The Swedish artist Anders Zorn was famous for his limited palette. It is reported that he used only three colors for most of his works — yellow ochre, vermillion and ivory black.
The result of this combination were some quite harmonious paintings. This particular limited palette was said to be ideal for painting the human figure.
The reason Zorn’s painting seem so harmonious is because he adds all three colors to most of the mixtures. When painting something yellow, for example, a small amount of both red and black is added to the mixture. The same is done for other color combinations.
Recently I tried these colors and painted the still life shown here. It turned out to be quite a challenge.
One of the challenges was to get any “greens” from the combination of yellow and black. The resulting green is quite muted and certainly not as vibrant as a mixture using a higher chromatic yellow.
To enhance the vibrancy of the resulting green, one has to use simultaneous contrast. By placing the green next to a red, the results will be perceived as a much more intense green.
To achieve any cool colors, one has to tint the ivory black with white. Ivory black by nature has a blueish tint with the addition of white. The resulting cool gray can then be used in the painting as a contrast to the warms produced by yellows and reds.
I look forward to another attempt with this palette - next time by painting a portrait.