Alla Prima Portrait Painting Online

I’ve studied with Pietro Annigoni and Nerina Simi, but in my opinion Marvin Mattelson is the greatest teacher. When Marvin demonstrates it’s like traveling back through time to the 17th Century and watching Anthony van Dyck at his easel.

- John Foote

Marvin Mattelson's Alla Prima Portrait Painting
Online Art Class

Alla Prima Painting Class with Marvin Mattelson
Class demo drawing by Marvin Mattelson

Marvin Mattelson's
Alla Prima Portraiture
Online Art Class

Master Wet-Into-Wet Oil Portrait Painting

6 Saturday Sessions
Coming: April 13, 2024
10 AM - 4PM EDT
Tuition: $550
Class size limit: 15 students

I literally swore that I would never paint before I met Marvin and owe all of my chops to him. I also felt like his lessons gave me a huge leg up and I refer to them all the time at work (as a scenic artist). I really can’t recommend him enough. If you’re really serious about understanding the science of color, paint chemistry, drawing, and many more principles in the context of of classical portraiture that can be applied to all visual art.

- Jocelyn Henry

Alla Prima Portrait Painting - A Mindful Approach

Marvin Mattelson has developed an innovative way to paint portraits in the Alla-Prima style. His mindful approach eliminates gueswork, it maximizes your efficiency and offers far greater control. Painting wet-into-wet, aka: Alla Prima, requires you to be quick and decisive. Unlike indirect painting – building up your painting in layers – there is no option to implement corrections in subsequent layers, so there is little margin for error. If you are seeking to increase your control and consistency, it very well may be that your current methods, and not your intrinsic talent, is where the problem lies. Have you been led to believe that, if you continue to do the same thing, over and over, that you will eventually and/or miraculously get better? If you truly want to experience significant growth, maybe it's time to consider the possibility that your current approach is at the root cause..

When you do what you've done, you get what you've gotten. 

-Mark Twain

All aspects of this course will be throughly demonstrated using Marvin's hi-tech three-camera virtual classroom setup, where you will see every stroke in great detail with 1080p HD resolution. As you watch onscreen, Marvin will describe his every action and the reasoning behind it. If something needs clarification, you can ask questions immediately and he will happily respond to your every query. When not demonstrating, Marvin utilizes his computer's graphics programs to critique student work, where he will not only explain but show show you, on your screen, the exact steps you need to take moving forward.

If you want to accelerate your progress exponentially, a mindful and strategic approach, one which emphasizes – in addition to technique – a deep understanding, is the best way to reach your full potential and eliminate years of frustration. The shoot-from-the-hip, school of thought constitutes a long and winding road. The common belief that intuition drives creativity may work for a chosen few, but the seemingly spontaneous mixing of color and decision making are, in fact, the result of years, if not decades, of dedicated practice, and rely upon a strong inner instinctive capability, a rarity for most. Unless you have unlimited time, and also are blessed with supreme and rare innate ability, achieving similar results would be a literal shot in the dark.

A man paints with his brain, not with his hand.


Alla Prima (direct) painting demands a simultaneous focus on all aspects of the painting process: drawing, color, value structure and composition. For most, color mixing is a time consuming and arduous task, because, the hit-or-miss instinctively driven open-palette color arrangement, may take decades, if ever, to fully master. You will learn how to easily identify a color by it's properties and forsake the ambiguous folly of "warm and cool" categorizations.

Marvin has found that the most expedient way to mix accurate color is by utilizing a controlled palette, where premixed colors are arranged by value, and easily modified. In the long run, this actually saves time, so when painting, you can focus more on paint application and less on color mixing. Prompts like , "You'll know it when you get it!" and "A little of this and a little of that," are ineffectual guidelines.

The truth is, the great master painters throughout history utilized a far more cerebral and strategic approach when creating their works, be they painted directly or indirectly. What you will learn in this class is applicable to every approach: direct, indirect or any combination thereof..

Direct vs Indirect Painting.

Direct Painting: The paint is applied in a single application with the intent to resolve all aspects of the composition with immediacy. It may be referred to as Wet-into-Wet, Premier Coup, (first strike in French), or Alla Prima, (at first attempt in Italian). Direct painting implies a romantic and improvisational association with artistic temperament and spontaneity.

Indirect Painting requires an artist to build up paint layers (a far more time consuming process, since each layer needs to be sufficiently dry, before applying the next). However, it is particularly advantageous when it comes to depicting the translucency of life-like human flesh.

Since both methods have their advantages, it's foolish to debate which, if either, is intrinsically superior. William Bouguereau was an indirect painter, but created head and hand studies for each composition using the direct method, while John Singer Sargent is praised for his Alla Prima approach, but actually built his painting up in layers to ensure accuracy. In truth, both approaches come in quite handy. Although Marvin prefers indirect painting for the unmatched subtlety it's capable of providing, there are times when having the ability to paint directly can be of tremendous value.

Although many painters paint in Alla Prima style do so, to Marvin's way of thinking, rather haphazardly and with little or no preparation. As a result the work they produce tends to be very inconsistent. Marvin will teach you how to be far better prepared for the task at hand , so when you employ a direct approach, you can be far more consistent and productive.

Marvin will demonstrate and explain the following:

• How to achieve greater accuracy in your drawings.
• How to establish the value relationships.
• How to identify and quickly mix each color.
• Proper use of materials and how to achieve technical virtuosity.

The purpose of this class is to provide you with a far more controlled and efficient way to arrive at superior results. Although drawing and color mixing are extensively covered in this Alla Prima class, if you're looking to delve deeper into any of those areas, you may want to consider taking additional classes with Marvin. In his other classes and workshops Marvin teaches the indirect method, which makes it well suited as a learning modality, because it allows you to isolate, focus on and strengthen each of the the component parts of image making. You can read more about Marvin, find more info regarding his virtual classroom,  learn about his teaching methodology, and read about his other classes.

When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.

-Wayne Dwyer

Marvin is now available for mentoring, coaching and portfolio evaluation. To arrange for a one-to-one session, please fill out the contact page form and he'll get back to you ASAP with the details.