As I was walking around Key West, I spotted the lighthouse through a pretty porch railing. The warm afternoon sunlight was perfect for a painting. Below are the steps I often take when I have found an appealing scene to paint.

The value sketch shown here from my instagram page is an important step. With 3 grey markers I will work out the lights and darks of the composition.


I painted the scene as I saw it. There were pretty flowering trees and a porch that seemed to frame the Key West Lighthouse.

Finding Subjects to Paint

Be on the lookout for striking objects and vistas wherever you happen to be. On this day, I was walking to the Ernest Hemingway House to do some sketching and came across several scenes where I did a quick drawing in an art journal. Take notes of what the scene looked like: colors, shadows, the light, even the sounds.

Key West Light, oil painting underway, 8x10 on panel by PJ Cook.

Work in progress on a 8″ x 10″ oil on panel of the Key West Lighthouse.


Above is the oil painting that I will still add a few highlights from the bright afternoon sun. This is a small 8 x 10 done on a raised panel. I like to do smaller paintings sometimes before I decide on a larger piece.

From the quick drawing to the value sketch and then the small oil, I can work out the details for a better, more successful painting.

I will post this Key West Light on my home page when it is finished. What are some of the steps you take that help you create a better painting?Key West Light, finished oil painting and value sketch for this 8x10 oil on panel by PJ Cook.