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Step by Step Oil Painting Tutorial
'Lilac Pond'
by John O'Keefe Jr.

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COMPOSITION AND MATERIALS

Painting tutorial for 'Lilac Pond' by John O'Keefe - Reference material, clouds by Jennifer O'Keefe
Cloud photograph by Jennifer O'Keefe

Jennifer and I went on a road trip to capture some beautiful park scenes in the Wallingford area. We took this picture near our home at one of the town's protected areas that are part of the 'Open Space Project'. This was the perfect backdrop for the next painting.

Painting tutorial for 'Lilac Pond' by John O'Keefe - Reference Victorian engraving overlaid with cloud photo
Digital Composition
(Above photo merged with Victorian engraving)

I wanted a large tree off to one side of the painting, which is a common element in many Hudson River School paintings. Not satisfied with any of the photographed trees from our road trip I turned to the Internet for reference material. During my search I came across a wonderful set of trees in an old Victorian engraving. Using digital image editing software (Adobe Photodeluxe) I cut away unwanted areas from the engraving image and merged the two images into this composite.

  • Support: Stretched Fine Linen (Oil Primed)
  • Size: 16 x 20 inch
  • Medium: Winsor & Newton 'Artist Oils' Professional Grade Oil Paints
    (Ivory Black, Titanium White, Corelian Blue, Sap Green Naples Yellow, Raw Sienna, Burnt Sienna, and Vandyke Brown)
  • Finish: Winsor & Newton Dammar varnish

STEP-BY-STEP OIL PAINTING

Painting tutorial for 'Lilac Pond' by John O'Keefe - Day 3

Days 1-3

This is the first time I drew a pencil grid pattern onto my canvas that matched a corresponding grid on my reference photo. I was thus able to position elements fairly accurately from the photo to the canvas. You can just make out the reference lines in the image. As always, I started painting the farthest objects in the scene... the clouds.


Painting tutorial for 'Lilac Pond' by John O'Keefe - Day 5

Days 4 & 5

I had started to lay out the mid-line trees. It was at this point that I realized I was displeased with the original composition. I wanted to keep the big trees from the engraving but not the other


Painting tutorial for 'Lilac Pond' by John O'Keefe - Day 6

Day 6

I finished laying out the mid-line trees. I was still unable to settle on what to put onto the right side of the painting. My idea of a field and farmhouse was not feeling right to me anymore. Now I wanted water... a pond in place of the field. I also thought of adding birds, a tight closeup of Hummingbirds sitting on a branch and admiring the area they call home.


Painting tutorial for 'Lilac Pond' by John O'Keefe - Day 6 composition edits

Day 6 (Digital Edits)

Using Adobe Photodeluxe I worked out my new ideas on the computer and produced this new digital composition. You can see that I cut back more of the engraving features from the right side exposing the pond. The two Hummingbirds would look good placed to the right above the pond.


Painting tutorial for 'Lilac Pond' by John O'Keefe - Day 7

Day 7

Now came the big trees on the left. I blocked in the large boulder and dirt ground. I was not entirely pleased with my pond because it did not have the glassy surface feel that I achieved in the digital composition. However, I was content enough to move on.


Painting tutorial for 'Lilac Pond' by John O'Keefe - Day 8

Day 8

It had been about 3 weeks since I had last worked on the painting and I once again decided to make composition changes. This time I wanted Lilac bushes in the foreground and not the birds. I searched the Internet for photographs of Lilac bushes that fit nicely into my painting. In this snapshot I completed painting the bushes in the middle and started blocking in the purples that will become the remaining Lilac bushes on either side.


Painting tutorial for 'Lilac Pond' by John O'Keefe - Day 9

Day 9

More detail added to the Lilac bushes on the left and right sides. I also added more highlights to the Lilacs in the middle.


Painting tutorial for 'Lilac Pond' by John O'Keefe - Day 10

Day 10

Just about done... I added the leaves to the Lilac bushes. I took great care to get the shadows right but my wife said something very interesting to me. She thought the light green trees on the right side (behind the row of trees along the pond shore) was actually a tree overhanging the pond and not distant hills as I intended.


Painting tutorial for 'Lilac Pond' by John O'Keefe - Day 11

Day 11

I decided that a few minor touch-ups would be good. I agreed her assessment, and I removed the light green line along the far pond shore and I increased the contrast between the mid-line trees and the distant hill on the far right.

STEP BY STEP ANIMATION

Painting tutorial for 'Lilac Pond' by John O'Keefe Jr. - Day 11 Painting tutorial for 'Lilac Pond' by John O'Keefe Jr. - Day 10 Painting tutorial for 'Lilac Pond' by John O'Keefe Jr. - Day 9 Painting tutorial for 'Lilac Pond' by John O'Keefe Jr. - Day 8 Painting tutorial for 'Lilac Pond' by John O'Keefe Jr. - Day 7 Painting tutorial for 'Lilac Pond' by John O'Keefe Jr. - Day 6 Painting tutorial for 'Lilac Pond' by John O'Keefe Jr. - Day 5 Painting tutorial for 'Lilac Pond' by John O'Keefe Jr. - Day 3

FINISHED PAINTING

Finished oil painting: 'Lilac Pond' by John O'Keefe Jr.
Finished oil painting:
'Lilac Pond' by John O'Keefe Jr.
  • Finished oil painting: 'Lilac Pond' by John O'Keefe Jr.
  • Finished oil painting - Detail 1: 'Lilac Pond' by John O'Keefe Jr.
  • Finished oil painting - Detail 2: 'Lilac Pond' by John O'Keefe Jr.
  • Finished oil painting with frame: 'Lilac Pond' 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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