Alla Prima Apple Study with SNAG Review

OK–so it seems I promised a few colleagues that I would share some type of demo while we are all stuck indoors—so here it is…an alla prima study of an apple that is a larger scale version of how I paint small structure. It features a review of our basic “SNAG” approach as well as some wicked glare and my enormously fat head getting in the way from time to time.

Hope you’ll give this one a try for yourself and share your results below!


Thanks for this Anthony! Super seeing your work at a billion times magnification too :joy: gives a real idea of the miniaturisation of the overall process. My first day working from home today (been doing 16+ hour shifts dealing with tricky computer stuff lately, so no art has happened for a while.) but today I got to sneak in a master copy while I followed along with your video:-

My most annoying error while doing this was keeping forgetting that the brush can pick up paint from the surface as well as put it down, so I would push some red into the blacker area for example, and then go for another identical stroke from the clean red into the black again and leave a black smudgy mark in my pristine red bit. i suspect i had too much paint down by the end as it started out much like the whole dry media experience as you demonstrated but i got a bit slap happy and over confident by the point i left the notan behind.


Hey Martin—You know I think that you were the only one to catch that magnification joke. LOL!

Nice job—and yes, keeping the brushes uncontaminated is a real challenge at first. However, just about everyone gets used to dealing with it so that it is not problematic. The issue is compounded (like you suspect) most often with overloaded brushes.

It seems like I will have to do another video or two like this as many seemed to really enjoy it. Hope you and your are all safe and healthy my friend! Happy drawing/painting!


I could not be more excited to hear you’re thinking of doing more of these, I tend to learn a good deal from observation so that will be an amazing help.

I repeated the exercise last night as I knew I hadn’t focused properly on it, (taking calls from work throughout and just general lack of concentration) - so I went through it more carefully later, the only downside was that it was late with very bright artificial lighting on my canvas so now in daylight it looks very dark and gloomy, another lesson learned :slight_smile:

My son (5 years old) is really enjoying your visual language program curriculum at the moment - knew he would, I came back from work a little while ago to find he’d done his own version of pressure scales after seeing some of my practice sheets left out. Pretty cool eh! So thanks million for putting that out there.

I’ve a suspicious cough now but feeling healthy and no other issues, for the last month I had to sort out a bunch of old folks homes and key-workers IT systems to work remotely, and now my business is closed up for quarantine. At least I have a decent chance of picking up a pencil or brush now. Hope you and yours are keeping out of the way of it all - Interesting times!


Martin, I like the darkness of the second painting. I like the red of the first one better. But hats off to you, I haven’t done one yet…


Thanks @deborah845800 - I agree on both counts, I really enjoyed doing these, I’ll get the right idea if I do a couple more I think. As an extra added bonus they don’t take very long! Would love to see anyone else’s version and what they take away from it.

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I’d like to do a “rendering” versus “(a colloquial idea of) rendering” next.


That sounds great, looking forward to it :slight_smile: my understanding of rendering is very general…

I did another alla prima apple today, this time I used my own reference just to change things up, and did it in daylight too so colours are better, I didn’t get the chiaroscuro I enjoy, but it was still an improvement.


this is great! a beautiful apple and a very instructive video! i learned a lot just by watching, will whip out the old brushes and have a go myself later on. thanks anthony :hugs:

i have a question! dynamic squinting: what is it :thinking: are you squinting real hard at the subject and then turning to face the painting to see you’re seeing the same thing?

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righto, here’s my effort… a single-colour apple might have been easier. but i like topaz apples best, they just taste so good :roll_eyes:


Wonderful job!!!

As to dynamic squinting—here is an excerpt from an article I wrote about the practice a few years ago. I think it will help to clarify its use:

Squint. Squinting, the third layer of this analysis, is one of the most useful tools for visual information gathering in an observational/representational art context. When we squint, we alter the shape of the eye’s lens and reduce the amount of light that can enter the eye. As such, our visual acuity is decreased proportionally to the severity of the squint. Lightness levels decrease as numerous value steps merge together into larger, fuzzy chunks of light and dark. This simplification allows for the artist to capture larger (macro) components that may not be as apparent amidst complexity, when visual acuity is high. (It is also worth noting that the perceived intensity of colors is diminished here with the decrease of incoming light.)

If I suspect that there may be an issue with micro-macro value pattern relationships, I will revisit the earlier mentioned scan phase but with a strong, fixed squint. If the overall patterns look reasonably accurate, I will proceed to specific value relationship comparison with a dynamic squint . The dynamic squint is a way of using the mechanics of our perception to analyze relative value relationships when quantitative measurements (like that of a light meter or spectrophotometer) are not available. Here is how it works:


The blue sphere on the left represents the artist’s reference source while the central image represents the artist’s painting or drawing. The central illustration demonstrates a reflected light (A) that is recorded too light.

The image on the left represents the artist’s reference source while the image in the middle represents an artist’s drawing or painting effort. The far right image is a legend illustrating which areas we are discussing. Let’s assume that the basic anchor values were established aligning the darkest darks and lightest lights with the limitation of the available materials. Subsequent values were added by judging against these initial anchors in an effort to build corresponding value relationships–but now we need to check those judgements. This is where the dynamic squint comes in.

To make this example simple, let’s limit our focus to analyzing two target values with a dynamic squint: The reflected light on the sphere (A) and the overall value of the sphere’s resting surface (B).

I begin by targeting specific value relationships for analysis. Value relationships that I will choose to start with are those that have ‘popped out’ in the earlier scan and stereo phase. For now, let’s begin with the reflected light (A) on the sphere. I begin by fixing the target reference area/value in my gaze and slowly increase the severity of my squint until the values that represent the reflected light are “merged” into the surrounding analogous values. With my squint halted and maintained right at the specific severity level to achieve this merging, I turn my gaze to the corresponding area on the drawing. If the corresponding target value on the drawing or painting is still noticeable at the “squint severity” that caused the reference target area value to merge with analogous surrounds, then I know that the value relationship in that area is not representing the reference target relationships accurately. In this case it would mean that the reflected light is most likely too light in this context.


The blue sphere on the left represents the artist’s reference source while the central image represents the artist’s painting or drawing. The central illustration demonstrates a reflected light (A) that is recorded too dark.

To see if I may be too dark I will reverse the process and begin with a gaze at the drawing and squint until the target value merges with surrounding analogous values. When this happens, just like before, the squint is arrested and the gaze shifted to the reference target. If the corresponding target reference value is liberated from the surround then I know that my drawn or painted value is too dark.

Let me know if this helps Sigrid! :smiley:


yes, thanks! i will give it a go very soon!

but you know, to really demonstrate the process, it would be great to have a photo of someone in the act of deploying a “severe squint”. i would like to know how crazy i should be looking in order to be doing it right - with a one-eye squint like this :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:or a full-on double-eye squint like this :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes: or should i look like i’m in pain: :laughing: ?

please advise


Really enjoyed this video, thank you.

Will be trying a couple of these over the weekend and will hopefully upload an image (of the most successful one, of course!) soon.

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My first effort.
Feedback welcome.


Excellent Sib! A good transition from yellow to (even near) black can be a wicked task to pull off but you did it wonderfully. I did a lemon alla prima a while back for one of our alla prima challenges. Mine is nowhere near as polished as yours but I really enjoyed the challenge! Thank you for sharing your effort!

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Speaking of yellow subjects and alla primas—I remember Leah creating this banana alla prima that was just incredible. It was one of the best I’ve ever seen from our alla prima challenges.


Are the Alla Prima Challenges still a thing?

If they are, would it be possible to create a new thread that lists the challenges each time a new one is added?

Thanks for the feedback, Anthony - very encouraging!

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Hi Sib—Yes. Usually I go through them with the students once a year. However, this past year the vast majority of artists here were drawing rather than painting so we didn’t run through the challenges.

You can find all 20 with descriptions of the “rules” here:

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Fantastic - thank you!
I can see now why the lemon and banana paintings look the way they do as well.

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14:40 ‘When we’re stressed we default to the things we’re used to. We go running home to mom!’

Brilliant! :grinning: :grinning: :grinning:

25:07 For people, (like me), asking how does this have any relevance to Anthony’s detailed work, we get to see a realistic grape up close, showing that like the apple here, it is also ‘rough and ready’ just on a much more microscopic scale’

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