Artistic inspiration using workshops

Being an artist can be a lonely experience and one where you tend to practice techniques that you already know. We all need artistic inspiration and it comes from many places. I try to find inspiration from attending art clubs, watching videos, reading books and visiting museums. In the end nothing beats meeting a real “maestro” in person and learning from them. I meet commercially active artists at their teaching workshops. At these workshops I can learn new techniques, understand where I am on my artistic journey, to meet fellow artists and to soak up the ambiance of being with a successful artist.

The workshop

In May I was lucky enough to go to the workshop of Cesar Santos, a Cuban American representational portrait painter. What a treat! There was buckets of artistic inspiration from Cesar. The workshop was held at the wonderful studios of the Florence Studio ( It lasted 5 days from about 9.30 to 4.30 each day (ending in a welcome glass of Prosecco every day).

Zorn Palette

“In Werner’s Rowing Boat” painted in 1917 inspiring artistic
“In Werner’s Rowing Boat” by Zorn


What was a bit of a surprise was that Cesar had recently changed from using a full “Angel Academy” style palette to a Zorn palette. This palette uses 4 colours to create amazing paintings. Here is a wonderful example of flesh painted by Zorn himself called “In Werner’s Rowing Boat” painted in 1917





Zorn Palette

The typical Zorn palette involves using a restricted colour palette of: Titanium White, Ivory Black, Yellow Ochre Pale, Cadmium Red

I was rather amazed at the range of colours that we achieved even though we used so few colours. Below are examples of my colour notes from the workshop. Additionally we then created warm and cool colours plus very dark blacks, rich browns, reds, greens, blues and every range of light and dark skin colours imaginable. What you can’t do with the Zorn palette is make high chroma marks on your paintings as they just don’t exist with so few colours.

I subsequently found out that some people do add a blue (like Cerulean Blue) to the Zorn palette (although Cesar obviously did not) as it adds a further dimension that they find useful.

notebook, artistic, inspiration, inspiring
Page 1 of my notebook showing the basic Zorn palette
artistic, inspiration, colourful, zorn
Page 2 of my notebook showing shadow and highlight colours from the Zorn palette


artistic, inspiring, Zorn palette
An example of an expanded Zorn palette



I have also  included an example of a full palette as developed by Debra Winograd (see Pinterest).








Cesar Santos’s working process

On the first day Cesar explained his working methodology and demonstrated how he would “start” a painting. He marked the outer hair line and the outer edges of the faces to ensure that he has placed the portrait in the right position on the canvas before marking the positioning of the key features. Effectively he creates a large “box” shape in which to place the facial features which he does by noting the angle of one feature to another and the relative size of each.

Here are photographs of Cesar demonstrating “boxing” in the big shapes, creating the planes of the face then finalising the key details in TWO hours in front of an audience of a 100 people at the Angel Academy in May. Amazing. This demonstration definitely provided artistic inspiration.


Cesar and the first 30 minutes
Cesar and the first 30 minutes
Cesar's painting after about an hour and a half
Cesar’s painting after about an hour and a half
Cesar's final portrait after 2.5 hours
Cesar’s final portrait after 2.5 hours


Liquin Fine Detail

Liquin Fine Detail
Liquin Fine Detail


We also used Windsor & Newton Liquin Fine Detail medium which helped the flow, stopped cracking and aided the drying of the paint so that we could continue to work on our painting day after day. I have never used this medium before but I really liked it and would do so again.






The end result?

My final portrait at the end of Day 5
My final portrait at the end of Day 5




I did find the whole exercise tough as I had always painted with a full range of colours. In the end I produced a painting in 5 days, with a brand-new technique (for me) that I am proud of. You will have to judge for yourselves what you think of my efforts from the attached photograph on the left.






Would I use the Zorn pallet again? Definitely because this palette created a harmonious painting in the style of the old masters that was appealing to look at. I would like to try a palette with a blue in it to see what difference it would make (some people say that Zorn used blue when it suited him). However, I would not personally want to use it for landscapes because it will not give me the chroma that I think I would want.

Workshops to do or not to do?

Workshops can be worth attending, despite the cost, because you can have one on one tuition; The chance to interact with fellow artists; A change of scenery; Opportunity to learn new techniques; A challenging environment; Opportunity to measure yourself on your artistic progress AND you get artistic inspiration.

Can I help you in a similar way that Cesar helped me? Of course!

I run small one on one workshops and can provide tuition tailored to suit you. Do please call for a chat about what you are seeking on your artistic journey. Meanwhile “Bonne voyage”.
Mobile: +44 7850 548712
Twitter: allisonedwards7595

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