Tutorial: Oil Painting Basics Part Two-Scumble Glaze Wax Alla Prima


In this second session I add a few more hues to the glazing palette. I expand the palette to include a warm and cool  aspect of each primary hue. Color is relational, you need to compare colors to each other to be able to say one is “warmer ” or “cooler” than another.  Take two reds and compare them, ask yourself, is one more orange? more purple? If the color is closer to yellow it is “warmer” if it is closer to violet, it is “cooler”. So, for the sake of variety, I pick two each of red, yellow and blue and I make sure they differ in temperature.


Hey, it’s upside down!

Yes, turning your work upside down helps you spot compositional issues in terms of form, value and color.

Upside down I notice the above work has very strong dark shapes which almost line up, and are too close, to the edge of the canvas. I don’t want this, it will distract and confuse the eye to not know which edge to focus on (I don’t want the edge of the canvas to draw the viewer away from the picture).


So, I use color and value to redirect the eye. It may not be how the actual still life appears but, at this stage I can begin to make decisions for the  sake of the painting as a whole. This is called “editing”.

I work on the painting upside down for as long as possible.

I mix up some wax to add to my paint. Wax makes the paint thicker (easier to control) and more “spreadable” (easier to blend). It also helps with building texture. Mix your wax to a creamy consistency by cutting it with gamsol with a palette knife.


Scumbling and blending with wax.


I am working up the background with more neutral mixtures now. Working both the background or “ground” and the subject, “figure” at the same time.


In the second session I am paying more attention to:

-The value and temperature of colors.

-Homogenizing dark areas and light areas so it doesn’t look too choppy.

-Correcting shapes and changing the composition if necessary.

-Layering more color mixed with zinc white.


After (above), before (below.


End of session two but I still have paint leftover.

I know it’s going to be a few days  before session three so I decide to make another painting with the alla prima technique.

Alla prima has a few connotations:

-Paint is not allowed to dry completely in-between sessions. This is called painting “wet-in-wet”.

-It also means “all at once”,  so alla prima is often completed in one session.



I re-organize the palette, using what is left over to mix colors I see in a pinecone. I add titanium white to make the colors opaque.



I choose a versatile  brush called a filbert which has a rounded tip, like a cats tongue.




To prepare, I block in the dark shapes and light shapes and note the temperature change between the subject and the ground it sits upon.


I look for a color match. I find a color on my palette that looks really close to the reflected light inside the pine cone. I start here and place color patches next to each other, comparing each for value and temperature.


I wipe off my brush between strokes (every three strokes max). I do not use solvent to clean my brush.

Remember how fat over lean makes it possible to paint in layers as long as the layer beneath has less paint in it.

Lighten your touch with each subsequent layer to avoid over blending.




Simple pine cone study in the alla prima technique.


Session three coming soon.

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