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Step by Step Oil Painting Tutorial
'River Through the Adirondack's'
by John O'Keefe Jr.

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COMPOSITION AND MATERIALS

Painting tutorial for 'River Through the Adirondack's' by John O'Keefe - Reference Victorian engraving
Victorian Engraving

I was aiming for a Hudson River School feel with this painting. I found an old black and white Victorian engraving on-line that I liked and decided to base my painting on its features. I do not know the location of the scene in this engraving but I assume it is a real place. I named my painting "River Through the Adirondacks". My final painting differs from this reference material in the details. I had cropped the far-right portion of the engraving out of my painting but the larger aspects of the composition can still be seen in my finished work.

  • Support: Pre-Stretched & Mounted Medium Textured Cotton Canvas (Acrylic Primed)
  • Size: 16 x 20 inch
  • Medium: Winsor & Newton 'Artist Oils' Professional Grade Oil Paints
    (Ivory Black, Titanium White, Ultramarine Blue, Sap Green, Naples Yellow, Raw Sienna, and Burnt Sienna)
  • Finish: Winsor & Newton Dammar varnish

STEP-BY-STEP OIL PAINTING

Painting tutorial for 'River Through the Adirondack's' by John O'Keefe - Day 1

Day 1

Painting begins by completing the sky with major land and water areas blocked in. In the foreground (unpainted white areas) will be the close-up details of the trees, foliage, and rocks. Before I begin painting those details I must finish the distant scenery and waterways.


Painting tutorial for 'River Through the Adirondack's' by John O'Keefe - Day 2

Day 2

I have added more definition to the low-land areas. The fields are more defined now.


Painting tutorial for 'River Through the Adirondack's' by John O'Keefe - Day 3

Day 3

Here is an update on the distant land features... You can see that I tightened things up a bit and added increased detail and contrast to the forests and distant hills of the low-land areas.


Painting tutorial for 'River Through the Adirondack's' by John O'Keefe - Day 4

Day 4a

I thought the painting from DAY 3 had to much of an agricultural feel and I wanted something more natural and park-like. Compare middle-left areas between DAY 3 and DAY 4 images to see the new direction in which I took the painting. I also began to add shoreline shadows and reflections. (One nice feature about working with oils is the slow dry time - you can literally scrape off entire areas and redo them without anyone ever knowing ...unless you tell them!)


Painting tutorial for 'River Through the Adirondack's' by John O'Keefe - Day 5

Day 4b

I finished DAY 4 by updating the tree shadows and the little island feature in the bend of the river. I also updated the final shadows and reflections along the shoreline.


Painting tutorial for 'River Through the Adirondack's' by John O'Keefe - Day 6

Day 5 & 6

I let the painting dry for about 3 weeks before starting this phase. Now I was ready to add the details and the foreground. I started by blocking in the tree-line and mountain features. I used the reference picture closely at this point.


Painting tutorial for 'River Through the Adirondack's' by John O'Keefe - Day 7

Day 7

Once I was happy with the tree line I began to lay out the rock formations. Several large boulders in the middle and a large cliff face to the right.


Painting tutorial for 'River Through the Adirondack's' by John O'Keefe - Day 8

Day 8

At this point I continued to try to match the reference engraving image for the foreground details. You can see shrubs covering the boulders and several tall tree trunks coming up from around the cliff.


Painting tutorial for 'River Through the Adirondack's' by John O'Keefe - Day 9

Day 9

This one is challenging. There are a lot of trees in the foreground, and getting the correct contrast proved to be difficult. I redid the foliage in the front-center rock cropping near the bottom and there is more coming. (i.e. Large rock on the right and a large tree that you can just make out the trunk on top of the rock, plants and smaller greens in the lower right corner.) I'll probably go over the entire painting with a detail brush to add in the final highlights and deep shadows. I'm thinking of adding some blue flowers in the foreground to the right and more browns into the closer trees and bushes for more color variation.


Painting tutorial for 'River Through the Adirondack's' by John O'Keefe - Day 10

Day 10

Again I broke from the reference material and decided to make the foreground-right less rocky. Notice the flat areas to the right that are covered with short grass. It seems to me this would be a perfect place for people to visit and walk around. I think its more inviting than the wilderness of the original reference image.


Painting tutorial for 'River Through the Adirondack's' by John O'Keefe - Day 11

Day 11

I have extended the grassy flat area all the way to the middle section. I brought the center tree into the foreground rather than having it come up from behind the rock cropping. Now you could walk right up to it and lean on it while taking in the view. Also, the large tree on the top rock cropping has been added. This is another spot where you could walk up to so that you could see the sights. I started adding the shadows that are being cast by the larger trees. I wanted to give the viewer a sense that that sun was off in the direction of those distant clouds - perhaps just off canvas in the upper-right corner.


Painting tutorial for 'River Through the Adirondack's' by John O'Keefe - Day 12

Day 12

Ok... now comes all the small shrubs, trees and other foliage in the foreground. I went over the entire foreground to bring out highlights throughout. Notice the tree trunk still in the ground next to the fallen tree. Although its hard to see, I made sure the lighting and shadows coming off the trees in the low-lands was consistent with the shadows I added to the foreground.

STEP BY STEP ANIMATION

Painting tutorial for 'River Through the Adirondack's' by John O'Keefe Jr. - Day 12 Painting tutorial for 'River Through the Adirondack's' by John O'Keefe Jr. - Day 11 Painting tutorial for 'River Through the Adirondack's' by John O'Keefe Jr. - Day 10 Painting tutorial for 'River Through the Adirondack's' by John O'Keefe Jr. - Day 9 Painting tutorial for 'River Through the Adirondack's' by John O'Keefe Jr. - Day 8 Painting tutorial for 'River Through the Adirondack's' by John O'Keefe Jr. - Day 7 Painting tutorial for 'River Through the Adirondack's' by John O'Keefe Jr. - Day 6 Painting tutorial for 'River Through the Adirondack's' by John O'Keefe Jr. - Day 5 Painting tutorial for 'River Through the Adirondack's' by John O'Keefe Jr. - Day 4 Painting tutorial for 'River Through the Adirondack's' by John O'Keefe Jr. - Day 3 Painting tutorial for 'River Through the Adirondack's' by John O'Keefe Jr. - Day 2 Painting tutorial for 'River Through the Adirondack's' by John O'Keefe Jr. - Day 1

While the actual time to complete this painting was about 12 days... those 12 days were spread out over almost 2 months. I used a combination of wet-into-wet and wet-into-dry techniques. I did NOT use any added mediums in the paint or artificial dryers - I used the paint as it came straight out of the tubes.

FINISHED PAINTING

Finished oil painting: 'River Through the Adirondack's' by John O'Keefe Jr.
Finished oil painting:
'River Through the Adirondack's' by John O'Keefe Jr.
  • Finished oil painting: 'River Through the Adirondack's' by John O'Keefe Jr.
  • Finished oil painting - Detail 1: 'River Through the Adirondack's' by John O'Keefe Jr.
  • Finished oil painting with frame: 'River Through the Adirondack's' 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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