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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

 

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La Jolla Oceanfront Photos

La Jolla Cove, Bird Rock, the Cave Shell Shop, and the Oceanfront walk are a great place to spend an early Saturday morning in San Diego County.  I went there yesterday with my camera and recorded some images.  Here are a my favorite selections from the photos I took.
La Jolla Bight Overlook
La Jolla Bight Overlook

The geographic configuration of the La Jolla Coast is such that you can’t really call it a peninsula but it does jut westward from the coast to the North, creating not quite a bay but what I would call a “bight”–the La Jolla Bight.

Above the Roost at La Jolla Cliffs.
Above the Roost at La Jolla Cliffs.

Various species of pelagic birds make their home and spend time away from ocean foraging on the rocks and cliffs of the La Jolla Peninsula. Recently, the city spent lots of public money trying to wash the guano off of the cliffs because it makes the area smell like the sea.  The cleanup operation left pools of a disgusting dark sludge instead of the bleached white guano…oops…anyone else have any bright ideas?  The rocks in the photo above have not been “cleaned” yet but are slated for “phase two” of “Operation Poop-be-gone.”

A Distinguished Pelican Rests after Breakfast
A Distinguished Pelican Rests after Breakfast

This fellow seemed displeased that I had the audacity to get close while he was trying to digest his morning repast. He did not fly away, however as I was using a telephoto lens and did not have to get too close.

A Balmy September Morning on Oceanfront Walk in La Jolla.
A Balmy September Morning on Oceanfront Walk in La Jolla.

It is a beautiful area, especially early before it gets too crowded.  Get there early (around 8:00am) to find ample parking, which can be hard to find later in the morning.

 

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More from Torrey Pines

It was a busy weekend but I did get out to the Torrey Pines Natural Reserve early Saturday Morning. I didn’t paint but hiked over most of the trails in the park and took some photos. The weather was very overcast and grey, so I opted to do the camera work, smell the flowers, sage and chaparral and reconnoiter for potential compositions that might work with the paint brush.

Here is a shot of the Isomeris arborea, or commonly named “Bladderpod” bush, with the characteristic pods. They say the pods are edible but spicy hot…I haven’t tried them:

Isomeris arborea

…and here is a photo of some unidentified (at least by me) shrub with pretty little flowers the color of pink coral…

Tiny Flowers

…eventually I made my way down to a view of the beach and “flat rock.” Bet you can’t guess why they call it “flat rock.” 🙂

Flat Rock, Torrey Pines

While hiking up and out of the beach area I saw some really lovely flowers and shrubs growing in the sand…

Beach Walkers at Torrey Pines

…and the exceptionally pretty flowers of the Sand Verbena that must be very hardy to grow where they do…

Sand Verbena

It was a good morning, despite the cold, overcast and drizzle.

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Plein air at Carlsbad Flower Fields

Do you like flowers?

Flowers-mr

I sure do and that’s why I was excited to paint at the Flower Fields in Carlsbad. They are fifty acres of ranunculus flowers that are grown for bouquets. Every spring they bloom in a riot of color and the fields are open to the public for a fee. There were lots of people there today as I painted and many of them stopped to chat, comment and ask questions about the painting.

Here is another look at the fields…

Flowers02-mr

and some of the workers that cultivate and harvest the flowers…

workers

I decided that I would attempt to represent a view from the higher elevations of the fields, which slope down hill to the nursery area and the City of Carlsbad, below. You can see the Pacific Ocean from up there so I thought it would be a nice overall impression of the fields. This next photo is close to what I wanted to put on the panel–I brought another 16 X 20. I like the size because of the freedom it brings but it also brings responsibility to fill the space, which takes more time (usually) than a smaller painting. Here’s the view…

scene

…and here’s me, in the act of applying colored oily stuff to a piece of wood. This photo was taken by a nice fellow named, Rob who promised to email them to me and he did. They were in my mailbox before I got home! Thanks Rob!

Ron_in_Carlsbad

…and finally, here is the painting as it stands (unfinished) when I decided to pack up and head home for a late lunch (pizza!). I think it has potential to be a very nice piece. I just have to work out the middle distance, which in real life had lots of jumbled retail structures. I’ll try to simplify it and still represent an impression of the scene. Let me know what you think!

FlowerFields_20

When I finish it, I’ll post it up here and share it with you all. As always, you can click on the gallery link at the top of my blog and see finished works that are ready to show and are for sale.

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Cabrillo Tide Pools

lonepelican01LR

Yesterday, I returned to Cabrillo National Monument Park, which is at the tip of the Point Loma peninsula in San Diego.  On the coastal side of the park, they have paths down to the tide pools, which are great place to set up an easel and paint. I entered the park at 9:01am, just a minute after the gate opened and drove down to the second parking lot.  As I hiked down to the water’s edge, I had to stop to snap a few photos of the birds–Pelicans!

pelicans01LR

There were lots of them.  I think they were flying back home after a feeding foray because this is where they were all roosting.  Pretty amazing, huh?  I think the dark birds on the left are cormorants and the lighter colored and larger birds on the right are Pelicans…or maybe the smaller birds are juvenile pelicans.  I’m not enough of a “birder” to know the answer on that one.  You can tell this is a favorite spot 🙂

birdsLR

It was windy and cold but after driving all that way to paint, I wasn’t going to quit.  Here is a shot of the easel and painting in progress at the waters edge.  You can see the birds in the background.

easelLR

You can see in the photos the water is really disturbed because of the high tide.  It was mostly just a lot of white foam from the crashing waves.  Because that would be too much white for my painting, I took artistic license and depicted a calmer ocean.  I’m putting the finishing touches on and will post the completed painting later.

All in all it was a great day for painting!

 

 

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Hawaii Whirlwind Tour

Recently, Jackie (my beautiful wife) and I went to Hawaii to carry out the last wishes of Jackie’s long time friend, Brian Levi. Brian was the recording engineer who recorded Jackie’s music and she kept in touch with him over the years, eventually becoming his attorney and the executor of his estate…you see, unfortunately, Brian passed away recently after a long battle with cancer (smoking). His last wish, codified in his will, which left the entirety of his estate to Saint Jude’s Children’s Hospital, was for Jackie and I to take his remains to Maui and have a burial at sea, which we did last week on Brian’s birthday, spending three days on the Island.

The burial at sea was beautiful, with a Hawaiian ti-leaf wrapped urn for Brian, flower leis, and rose petals. When Jackie dropped in the urn and the lei, a big puff of wind came and made a circular mark on the surface of the water around the lei and swirled the rose petals, which danced across the water in the whirlwind. A huge humpback whale fully breached from the water, tail and all when Jackie mentioned Brian’s love of flying model planes in the eulogy. She said, “You loved flying, and today is a good day to fly. Happy Birthday, Brian!” and the whale leaped out of the water, on cue!

Brian loved art and was a big fan of my artwork. I am sure he would be happy to know that I took my paints to Hawaii and did a couple of paintings while I was there. In fact, I felt his presence more than once as I painted. Thanks to him, I had the opportunity.

The Maui Plein Air Painters invitational competition was just wrapping up when we arrived. I got to see some of the paintings (the ones that hadn’t sold yet) at the Village Gallery in Lahaina. There were some top-notch painters there for that week. Maybe one day, I’ll be invited. We’ll see. Hawaii is amazingly beautiful with a clear light that really makes the colors vibrant and full of life. Here are some images and shots of the paintings I did while I was there.

The first night there, the moon was full. I got a shot of it above the palms and Cook Pines of Kapalua.

Mauimoonshine

My first painting was in the morning at D.T. Fleming Beach, in Kapalua, West Maui.

FlemingBeachPleinAir

You can see the finished painting, here  After painting, I took some photos of foliage on the way back to the hotel room.

HawaiiColors

And on the next morning, I found a place to park my pochade (small painting box for those who’ve never heard that term) and work until I got rained out. In Kapalua, in February, showers come and go with frequency. They never last too long and create some beautiful rainbows. In any case, I had to pack up the kit before I finished and had to complete this one back in San Diego. Here are some pics:

Cooksetup

And the (almost) finished painting…there have been a few more minor touches since this photo.

Kapalua_Pines_lr

I hope to go back some day, pay Brian a visit, and paint a few more things.

Aloha!