For those of you looking to spruce up those drawing skills while painting, I cannot recommend the alla prima enough. The alla prima (Italian, meaning at first attempt), is a painting technique, used mostly in oil painting, in which layers of wet paint are applied to previously administered layers of wet paint. This technique requires a fast way of working, because the work has to be finished before the first layers have dried. It may also be referred to as ‘direct painting’ or the French term au premier coup (at first stroke).
Alla prima painting has been practiced alongside other techniques since the invention of oil painting, and was used by several of the major Early Netherlandish painters in parts of their pictures, such as Jan van Eyck in the Arnolfini portrait, and Rogier van der Weyden. Among the many Baroque painters who favored an alla prima technique were Diego Velázquez and Frans Hals. In the Rococo era, connoisseurs appreciated bold alla prima painting, as exemplified in the works of artists such as Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Francesco Guardi, and Thomas Gainsborough.
Since the mid-19th century, the use of commercially produced pigments in portable tubes has facilitated an easily accessible variety of colors to be used for rapid and on-the-spot painting. Impressionists such as Claude Monet, post-Impressionists such as Vincent van Gogh, realists such as John Singer Sargent and Robert Henri and George Bellows, Expressionists such as Chaim Soutine, and the Abstract Expressionist Willem de Kooning have in different ways employed this technique, and it is still heavily used by both figurative and non-figurative fine artists.
The example shown here is a simple study of a clementine. A good deal of “scrubbing” is done during paint application in this demo as the canvas board had a particularly high tooth (surface texture). Colors here were mixed “on the fly” from a standard dual-primary palette but you can use a more methodical approach (strings and/or Munsell chips, etc.) If a careful color-mixing strategy is your preference I recommend viewing some of the online videos from artist Paul Foxton who uses Munsell for his beautiful works.
Our Alla Prima Challenges set strict parameters to maximize challenge. Be sure to read the directions for those challenges before tackling them.