Friday, November 15, 2013

Milford Zornes

As a young artist in my late twenties, I was fortunate to study with Milford Zornes, a watercolor painter, who died in 2008 at the age of 100.  He was about 70 at the time.  I can still remember him sitting low to the ground to paint outdoors...getting up and down seemed to be getting harder to do, but he did it.
Watercolor by Milford Zornes.
Photo courtesy of

Watercolor by Milford Zornes
Photo courtesy of Pasadena Museum of California Art
I was reminded of my time with him when, this morning, I came across some notes I took while with him.  I found his comments so relative that I'd like to list some of them here for you.

- if you're painting plein air and the light changes, stop for the day (and, he said, maybe for good).  Then look at it with a fresh point of view.
- skies are rarely blue (!)
- let your watercolors mix on your paper...don't premix on your palette
- Re water in the landscape:  nearest you, the color is the actual color of the water.  Farther away, it's reflections of what's back there that you need to capture.
- He used lots of negative painting.
- Re mixing dark greens:  Err on the side of warmth...add burnt sienna or orange...will give dark values but leaning towards browns or reds.
- Add red in the foundation of soil near water...complement of green...exciting contrast.
- Trees:  Use reddish brown for trunks to contrast with the landscape greens.  Dark violet (the complement of yellow) used subtly in tree trunks, keeps colors "alive".  Use full color alizarin (or with its complement) as a dark trunk...more luminous than black, etc.  Indulge in decorative leaf structure near base or perimeter.
- Don't expect to tell everything about a scene...choose.
- Take advantage of wet paper...add loose underpainting.  Come down to hard definition.  Don't stay loose.

I am left with so many other words of wisdom by Mr. Zornes.  I recognize what a real treasure this is for me. 

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