Monday, July 27, 2009

Schmid's Alla Prima

Lately I've been dipping into Richard Schmid's Alla Prima, a book Marty Poole turned me on to about seven years ago. At the time I had no idea who Schmid was, probably because I was painting in watercolor. But I had started experimenting with oils and asked Marty for advice. He said to get a copy of Schmid's book and then to pay attention to color, drawing, edges, and values. Good advice from two great painters,. but for various reasons I gave up on oils until 2007.

Anyway...Schmid's book. Tom Buechner and I were talking yesterday about it. I told him how amazed I am every time I open it. Schmid is like this Zen master. There's a minimum of BS and he tells it like it is. He never says "My way or the highway", he just says "this is what works for me. Try it." My copy is paint stained and underlined. It's a book that keeps on giving.

For example at one point he talks about curves, in particular curves on the figure. They are rarely as 'curvy' as we want to make them. And to draw them accurately draw them as straight lines. OK, I've read that how many times and yet it never lit up for me until I tried an experiment. Since about January I was drawing from model books - some very good model books. I decided to draw a figure then trace it and compare my drawing to the tracing. Lo and behold I'd exaggerated almost every curve: The line dropping from the shoulder to the wrist, the hip, the calves... it was another little epiphany.

When I say he's like a Zen Master I mean it. Compare "Concentrate on the breath. When your mind wanders bring it back to the breath," and "Start with the simplest shape. Get the drawing of this simple shape correct, then move to the next simple shape, piecing them together like a jigsaw puzzle." They both sound so easy...


  1. Okay! Wow! very impressive both bodies and body of work! Thank you J Perrault for gracing my blog with your presence! Thank you for your kind gracious comment. What a delightful surprise. Of course you came highly and impressively connected to the much beloved and wonderful Bella Sinclair but I must say, I came here today and saw these oil painting and wow, I am impressed! I love reading your posts. Both your dilligence and discipline are highly impressive - making me very self-conscious of my wild ways! I shall return!

  2. Wow back. Thank you for the kind comments. Actually I thought we might meet when we were all in NYC last month, but things were very hectic and confusing as I'm sure you can imagine. You're a great friend to Bella and the girls and you have our thanks.


About Me

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Elmira, New York, United States
In many ways I think like a photographer. The image itself is becoming more and more important to me; the actual application of paint less and less. Blasphemy in some painterly circles. I choose to paint figures and portraits because I consider them the most difficult subject.