Alla Prima Portrait Painting
2-Day Oil Painting Workshop with Adrian Cooke
This two-day intensive workshop focuses on the alla prima method of portrait painting. Alla prima (or 'at the first') is a direct painting method where paint is applied wet-in-wet and the painting is completed in a single session. This requires greater skill and understanding of how to control and manipulate the paint. It contrasts with the academic approach, where paint is built up slowly in layers, which is a safer albeit more time-consuming method.
This workshop will make use of photo references as well as life models. Quite often, artists will only have a photograph to use as a reference, and working from this two-dimensional image also provides an easier route initially to learning the painting process. That being said, our aim will be to transcend this digital image, and create our own expressive interpretation. Once the method is learned, we will then paint from life on the second day, and with even greater confidence!
The direct approach of alla prima painting presents several challenges but many rewards. The immediacy of this kind of painting forces you to choose each brushstroke carefully and concisely, and as a result, it often requires greater initial planning at the start of the painting.
As well as pre-mixing colours and values on the palette, you will also mix on the canvas, wet-in-wet, and learn how to create a more expressive and painterly portrait. We will also learn from some of the masters, like Frans Hals and Édouard Manet, who are celebrated for their fluency in direct painting. You will closely study some of the following techniques:
- Capturing an initial impression of the model
- Colour mixing and planning
- Managing darks, lights and accents
- Variety of brushwork
Working with a limited colour palette, following Anders Zorn's system, you will be shown a step-by-step process to portrait painting, working from a photo reference on day one, and then from life on day two. Organising the palette, colour mixing, drawing, value and edges will be covered discussed and demonstrated.Materials List
- Live model
- Basic materials included*
- Practical exercises
- Live Demonstrations
- Slide Presentations
- Refreshments provided
*Students will be required to bring certain materials.
Day 1: Saturday
Getting Started with the Basics
The first morning will introduce you to some basic concepts around design, value and form. You will work on some preliminary exercises including matching a value colour strip and rendering a flesh-toned sphere. You will also become acquainted with Zorn's limited palette and the Munsell Colour System.
In the afternoon, we will begin by working from a photo reference to carefully learn the alla prima method and techniques. These first steps are all about gesture and placement - getting the portrait started and generally establishing where everything is going to fit. You will also block in the major light and dark shapes at this stage, creating a basic value composition. As your portrait progresses, you will gradually refine it.
If you hear a voice within you saying you cannot paint, then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced. Vincent Van Gogh
Day 2: Sunday
From Full Colour to Expressive Finish
On the second morning, we will introduce colour into your portrait paintings, initially developing a simplified three-colour poster study, massing in light, dark, and dark light colour values. From there, you will concentrate on selectively rendering all areas of the portrait, turning the form of the eyes, nose, mouth, cheeks, and hair.
You will be shown how to blend wet-into-wet, creating soft transitions of tone to describe the forms of the face and paying special attention to the quality of edges. Just the right amount of the anatomy will also be explained in order for you to add enough detail to create a realistic and expressive portrait.
In the afternoon, you will be ready to paint from life, and you will combine all of your learning in one 3-hour alla prima portrait study of a live model.
Painting is easy when you don't know how, but very difficult when you do. Edgar Degas
Adrian 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 Portrait Step-by-Step by Adrian Cooke © 2020