Glossary

What is Alla Prima?

Alla Prima is an Italian term that translates to "at first attempt" or "at once" in English. It refers to a painting technique in which an artist completes a work in a single session, often without allowing the layers to dry before applying subsequent ones. This approach is also known as "direct painting" or "wet-on-wet" and is commonly used in oil painting, although it can also be applied to other mediums.


Oil Painting: Oil painting is a traditional artistic technique involving pigments mixed with a binder from linseed oil or other drying oils. It is a versatile medium for various textures, colors, and designs, making it a popular choice for artists practicing Alla Prima.


Impasto: Impasto is a painting technique where the artist applies thick layers of paint to create a textured surface. In Alla Prima, artists often use impasto to add depth and three-dimensionality to their work, creating a tactile quality in the finished piece.


Palette Knife: A palette knife is a tool used by artists, typically with a flat, flexible blade, for mixing and applying paint. In Alla Prima, artists may use palette knives to apply thick layers of paint, create texture, or scrape away unwanted paint.


Brushwork refers to the marks and strokes a paintbrush makes on the canvas. In Alla Prima, artists pay close attention to their brushwork, which can convey the moment's energy, emotion, and spontaneity.


Premier Coup: Premier coup is a French term often used interchangeably with Alla Prima. It means "first stroke" and emphasizes the importance of capturing the essence of a subject in a single, immediate application of paint.


Wet-in-Wet: Wet-in-wet is a technique that involves applying fresh paint onto a still-wet surface. This technique allows for seamless blending and smoother color transition in Alla Prima.


Underpainting: Underpainting is a preliminary layer of paint applied to a canvas before the final layers. In Alla Prima, artists may use underpainting to establish their work's composition, values, and primary colors before applying thicker layers.


Limited Palette: A limited palette uses a restricted range of colors in a painting. In Alla Prima, artists often choose a limited palette to create harmony and unity.


Alla Prima Painter: An Alla Prima painter is an artist who specializes in and embraces the technique of completing a painting in a single session. These artists are known for their ability to work quickly and decisively, capturing the moment's spontaneity.


En Plein Air: En plein air is a French term for "in the open air." It refers to the practice of painting outdoors, directly from nature. Many plein air painters use the Alla Prima technique to capture their surroundings' changing light and atmosphere.


Gamblin: Gamblin is a well-known brand of artist's materials, including oil paints, mediums, and solvents. It is popular among Alla Prima painters for its quality and consistency.


In conclusion, Alla Prima is a dynamic and expressive painting technique that emphasizes capturing the essence of a subject in a single session. Artists who practice Alla Prima often embrace spontaneity, bold brushwork, and a limited palette to create vibrant and immediate works of art. 


This approach allows for a direct connection between the artist, the subject, and the canvas, resulting in paintings that often convey a sense of energy and freshness. Whether practiced in plein air in a studio setting, Alla Prima is a versatile technique that inspires spire artists to explore the beauty of painting in the moment.


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