I am teaching a class at the Cedarburg Cultural Center right now on Alla Prima painting. Alla Prima means, “at first attempt”. This is a direct style of painting done in one sitting, where paint mixes with wet paint on the canvas. This style of painting is recognized by a feeling of spontaneity, looseness, and confidence. This class reminds me that confidence in painting is the hardest part to teach as well as the hardest part to learn.
In class we are doing exercises to help build confidence, but there is no substitute to repetition and practice. The most seasoned artists likely still struggle with confidence at times. Confidence (or lack of confidence) will come through in a painting. The brushstrokes feel either labored or effortless. The less afraid we are of painting, the better we paint.
I reflected today in my studio about my own work, asking myself which paintings felt more confident and which felt less confident. Then, I painted. Early in the painting I fell into a habit of over controlling the paint and meticulously trying to perfect every mark. When this failed and I began to become frustrated, I took a large knife and smeared out all the paint. Then I began again, already having decided the painting was a loss I though I might as well play a bit before cleaning up. Within minutes, something began to happen. Colors and marks magically fell into place. It was only after giving up on the painting that I was able to enjoy painting it and paint it with confidence.