Alla PRIMA
Artists & Illustrators|October 2021
Raw Umber Studios tutor LIZET DINGEMANS presents an introduction to the direct painting technique that can be used to create lively, spontaneous pictures
LIZET DINGEMANS

Lizet's materials

• Paints Titanium White, Scheveningen Yellow Medium, Cadmium Orange, Cerulean Blue, Raw Umber and Ivory Black, all Old Holland Classic Oil Colours

Brushes Daler-Rowney Graduate synthetic flat brushes, various sizes; Rosemary and Co. Series 308 hog bristle long flat brushes, various sizes

Support Wooden board primed with Golden Acrylic Gesso, 45x50cm (approx.)

• New Wave wooden palette

• Sansodor medium

• Odourless turpentine

• A dipper

• A palette knife

Alla prima can roughly be translated as “at first attempt”. It is a method of working directly into still-wet paint, which is very different to the commonly used layering approach, where one would be painting a layer and letting it dry, before working over it again. When painting alla prima, the picture is traditionally completed in a single sitting, which allows for a spontaneous execution that is incomparable to any other technique in terms of finish and boldness of brushwork.

A still life is a perfect subject for alla prima painting as it is infinitely patient and needs no breaks. I chose a pair of cowboy boots, lit by a single light source from the left, which provided clarity and made it easier to distinguish the tones. The latter is especially important for alla prima work, as it will make the process easier and more direct.

Before you begin, spend time making sure your set-up is just right. Things that will simplify your process include using fewer tube colours, choosing a single subject, and avoiding symmetry (a perfect circle requires very accurate drawing).

It is also a good idea to spend a few minutes making a few tonal composition sketches, before settling on a composition you really like. These can be really simple, but they will give you a sense of whether the composition works before you jump straight in to painting.

I recommend using oils for alla prima painting – it is the slowest-drying medium so will give you plenty of time to work. This painting took me about three hours to complete, but anything up to six hours is manageable for alla prima oils – after this point, the quicker-drying pigments will start to get tacky. www.lizetdingemans.com

1 Set things up

I started with the underdrawing, working directly onto the white board using only Raw Umber paint thinned with Sansodor medium. This allows the paint to slightly sink into the support, making it easier to go over later. As I drew, I looked for the big shadows and impressions of the light.

When applying oils to a canvas already thick with wet paint, the colours can get muddy. Keeping it simple at the start will pay off later in the course of the work. Another advantage of applying thin layers at first is that you can wipe out any mistakes using tissue.

2 Map the envelope

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Raw Umber Studios tutor LIZET DINGEMANS presents an introduction to the direct painting technique that can be used to create lively, spontaneous pictures

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