Alla Prima Landscape Painting Demonstration with Peter Fiore

Alla Prima Landscape Painting Demonstration with Peter Fiore

By Lisa Wurster

A focused alla prima technique, developed during Peter Fiore’s long career as a commercial illustrator, has become his forte and allows him usually to complete a painting in a day (the second day is for fine-tuning, and for a larger canvas, the process may take up to three days). Here, he offers a step-by-step demonstration of a winter landscape painting, alla prima.

Meadow, Early December Snow by Peter Fiore

Meadow, Early December Snow (oil, 36×48) by Peter Fiore

“I like a painting to be fresh, clean and purposeful—I like to make a mark and not go back,” he says of his technique. “I want to own a motif so that it flows from my hands effortlessly. That way, it’s still spontaneous; I just know where I’m going.” The following is a detailed look at the way Fiore finishes a landscape painting in 48 hours.

double-oil-primed Claessens canvas, alla prima, landscape painting Gamblin Gamsol, Gamblin Galkyd Lite, alla prima, landscape painting

Day One: Fiore starts on a double-oil-primed Claessens canvas, which he typically has professionally mounted.
After drawing in the outline of the major subject matter with a brush, to set the mood of the painting and eliminate the white of the canvas (A), he begins with a large brush and a wash of color, mixed with Gamblin Gamsol odorless mineral spirits and Gamblin Galkyd Lite medium (B). This solution lubricates the canvas and provides the desired surface for paint to rest. It also leaves a glossy finish when the thinner evaporates.


bristle brush, alla prima, landscape painting Peter Fiore, alla prima, landscape painting

Next, Fiore attacks the biggest shape (such as a building or treeline or mountain against a skyline) using a smaller No. 12 bristle brush and a soupy consistency of paint (C, D).


palette knife, sable brush, alla prima, landscape painting

With three or four piles of paint laid out, he then mixes the sky color with white and applies this with a palette knife (E). Switching to a sable brush, he blends the sky texture.


color temperature, alla prima, landscape painting

As the painting progresses, he makes sure that the ground plane mirrors the temperature of the sky (F). For instance, if the sky is warmer on the right side, the ground will be also.


painting foreground, alla prima, landscape painting painting depth, alla prima, landscape painting

Fiore then approaches the middle ground, followed by the foreground (G, H). By this time, he’s working on the value, color temperature and edges. With an alla prima process, paint is malleable and he’s constantly working wet-into-wet. “Throughout the painting, I’m very conscious of the direction of light,” he says. In the foreground, he focuses on higher contrasts between light and shadows, which create a sense of depth.


palette knife, base coat, alla prima, landscape painting

Using a palette knife, he scrapes to get texture and thus adds visual interest (I). For example, if he’s painted grass over a warm base coat, scraping allows the base coat to peek through. For the remainder of the day, he goes back and forth, refining and defining.


Peter Fiore, alla prima, landscape painting

Day Two: “I’m back in the studio with a keener eye,” he says. The second day consists largely of going around the painting, fine-tuning edges and readjusting; maybe creating a softer edge on an object in the distance, or correcting an awkward tree. “By the end of the second day, I’m usually finished,” he says (J). “If I work into the third day, it’s that I’m working on a very large canvas.”


A native of New Jersey, Fiore arrived in New York City in the mid-1970s to study at the Pratt Institute and the Art Students League. The winner of more than 75 awards, Fiore has collaborated on more than 20 children’s books. He has taught art at Pratt, Syracuse University and at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. With works hanging in numerous private collections, he began the shift to full-time painting several years ago; he’s represented by several New England galleries. Visit his website,, to see more of his work. To read more about Peter Fiore’s painting process, click here and order The Artist’s Magazine’s 2008 Annual CD.

Lisa Wurster is a freelance writer living in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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