Classical Art Atelier

Alla Prima Portrait Painting

2-Day Oil Painting Workshop with Brian Smyth

This two-day intensive workshop with Brian Smyth, artist and tutor from the Angel Academy of Art, Florence, Italy, provides an excellent introduction to the alla prima method of portrait painting. Alla prima (or 'at the first') relies on a method where the painting is completed in a single session while the paint is still wet. It will also demonstrate some of the principles and techniques currently being taught at the realist painting academies in Florence and elsewhere. This workshop will focus on painting from life, using a number of live models throughout the workshop.

The Alla Prima Portrait Painting Workshop will be held at Garter Lane Arts Centre, Waterford, on Saturday 17 and Sunday 18 November 2018.
Limited Places! Please BOOK EARLY to ensure a place on this workshop!


The alla prima method of painting encourages you to be aware of each brush stroke, seeking out a direct, concise and expressive application of paint. By this means, great control and dexterity in handling the paint is developed, leading towards the completion of expressive and realistic portraits.

Working with a limited colour palette, based on the Zorn palette system, Brian will teach you a step-by-step process to portrait painting from life. Organizing the palette, colour mixing, drawing, value and edges will be covered discussed and demonstrated. Students will get to work on three 3-hour portraits during this workshop, with demonstration paintings and in depth personal critiques.

Materials List
  • Live models each day
  • Basic materials included*
  • Detailed handouts
  • Practical exercises
  • Live Demonstrations
  • Refreshments provided

*Students will be required to bring certain materials.


Brian will demonstrate each of the key steps involved in the alla prima painting process
and will individually assist each student as they progress.

Alla Prima Step-by-Step

Alla Prima Portrait Step-by-Step by Brian Smyth © 2018

Step One

Starting with the drawing stage, Brian will explain and demonstrate the principles of getting a good sense of proportion and accuracy of shapes and how, at this early stage, these are the key elements of getting a good likeness of the model.

Step Two

The next stage will comprise of colour mixing and getting a good block-in of the skin tones, hair, clothes and background colours. At this stage, an introduction to the anatomy of portraiture will be discussed and the methods for modelling form will be demonstrated.

Step Three

The final stage will concentrate on bringing each area to a finish, with an emphasis on turning form. At this stage, we pay greater attention to paint handling and edge quality.

Workshop Details

The Alla Prima Portrait Painting Workshop will be held in Waterford City in November 2018.
See the dates and details for this workshop below, or contact us to find out more and to enrol.

# Venue Duration Day Time Dates Cost
1 Garter Lane Arts Centre, WATERFORD 2 Days Saturday & Sunday 10.00am - 5.00pm 17-18 November € 250

Important Notes

  • Fees are non-refundable and non-transferrable.
  • Classical Art Atelier reserves the right to cancel any workshop at any time if the minimum number of students required is not reached. In such cases, your fee will be fully refunded.
  • It is recommended that you take out insurance to cover travel and accommodation costs in the event that this workshop is cancelled.

About Brian Smyth

Oil Painting Instructor

Brian Smyth is an award-winning graduate of the Crawford College of Art and Design. He has had several succesful solo exhibitions in Dublin and London and has participated in and curated many group exhibitions. He has completed many private commissions, including a 14-painting Stations of the Cross commission for a church restoration project in his native Co. Cork.

Brian has his works in many private and public collections and continues to develop his technique, to exhibit his paintings and to work on portrait commissions.

Brian began his studies in The Angel Academy, in Florence, in 2012, and has worked there as an instructor since 2013. Visit to see his work.

Materials List

Oil Painting Workshop

Stretched and unstretched canvas will be provided by the academy. However, it is imperative that you bring a portfolio case large enough to fit a canvas 50x40cm or some other means of taking your wet canvases home with you. Your work will not be stored by the academy.

All materials and equipment are available at Cork Art Supplies, where you will be entitled to a 10% discount upon enrolling for this workshop, or at Jackson's Art Supplies UK

Oil Colours
  • Titanium White
  • Ivory Black
  • Burnt Umber
  • Yellow Ochre
  • Cadmium Red
  • Alizarin Crimson Permanent
  • Ultramarine Blue
  • Liquin
  • Fast Drying Linseed Oil
  • Mineral Spirits
  • Turpentine
  • 4 x Bristle Filbert (size 6)
  • 2 x Soft Synthetic Filbert (size 8)
  • 1 x Soft Filbert (size 12)
  • 1 x Soft Round (size 1)
  • 1 x Soft Fan Brush (size 6 or 8)
  • Wooden Palette
  • Palette Knife
  • Palette Cups
  • Glass Jar
  • Paper Towels
  • Portfolio Case
Alla Prima Portrait Painting Workshop

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