Category Archives: alla prima

Last Call for Alla Prima Class in the Bay Area


I’m excited to return soon to the Bay Area to teach my alla prima sketch technique. The New Museum in Los Gatos, CA will be hosting this class September 18-20. Alla prima is Italian for “at the first” or “all at once”. This kind of approach to the portrait usually results in a more spontaneous and organic character to the paint which I find irresistable. Morning demos will be followed by late morning and afternoon sessions where you will get a chance to apply the principles in your own studies. Space is limited and time is running out. I hope you will consider joining me for this three-day intensive.

To register please click this LINK, or you can contact Gabriel Coke at:


Phone: 831.345.1845, orĀ 408.354.2646

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Alla Prima Portrait Sketch

Hi Gang,

Welcome to DG Paints. In this video I am painting myself by looking at a mirror set beside, and slightly behind, my easel. I have also hung a gray piece of fabric behind me to simplify the background.

In the first ten minutes I try to block out a fairly accurate drawing. Note these first marks are made with a soft filbert brush. I’m laying the paint on very thinly. You can see once I lay down a ghosty image I reinforce and correct it with a second darker pass.

This painting took me 160 minutes. I think it’s important to note that in the first hour I used nothing but a no. 10 filbert hog bristle brush. This is something I’ve had to learn with lots of practice. Many of you know I often favor small brushes in my usual work. But for alla prima I’m learning to use something larger. I can cover more real estate more quickly. I do as much as I possibly can with this one brush. I don’t switch to a smaller brush until I can’t go any further with the big one.

Each brush stroke is loaded. I’m laying down opaque paint. In the beginning you can see me “patching around”. What I’m doing is finding my value and color key. I’m also making sure my drawing is working out, correcting as needed as I go. So each stroke includes three decisions: value, color, and position.

Smaller brushes aren’t employed until the larger, simpler form is established. Smaller brushes are used to refine and create form nuances within the larger structure. Very small, softer brushes are used toward the end to tackle some critical areas of detail, mostly around the features.

Ninety-five percent of this sketch was done using hog bristle filberts. I employed some softer red sable brushes for subtlety and key detail.


Brushes: hog bristle filberts, red sable filberts

Palette: titanium white, cadmium yellow, yellow ochre, cadmium orange, cadmium red light, terra rosa, transparent red oxide, raw umber, ivory black, quinacridone violet, ultramarine blue, viridian

Canvas: Centurion LX (oil primed)

Medium: a mixture of half walnut oil and half mineral spirits (only as needed)

I will be teaching this method in Brattleboro, Vermont at the end of this month. We have a couple of spots left. Please consider joining us. You can find out more by emailing Andrea Scheidler at

Happy Painting!