The Zorn Palette in Wax Crayons

I'm in a bit of a rut and I'm shaking things up with trying new materials (but that's a different story). As I'm ridiculously fond of the Zorn palette, which consists of black, red, earth yellow, and white, I thought I'd try a quick 30 minute sketch in wax crayons. Crayons aren't just for children; Caran d'Ache Neocolour are lightfast, artist quality wax crayons:

Crayons don't blend like oil pastels do but they do layer and scrumble, and a huge variety of different tones can be coaxed on to the paper. I started with the darks, laying the black fairly lightly in the shadowed areas. Then the earth yellow, an even covering over the whole figure, including over the black I'd laid down. Red was added next here and there.

White was last, and I rubbed that white crayon into the sketch pretty hard, trying to achieve a slightly smoother finish. The white covered well and in the lighter areas, where I pressed hardest, it achieved a kind of smooth, slightly shiny, burnished effect. After that, it was simply editing the sketch here and there, making adjustments to the hue and saturation.

I was particularly pleased with this guy's thigh, which does show a good example of the variety of tones and hues this palette will make. I really enjoyed using the crayons. I found I could work very quickly with them and they were very forgiving - I used Clairefontaine Paint-On Gris and it takes a lot of hard crayoning before that paper won't take any more layers, so adjustments were simple and successful.

Decided to spend another couple of hours on this and completed my inaugural painting with crayons. I stuck with the Zorn palette for the background and made a few amendments to the figure:

I really enjoyed painting with crayons. I could apply colour quickly as they are more precise and less unpredictable than oil pastels, so I didn't have to be so careful. Crayons are much less messy than oil pastel, which does make them that bit more portable. I will be more thoughtful about where I apply black on the first layer in future; I wish I hadn't used black to shade the muscles on the side of the ribcage, but once black crayon is down, it's down, and there's no covering it up. Despite that, it was an enjoyable experience and I'm pleased with the result, and I intend to do many more paintings with crayons.

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