Step-by-step approach to an Alla prima portrait without preliminary drawing

1. Place head with Mid-flesh tones

- To find this, squint and try to see the large shape of light beneath all of the facial features, small details, highlights or shadows. Then spend some time on your pallet mixing until you've found a mixture that has the approximate color and value. 

2. Squint to see darks/shadows as general shapes and lay mid-shadow colors with more focus on placement and general shape.

- This is your key drawing stage. I tend to place a shadow shape I can easily recognize first, then compare my next shape off of that, then compare off of that, etc. 

3. Once you feel you have your darks and shadows placed correctly with appropriate values, then go on to rendering each area completely. (adding darker darks and highlights where need be)

- Once I felt that the eye sockets and shadows within them were placed accurately, I went on to find the larger shapes within the details of the eyes. For example, in the 4th step I layed in the shape of the iris with a dark color to later decorate it with the smaller details, such as the blues and reflected light. 

The finished painting 

"Overwhelm" - 24x18in Oil on panel