The Elusive Zbukvic Touch


Every now and again I torture myself and try and get some insight into Joseph Zbukvic’s technique. I’ve had an inspirational printout of one of his wonderful Venice paintings on my wall for a while and I foolishly wondered if I could learn anything from trying a copy.

Now I wouldn’t recommend this if your ego is not built on rock solid foundations. I’ve tried before with varying degrees of success and didn’t really come away with any lessons learned. This time I made a little headway.

Firstly his values are surprisingly close together. The scene above (his is the bottom one of course) looks as though it has very dramatic value changes but actually they’re almost all about 3 steps apart. The sky especially near the horizon darkens significantly and helps to tie everything together.

Secondly his ‘colors’ are REALLY close to gray. Low chroma in other words. I got the Munsell chips out and had to go to my ‘nearly neutrals’ section to even come close to matching them. It’s really easy to slop far too much bright color in there even when you think you haven’t.

Once I’d got to grips with both those things I didn’t fair too badly. I till could have compressed my value range even more but on the whole this was one of my better attempts.

Here is a preliminary sketch I did before the bigger one.


This was definitely worth doing. Gave me confidence that at least my values were in the right ballpark.