Thursday, January 30, 2014

Practicing Alla Prima


Party of Five  © 2014 Karen Mathison Schmidt, artist
6 x 6 inches • oil on GessobordTM
private collection • Seminole, Florida

After doing some work on a larger daffodil painting this morning, I did this one this afternoon, based on a portion of the larger painting, with a little rearrangement. 

For the past three weeks I’ve been studying the paintings of contemporary master American artist Richard Schmid, and his alla prima (which essentially means “at first attempt”) method of painting, in which the goal is to finish the top layers before the first layers are dry. These paintings are usually completed in one or two sessions. And that means quickly capturing the essence of the scene and the details of the focal point, then quickly filling in the rest, so the non-essential elements are less finished, and sometimes left out altogether. I’m using these small paintings as little alla prima workouts, training myself to make quicker decisions about color and about what details are necessary to get the effect I want in the finished painting. (These are not technically alla prima, since I do let the vivid acrylic underpainting dry before starting with the oils. But I am trying to do them in one sitting!)

When I got to the end of today’s practice session, I felt like I had been holding my breath the whole time, and when I finished my signature I finally let it out. Whew! 

I can hardly wait to get back to the larger painting in the morning, and apply some of what I learned this afternoon in my alla prima workout.

Meanwhile, here are some of my favorites of Richard Schmid’s paintings:

Captain John’s House

 The Churchyard

 Nancy in Scotland

News and Tea

 Snow House

Glen Croe Farmhouse

 Vermont Spring

 Trumpet Man


I find it very appealing that Mr. Schmid painted a cat. 

A cat named Zorro. Very cool.


Nata said...

Thanks for the information about this artist. He has a very interesting technique! And your lovely daffodils, as well as other paintings.

Kathy E said...

Love these Karen and now I have a new artist to research. Thanks for all. I adore your work.

Coralie Edwards said...

Sounds like you have been reading Alla Prima 11. I have ordered one after finally convincing myself I could afford the price! Looking forward to it now, though I guess it will take a while to get to Australia! Love your colours!

Nata said...

Very funny story and I was interested to read it. God cares for us and sometimes you need to ask him, before looking for something for hours. Thanks for the story!