Painting Portraits of Scenic Views

My husband and I are not much for exchanging gifts for Christmas or anniversaries, or even for birthdays. We would much rather do something special together, like a dinner out or a trip. But my favourite gift for him when I feel like it’s time to mark a special milestone is an original painting.

The first painting I created for him was for our 2012 anniversary. LB was about five months old while I painted it so I gave up two weeks of naps to get it done. When it was complete, I brought it to Fenns Quay Restaurant where my friend Kate is head chef and we hung it on the wall by the table where hubby and I would enjoy our anniversary dinner. Kate also arranged for a special steak dinner for us (hubby loves his steak). He was completely surprised and recognised the painting as my work even though I had not signed it at that point. I had literally finished painting it mere hours earlier!

The process of painting a landscape with both nature and architecture was a formidable challenge. I chose to depict our favourite view of the River Lee. This one point by Mardyke Walk overlooks St. Vincent’s Bridge. Here are three seasons of views from that location. I worked from the summer one for my painting.

River Lee WinterSpring on the River Lee SpringRed Bridge Summer

Having the right composition from the start is how I like to work. The first step was to get the shapes and proportions down.

Painting in progress

I then brought in a bit more defining detail and colours. Like the buildings on Pope’s Quay and texture in the water and trees.

Progress photo on the painting

Then like layers of lasagne, I added more and more detail to bring the view to life. Depth of colours was important here because the water isn’t just blue. Highlighting parts, adding shadows, and bringing in real hues to accentuate the view make it really pop. The bridge shadows, trees, and water had these effects done. The buildings were given more detailed windows and doors.

Original painting by Evin O'Keeffe

Until it was nearly there, but the bridge and quay wall still needed a bit of work.

Original painting by Evin O'Keeffe

But soon enough, it was complete. I still need to adjust the bridge support reflection blends too much into the support itself. Otherwise, it is quite done. Here is the final painting:

Original painting of cork city and at Vincent's bridge in cork city. Copyright 2012 Evin O'Keeffe

After the success of this painting, I was hooked. So this past summer for our tenth anniversary, I depicted the location of my husband’s and my first date, Pike Place Market in Seattle. Which is where we are this weekend so it seemed like perfect timing to write this blog post.

So, for the Pike Place painting, I followed the same basic process, but this time I used pencil to detail the composition instead of sweeping sections of paint. Mostly because this one had a lighter sky. The inspiration for this was a selection of photos from over the years of Pike Place Market. No one photo ended up being the complete inspiration which resulted in the proportions not being completely accurate. It suits the piece though.

Original painting of Pike Place Market Copyright 2014 Evin O'Keeffe

I didn’t want the letters of the sign to be too perfect so I didn’t measure the spacing, I just freehanded.

Original painting of Pike Place Market Copyright 2014 Evin O'Keeffe

Sections of the sky were a barely there layer of pale blue. That helped me see the pencil marks to complete the trusses of the sign too.

Original painting of Pike Place Market Copyright 2014 Evin O'Keeffe

To complete this in secret, I worked from bedtime until 3am for five days straight. Sketching it out took one night. The sign took one night. The sky took one entire night. Then there were two shorter nights for the elements on the left side of the painting and the roof of the building (and background mountains and water). By this time, I was tired so the shorter nights were survival but also because the elements are close together it allowed them to dry before working near them. The final night was spent on little touches, like shading of the sign letters and the fish sign detail, plus the black coffee mug (I did the orange parts the night before).

Original painting of Pike Place Market Copyright 2014 Evin O'Keeffe

Original painting of Pike Place Market Copyright 2014 Evin O'Keeffe

The coffee mug was the most satisfying element to paint because it is bold and I left it for the end so I wouldn’t brush against it while it was drying.

Original painting of Pike Place Market copyright 2014 Evin O'Keeffe

Then it was done.

Original painting of Pike Place Market copyright 2014 Evin O'Keeffe

First, it hung in the dining area of the kitchen over a cabinet, but then we only saw it during meals so I moved it to the wall behind a sofa which was lovely but it was so lonely there so it has since ended up on the wall over my desk where it can be seen from nearly every seat in the living room. A very nice place for a sentimental and inspiring view. Happy anniversary of our first date, honey.

If you want to create your own landscape painting, you do not need experience except to know how to work with paint and clean up. Honestly, art is what you create. It may not be museum quality, but neither is mine and I studied painting in university. It is from the heart. Decide on your subject, sketch it out or just dive in. Or perhaps you just want something to go with a room colours? Make abstract shapes with those colours and have fun. Stick with three colours plus one accent colour for abstracts if you want to have it go with decor and not be too overpowering. Young House Love has done some nice original paintings that are good approachable projects.

What view do you want to paint?

Leave a Reply