger - maybe the largest stroke.
Imagine this is where the floor - put the floor line.
right here. So I'm gonna - like the first -
the black and white column that we did and things part,
the second part we wanna make sure the floor is a little bit different than the background. The background is probably
So to be honest whatever, as long as you can add all three
you know probably just a little bit greener but it doesn't really matter, as long as it's a darker
value. But what we're concerned, you know,
it will be fine. If you wanted to warm up
a little because really this is in the kinda non color environment,
this kinda grayish environment. Which we will later on be working into a
figure in the environment which has more color, more attractive color, more
exciting color, I think that we're gonna,
you know, make more of a decision what we want
the, you know, the background color to be. But now we just
you know, still more concerned
about the value. Yes, overall I know it's -
I washed this warm, kinda dark warm tone
so if I wanna like I said still be true, you know, kinda true to that,
I still keep this a little bit warmer. You know just because that's what I
kinda toned down the canvas at first so I can still
always have the backup. But I always want like to try things out, just to see if I
can, you know, when I get something neat or something
But maybe that's why you got some of the warmer reflected light in here
of the red, maybe because there's imagine - maybe there's orange light coming this way,
maybe that's why it gets a little more orange here. So just try it out.
And what I wanted to do later, I feel like I wanna make the top maybe
just a little bit darker on the background. And you know what let's just do that now.
Here it gets a little warm.
When we get to her hand you can see it's a little bit starts
So reflected light in the breast.
Again keep it -
keep all the shadow values
still wanna keep them in a close
together, the value range.
Looks like when it goes up here it gets a little bit warmer.
because the color isn't gonna be too pretty because
you have to darken, kinda darken the value by using - in this case you
only have black, right, so the black is gonna make things look a little more grayer -
look a little more less
saturated but that's the option we have so we just have to
kinda use it. And
versus if you do have other colors that can also darken like dark blue
or dark green, keep that intensity up.
So you will still have that kind of pretty color
you can still have the pretty color in.
Just look at the shape right here, how you kinda merge into the highlight into that breast.
and they exit out, goes into the upper arm
Push this a little bit warmer because it's really red.
So it's again, it's not a super intense red
it's kinda still kinda a cooler red. So I'm gonna come over here, already have some of this
cooler purple so I'm gonna make my red here.
And you can see
that intensity of red kinda brings that thigh out a little bit more too.
Just move to darker.
Half tone right before that core is a little bit
I'm gonna blend into my light.
Just throwing that yellow in there.
We can mix - in that case I kinda mixed
right on the canvas so I got the most rich, intense without mixing
and then just mixing on the
canvas. Can even see I'm gonna push
it a little more right there, feel that glow
through his kinda his
back - I'm sorry, back of her ear.
So I wanna get those highlights
right there you can see on the reference.
I have to push down
the value a little bit of the arms, push a little more oranger.
So that helps
to pop out the highlight.
I stand in front of my canvas and
take some notes and try and figure out what I wanna do. I think I'm gonna give an
environment, I want to paint the floor
lighter so get a sense of where the floor is so
she doesn't feel kinda floating on this kind of dark environment. I'm gonna pop
in some of the stronger lights to really set her off from the background
you know and create like a focal point,
give a floor.
clean my pallet. That's why it's great to have a
glass pallet because now I want to make
a floor color,
don't have an idea what that floor color is gonna be yet so I guess I'm just gonna use -
you know what I'm
gonna try to make it slightly a kinda yellowish floor.
Give it - I wanted to
also give a gradation
to see maybe how to pop out this arm.
Making a little bit darker. Except I might need to push this maybe just
a bit lighter.
So I come to my shadow side, my shadow
my midtone, my highlights.
Break down that knee a little bit.
Go to my midtone part which is right
here, a little bit warmer.
Not that warm.
Maybe I wanna darker a little bit.
Get to that knee cap
which is right here.
shadow because I want to really get this
knee to read. There we go.
Because some warm colors sneak in, we can go in and blend it
and then come out.
Squint your eyes, look at a shape, and then the light and
I can make it a little bit warmer, which I kinda did, because the floor bounced that yellow.
Nice dark right here, also brings out her hand.
Soften some of the edges.
I wanna bring that knee down, again,
I wanna get a sense of where that front of her knee
I need to squeeze a little more of that red.
I've been running out of that red.
Usually because the cadmium color is such a powerful color I don't
squeeze out that much because it's just,
you know, it ends up
you don't need a lot. But in this case I use a lot
because we don't have much color up there.
you don't wanna get like some chunk of paint
on your brushes. Mix it well.
Get that front of the knee
a little more light.
See that's what happens
when you get that blob of the black, like right
here and now you've got this black paint on there
which is not expected. So make sure to clean your brush well, that's
when you start painting thicker and thicker sometimes that problem
mixing your color well. Because you need to add more paint
to layer on the canvas. So a lot of times just drag your paint
and sometimes you accidentally drag some of the neighbor's paint
and then this will happen.
So I'm gonna push it -
I know her skin is pinkish so I'm gonna
start with that and
the more white I add, pretty much white also it's a very light blue, black's a very dark blue
so I might live without adding
the black to give a sense of this is a kind of blue,
kinda gray blue light because she's situated in this kinda blue environment.
So I'm almost assumed
lighting here it wasn't a yellow light, maybe it's a white light.
It looks pretty white.
Painting as I'm drawing.
That's why it's good to learn to do a charcoal - do a lot of charcoal
drawings knowing where you want your strokes to be, how you want to blend
how you want longer strokes or you wanna cross over the form.
Where is that highlight,
you know it sits right at that corner.
So we wanna blend this way, suggests this plane here.
So if I pump up this light that means I need to pump
up somewhere else lighter. I don't want the same light, all this is
so bleached out I'll make this a little bit pink.
But still within my light family,
my light family, my shadow value, my
green gray shadow family. So you start
getting all this pull that creates all these
different, you know, different extensions of the light
and the dark pile. But at the same time they all kinda have something in common
because they all kinda merge, mixing right right next to
each other so they all kinda harmonize in a way, plus, again, we only got three colors.
It's not gonna get too crazy, the color is not too crazy
so you're not gonna, you know, have,
you know, the color that's kinda out of the key
too much. Unless, like I said, you start adding this and try to end
you can see that's probably maybe not something you want because it feels a little off.
Kinda off key. Then in that case, like I said, maybe somewhere else
you wanna push out that much of a red. But if not, like I said, just add
something else. In this case maybe black.
See now that pink starts looking a little more harmonized with the rest of the color.
Like I said I can
also make this yellower to respond to that green floor
but it's okay, I'm just gonna make sure my value, everything reads
well first. So sometimes
you know I might overthink.
My main concern is always about
how things work cohesively.
How my gestures, my light
and dark shapes.
Making this a bluer highlight.
Sometimes I stick with one brush.
It's good to have a
like I said, same size. One for dark, one for light.
Let me make sure I got this
plane right here, that's important. That's where the shoulder girdle
merges into the arm.
There we go. it kinda goes like this and comes this way.
See if we should come over a little more.
Remember I said
a lot of times it's because your dark is not dark enough so much sure to anchor those
darks. So it's very important.
Help push out that
hand and also give you that plane difference.
I want to put a dark value, separate
the arm you know to her breast.
breast comes out a little more, comes out a little more
of the breast.
Right here you can see the
flow right into the arm.
Get rid of that black.
something darker. Instead of using light
I use value.
I will use light.
Little bit of the reflected light, maybe down on her arm.
Clean that part up.
This is the arm facing this way
that connects into the chest. That's why you got highlights
like heads right here. back of her jaw gets
A lot of light in the neck
goes up to the top of her shoulder girdle.
And merge into the orange arm.
Now you got, again, you've also got the highlights
I wanna clean out
this part right here. Again
light side so see that's kinda off key
so I'm gonna come back and
add a little bit above the black. Here we go back to
our right key again.
Swing. See that S curve comes in
and swings out.
Get a lot of
searching, a lot of paint over.
Do that again.
Mix it well. Sometimes I just get excited, just know I wanna get a
darker value on that knee and just
not mixing well.
Kick up a notch.
Kinda dark here, let's give it
a little bit of light in this shadow here.
Because I don't want like a dark dark.
Like just kinda of muted. This is a little bit
warmer but I want a little bit of light to this.
Almost feel like again just
orange light - I feel like orange light coming off on this side. Do I need
some in other areas?
again right now I'm just tuning stuff.
As a study I probably should really stop right now
because I already
again kinda get to my point.
Just suggest those fingers.
They're usually warm so I just use more of a
Same as here.
I need that lighter part of her thumb
goes to my light family.
Down gets oranger, go to my light family.
Add a little bit of warm color to it.
And then look, if it's too
red, in this case too warm,
I can add a little bit of
black to cool it down.
means the darks sculpt out the light.
Clarify this shape right here, the shadow from her neck muscles.
in terms of - overall
especially when I stand back and that's what you should do often, you should stand back,
I think when I stand back it actually reads actually not bad
because in a
recording setting you guys won't see, actually I have a lot of
lights around me so you guys will see me and my paintings
but you know -
but the downfall is I have some glares on the
canvas and but
that's how, you know, what needs to -
that's how the settings need to be for you guys to be able to see. But so when I step back
I don't see the glare so much. Actually it overall reads
pretty well, okay so I think just kind of a little more
stuff I'm gonna do and then I think that's gonna be -
will be it for, you know, this lesson
I think this is a little too round and I don't like that, I wanted to...
to get a sense that she's leaning forward
again sometimes like
you try to remix the same color, it's not exact
like this it is obviously warmer than what I had for the back
background but the value is about right
and it's fine, that's okay, if it's not exact,
you know, exact color that's fine. Unless it's for
a project purposes. For this, for like a study or
alla prima, for me, sometimes I
like that variation.
sculpt back into that foot.
See how quickly you can remix back to
color once you have the colors on your pallet, right, that's why I said
mix more paint, be careful
using too much of the gamsol. Again, just show you guys the point. If you use
gamsol look it just - see how you see
the glass. And see it becomes
too watery. That's why you really have to squeeze out the paint really -
the brush really well to make sure you don't get
too much of the gamsol in the brushes. Little bit just
to keep the flow but again, definitely not
Let me try if I can kick it up a notch.
Gonna have to wait until the
dry, like I said, where I'm standing
they got a lot of reflections so I can't really exactly tell
the separations. When it dries it will probably read a little better
and again if I stand way back then I can see a little better.
So maybe, you know, I'll leave and next day
when it dries a little bit I can, so you don't get much glare,
and I can rework into it if I want. But obviously
that's not the case here. But
just to let you guys know. And again when we step back
to see how everything reads
I would like to sneak some of this yellow. We're almost there I just
wanna sneak in some of those yellows just to
give a little kick.
I screwed up that
ear shape again. So let's remix.
That's really important to me, I just like that shape, like that
ear against that light surrounding.
So in certain areas I
can leave it more abstract, certain areas I want to
You see my kind of moving my
body shape like that means I'm trying to avoid the
reflections. The glare.
Again just see if I can
pop a few things out.
Keep a little bit of air
in the environment.
You know again at this point.
I'm just actually
pretty much kind of finding
the tomb to kind of experiment myself at this point to see
how it was.
I was thinking if I add a,
you know, a big blast of light here would it feel like to maybe there's a window
on the back and the light blasts into her
and you know
start kind of imagining some of those facts. But like I said, all those sometimes
work, some didn't work, so it's just a process of
experimenting, process of trying
trial and error. So, you know, I'm not gonna show that to you guys because
basically I'm just gonna spend time myself, you know, to figure those out.
But in terms of how to use these just for a limited pallet,
trying to establish from the blank canvas, like we did with the black and white
and it's you know step by step we can deal with
the color intensity. I want more orange, I want more green, I want more
red. So you can still have the wrench to play with
color temperature and color intensity. We're gonna talk more about
colors one we get to start adding a little more colors
once we talk about, you know, what exactly the colors
how we see it, how we exaggerate it, how we push it.
But limited pallet still is good still for figure.
You know you're still focusing a lot on just value,
just structure. That's why if you look at, you know, Sargent's portraits
all those mostly done with limited pallet. Zorn limited, you know, done with limited pallet
some of the earliest, the rest, were done also with limited pallet and
you know when we get to the costume, when we get to the landscape
and when we get to the outdoor
blast of the sunlight and
then you can see they were getting a little more
colorful, at least for Sargent and Sorolla. Again for Zorn he
still keeps it pretty cool, you know, tone.
But anyway so it's a good
pallet to, you know, to begin to play with, you got your warm, you got your cool.
So it's, you know, you get a chance to experiment just these four colors
and later on we can add additional colors
one at a time. Okay so hopefully you enjoyed it, I will see you
for this chapter, I also want you guys to tape up and divide your canvas board
like we did from the previous chapters. So take the 16 by 20 canvas
get yourself a half inch artist tape and then just
tape them into six frames and then also work off a photo reference.
if you can work off life that's great because if you have access to, you know, to work off life,
if you can then you can just work off a photo as well. And so just basically
use a Zorn palette and do postcard size study
on the canvas board. So they don't need to do be big, at least not for now.
Okay so just do that. Okay, thank you.
Free to try
1. Lesson Overview2m 55sNow playing...
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2. Laying in the Composition19m 49s
3. Skin Tones with Zorn Palette28m 45s
4. Clarifying Background and Silhouette20m 10s
5. Defining Shadow Shapes20m 24s
6. Environment and Focal Point17m 56s
7. Painting the Lights21m 20s
8. Finishing Touches and Conclusion18m 8s
9. Assignment Instructions45s