Attempt at an Alla Prima Pumpkin

Attempt at an Alla Prima Pumpkin
7×7 oil on canvas “Pun King”


Since I put off painting a pumpkin until a few days before Halloween, I thought it might be fun to attempt an alla prima painting. I normally paint in several thin layers, so it’s a bit of a departure from my normal style. I did better than I expected, but didn’t manage to complete it in one sitting. I think I would’ve been more successful if I hadn’t used a black canvas. Although I’ve seen some really beautiful paintings on black canvas and remain intrigued.

Despite my many previous failures at alla prima painting, it might be something I might finally get better at with some more practice. I think I failed at it before because I just wasn’t ready for the challenge. I’m now seriously considering trying a real 30 paintings in 30 days challenge in January.



The block in was pretty cool looking, and if I had stopped even before this point, I suppose I could have had a successful painting. But for whatever reason, I have this thing about not leaving any canvas unpainted. Plus, the matt look of the black gesso goes against my personal preference for shiny things. I suppose that could be addressed later with varnish though.

The back gesso just didn’t work out like I thought. I thought that since I paint so dark, it would make sense to start dark. The problem is that I also like vibrant paintings and I had a hell of a time trying to get the paint to appear vibrant. Although, now that I think about it, it makes complete sense why it didn’t work. Without the white canvas beneath to reflect light back through the paint it just won’t appear as bright. Makes total sense.

I’m just so used to the easy bright, vibrant colors on white canvas that I just wasn’t prepared for so much blah. My first instinct was to never paint on black gesso again, but I will probably give it another try at some point with readjusted expectations.

I also don’t think I used the black to its full potential. I think I had the right idea with the foreground by using it as my dark, but I could have done that on the pumpkin itself and it would’ve probably been more interesting. It started out that way, but I just couldn’t stop fiddling with it.

The finished painting is successful. I actually have some really nice brushwork, but it still fell short of my goal to finish it in one sitting. Although, two sessions and probably a grand total of two hours isn’t a bad try. If nothing else, I’ve certainly gotten a whole lot faster at painting. A year ago, this same painting would’ve taken me well over 5 hours spread out over a week or two.

This original painting is for sale on Etsy. Although since it’s painted thicker than I usually paint it won’t be shipped for a couple of weeks to give it plenty of time to dry. If you can’t wait for the paint to dry, prints are available on Redbubble.

6 thoughts on “Attempt at an Alla Prima Pumpkin”

  • It certainly would be a challenge to paint alla prima on a black canvas! I find that (as you mentioned) the glow of the white canvas through the transparent colours really lifts everything and makes it more lively.

  • Your pumpkin is gorgeous …who would have thought a pumpkin could be beautiful!! I love working on a black background although I do not use oils at all. There is something about it that makes the colours ‘pop’. I also find a dark rusty red a wonderful base for pastel work. I hope that you will produce more painted like this because this one is very special!

    • Thank you! I think I just need more practice to make the colors pop the way I want them to. I actually do have plans to paint a few more paintings on black, it’s just a matter of getting to them.

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