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Artist Autobiography for John O'Keefe Jr.
Art During Early Childhood
and Elementary School

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A LOVE OF DRAWING BIRDS

These first drawings are the earliest pieces of my artwork that still exist. The first is a painting of our parakeet Henry. My mother purchased him when I was 4 years old. Henry was a good bird and he lived with us for many years. I'm sure it was because of Henry that my art initially centered around birds. I loved to draw birds.

John O'Keefe's earliest surviving painting of his pet parakeet Henry, created when he was six years old

"Henry"

Acrylic on Paper,
John O'Keefe Jr.,
1976 (6 years old)
John O'Keefe's early crayon drawing of a parrot and a bird, created when he was seven years old

[Crayon]

Crayon on Paper,
John O'Keefe Jr.,
1978 (7 years old)
John O'Keefe's early crayon drawing of a barn swallow, created when he was seven years old

"Swallow"

Crayon on Paper,
John O'Keefe Jr.,
1978 (7 years old)

I can still remember drawing this cardinal. It was winter and I saw this little fellow while looking through our dining room window. He was walking on the roof of a bird house that was hanging in the backyard and then he flew away. I went and got my colored pencils and paper and drew this picture.

John O'Keefe's early colored pencil drawing of a cardinal, created when he was seven years old

"The Cardinal"

Colored Pencil on Paper,
John O'Keefe Jr.,
1978 (7 years old)

VISITING THE MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY

Memorable were the summer vacations to our grandparents home in Astoria in Queens, New York. My mother would send us there for about 4 to 6 weeks during our school summer vacations and they continued until my brother and I were both in our teens. Looking back, those summers in New York City were a wonderful and peaceful time in my life. Today, when the stress of life starts creeping up on me, I sit back and remember those visits.

John O'Keefe posing with a drawing outside of the Museum of Natural History in Manhattan, New York, when he was seven years old

Outside the Museum of Natural History.

(Pictures taken by my Aunt Annie)

It was during those visits that my grandparents or my Aunt Annie would take my brother and I into Manhattan to visit the Museum of Natural History and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. These next drawings are from one of the trips to the Metropolitan Museum of Art with Aunt Annie. I remember on this occasion how we took our time going through the bird exhibits so that I would have time to draw these pictures.

John O'Keefe's early colored pencil drawing of a bird, created when he was seven years old

[Colored Pencil]

Colored Pencil on Paper,
John O'Keefe Jr.,
1977 (7 years old)
John O'Keefe's early colored pencil drawing of an owl, created when he was seven years old

"Owl"

Colored Pencil on Paper,
John O'Keefe Jr.,
1977 (7 years old)
John O'Keefe's early colored pencil drawing of ducks in a pond, created when he was seven years old

"Ducks"

Colored Pencil on Paper,
John O'Keefe Jr.,
1977 (7 years old)
John O'Keefe's early colored pencil drawing of duck, created when he was seven years old

"Duck"

Colored Pencil on Paper,
John O'Keefe Jr.,
1977 (7 years old)
John O'Keefe's early pencil drawing of an owl, created when he was seven years old

"Owl"

Pencil on Paper,
John O'Keefe Jr.,
1977 (7 years old)

DRAWING PEOPLE

Although I loved to draw birds, I did draw other things too. Below are some portraits. The first portrait is of my grandfather, the second is a family friend named Teddy, and the third is a picture of Vincent Price that I copied from the cover of a TV Guide.

John O'Keefe's early pencil drawing of his grandfather, created when he was seven years old

"Grandpa"

Pencil on Paper,
John O'Keefe Jr.,
1977 (7 years old)
John O'Keefe's early pencil drawing of a family friend named Teddy, created when he was seven or eight years old

"Teddy"

Pencil on Paper,
John O'Keefe Jr.,
1977-78 (7-8 years old)

I can remember my dad's reaction when he saw this portrait of Vincent Price. He could not believe that I drew it. He made copies so that he could show them to his friends. I felt very good inside after seeing how proud he was of me.

John O'Keefe's early pencil drawing of Vincent Price, created when he was seven or eight years old

"Vincent Price"

Pencil on Paper,
John O'Keefe Jr.,
1977-78 (7-8 years old)

MY LOVE OF DRAWING BIRDS CONTINUES

Here are some more birds. I was getting better at drawing in the details, which can be seen in the feathers of these next images.

John O'Keefe's early pencil drawing of a Canary signed to his mother, created when he was eight years old

"Finch"

Pencil on Paper,
John O'Keefe Jr.,
1978 (8 years old)
John O'Keefe's early pencil drawing of Canary, created when he was eight years old

"Finch"

Pencil on Paper,
John O'Keefe Jr.,
1978 (8 years old)
John O'Keefe's early pencil drawing of two woodpeckers, created when he was eight or nine years old

"Woodpecker"

Pencil on Paper,
John O'Keefe Jr.,
1978-79 (8-9 years old)
John O'Keefe's early pencil drawing of a parakeet, created when he was eight or nine years old

"Parakeet"

Pencil on Paper,
John O'Keefe Jr.,
1978-79 (8-9 years old)
John O'Keefe's early pencil drawing of a macaw, created when he was nine years old

"Parrot"

Pencil on Paper,
John O'Keefe Jr.,
1979 (9 years old)
John O'Keefe's early pencil drawing of a blue-jay, created when he was nine years old

"Blue Jay"

Pencil on Paper,
John O'Keefe Jr.,
1979 (9 years old)

PRIVATE ART LESSONS WITH KATHY SINGER

My parents soon realized that I had a natural artistic ability. They signed me up for private art lessons with a local artist named Kathy Singer. Kathy introduced me to landscapes, watercolors, and hand-made crafts using paper-mache. We usually met at her home for the lessons but she also took us on field trips. I remember one such trip to a farm that had an old barn. I have several drawings from that trip but they are badly faded and I could not produce quality scans for this webpage. Kathy Singer was a good art teacher, and I enjoyed her lessons.

John O'Keefe's early watercolor of an apple, created when he was nine or ten years old

"Apple"

Watercolor on Paper,
John O'Keefe Jr.,
1979-80 (9-10 years old)
John O'Keefe's early watercolor of a light house, created when he was nine or ten years old

"Lighthouse"

Watercolor on Paper,
John O'Keefe Jr.,
1979-80 (9-10 years old)
John O'Keefe's early watercolor of a fowl, created when he was nine or ten years old

"Pheasant"

Watercolor on Paper,
John O'Keefe Jr.,
1979-80 (9-10 years old)

PAINTING IN QUEENS, NEW YORK

My Aunt Annie loved to watch me draw. Here is a painting that I did at her apartment in Queens, New York. This was my first painting of a landscape using acrylics. It was around this time in my life that I also began to take an interest in sailing ships.

John O'Keefe's first acrylic landscape painting, created when he was ten years old

"1st Acrylic Landscape"

Acrylic on Board,
John O'Keefe Jr.,
1980 (10 years old)

My Aunt Annie and her husband (Uncle Joe) used to paint together and they painted maritime and landscape scenes. Uncle Joe, who died when I was very young, loved to paint and build model ships. I remember sitting in their living room and staring at a model ship of the 'Cutty Sark' that Uncle Joe built. It was awesome! I eventually inherited that model but it was severely damaged during the journey from New York to Connecticut. I could not fix it and sadly it one day went into the garbage. However, my mother and I have all of the original paintings they created together. Aunt Annie and Uncle Joe were definitely an inspiration to me.

ART CLASSES AT PAIER COLLEGE OF ART

One day a week I was allowed to leave school early and attend special art classes at the 'Paier College of Art' in New Haven, Connecticut. This was great because none of the other kids got to do that! I don't have any of those art projects, but they were all hands on. There was a lot of sculpting and building using different materials and mediums. The skills I learned opened up new ways for me to express myself through art. Creating images on paper was no longer my limit. Below is a castle that I starting building out of cardboard shortly after my experiences at 'Paier'.

John O'Keefe's castle made from cardboard, created when he was ten or eleven years old

"The Castle - View 1"

Cardboard,
John O'Keefe Jr.,
1980-81 (10-11 years old)
John O'Keefe's castle made from cardboard (another view), created when he was ten or eleven years old

"The Castle- View 2"

Cardboard,
John O'Keefe Jr.,
1980-81 (10-11 years old)
John O'Keefe Jr. Profile Picture
John O'Keefe Jr.
© 2007, All Rights Reserved
About the Author...
     John specializes in landscape oil painting done in a style similar to the famous Hudson River School and Victorian era artists. He also specializes in reproduction painting frames, framing supplies and Giclee prints of his landscape paintings.
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