More Painting Methods I’d Steal From Julie Heffernan

Oil Painting Methods You’ll Love from Julie Heffernan

Oil Painting Techniques and Art of Artist Julie Heffernan | Artist Daily
Self-Portrait Sitting on the World by Julie Heffernan,
2008, 78 x 56, oil on canvas.

I know I’ve talked about Julie Heffernan’s out-of-the-box conceptual acuity and dynamic oil painting methods in another post,  but I just cannot stop there. Here are a few more ways of working that I’ve gleaned from studying her oil paintings.

Still Life

A piece of fruit, a flower, decorative plates, climbing ropes — Heffernan has a unique use for them all. What I like especially about the still life elements in her work is how she turns non-still life elements like castles or manicured gardens into “still life” just as easily as Old-Master fare.


The more complex the pattern, the harder it is to detect. The patterns Heffernan uses — with color, form and rhythm — make for complex yet unified final products.


Natural elements aren’t just set design or background in Heffernan’s work. She uses reams of sod like the skirts of a ballroom gown. Plant tendrils, flowers and fruits morph into otherworldly landscape elements of their own.

Most of all, Heffernan doesn’t allow the expectations we all have about what “nature” is — what it looks like, how it grows, its colors — to dictate how she presents nature. This is a strong sign of how well-crafted her concepts are.

The Power Behind Practice

Oil Painting Techniques and Art of Artist Julie Heffernan | Artist Daily
Self Portrait as Boy in Flight by Julie Heffernan, 2010, oil on canvas, 52 x 68. The artist subverts the idea of still life by casting objects like castles and tents as her subjects.

After spending a lot of time looking at Heffernan’s work I was sort of struck by how her art would have been received if she’d been working four centuries ago in the heyday of the Mannerist period and into the Baroque. No doubt she would have given the whole scene a run for its money.

One of the most noteworthy aspects of Heffernan’s work is how it supports the idea that oil painting is not just about paint application. It is also about utilizing a set of painting practices refined for centuries by thousands of artists.

Accomplished artists all start by learning everything there is to know about these methods. To put myself on that road, I know I need to develop a strong foundation in technical practice and conceptual development. That’s where a subscription to art magazines and publications, such as The Artist’s Magazine, can be an asset.

Studying the artists and the methods featured in magazines like this one show how to turn painting into an art with technical and compositional approaches. Empowered, expressive artists like Heffernan are what we all strive to be — and these resources of instruction can be your art school-in-one.

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Oil Painting Blog
Courtney Jordan

About Courtney Jordan

  Courtney is the editor of Artist Daily. For her, art is one of life’s essentials and a career mainstay. She’s pursued academic studies of the Old Masters of Spain and Italy as well as museum curatorial experience, writing and reporting on arts and culture as a magazine staffer, and acquiring and editing architecture and cultural history books. She hopes to recommit herself to more studio time, too, working in mixed media.   

6 thoughts on “More Painting Methods I’d Steal From Julie Heffernan

  1. Not only is she a wonderful artist, but a wonderful teacher as well. I wish you would do a feature article in your magazine on Julie. More people should be aware of just how great she is.

  2. Does Mrs. Heffernan have and email address. I sure would like to talk to her. I am trying to paint in the old master style and it is coming out good, but I am having trouble with lighting and color.

  3. Had the great privilege of seeing Julie’s work up close and personal about 10 years ago at Robert Kidd Gallery in Birmingham MI. As interesting as the images of her paintings are here seeing the them live is breathtaking, astounding and magical!

  4. I am so glad you guys love Julie’s work as much as I do. And believe me, I’m pushing for the article…written by yours truly.

    Any other artists of the same ilk that come to mind and deserve attention?

  5. Thanks for sharing this artist. I’ve never seen her work before and definitely want to learn more. When I saw Julie’s work, I was immediately reminded of Jacek Yerka, Polish surrealist painter. Very intricate stuff, possibly a bit darker in mood (I’d have to do more comparisons), somewhat less detailed overall, but also fascinating. IMO, if you like Heffernan’s work, you should check out Yerka, too.