“Tyson” – An Alla Prima Portrait Demo

This alla prima portrait demo is by Kathie Wheeler, a classically trained fine art portrait painter in southwest Wisconsin, working primarily in oils.

An Alla Prima Portrait, Step by Step

alla prima portrait how-to
Step 1

1. In this alla prima portrait, I began with quick indications of the angle of the model’s head and the shadows of his eye sockets and nose.

how to paint an alla prima portrait
Step 2

2. I next splashed in the warmest (his nose) and coolest (his cheek as it turns away) spots on his face. Every stroke will relate to these spots as I progress.

how to paint an alla prima portrait
Step 3

3. I continue to put in color notes comparing as I go.

Contemporary realism painting
Step 4

4. At this stage, I mass in the beard.

Contemporary realism painting
Step 5

5. I have noticed that the distance from the ear to his features is too great, so I have pulled in the ear on the left side of the portrait. This is a very smooth linen, so it is easy to wipe away the paint that I have already applied.

"Tyson" by Kathie Wheeler
“Tyson” by Kathie Wheeler

6. At this stage, I refined the details and added the highlights.

Kathy’s Website: kathiewheeler.com

Related Article: Painting of the Week: “Mae in October” by Kathie Wheeler


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