Today, I would like to show you a step-by-step process of creating a painting in oil using the Alla Prima technique, which means you work wet-in-wet in one session.
This is the scene I set up, a simple still life of some sunflowers and pears in a bowl. I didn’t set it up in a box with a lamp as I wanted the natural sunlight on the table, but I would obviously eliminate all the things surrounding the objects in the painting itself. (I used a 12″ x 12″ canvas)
Firstly, I painted a wash of yellow ochre thinned out with a little medium to cover the entire canvas and then I drew on the composition using thinned burnt umber with a small brush. (I sometimes use a bigger flat brush to draw on the design, depending on the subject matter and the size of the canvas, and I don’t always draw in all the detail at the onset, but I did in this case to better demonstrate the development in case you’re a beginner.)
I also altered the position of the sunflowers in the blue jug, to adapt the composition to a square format instead of a portrait one.
Next, I started loosely blocking in the background and the tablecloth, the bowl and the blue jug as well as the dark centres of the sunflowers. I also made some amendments to the initial drawing: I realised I had the blue glass rim too high and I decided to extend the tablecloth to the edge to simplify the composition.
The next step was to start painting in the flowers, which I started doing, but decided I would change the background to cool tomes to contrast with the warm colours of the flowers. I darkened the shadow under the bowl.
The pears were painted next, as well as details on the bowl and some darkening of the shadows in the bowl under the fruit and on the jug. I also applied some more depth to the flowers and leaves.
After painting in the rim of the blue glass, I worked all over the canvas, tweaking and adding highlights, deepening shadows where needed.
So there you have it! This is the final painting after about eight hours of work. Unfortunately, one doesn’t see the brushstrokes and thickness of the paint as the camera isn’t good enough and flattens the images, but at least you get an idea of what to do if you’d like to try. Choose a simple set up of anything interesting lying around your home, give it a go and have fun!