Tutorial “River Through the Adirondacks” by John O’Keefe Jr.

River Through the Adirondacks by John O'Keefe Jr.

This is my 12th oil painting. While the actual time to complete this painting was about 12 days, those 12 days were spread out over two 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: the paint came straight out of the tubes. Please enjoy my tutorial “River Through the Adirondacks” by John O’Keefe Jr.

Composition and Materials – “River Through the Adirondacks”

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

I was aiming for a Hudson River School feel with this painting. I found an old black and white Victorian engraving I liked online and decided to base my painting on its features. Furthermore, I do not know the scene’s location in this engraving, but I assume it is a real place. Because the engraving reminded me of the Hudson Valley, 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 Tutorial – “River Through the Adirondacks”

Day 1

River Through the Adirondacks - Day 1

Painting begins by completing the sky with significant 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 painting those details, I must finish the distant scenery and waterways.

Day 2

River Through the Adirondacks - Day 2

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

Day 3

River Through the Adirondacks - 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.

Day 4a

River Through the Adirondacks - Day 4

I thought the painting from Day 3 had too much of an agricultural feeling, and I wanted something more natural and park-like. Compare the 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 scrape off entire areas and redo them without anyone ever knowing unless you tell them!)

Day 4b

River Through the Adirondacks - Day 5

I finished Day 4 by updating the tree shadows and the little island feature at the river’s bend. I also updated the last shadows and reflections along the shoreline.

Day 5 & 6

River Through the Adirondacks - Day 6

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

Day 7

River Through the Adirondacks - Day 7

Once happy with the tree line, I laid out the rock formations: several large boulders in the middle and a large cliff face to the right.

Day 8
River Through the Adirondacks - 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.

Day 9

River Through the Adirondacks - Day 9

This one is challenging. Many trees are in the foreground, and the proper contrast proved difficult. I redid the foliage in the front-center rock cropping near the bottom, and more is coming. (i.e., a Large rock on the right and a large tree that you can make out the trunk on top of the rocks, 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.

Day 10

River Through the Adirondacks - 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 are covered with short grass. This would be a perfect place for people to visit and walk around. I think it’s more inviting than the wilderness of the original reference image.

Day 11

River Through the Adirondacks - Day 11

I have extended the flat grassy area 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 viewing it. Also, I added the large tree on the top rock cropping.

You can walk up to this spot to see the sights. I started adding the shadows that were being cast by the larger trees. I wanted to give the viewer a sense that the sun was off in the direction of those distant clouds, perhaps just off the canvas in the upper-right corner.

Day 12

River Through the Adirondacks - Day 12

Now comes all the small shrubs, trees, and other foliage. I went over the foreground to bring out highlights. Notice the tree trunk still in the ground next to the fallen tree. Although it’s hard to see, I ensured the lighting and shadows coming off the trees in the lowlands were consistent with the shadows I added to the foreground.

Finished Painting – “River Through the Adirondacks”

River Through the Adirondacks by John O'Keefe Jr., Framed

I hope you enjoyed my tutorial “River Through the Adirondacks” by John O’Keefe Jr.

2008 Art Exhibit and Fund Raising Event of Danielle O’Keefe

Art Exhibit and Fund Raising Event for National Epidermolysis Bullosa Awareness Week

2008 Art Exhibit and Fund Raising Event - Landmark Gallery and Framing, Wallingford, Connecticut
Landmark Gallery & Framing,
Wallingford, Connecticut

In November, 2008, Danielle O’Keefe approached a Frame Shop named Landmark Gallery and Framing in Wallingford, Connecticut that is owned by Gillian Zimmerman and asked if she could display some of her artwork and a small display in support of National Epidermolysis Bullosa Awareness Week. Happily, Gillian agreed to host the exhibit and display that they called, “2008 Art Exhibit and Fund Raising Event” of Danielle O’Keefe”.

Danielle O’Keefe suffers from a genetic disorder known as Epidermolysis Bullosa. Epidermolysis Bullosa (commonly referred to as EB by sufferers of the disorder) affects the skin and surface areas of the body, which includes the eyes, mouth, teeth and all internal surfaces too. As a result, tears, blisters, bleeding sores and pain are a common part of everyday life for those that suffer with it. Because it is very rare, Danielle has a deep interest in spreading awareness of this disorder and her “2008 Art Exhibit and Fund Raising Event” at Landmark Gallery was her way to get the word out.

2008 Art Exhibit and Fund Raising Event - Danielle O'Keefe and Gillian Zimmerman (Gallery Owner)
Danielle O’Keefe and Gillian Zimmerman (Gallery Owner)

In support of the event, Danielle also had a front page article written about her in a local newspaper. The article provides a touching summary of Danielle’s life struggles with EB, and how her family has rallied around her.

With the exposure from the exhibition and the printed article, Danielle was able to raise donations that she donated to an EB charity. Increasing awareness of EB is important for generating donations and the financial support needed to do research into a cure. Here is a letter, written in Danielle’s own words, that accompanied her artwork at Landmark Gallery.

2008 Art Exhibit and Fund Raising Event - Danielle's personal letter displayed at the exhibition
Danielle’s personal letter displayed at the exhibition.

Art Exhibit of Danielle O’Keefe

2008 Art Exhibit and Fund Raising Event - Artwork, Parrot
11×14, Oil on Board,
Danielle O’Keefe,
Spring 2008 (12 years old)
2008 Art Exhibit and Fund Raising Event - Artwork, Butterfly
4×6, Oil on Board,
Danielle O’Keefe,
Summer 2007 (11 years old)

(Butterflies, with their delicate wings, have come to symbolize the fragility of the skin of EB patients.)

2008 Art Exhibit and Fund Raising Event - Artwork, Landscape
8×12, Acrylic on Paper,
Danielle O’Keefe,
2002 (6 years old)

(During a hospitalization for a skin infection, Danielle created the painting named, “Landscape”.)

Newspaper Articles about Danielle’s Early Life

In addition to the successful exhibition to spread awareness of EB locally, below are two articles about Danielle, her daily struggle with EB, and its effect on her entire family. The first article about Danielle was published in 1998 and the second article was published in 2008. Both articles were written by journalist Jeffery Kurz for ‘The Record Journal’ located in Meriden, Connecticut. The files are large in size and may take a few moments to download. (Articles By: Jeffery Kurz, Photography: Chris Angileri)

Everything is Complicated, The Record Journal, Nov 3, 2008
“Everything is Complicated”
The Record Journal
(Nov 3, 2008)
Danielle's Burden, The Record Journal, Nov 1, 1998
“Danielle’s Burden”
The Record Journal
(Nov 1,1998)

Epidermolysis Bullosa Information

Overall, Danielle’s experience with 2008 National EB Awareness Week was a success. To further promote EB awareness, below are links to organizations that are helping families and the medical community in the search for a cure for Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB).

The Dystrophic Epidermolysis Bullosa Research Association of America
The Dystrophic Epidermolysis Bullosa Research Association of America
Epidermolysis Bullosa Medical Research Foundation
Epidermolysis Bullosa Medical Research Foundation

Solo Exhibition by The Picture Framer & Gallery (2008)

The Picture Framer & Gallery
The Picture Framer & Gallery,
Cheshire, Connecticut

My first Solo Exhibition by the Picture Framer & Gallery was excellent! In these early days, and with a lot of effort on my part, my renewed love of creating art and entrance into the local art scene was moving fairly quickly.

The Picture Framer & Gallery, View through front door
(See my paintings hanging inside)

Solo Exhibition – Event Literature and Promotional

The Picture Framer Event Poster
Event Brochure
Press release for John O'Keefe Jr's solo exhibition at the Picture Framer & Gallery in Cheshire, Connecticut in September 2008
As printed in the Cheshire Herald on August 28, 2008

Solo Exhibition – Opening Reception (9-6-2008)

We held the reception despite a visit by tropical storm Hanna. Even though the poor weather discouraged most from attending the exhibit reception, we had a good group. Jennifer and I learned later that our local county was under a tornado warning during the event. Still, people came to see the exhibition opening, and I had the opportunity to talk with them about my paintings. We had refreshments and a good conversation. I was delighted with my first solo exhibit.

Solo Exhibition, Opening Reception, Main Gallery, Wall 1
Solo Exhibition, Opening Reception, Main Gallery, Wall 2

I selected eleven works to exhibit at The Picture Framer & Gallery throughout September. One of the more miniature paintings had sold, and another was still on exhibition at the Mystic Art Center. Therefore I had a mix of originals and reproductions displayed. The quality of the reproductions is so good that several visitors commented that they could not tell the difference between the originals and the reproductions.

Solo Exhibition, Opening Reception, Main gallery, Quests 1
Solo Exhibition, Opening Reception, Main Gallery, Guests 2
Solo Exhibition, Opening Reception, Main Gallery, Guests 3
Solo Exehibition, Opening Reception, Main Gallery, Guests 4

Solo Exhibition – People that have helped me!

Below are pictures of me with people who have helped promote my art business.

Opening Reception, Ann Hearn and John O'Keefe Jr.
Ann Hearn owns and operates The Picture Framer & Gallery
Opening Reception, Rob Lyon and John O'Keefe Jr.
Rob Lyon owns and operates Sound Color
Opening Reception, Joan Shackford and John O'Keefe Jr.
Joan Shackford is the current President of the Cheshire Art League

Solo Exhibition – Some Final Thoughts!

Below are pictures of friends and family that have encouraged and supported me. So many people supported me with Solo Exhibition by The Picture Framer & Gallery. Thank you!

Opening Reception, Sue Smith
Sue Smith
Close family friend
Opening Reception, John O'Keefe Jr. and his family
John O’Keefe Sr. (Dad – far left)
Lynn Ambrosini (Mom – left)
Jennifer O’Keefe
 (Wife – right)

Record Journal Article by Jesse Stanley (2008)

In 2008 I was approached by the owner of The Picture Framer & Gallery, Ann Hearn, in Cheshire, Connecticut. Ann wanted to host a solo exhibition for me and my paintings. Of course, I said yes to my first solo exhibition. There was a Record-Journal Article by Jesse Stanley in conjunction with the show.

The Interview – Record Journal Article

Jesse Stanley and I knew each other from previous articles he wrote about my daughter and her lifelong struggles with a debilitating skin condition known as Epidermolysis Bullosa. As he did when writing her pieces, he came to the house with a photographer and interviewed me about my mid-life journey into landscape oil painting. He also printed the dates of my solo exhibition at the Picture Framer & Gallery. The cover story was titled “Painting puts beginner in a zone.” Following is a copy of the 2008 Record Journal Article by Jesse Stanley.

Record Journal Article about Artist John O'Keefe Jr by Jesse Stanley
(Click on the article to open in a new browser window.)

Knowing thousands of people would read this article about me was a strange feeling. As I mentioned earlier, I had been through the process before when Jesse wrote about my daughter’s health struggles. In those instances, the family was trying to build awareness of her condition in our local community, hoping that people would contribute to research and ongoing work to find a cure. However, it was only about me and painting this time, so I was more self-conscious. Jesse did a great job!

52nd Regional Exhibition by Mystic Art Association (2008)

52nd Regional Exhibition by Mystic Art Association
Mystic Museum of Art,
Mystic, Connecticut

The 52nd Regional Exhibit by Mystic Art Association was my third group exhibition. Participating in this exhibit was more costly because it was far from home. Subsequently, each trip to the exhibition hall was a 1-hour 45-minute drive one way, and I had to go three times. In order: the first trip was for drop-off, the second for the reception, and then lastly, the pick-up. Also, it was a family trip each time that included eating out, gas, etc. As a result, it was a time-consuming and costly adventure. However, I needed to connect with the art scene, meet people and make contacts.

Event Literature – 52nd Regional Exhibition by Mystic Art Association

The 52nd Regional event brochure
Event Brochure

Opening Reception (8-14-2008) – 52nd Regional Exhibition

Another excellent opening reception is at the Mystic Art Center on August 14th from 5:30 to 7:00 PM. The gallery was packed, and I was surprised to get into this show after seeing all the beautiful paintings dropped off during the receiving hours. Upon arrival at the opening reception, I was further surprised to see my artwork hanging in the main gallery directly next to the first-place winner. Therefore, I could not have asked for a better-hanging location.

John O'Keefe Jr by his painting 'River Through the Adirondacks'
John O’Keefe Jr and
“River Through the Adirondacks”
52nd Regional Exhibition, Opening Reception, Main Gallery 2
Main Gallery,
“River Through the Adirondacks”
hangs to the right of 1st prize winner!
52nd Regional Exhibition, Opening Reception, Main Gallery 1
Main Gallery

Meeting other Artists – 52nd Regional Exhibition

Later, after the awards ceremony, Jennifer and I had time to mingle with the other artists. Before the evening ended, we met several artists, some of whom you can see in the following pictures.

Opening Reception, Edward Bissel and his wife
Edward Bissel and his wife (left)
Jennifer and John O’Keefe Jr (right)
Opening Reception, Annelie Skoog and David Madacsi
Jennifer and John O’Keefe Jr (left)
Annelie Skoog and David Madacsi (right)
(Showing our artworks that did not
get accepted into the Exhibit.)

Overall I had another excellent experience at the 52 Regional Exhibition by the Mystic Art Association. Even though the journey from my home to the venue is long, I definitely would like to exhibit with them again.

About the Judge – 52nd Regional Exhibition

Susan Swinand publicity photograph
Susan Swinand

Susan Swinand is a visual artist from the Philadelphia area who has been living and working in Shrewsbury, MA, since 1984. She has taught painting at the Worcester Art Museum in central MA for over 20 years and was an adjunct painting and design instructor at Clark University from 1992 to 2004. She also currently teaches painting classes in the greenhouses of Wellesley College.

Susan graduated from Moore College of Art in Philadelphia in 1965. An Emily Sartain fellowship allowed her to travel in Europe and to study in Austria with Italian painter Emilio Vedova. On her return, she attended the Barnes Foundation for two years, where she studied the Philosophy and Appreciation of Art.

She has been active in many art organizations, serving on the boards of Moore College of Art, ArtsWorcester, and the Artists’ Equity Association. Also, she was president of Philadelphia Artists Equity in 1978-80, receiving their Distinguished Service Award in 1981. Additionally, she was the director of the ArtsWorcester Gallery at the Forum Theatre for many years.

Her work has been exhibited in over a hundred juried, invitational, solo, and group shows. 1, 2


  1. Image of Susan Swinand from her website ~ 8-15-08.
  2. Bio information for Susan Swinand from her website ~ 8-15-08.