Alla Prima Challenges List I

For anyone that is looking to sharpen up their alla prima skills, here are the 20 Alla Prima Challenges that we shared with our Facebook painting groups. Each one has very specific parameters that define the challenge (including time-frame (most are 30 minutes), palette draw* limits, pre-mixing**, stroke direction, etc.) Give them a try!

*The palette draw rule means that after a certain number of brushstrokes you must pull more paint from the palette (reloading the brush) or you may void the brush altogether. This is done to ensure that you are not over-modeling the study relative to the challenge (i.e., unwarranted surface manipulation that leads to value/color contamination or excessive “blending” without drawing development or material application.) For example, a 5 stroke palette draw rule means that you can only apply 5 strokes before you must wipe and/or reload the brush—thus encouraging the artist think more “economically” and deliberately about brushwork.

Pre-mixing ** here refers to the mixing of colors specific to the subject beforehand. Mixing can be done on the palette but it must occur within the time frame allotted for the exercise.

Triple threat Thursday parameters: 1. Lemon (or other object that is primarily “yellow”) against a black background. 2. 30-minutes or less. 3. DOWNWARD vertical strokes only with the 5-stroke palette draw rule in effect.


I did the lemon challenge. 30 minute, no premixing, only vertical strokes. Helluva challenge. As the clock ticked away, it made me second guess my strategy midway though the challenge and in turn made me become a bit more introspective on my usual way to problem solve personal works. Very interesting.


I would imagine that blending would be quite a challenge with only vertical strokes too. I think no pre-mixing would be a time killer too.

This is great, Tim! I know how challenging this one can be. I did this exact challenge at our most recent diagnostic painter. It’s always a challenge and makes you really focus carefully on each mark made.

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OK, first off, your version is phenomenal. Not gonna lie the “time factor” in the challenge creates a welcomed frantic feeling. Decision making has a frenetic energy. Also, after doing this once I would totally change my strategy on the challenge.


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Did the lemon challenge. I know, it should be on the dark background, but due to some limitations I had to do mine outside in very bright natural light, and the dark background looked dirty gray. Other than that, it was quite enjoyable :))

I’ll probably do it again in a more controlled setting and try and work more on the shadows, and do something about the edges.


Wow! You did a great job Lyasya! Exercises like this can prompt a good deal of procedural assessments that can provide new advantages in our regular (less-restricted) efforts. I look forward to seeing more of these from you.

Thank you for sharing your efforts here!

That’s the goal Tim! Evaluate and re-evaluate to find new ways to bring advantage to your regular work. Looking forward to seeing more!


Thank you Anthony! My main takeaway so far is the 5 strokes per palette draw thing :slightly_smiling_face: Now I keep telling myself to lay the paint on the surface and leave it be instead of brushing over the same spot again and again. It keeps the paint looking so nice and fresh!

As for other things… there’s so much, I need to keep doing the exercises and digesting what I’m learning…

I talked to Tim Rakarich a lot about these challenges. We both are from ARA Boston.

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Very cool! I learned from Julie that some of the artists at ARA were tackling the challenges, We did two of them at this year’s Diagnostic Painter workshop and Julie’s were fantastic!!!

Yes, Julie is wonderful :))

In the meantime, my floral alla prima. That was my first one - and my first alla prima ever, first time painting outside, first floral oil painting… basically first everything. Didn’t manage to do a lot in 30 minutes… This one made me think about deciding on my palette in advance and observing the subject first, before starting to paint.

(It looks more vibrant in real life)

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WOW! First one ever??? This is great Lyasya. And yes—as long as these exercises or challenges get you thinking about your process then it is a very successful effort indeed.

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It’s true, during this summer break Lyasya and I have kept each other accountable and moving forward with your challenges. Here is my attempt at the Primary Prowess Challenge. I made the mistake of adding too many grapes so instead of 30 minutes I gave myself 40 minutes. Still a frantic execution with no premixing or drawing. LOL

Doing the lemon challenge first did allow me to try to think the strategy through a bit more.


Next up is the skull challenge. Details be damned! This manic 45 minute dead coloring-ish challenge went OK. In hindsight I feel like I should have went darker with my shadows to make the crown “turn” better. Oh well, none of these are meant to be a masterpiece. :wink:


I was planning on doing the cloth challenge but realized I had an old painting concept that was collecting dust, so I merged the two. Instead of 30 minutes, I gave myself 45 because of the piece’s size 15”x24”. It was still a mad dash of mixing and slapping down of paint. It has sunken in a little but I’m happy with it as a base dead coloring though.

I swear that at the end of every one of these I laugh a maniacal laugh and slump into a chair like I just finished a marathon.


You guys are doing great! I created these challenges with the restrictions to act like an loose analog to resistance factors in strength training. You can adapt and grow—and in the practice find great insights into your own process, test your “information synthesis” in a new context—possibly opening up new creative avenues, and pushing the boundaries or effectiveness and efficiency further than you might in the arena of normal performance.

So glad you are doing these!!!

Thank you Anthony (and Tim is killing it!).

Last one for now. Gave myself 45 minutes instead of 30, because… well, using your fitness metaphor, I’m a long-distance runner, sprints are completely new for me (and so is plein air painting; I have zero experience). That was… wow! Scary, challenging, and strangely enjoyable! Basically had to tell myself to just go paint something and see what happens :)) And now I want to do more plein air landscapes :))

Thank you so much for designing these the challenges. I’ll definitely keep doing them. It’s amazing how much insight I’m getting.


This is stunning Lyasua! You are really burning these challenges up. I’m so thrilled that you are sharing them here as well. Awesome blossom!!! :smiley:

Hi friends! We’re excited for the upcoming weekly alla prima challenge zoom sessions at ÀNI Dominicana! Here’s my take on the 30 minute downward strokes lemon challenge from the most recent diagnostic painter workshop.

I look forward to seeing all the beautiful paintings!


WOOOOOOT! Get ready Max!!!