OCAD Studio: Alla Prima Still Life Part 1

This project is based on the ‘alla prima’ method which means that the painting is completed all at once – in a single sitting before the paint dries.


  • You can work in either oils or acrylics, using your preferred colours.
  • You can work on any type of surface; panel, paper, canvas etc. ideally prepared with a brown or grey-brown tone but you can work over white.
  • I recommend limiting the number of brushes to 2-4 of varying sizes and cleaning them when necessary. 
  • You will need a medium to thin your paint (mineral spirits for oils or water for acrylics).

Setting up Your Subject:

  • Limit your first attempt to just a few objects – one or two pieces of fruit for instance. As you get more confident you can increase the complexity of the scene.
  • Keep the background uniform and simple, just a simple table and block colour background is ideal.
  • Light the scene from one side with a single light source (such as a window or strong directional artificial light). This will make the shadows clear and manageable.
  • Try to make the colours interesting, so using a few different pieces of fruit that are different colours are ideal.

Blocking in:

  • Use a neutral colour to loosely plot the major elements – the lines of the table and the rough dimensions of the objects.
  • Then make a slightly more detailed shadow pattern with washy paint (thinned a lot with medium).
  • It doesn’t need to be detailed, just enough information to allow you to block in the major colours confidently.
  • That’s it! Check out Part 2 to find out how to get the colours in.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *