What is Alla Prima Painting?

What is Alla Prima Painting?

 Alla prima comes from Italian, literally meaning “at once”. The French term is premier coup.


Richard Schmid - Master of Alla Prima Painting
Richard Schmid – Master of Alla Prima Painting

For the most part I like to paint in an alla prima style. Wet-on-wet, or 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 previous layers of wet paint . 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, but the term is also more loosely applied to any painting done in a direct, expressive style, with minimal preparation.

Famous painters who worked in an alla prima style are as diverse as Paul Cezanne, John Singer Sargent, Mary Cassatt, Winslow Homer, Caravaggio, Hieronymus Bosch, and Frans Hals. And of course, another art crush for me is the modern master of alla prima Richard Schmid. I especially love his floral paintings. Look at those gorgeous roses!

Here is a short video demonstrating “Alla Prima Brushstroke Exercise” by Larry Seiler


If you happen to follow me on facebook you know that I frequently post paintings in process. Here is a series of photo’s of an alla prima painting in process. Working title: Looking for Love.

Occasionally, I will go back and re-work a painting. I wasn’t sure I liked how this was working out so I went back and did some more work on it. lookingforlovefinal_natalienorrellstudio.com (800x600)As you can see the brush stoke is a little less pronounced and it is a little softer painting.