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Step by Step Oil Painting Tutorial
'Big Cork Tree'
by John O'Keefe Jr.

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COMPOSITION AND MATERIALS

Painting tutorial for 'Big Cork Tree' by John O'Keefe - Reference Victorian engraving
Victorian engraving

I wanted to compose the scene to fit into an oval style frame, the tree being the center of interest. I started by sketching a rough outline of of frame opening and then sketched the tree on a sloped hill inside of it. In the distance would be a large plain and mountains would make up the horizon.

  • Support: Pre-Stretched & Mounted Medium Textured Cotton Canvas (Acrylic Primed)
  • Size: 8 x 10 inch
  • Medium: Winsor & Newton 'Artist Oils' Professional Grade Oil Paints
    (Ivory Black, Titanium White, French Ultramarine Blue, Sap Green, Naples Yellow, Raw Sienna, and Raw Umber)
  • Finish: Winsor & Newton Dammar varnish

STEP-BY-STEP OIL PAINTING

Painting tutorial for 'Big Cork Tree' by John O'Keefe Jr.- Day 1 Hour 1

Day 1 / Hour 1

Here is the initial sketch for the painting.


Painting tutorial for 'Big Cork Tree' by John O'Keefe Jr. - Day 1 Hour 4

Day 1 / Hour 4

Sky and clouds added first. These clouds were referenced from a photograph taken by my wife Jennifer. I blocked in the land features: Sloped hill, large plain, and distant mountains.


Painting tutorial for 'Big Cork Tree' by John O'Keefe Jr. - Day 1 Hour 5

Day 1 / Hour 5

While the foreground paint was still wet I began to add details to the land features. I laid in a rough outline of the tree shadow.


Painting tutorial for 'Big Cork Tree' by John O'Keefe Jr. - Day 1 Hour 6

Day 1 / Hour 6

More details to the fields. I wanted a second area of interest on the plains and you can make out a group of trees on the middle right.


Painting tutorial for 'Big Cork Tree' by John O'Keefe Jr. - Day 2 Hour 7

Day 2 / Hour 7

After a few days of drying I was ready to begin adding the tree. I usually wait for the paint to dry a little before adding my main features, in this case the cork tree. I started by adding the trunk and some branches. I used a very dark base at this point because I plan to add my highlights later. I also added some highlights to the foreground, bringing out some small plants and grasses. The group of trees on the plain are detailed and shadowed.


Painting tutorial for 'Big Cork Tree' by John O'Keefe Jr. - Day 2 Hour 8

Day 2 / Hour 8

I painted the outline of the cork tree. (Note: I painted the entire sky beforehand because I wanted to try and make this tree without having to go back and add light holes later.


Painting tutorial for 'Big Cork Tree' by John O'Keefe Jr. - Day 2 Hour 9

Day 2 / Hour 9

Carefully following the reference engraving of the cork tree I started blocking on the bulk of the tree leaves. I used a dark green for this because my intention is to build up the tree in layers from farthest to closest. I will add the highlights as a final layer.


Painting tutorial for 'Big Cork Tree' by John O'Keefe Jr. - Day 2 Hour 10

Day 2 / Hour 10

Once I had the leaves blocked in I painted the branches. I was careful to taper them as they extended toward the outer part of the tree. Near the outermost area they literally disappear.


Painting tutorial for 'Big Cork Tree' by John O'Keefe Jr. - Day 2 Hour 12

Day 3 / Hour 12

Now I added my first layer of highlights using a brighter green to capture the suns rays on the leaves. I also added some more highlights to the foreground improve the balance between the tree and grassy hill. The shadow under the tree also takes on better definition.


Painting tutorial for 'Big Cork Tree' by John O'Keefe Jr. - Day 3 Hour 13

Day 3 / Hour 12

As a last layer on the tree I added some darker areas back in. I felt the tree top was too bright. I made a pass over the hill to further highlight the grasses and tree shadow.


Painting tutorial for 'Big Cork Tree' by John O'Keefe Jr. - Day 4 Hour 15

Day 4 / Hour 15

Now for the final touches. I added more shadow back into the leaves of the tree to give a greater sense of light coming straight down from the top. The leaves on the underside or shadowed for better effect. Lastly I added highlight across the hill.

STEP BY STEP ANIMATION

Painting tutorial for 'Big Cork Tree' by John O'Keefe Jr. - Day 4 Hour 15 Painting tutorial for 'Big Cork Tree' by John O'Keefe Jr. - Day 3 Hour 13 Painting tutorial for 'Big Cork Tree' by John O'Keefe Jr. - Day 3 Hour 12 Painting tutorial for 'Big Cork Tree' by John O'Keefe Jr. - Day 2 Hour 10 Painting tutorial for 'Big Cork Tree' by John O'Keefe Jr. - Day 2 Hour 9 Painting tutorial for 'Big Cork Tree' by John O'Keefe Jr. - Day 2 Hour 8 Painting tutorial for 'Big Cork Tree' by John O'Keefe Jr. - Day 2 Hour 7 Painting tutorial for 'Big Cork Tree' by John O'Keefe Jr. - Day 1 Hour 6 Painting tutorial for 'Big Cork Tree' by John O'Keefe Jr. - Day 1 Hour 5 Painting tutorial for 'Big Cork Tree' by John O'Keefe Jr. - Day 1 Hour 4 Painting tutorial for 'Big Cork Tree' by John O'Keefe Jr. - Day 1 Hour 1

FINISHED PAINTING

Finished oil painting: 'Big Cork Tree' by John O'Keefe Jr.
Finished oil painting:
'Big Cork Tree' by John O'Keefe Jr.
  • Finished oil painting: 'Big Cork Tree' by John O'Keefe Jr.
  • Finished oil painting with frame: 'Big Cork Tree' by John O'Keefe Jr.
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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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