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Step by Step Oil Painting Tutorial
'Summer in the Valley'
by John O'Keefe Jr.

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COMPOSITION AND MATERIALS

Painting tutorial for 'Summer on the Valley' by John O'Keefe - reference painting 'The White Mountains' by John Kensett
"The White Mountains" by John Kensett

I love the "The White Mountains - Mount Washington" by John F. Kensett. I have been attempting to incorporate his color pallet into my recent study paintings. Also, one night when I was looking through some art books, I came across another painting that caught my attention: A landscape painting with similar composition to Kensett's painting but with a different approach to color use. The latter painting is entitled "July Fields" by Barbara Nuss, and its published in the book "14 Formulas for Painting Fabulous Landscapes" by Barbara Nuss.

Painting tutorial for 'Summer on the Valley' by John O'Keefe - reference painting 'July Fields' by Barbara Nuss
"July Fields" by Barbara Nuss

Both of the above landscape paintings are beautiful and have inspired me to try some new things in this painting. I began by sketching the composition onto the canvas. You can see similar elements in my composition with those from the two reference paintings.

Painting tutorial for 'Summer on the Valley' by John O'Keefe - Reference composition sketch
Composition sketch by John O'Keefe Jr.
Painting tutorial for 'Summer on the Valley' by John O'Keefe - reference composition sketch with cloud photo overlay by Jennifer O'Keefe
Cloud photograph by Jennifer O'Keefe
(Digitally overlaid onto sketch)

I wanted a very intense sky with a lot of blue peaking through thick but bright tipped clouds. I have placed several large trees that extend above the horizon and I want them to stand out against the sky with a strong contrast. I like the effect that I achieved on my painting "Just Passing Through" were the path leads the viewer off and to the right, into the mysterious darkness of the forest. I want to achieve that same sense of mystery in this scene at various spots where the tree growth is heaviest... even projecting this feeling into the distant areas surrounding the homes, barns, and fields. My wife Jennifer took the perfect sky picture for this painting which I digitally edited into my reference sketch.

  • 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, Corelian Blue, Sap Green, Naples Yellow, Raw Sienna, and Raw Umber)
  • Finish: Winsor & Newton Dammar varnish

STEP-BY-STEP OIL PAINTING

Painting tutorial for 'Summer on the Valley' by John O'Keefe - Day 1 Hour 3

Day 1 / Hour 3

I always begin my paintings by laying down the sky. In this first image I blocked in the blue and clouds rather roughly.


Painting tutorial for 'Summer on the Valley' by John O'Keefe - Day 1 hour 6

Day 1 / Hour 6

At this point I returned to the painting to make adjustments to the sky. I refined the clouds, making them more detailed and distinct by adding darker areas to their underside.


Painting tutorial for 'Summer on the Valley' by John O'Keefe - Day 2 Hour 9

Day 2 / Hour 9

I added white highlights to the clouds, finishing them off. Next I started with the horizon and distant land features. Notice that I did not paint where my big trees were going to be placed.


Painting tutorial for 'Summer on the Valley' by John O'Keefe - Day 2 hour 12

Day 2 / Hour 12

My focus was on just on midlands and fields, again painting around the areas where my big trees and closeup details will be placed. On the left side I painted foliage right down to the house, I will change this in future sessions.


Painting tutorial for 'Summer on the Valley' by John O'Keefe - Day 3 Hour 15

Day 3 / Hour 15

Big day! First I expanded the field directly in front of the house which opened up that area more. The house does not feel so hidden behind the trees and shrubs anymore. Also, the road now follows an "S" shape from the foreground to the house. Next I began to lay down some of the foreground details. The fields and road are detailed more, the big trees on the right and left are added. I made a small adjustment from the original composition to the tree arrangement on the right, I added a thick bushy tree to the far right that appears slightly in front of the two taller trees that are reaching out into the sky.


Painting tutorial for 'Summer on the Valley' by John O'Keefe - Day 3 Hour 16

Day 3 / Hour 16

Today I focused on the group of trees to the right. I added the leaves to the two taller trees while also painting in the light patterns on the tree trunks. Highlights were added to the bushy tree on the far right and the road what detailed more.


Painting tutorial for 'Summer on the Valley' by John O'Keefe - Day 3 Hour 17

Day 3 / Hour 17

Composition Change! I decided to add a very large, close, tree on the right that had branched the extended out and overhang the left side of the painting. Notice that at this point I only painted the trunk itself. I did begin to paint in the shadows from all these trees on the right side, notice the ground underneath the trees.


Painting tutorial for 'Summer on the Valley' by John O'Keefe - Day 4 Hour 18

Day 4 / Hour 18

Today came more work on the new big tree. Trunk highlights were added to reflect sunlight. The suns position in this paintings is directly overhead so the shadows cast straight down. I added more green color to the field and I toned down the road and shadows on the left.


Painting tutorial for 'Summer on the Valley' by John O'Keefe - Day 4 Hour 20

Day 4 / Hour 20

The road needed more earthy tones and I started adding shadows for the big tree on the right. The effect I was after is one where the sun breaks through the leaves of the tree making a patchwork of light and shadow on the ground. Leave were added to the big tree. Because the big tree is so close to the viewer I took more time to paint the leave in detail. I tried to capture the shape of the leaves rather than adding small dabs of paint as I did on the trees that are farther away.


Painting tutorial for 'Summer on the Valley' by John O'Keefe - Day 4 Hour 22

Day 4 / Hour 22

The field on the left side had too much shadow for the trees in that area so I brought the sun across the field and off the canvas to the left. I also extend the patchwork of sun and shadow from the big tree across the bottom of the painting. Notice that I also darkened the shadow of the big tree making more contrast while also darkening the leave on the underside of the tree. A small touch was the tire (or wagon) tracks on the dirt road.


Painting tutorial for 'Summer on the Valley' by John O'Keefe - Day 5 Hour 23

Day 5 / Hour 23

I added some details to the front left of the painting, A shrub, fence and small flowers. I also kept manipulating the patchy light and shadow area of the big tree. The field in front of the house also received a big more green.


Painting tutorial for 'Summer on the Valley' by John O'Keefe - Day 5 Hour 24

Day 5 / Hour 24

The composition (with regard to the big tree) led the view off the canvas with the branch on the upper left. Adding some leaves to this bare branch broke up that area helping to keep the viewers eye from being led off the canvas. Highlights were added to the dirt road increasing the contrast between light and shadow under the big tree.


Painting tutorial for 'Summer on the Valley' by John O'Keefe - Day 6 Hour 26

Day 6 / Hour 26

I roughed up the fields to add some texture, which also gives more of a sense of grasses and weeds and not just a solid block of green. I added the final highlights to the road and shadow under the big tree to finish off the painting.

STEP BY STEP ANIMATION

Painting tutorial for 'Summer on the Valley' by John O'Keefe Jr. - Day 6 Hour 26 Painting tutorial for 'Summer on the Valley' by John O'Keefe Jr. - Day 5 Hour 24 Painting tutorial for 'Summer on the Valley' by John O'Keefe Jr. - Day 5 Hour 23 Painting tutorial for 'Summer on the Valley' by John O'Keefe Jr. - Day 4 Hour 22 Painting tutorial for 'Summer on the Valley' by John O'Keefe Jr. - Day 4 Hour 20 Painting tutorial for 'Summer on the Valley' by John O'Keefe Jr. - Day 4 Hour 18 Painting tutorial for 'Summer on the Valley' by John O'Keefe Jr. - Day 3 Hour 17 Painting tutorial for 'Summer on the Valley' by John O'Keefe Jr. - Day 3 Hour 16 Painting tutorial for 'Summer on the Valley' by John O'Keefe Jr. - Day 3 Hour 15 Painting tutorial for 'Summer on the Valley' by John O'Keefe Jr. - Day 2 hour 12 Painting tutorial for 'Summer on the Valley' by John O'Keefe Jr. - Day 2 Hour 9 Painting tutorial for 'Summer on the Valley' by John O'Keefe Jr. - Day 1 hour 6 Painting tutorial for 'Summer on the Valley' by John O'Keefe Jr. - Day 1 Hour 3

FINISHED PAINTING

Finished oil painting: 'Summer in the Valley' by John O'Keefe Jr.
Finished oil painting:
'Summer in the Valley' by John O'Keefe Jr.
  • Finished oil painting: 'Summer in the Valley' by John O'Keefe Jr.
  • Finished oil painting with frame: 'Summer in the Valley' by John O'Keefe Jr.
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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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