"Alla prima" is a term I just discovered last week. It means "at first attempt" or "all in one go" and I just love this idea! It describes my favorite way to paint and it makes it sound so much more legitimate.
"Hello, I'm Jen Roberts and I paint alla prima."
It just sounds fancy that way!
Wikipedia also tells me the French version of this is "au premier coup" which I like quite a bit too (possibly due to my years spent studying French in college!).
Painting alla prima just fits my impatient nature. I don't want to fiddle with my paintings--it tends to muddy things and they lose their bright freshness. It's also super annoying to wait on layer after layer to dry so you can keep working on a single painting. Ain't nobody got time to literally watch paint dry!
You do have to have quite a bit of self control to paint this way, and you need to be confident in that first and only layer. Watercolor palette knife painting is a particularly fit for this.
You have to be able to put down your paint and let go of trying to control it. There may be a small window of time that you can adjust things, but after watercolors & the paper get to a certain point of dryness, you just have to leave it be or you'll make things worse despite your good intentions to "fix it." Stop, drop the brush (or palette knife in my case), and roll on out of the room. Watercolor has a mind of its own, is slightly uncontrollable, and will keep changing. Take a break, relax, and come back when the paint is dry and let the changes surprise and delight you.
My beginner course, Tie Dye Watercolor Cards, uses this alla prima technique. Each card is painted all in one go, in a single step of the project. If this style of painting appeals to you, check out the course for a fun and easy project completed in less than an hour!