I'm Scared--What If I Freeze Up When I Paint This Way?

2 Dec 2014

Faded Glory by Rose Frantzen, 36 x 48, oil painting.
Faded Glory by Rose Frantzen, 36 x 48, oil painting.

If there were daredevils of art, I certainly would not be one of them. I'm always hesitating and rethinking what I'm doing. (In my day-to-day life I'm not such a scaredy cat—I swear.) But if I wanted to get lessons in how to be one of those risk-takers who puts it all on the line and just goes with it, I'd seek out Rose Frantzen.

Frantzen is an internationally known painter who has exhibited her work in a show at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC, and she is known for her alla prima oil painting approach.

For me, alla prima is a little bit of a scary concept because it is all about spontaneity.  The phrase means "at first" in Italian and the whole idea is to paint wet on wet in a single session. There's no underpainting to map out or plan what I am going to do...and I'm already feeling faint. Kidding. (Only a little bit.)

Joseph Sleeping by Rose Frantzen, 28 x 34, oil painting. Mrs. Krogman in Her Garden by Rose Frantzen, 38 x 38, oil painting.
Joseph Sleeping by Rose Frantzen,
28 x 34, oil painting.
Mrs. Krogman in Her Garden by Rose Frantzen,
38 x 38, oil painting.

But Frantzen takes a much lighter, more responsive approach to this kind of method in her DVD, Alla Prima Portraiture, which I really responded to. She discusses a few methods that I found really helpful and wanted to share:

-Find an anchor that you'll keep coming back to throughout the painting process. This could be the tilt of a head or the rich color of a model's hair. Don't overthink this—go with what commands your attention.

-Alla prima doesn't mean run a race. Taking your time and thinking more than you paint can get you where you want to go in your portrait painting.

-Start by making gestures over the surface without painting. This may seem a little awkward at first, but trying it really helps loosen up the body in order to get into the zone. 

And Frantzen's underlying belief is that making a stroke that isn't quite what I intended is not a mistake or failure. It can actually lead to improved technique or understanding my painting in a new way. That really opened my eyes and freed me up to figure out how to keep moving forward with a painting. That's exciting and liberating. Check out Alla Prima Portraiture with Rose Frantzen to see what I mean. And right now we are still going strong with our Cyber Monday Sale. It is your last chance for as much as 60% off and free shipping. Enjoy!

 


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