One day workshop: Learn to paint a Rembrandt in water-mixable oils. Students' WIP and process

Today I taught some adults how to paint like Rembrandt with a few modern-day adaptations so as to try to get it completed in one day! (6 hours).

  1. Using just burnt umber acrylic paint, we started by toning out the white oil paper with a dark brown scuffled background.This dried in only a few minutes.

  2. Although Rembrandt didn’t seem to use any drawing-out on his paintings, I thought it essential for my students to plot out the main facial features along with the shapes of lights and darks. For this, we used a black and white Xerox of the chosen painting, some white Tracedown carbon copy paper and a coloured pencil.

  3. Once the outlines were plotted out, we started toning in the darker areas with graphite and some more burnt umber straight from the pot. The darkly toned background forces us to work from dark to light as Rembrandt did.

  1. Once the darks have been established, the lighter tones are now placed using the ground tone as a mid-tone.

  1. Next, the colour layers need to be added using *water-mixable oils (*due to health & safety regulations). The students had to work with a limited colour gamut. In this case, The Zorn Palette.

  2. The Zorn Palette is names after Swedish realist artist, Anders Zorn who is presumed to use a limited palette, mainly consisting of alternative primary colours, plus white. The students used Yellow Ochre, Cadmium Red Medium and Ivory Black as the blue hue. This limits their mix to some very useful skin tones.

  1. Here are the results at the end of the day. More time was needed to refine their efforts but much was learned.


Absolutely brilliant Tom. Thank you again for sharing this here. <3