‘Saving Cherries’ – alla prima

Bob Borson —  June 6, 2011 — 5 Comments

Alla prima is a painting technique in which the work is completed in one session without time for the paint to dry. The term comes from the Italian “at once”, and may also be referred to as premier coup. The alla prima painting technique may also be referred to as ‘wet on wet’ or ‘direct painting’.

I have become fascinated with the growing number of alla prima websites out there and one of my favorites is by Jonathan Aller. In fact, I just bought one of his paintings – one titled ‘Saving Cherries’. Rather than me trying to explain this, I thought I would let Jonathan:

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alla prima paintings by Jonathan Aller

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[Jonathan]

I’ve been so busy lately with other paintings, its good to step a way and pump one of these out through out the day.  Especially now since I know with the holiday coming up and I won’t have time to paint, which means i’ll be twitching for a couple days feening to paint.  I was at the grocery store and could not walk away from these cherries. I guess since spring is here and summer is around the corner they are just everywhere.  Here in Minneapolis spring is short lived because of our long winters. Sometimes we just jump straight into summer, but everyone once in a while spring pops up and it’s just beautiful outside.  One of the things I really appreciate living up here is seeing the change of seasons and how beautiful it is, being born and raised in Miami, Florida, I only know one season – summer.  Cherries are always a favorite of mine to paint, their deep reds and smooth surface always brings me back to them.  They are deceiving though they seem simple to paint but they have their challenges, the intense red and subtle value shifts make it tricky to paint.  A good challenge for someone if they want to learn how to paint smooth surfaces and subtle value and chroma shifts.

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I started with the usual dry brush approach using no mediums and just a bit of raw umber on the brush.  After the drawing is complete I start on all the cherries treating them at the same time in each stage, I first  lay in the general colors and try to do some big form modeling.

Saving Cherries by Jonathan Aller

Saving Cherries by Jonathan Aller

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Then I add darker values and its specific forms and do the same with the lighter values.  In this stage I’m constantly going back and forth between values and adjusting it to get the right look I’m going for. I take it to  a close finish and move onto the base.

Saving Cherries by Jonathan Aller

Saving Cherries by Jonathan Aller

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With the base, I start by laying general colors and the fall of light across the base. I’m not worried about details at this stage – just getting the overall statement of colors and light.  Once that’s working right, I start by adding the darker values and its specific forms, then I add the middle darker values as well and take both values to a finish.

Saving Cherries by Jonathan Aller

Saving Cherries by Jonathan Aller

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Then I add the lighter values to the base and take the whole base to a finish.  Once the base is complete I’m able to concentrate on the background, I first start by treating the edges where the cherries meet the background.  I have to be careful in not contaminating my background color with the reds of the cherry.  I also play with the softness of the edges all around the cherries and base.  After the background is complete, I go back into the cherries and add some finishing touches here and there and take the whole painting to a finish.  That’s one of the reasons I like to take the main object I’m painting to a close finish in the beginning, once all the other areas are painted the main object might look different in value and chroma.  Leaving room to adjust certain parts of the painting in the end is a good thing to do, you never know if you do or don’t need to do it so better safe than sorry.

Saving Cherries by Jonathan Aller

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[Bob]

I’d like to thank Jonathan for letting me share the process of how my alla prima ‘Saving Cherries’ painting came to be (we all know that I can’t paint, as regrettably evidenced here). There are a growing number of artists that practice this technique and like Jonathan, they put each days painting up for sale. They are typically very well priced considering you are getting an original one-of-a-kind piece of art. I have a few paintings up in my house and they all have a story … and I love the fact that I know with absolute certainty that I won’t find a copy in someone else’s house.

Visit the website of Jonathan Aller and see if he has anything that looks good to you – I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

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  • Remoore

    Thanks for sharing this very insightful post. As someone who has always been fascinated by process I found it a great read.

  • http://funandfit.org AlexandraFunFit

    Wow, as someone who could make you look like a talented painter, I am really impressed by the steps Jonathan took. Thanks for showing the process. Each version is lovely by itself, and the finished product is lovely. I’m now considering robbing you.

  • lisa league

    This is great Bob!

    My husband is an artist, so I especially appreciate it when architects and designers promote buying original art, instead of something mass produced because it matches the sofa…

  • Conrad Brown

    Thanks for sharing your feelings about original art. My Mother was a painter and thanks to her I only have original art in my house, hers and many others. There is nothing more satisfying about art than knowing your have the artists hand, hanging on your walls.

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      Thanks Conrad – I couldn’t agree with you more!