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Old Mission (Padre) Dam Painting Demonstration

Old Padre Dam

a photo essay

I and two other artists will be doing live demonstrations of plein air painting techniques–free to the public.  The demos will take place at the annual San Diego River Foundation “River Days,” celebration this Saturday, May 14th in the Mission Gorge Regional Park at Old Padre Dam. The demos happen 8:00am to 11:00am. Here are some “clickable” photos I took on a showery May morning to urge you to come out and see the beautiful setting of the park and learn a bit about how to create scenic art in the open air.

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“Mele Kalikimaka” Hawaiian #Pleinair Painting Trip

Mele Kalikimaka 2014

Mele Kalikimaka is the thing to say
On a bright Hawaiian Christmas Day
That’s the island greeting that we send to you
From the land where palm trees sway…

I guess after all I was not so naughty this year that I wasn’t able to make a Christmastime excursion with my beautiful wife, Jackie, to the Hawaiian Island of Maui.

This wasn’t a “painting only” trip, so I only made time for two 11 x 14 in. panels but they were both lots of fun to paint.  Even though the Trade Winds were fierce during one of the painting sessions, I managed to finish with no mishaps.

Though probably not the wisest thing to do, I diverged from my usual painting methods on this air travel trip and was winging it (no pun intended) with a color palette and paints I had never used before. To lighten the load and simplify things for flying, I chose to go with a five color palette and used water mixable oil paints for the first time.

It was really surprising how well it all worked out!

The colors I brought along were:

Cobra© Water mixable oils

  • Primary Cyan
  • Primary Magenta
  • Primary Yellow

Sennelier©

  • Mars Black  (a warm and fast drying black without the bluish cast of Ivory Black)

Rembrandt©

  • Payne’s Grey (I find it indispensable)

Gamblin©

  • Flake White Replacement (non-toxic and creamy consistency)

Each morning of painting, I pre-mixed a very vibrant chromatic palette from the three water mixable “primaries” which produced some very convincing greens, oranges, and fuchsias, as well as deeper purples.  I was careful not to “overmix” the paint piles, leaving striations of broken color in the mixes.  A sealable “Guerilla Painter” 9 x 12 in. palette tray kept the paint fresh and protected inside my pochade while exploring for a suitable view to paint.

This color palette worked very well and much to my relief, there was no problem mixing the “oil” paints with the water miscible paints.  The Cobra paints especially were surprisingly “creamy” in consistency and were very easy to mix and move about on the panel. While painting, when I felt I needed a little more “flow,” I used a mixture of my standard recipe medium, transported in an eye dropper bottle that consisted of equal parts stand oil, turpentine, and dammar varnish.  I brought no solvents because they must not be flown over (TSA will confiscate)  and it is an extra trip to the hardware store to get some when you arrive and then there’s nowhere to conscientiously dispose of it when you leave.

Another interesting thing about creating these two paintings is that I used one single brush the entire time!  I brought my brush wallet but became so engrossed in the painting process and not wanting to waste any time in capturing the light that I worked only with a single, quarter-inch “bright” hog bristle brush. I held a paper towel sheet in my left hand and wiped the brush clean between different colored passages.  I was able to make a surprising variety of marks with the stiff but springy little bristle bright. The only other implements I used to apply or mark the paint were my finger and in some few instances I removed paint with a cotton swab, which are essentials that I always pack when I paint en plein air.

All said and done, I had a great time in Hawaii and having the opportunity to paint made the trip just that much more special.

I’d like to say to any reader who chanced here and happened to read this far…

Here we know that Christmas
Will be green and bright
The sun to shine by day
And all the stars at night
Mele Kalikimaka is Hawaii’s way
To say Merry Christmas to you!

 

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#Pleinair at Santa Fe Trolley Depot in San Diego

I painted en plein air recently in a place that has always intrigued me with it’s dramatic architecture, interesting shadows and reflections and of course the famous red trolleys–that is, at the San Diego Metropolitan Transit system’s Santa Fe Depot at One America Plaza in downtown San Diego.  Here’s a pic of the architecture which previously won an “Orchid Award” in the annual San Diego Architectural Foundation review of San Diego developments and construction projects which either effuse the elegance of an orchid…or the stink of an onion.

The arch of the Trolley weather port at Santa Fe Depot.
The arch of the Trolley weather port at Santa Fe Depot.

I arrived early…before 8:00am and set up my easel in the traffic island at the center of the intersection at Broadway and Kettner.  It was a great place from which to paint and provided the perfect vantage of the trolleys coming and going. Painting the trolley itself was done in fits and spurts as one trolley would leave but another would arrive in minutes and for the most part, with a few exceptions, was identical.  Here’s a pic of my easel, with two trolleys in the station in the background…

Easel and painting of Ronald Lee Oliver
Easel and painting of Ronald Lee Oliver

It was interesting to paint with the traffic rolling by and when the traffic would stop, folks would gawk out the car windows, inquisitively at the patently unusual sight of a crazed plein air painter in the middle of traffic, wearing a big, Guatemalan palm leaf, cowboy hat, pacing to and fro, wielding a long, paint laden brush like a picador, stabbing at a canvas as if it were a snorting bull trying to gore him. Many pedestrians walking by gave the big, “thumbs up” and commented that I was making a beautiful painting, which is always encouraging.  Here’s the result of the morning’s effort–a 16 x 16 inch oil on stretched canvas, titled “Rolling Through.”  Whether it is an “orchid” or an “onion” or the bull won is in the proverbial eye of the beholder…

Santa Fe Trolley Depot as painted by California artist, Ronald Lee Oliver
Santa Fe Trolley Depot as painted by California artist, Ronald Lee Oliver
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La Jolla Coast Walk ~Photo Essay ~ Easter Sunday 2014

Anna's Hummingbird ~ Coast Walk, La Jolla
Anna’s Hummingbird ~ Coast Walk, La Jolla

Happy Easter, All!

I took the camera and telephoto lens out today and made a visual diary of my stroll along “La Jolla Coast Walk,” which is a short but scenic trail along the top of the cliffs above the La Jolla Caves.  It was overcast, which is typical of La Jolla, early in the morning.  The sun doesn’t come out there until about 11:00 am, or later, if at all.  I was able to get some interesting shots, even in the diffuse light. They’re there if you have the patience to look for them.

Enjoy.

Hint: Click on the first image, upper left, then use the navigation arrow in the viewer box to click through the slide show.
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Plein air and a Bubble Level?

Afternoon at North Torrey Pines Beach
Afternoon at North Torrey Pines Beach

Painting on the beach is always nice–even if it is in the dead of Winter, which in Southern California, is not so bad, after all.  It was about sixty degrees fahrenheit with a breezy wind of about 15 knots.  I was glad I had a nice, windproof jacket on while I painted but I never felt cold.  Here is a view of my easel at the end of the painting session:

French easel of Ronald Lee Oliver on the beach.
French easel of Ronald Lee Oliver on the beach.

It can’t be seen in the photo but below the roll of paper towels is my trash bag, which must have had a hole in it because I chased errant wasted paper towels down the beach at least five or six times, maybe more.  Memo to self…make sure you use a bag with no holes next time.

A handy bubble level
A handy bubble level

This easel set was achieved with the use of my trusty bubble level, which I always keep handy, inside the toolkit area of my French Easel.  I place it on the top edge of the canvas, when I secure the easel and tighten all the adjusting screws and knobs.  This assures that even though the easel may be a-kilter, the canvas itself is perfectly level.  When done with the level it goes right back in storage. This may not seem like a big deal but I think it really helps to get the proper perspective on canvas and to ensure a level horizon line.  I believe a tilted canvas can lead to a wonky painting.

This painting is an 11 X 14″ oil on stretched canvas and is for sale.  It received praises of high approval by beachgoers and the other artists on the beach. If you like it, feel free to contact me and we’ll make it yours.  Here is a nicer look at it–but alas–it looks so much nicer in person 😉
Contact Ron: rlo@ronaldleeoliver.com

North Torrey Pines Beach
North Torrey Pines Beach