On this episode of BeCreativeNow, I dig up the brushes and try my hand at the classical style of alla prima “wet-on-wet” oil painting to paint a scene of the boats in the harbor in Santa Barbara at sunset. Alla prima “wet-on-wet” oil painting is a lively style that encourages flow and improvisation, as well as careful attention to detail.
Using old materials and supplies I found in the basement and in the garage, I first applied an acrylic-latex gesso to every canvass and panel I could dig up, so I’ll have more ready to go for later. I ended up applying two thick coats with an intentionally uneven brushstroke and some splatter & drips to maximize texture, and then letting it dry overnight.
I followed that with a thin layer of under-painting with leftover house paint, “storybrook orange” or something, and and an oil glaze of walnut oil mixed 2:1 with turpentine (though lavender spike oil would be a less toxic solvent if you had any available, and olive oil can even work in the absence of walnut oil). This glaze layer creates a richly textured yet smooth surface, and really makes the oil paints flow nicely.
Without waiting for the glaze to dry, I moved from the far-off distance, through the middle ground, into the foreground and highlights. Alla prima “wet-on-wet” oil painting involves blending hard edges with a dry brush, creating smooth gradients in your background. (I made two of the same painting at once, just in case one didn’t turn out.)
The exact method came from The Creators’ Toolbox, an instructional video series done by professional artist Luke Lamar at the Funk Factory in Santa Barbara. If you’re in Santa Barbara, I fully suggest you check their studio out, right in the heart of the Funk Zone. They have a ton of different interactive art experiences inside, from the splatter chamber to custom arcade games and more, and you can even walk to the harbor to see the boats for yourself.
As somebody who has always struggled with painting, these videos were an awesome way to make a piece that looks legit for once. I fully recommend you give them a try if you’re trying to bring your own painting to the next level – the oil under-glaze technique is worth it alone, and kind of blew my mind.
Drop a comment let me know what techniques & inspiration you find most helpful in your own work, and tell me what you love or hate about this project. If you want to stay in the loop about future projects, I can keep you posted in my super-occasional newsletter if you sign up with your email address at the top of the page. Otherwise, check back soon and keep being creative!
(This week’s video also has a soundtrack of the songs Greyhounds and Penrose from my old electronica alter ego, SK Techno.)