2024 Online Alla Prima Challenges Resource PART II


Congratulations to all on the successful completion of yet another challenge. We are now officially past the halfway point. That’s right–this week, we hit Challenge #11. This week’s challenge, (Casting Call!),
has us reaching back to an educational practice that may have us reaching back to practices that may have begun as early as mid-5th century Greece: Cast Drawing.

In the mid-third millennium B.C., the Egyptians first pioneered the casting method by plastering the heads of mummies for portraits of the deceased. The Greeks, followed by the Romans, adopted the plaster techniques as a means of reproducing copies of famous Greek marble and bronze statues. The first known location of a plaster cast collection was Imperial Rome. The collapse of the Roman Empire ended the popularity of collecting art in the Mediterranean World. In addition, many argue that the rise of Christianity largely influenced the destruction of sculptures and plaster casts in order to conceal references to previously held pagan beliefs.

A tremendous rediscovery of antiquities occurred in 15th-century Renaissance Europe. In fact, one of the earliest references to casts as a tool for training artists is found in Leonardo da Vinci’s A Treatise on Painting. However, it is believed that Francesco Squarcione, a 15th Italian painter, is said to have been the first artist who collected plaster casts in order to train his apprentices. In the years to come, art schools would continue to make use of plaster casts from recently unearthed antiquities because they felt the works of the ancients were incomparable. The effects of the sculptural rebirth reverberated throughout Europe in the art academies and universities.

If interested, a more comprehensive history of plaster casts from George Mason University can be found here:


So what are our parameters for this week?

Parameters for Challenge #11, Casting Call!: 1. The subject must be any statue or cast of your choice. As before, if you do not have access to an actual statue or cast, you may paint from a photograph or your computer screen. 2. 30-minute time limit! 3. Premixing is NOT allowed! 4. 5-stroke palette draw rule in effect.

You can browse some beautiful casts in the Caproni Collection here:

Looking forward to seeing you all this week!


Congratulations to all on the successful completion of yet another challenge. We are on the “back 10,” and we slide into Challenge 12 this week with Vibrant Vessels. This week will bring two big challenges that brush jockeys like us tend to face now and again: ellipses and symmetry. But wait—these taxing aspects are balanced with TWO, yes, TWO special surprises—another 15-minute extension!!! AND Premixing is allowed!!! That’s right—you can sit back and take it easy with a 45-minute window and a ton of premixing at your disposal. Masterpieces are expected. LOL!

Some concepts for this week:

The term symmetry can cover a number of concepts which involve relationships between components of a whole. Specifically, here, we will use symmetry to describe a correspondence between “opposite” halves of a shape or form on either side of an axis or set of axes. The axis of symmetry is a line that divides an object into two equal halves, thereby creating a mirror-like reflection of either side of the object. The term asymmetry simply describes a lack of symmetry.

In the realm of mathematics, an ellipse is a closed, symmetric curve which can be formed by intersecting a cone with a plane that is not parallel* or perpendicular to the cone’s base. The sum of the distances of any point on an ellipse from two fixed points (called the foci) remains constant no matter where the point is on the curve. *A circle can be considered a special case of an ellipse, in which the two foci coincide. (Although, in some contexts, this latter statement is debated in regards to the ontology of an ellipse.)

In the context of visual art, an ellipse is often defined simply as a “circle in perspective” or a “foreshortened circle” as barring the influence of optical distortion, it is an approximation of a commonly encountered shape that falls upon the retina when a circle is observed at an oblique angle relative to the viewer.

For many visual artists, the ellipse remains one of the most challenging shapes to draw or paint successfully. This deceptively simple, symmetrical oval has infuriated countless artists and continues to taunt us all with its smug elusiveness. Ok, that might be a bit much—but if you have tried to draw one of these closed symmetric curves, then you understand the frustration that would lead one to arrive at such a “passionate” description.

If you are interested, I’ve written a short but dense article on the ellipse here: Perception and the Ever-Elusive Ellipse. | Art and Articles

It’s also on Smartermarx here: Perception and the Ever-Elusive Ellipse

So get ready!

Parameters for Challenge #12, Vibrant Vessels: 1. The composition must contain one or more colorful vessels. 2. 45-minute time limit! 3. Premixing is allowed! 4. 5-stroke palette draw rule in effect.

Looking forward to seeing you all this week!!!


Congratulations to all on the successful completion of yet another challenge. Well, boys and girls (and whatever else), we lose all of the fun luxuries we enjoyed last week. That’s correct—Challenge #13, Dynamic Drapery, carries with it the loss of that extra 15 minutes and the possibility of premixing. (I know, I know, Booooo!) But hey, we really want to challenge ourselves, right?

So let’s be clear with those parameters for this week:

Parameters for Challenge #13 Dynamic Drapery: 1. Your composition must include some type of drapery. 2. 30-minute time limit! 3. No pre-mixing allowed! 4. 5-stroke palette draw rule in effect.

I remember learning about drapery in my first college drawing class via the concept of the “Seven Folds.” You can read about them in George’s Bridgeman’s The Seven Laws Of Folds, Drawing the Draped Figure, or Bridgman’s Complete Guide to Drawing from Life.

The Seven Folds are 1 Pipe or Cord, 2 Zigzag, 3 Spiral, 4 Half-lock, 5 Diaper Pattern, 6 Drop or Flying, 7 Inert. Here are some illustrations from Bridgeman communicating the folds:

For those that want to browse Bridgman online you can find an internet archive of his Complete Guide to Drawing from Life here:

For those looking for a good read about the role of Drapery in the history of Representational art, there is a great article here:

Drapery and the secret history of painting | Christie's

As always, I look forward to seeing you all this week!