Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Alla prima portraits

Recently I have organized with a few other local artists to paint portraits from life in my studio. We have started a regular routine of painting "alla prima" portraits of paid models, family and friends. "Alla prima is a style of painting where, instead of building colors up with layers or glazing over an underpainting , the painting is completed while the paint is still wet. Strictly defined, an alla prima painting would be started and finished in one painting session"
We're having lots of fun and want to do it regularly every week. We pay 60$ per session, which lasts a few hours with breaks. Last night we painted my brother-in-law, Ryan:


I find direct, one-session portraits to be a real challenge. I'm quite sensitive to color nuances so I have a hard time balancing my tendancy to describe every small color shift accurately while leaving time to actually render the likeness and details. To help this, I have been using a limited palette which has been great for removing some of this distracting choice from my color range.

My current palette is:
  • Ivory black
  • Burnt umber
  • yellow ochre pale
  • Alizarin crimson
  • White
  • (optional) Blue or green as needed for clothing and background
Hopefully in a year I'll have a big pile of portraits and be good at it.