Art Lesson 20
In this lesson, you will discover Wet-on-Wet – Alla Prima Technique
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Wet-on-Wet – Alla Prima Technique
In this Video Lesson we are going to cover a wet-on-wet technique, or as we alternatively can name it, an Alla Prima technique. We will divide our lesson into three parts as you can see on these already completed Samples. In the first part, we will discuss the Alla Prima method. Then, we will see how can we make a transition between two Colors, a very popular question; and finally, also a technical question – we will see how to make borders of objects and how the meeting point of two Colors could be effectively painted.
This is our Worksheet #10; we outlined the cells, isolated them around with the Masking Tape and made temporary notes on the top.
We start with the Alla-Prima method, which from the first glance seems not quite relevant to the Old Masters’ techniques, who based their painting process on the multi-layered method. Alla-Prima is a very popular modern method of painting, and is widely used in the so enormously popular “En plein air” sessions and sketching. However, even Old Masters could paint some of the fragments in Alla Prima, while the rest of the painting could be executed in an elaborate multi-layered method with layers and layers of paint. We are interested in a question – how to apply one layer of Paint over another wet layer. It could be a challenging procedure, especially when we apply thick layers of paint.
Let’s see how differently an Alla-Prima painting could look, depending on the thickness of the brush-strokes and the Medium used.
To do the exercise, we symbolically divide the Alla-Prima painting process into two parts. For the first layer of Paint, when blocking the Canvas with a dark Color, we chose Burnt Umber.
There are many ways of how we can begin the Alla-Prima painting: For example, we can start with Impasto strokes straight away. You see how thickly we take the Paint on the Brush and place it over the Canvas, not spreading, not rubbing, but accurately putting it on the top, with no Medium added. We are covering the second cell with the tube Paint, also with no Medium added, but in a regular dense layer, spreading it with the stiff Brush.
For the third sample, we decided to thin with the Refined Linseed Oil to make the Paint flow. It is an absolute “No” in the multi-layered technique when we do the first layers of painting, but it is fine in the Alla-Prima method, as all layers are applied Wet-on-Wet to form one uniform layer. The Alla-Prima method is the most safe method of all in terms of long-time preservation and low tendency to deteriorate and crack.
However, when you bring in the extra Oils into the paint, do it very moderately.
The Next sample is the “Dry Brush” method, which consists of just rubbing the Paint into the Canvas with a stiff Hog Brush. And finally – we dilute the Paint in a Turpentine to a Watercolor condition.
For our next stage, we chose Yellow paint to create a combination of two Colors contrasting in tone – one is very dark, and the other one is light, to more visually understand how they interact with each other. Firstly, we apply the Yellow Paint in its regular condition – as is, from the tube. What we see here is the Yellow Paint intermixing with the Impasto lower layer and, with each new brushstroke, trying to remove the excess Paint from our first layer. Obviously, it’s too thick of a paint layer, and it’s so easy to end up with a mess on the Canvas.
While it’s much easier to handle the Paint in the next example, the new Color still has the risk of being easily intermixed with lower dark color layers.
Then, we proceed over a layer of Paint thinned with Linseed Oil. You can feel that the painted surface is fattier because of the additional Oil; it is fattier than the previous examples, with a Brush kind of sliding over that surface. We also see that added Oil brings Intensity to the Colors, making them looking very fresh.
Now, we paint over a Dry Brush layer – nothing prevents the new layer of Paint from being applied. The Paint easily clings to the surface and can be very easily manageable.
We can say the same about the last sample – a layer of Paint generously thinned with Turpentine creates a sort of Imprimatura that could be easily painted over with a new layer of Paint.
Now, let’s check how the paint thinned with Linseed Oil will lay over Underpaintings: Over the Impasto layer, Paint just slides over the Underpainting layer. It creates a nice effect. It could be used in a landscape, for example; but, in general, if we would like to build the shape of an object, such rich consistency only obstructs the painting process.
If I can honestly make the same comments on the other examples – it’s extremely inconvenient to proceed with the thinned Paint over a wet Underpainting. It’s more or less applicable to any Medium added in the upper layers of Alla Prima, not just Linseed Oil.
Alla-Prima requires quite a bit of experience because you have to understand how much Paint you need to apply to the Canvas, and if you put the wrong Color or too much of a Paint and this makes it difficult to proceed, you’ll need to scrape the excess Paint off of the Canvas and start the process again. To ease your Alla-Prima experience, I would recommend making the first layer with a thinly applied coat of Paint, rubbed into a Canvas or made into a wash with a Turpentine and then proceeding with tube Paints with no Mediums added.
Well, we will continue with the next part – How we transition from one Color to another. Let’s consider the following examples. The first two are the most obvious methods when we do the transition while two Colors are wet. Choose two different Tonality Colors for the exercise; it will make it more illustrative. So, we apply two Colors side by side. Then, we have to blend one Color into another. It could be done by moving a clean, soft Brush over the border in such a way that smoothens the transition between the Paints on the very border and gradually blending one Color into another. While we spread the Paint, we should keep the Brush clean and remove the accumulated Paint from the Brush from time to time.
The same process applies here, with the difference that we spread the Paint not along the boarder, but across it. By the way, this method is less efficient if you want to create a very smooth transition.
The next two examples are slightly different. Imagine that you have to continue a painting that already has a dried layer. How can you make the transition with freshly applied Paint over a dried layer?
We left the Canvas to dry; now, after a few days, we can proceed. We apply a new layer close to the border; clean the Brush or use a separate clean Brush and gently spread the Paint over a dry fragment. Or, as shown on another version – at the moment we have to transit the Paint on the border – some artists like to add a Medium, in order to thin the Paint, making the transition easier. However, I do not find this necessary.
And the final part of our exercises illustrates how can we paint the borders of objects, when one paint meets another. This is also a seemingly simple topic that often raises questions.
First of all, we apply dark Paint to all our samples. It will be our symbolic dark objects that are located on the Yellowish background. So, how do we paint the border Brown and Yellow? The edge of the object. This is just a pure technical question. In this first sample, we apply the Paint quite densely next to the border and very carefully paint at the very edge. We have to make very precise movements, so it’s better to stabilize you hand over a Painter’s Stick, called “Maulstick.”
If we have too much Paint on the Brush, the border could look like that – we would have a border with ridges. This could be ok in some specific cases, when we want to create the necessary effect, but it does not always look impressive. By the way, if you decide that your border looks too sharp, you can easily make it look blurred with a clean soft-hair Brush.
The next example is the most effective – we just cover the Canvas with the Paint, leaving a narrow gap between two Colors; then, we take a clean Brush and spread the Paint from the distance – this allows us to more easily render the Paint next to the edge.
And for the last one, we just leave the gap between the two Colors unfilled. This could create interesting effects depending on the Color beneath and how it suits with the applied Colors. Such kind of Contour could be left along the whole object or sporadically.
Well, what conclusions can we make by looking at these exercises? We can see the Alla-Prima being executed within the multi-layered painting technique. The Underpainting can also be done in just one go in Alla-Prima; and hereafter, when well dried, it can be finished in Glazings.
These two parts also illustrate the Direct painting method of rendering Paint that also can be effectively used in Underpainting and Underglazing.
All these examples could be used as a base for oil painting – as a basement used in a building construction.
What you need for the task:
- Worksheet #10
- Prepared Support – Canvas, Canvas Board or Oil Painting Paper A3
- Come Dark and Light Colors, for example Burnt Umber, Yellow and Unbleached Titanium
- Hog and Synthetic Brushes
- Linseed Oil, Turpentine