Tutorial “The Field’s Edge” by John O’Keefe Jr.

The Field's Edge by John O'Keefe Jr.

“The Field’s Edge” was a milestone painting for me and my 10th painting. A professional artist once told me I should see a noticeable improvement in my ability after every ten paintings. He must have been right because this painting was the 10th oil painting I ever completed. Another factor that might have been at play was my daughter was seriously ill at the time with a life-threatening blood infection, and I might have been releasing all that stress and anxiety into the painting. Please enjoy this tutorial “The Field’s Edge” by John O’Keefe Jr.

Composition and Materials – “The Field’s Edge”

Painting tutorial for 'The Field's Edge' by John O'Keefe Jr. - reference material - cloud photograph by Jennifer O'Keefe

I’m a big fan of the Hudson River School painters, and because of this, I have been trying to develop similar skills in landscape painting. Also, the clouds in this scene are from my wife’s photograph and a picture from the wetcanvas.com reference library for the field and trees, and these combined to make a good composition for me.

I switched from Winsor & Newton Winton to Winsor & Newton Artist Oil Color and experienced a big difference in colors, mixing, and how the paint goes onto the canvas. Professional-grade oil paints are preferred over student-grade paints. I limited myself to a six-color pallet (see below) and used NO mediums; the paint was straight out of the tubes. The green of choice was Sap Green mixed with Titanium White or Ivory Black. Added to this was a little Raw Umber or Raw Sienna to add some earthy tones. Also, I added the sap green straight onto the canvas in the grass running across the middle of the painting. Of course, it had blended a little as I was painting wet on wet.

I put about 25 hours into this painting spread over five days: about 5 hours daily, including prep and clean up. Also worth mentioning is that I painted sitting under a 60-watt incandescent light bulb with not much natural outside light shining on the canvas as I worked.

  • Support: Pre-Stretched & Mounted Medium Textured Cotton Canvas (Acrylic Primed)
  • Size: 12 x 16 inch
  • Medium: Winsor & Newton Artist Oils Professional Grade Oil Paints
    (Sky/Clouds: Titanium White, Ivory Black, and Ultramarine Blue)
    (Landscape: Titanium White, Ivory Black, Sap Green, Raw Umber, Raw Sienna, Alizarin Crimson, and Napals Yellow)
  • Finish: Winsor & Newton Dammar varnish

Step-By-Step Tutorial – “The Field’s Edge”

Day 1

The Field's Edge - Day 1

I began this painting with the most distant objects: the sky and clouds. These were aggressive clouds that were very busy.

Day 2

The Field's Edge - Day 2

The clouds needed refinement, so I kept working with a blending brush until they flowed smoothly and improved the contrast between light and dark areas. However, at this point, things looked a little stormy.

Day 3

The Field's Edge - Day 3

Notice the final white highlights added to the clouds, removing the dark feel from Day 2. It now looks like a bright sunny day. I also added the ground and the beginning of the tree line, and I intended to have a powerful contrast between light and dark. Notice its effect when comparing the ground objects against the sky.

Day 4

The Field's Edge - Day 4

The big tree is complete, and now it’s time to work on the tree line to the right. I slightly modified each tree’s colors to make the multiple trees stand apart, and I added green to some and brown and red to others. The overall effect is to give a sense of many trees growing together. Adding the right amount of darkness to areas proved more difficult than I initially thought. I continued to make adjustments by increasing darker areas, such as under the trees.

Day 5

The Field's Edge - Day 5

It was a perfect sunny day. The puffy clouds and the darker patches are nothing more than deep shadows. There was not a drop of rain in the sky that day. Furthermore, I have been working on achieving the correct/accurate balance between light and dark areas in my landscape paintings, and it’s incredible how much of both are present even on a very sunny day. When I would sit at the end of the day and review my painting against the reference photo, I noticed how much lighter my painting seemed. I had not put enough contrast between light and dark objects.

The painting became more realistic as I continued to retouch those lighter areas by adding more shadows. Also, I have seen many paintings that do not have enough contrast between objects, and these paintings always seem to be missing something to me; they lose depth and appear flat. For example: Instead of using darker green for shadows under the trees, I saw a more realistic painting emerge when I painted straight black into those areas. I’m learning not to be so afraid of using darks.

Finished Painting“The Field’s Edge”

The Field's Edge by John O'Keefe Jr., Framed
The Field's Edge by John O'Keefe Jr., Displayed

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial “The Field’s Edge” by John O’Keefe Jr.


1 thought on “Tutorial “The Field’s Edge” by John O’Keefe Jr.

  1. That was impressive you explained it marvelously and I actually understood, thank you. The painting was wonderful and reading how the process worked was very enlightening.

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