John Luke was meticulous in everything he did. While studying at the Slade School of Art under Professor Henry Tonks, he shared for a while a studio with the sculptor F.E. McWilliam. McWilliam was staggered that it used to take Luke a full hour every morning at his ablutions: 'It wasn't just his shaving, he would spend ages stropping his cut-throat razor until it was perfect, and afterwards a similar process. He was meticulous in everything, very tidy, my end of the room was a shambles by comparison'.
In the mid-1930s he started experimenting with paints and worked more in tempera, a time consuming method of producing powerful colours on an even background with oil-glazes to create a mural effect. He ceased painting in 1939 with the outbreak of war and only resumed in 1943 after he and his mother had moved out of heavily bombed East Belfast to a farmhouse in Co. Armagh.
Luke produced, over the next five years, his finest works finishing in 1948 with 'Madonna and Child' commissioned by a Co. Armagh Catholic priest and 'Landscape with Figures' which he sold to his great patron, J.C. Sheridan. In 1950 he painted one more easel painting 'The Rehearsal' commissioned by Belfast Museum and Art Gallery. This was the last tempera and oil glaze painting he produced because his health was suffering under the duress of lengthy commissions. His lifelong friend, John Hewitt, was to describe him later as 'a man obsessed and brought to a halt by the convolutions of his thought'.