I am currently working multiple plein air oil-painting projects towards completion. These are small paintings. Even so, a plein air painting might typically take me three evenings, each of several hours, returning to the same spot three times, or more. Still, I might be permitted to call many of these paintings “alla prima” (also called Direct Painting or Wet on Wet… wet oil paints are applied over “wet” layers of paint).
To keep the oil paints wet between painting sessions I keep the wet painting in the freezer. Oil paint does not, technically, “dry”. Rather it cures with time, and freezing temperatures slows this process to a crawl, but does not hurt the painting at all.
As I have grown older and slowed down, some plein air paintings are started one summer and then completed the next season. I can’t keep them in the freezer that long, I don’t have the freezer space. So these could not be called “alla prima”. I write about one such painting in this article called “Entropy and Oil Painting“.
There was a time when I could complete 90% of a small plein air oil painting in one marathon session, in mid summer, Alaska. Ah youth! I could handle chilly breezes back then and stay on my feet. But I love being out there painting, it inspires me. So even though I complete fewer paintings every year, I can’t quite bring myself to switch to primarily studio work from photographs. Of course I have done many successful studio paintings. Never say never.