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Oliver #Pleinair Paintings Showing at Solana Beach Library

Four of my San Diego plein air paintings are showing at the Solana Beach Library in Encinitas.  The art will be on site June 11th through August 3rd, 2016. There is a reception open to all on Saturday, July 16th at 2:00 to 4:00pm.

All four paintings are plein air works, in 16×20 inch landscape format.  Each is identically framed in solid wood with dark, espresso color, red distressed undertones and a gold liner.  They look very elegant in these frames!  Click on an image in the slideshow below to learn more about that painting and to see larger images.

Santa Inez at San Elijo, San Diego plein air painting by artist Ronald Lee Oliver. San Elijo Morning, San Diego plein air painting by artist Ronald Lee Oliver. Batiquitos Clearing, San Diego plein air painting by artist Ronald Lee Oliver. Pala Valley below Palomar, San Diego plein air painting by artist Ronald Lee Oliver.

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San Diego Plein air at San Elijo Lagoon

San Elijo Morning ~ San Diego plein air painting with studio finish by Ronald Lee Oliver

San Diego has some great places for a plein air painter to set up their easel and create fantastic landscape art.  One of my personal favorite places to paint en plein air (a French term that is universally used to describe the process of painting at an easel in the open air to capture a sense of light and place) is at the San Elijo Lagoon Interpretive Center.  There is a very well maintained trail and boardwalk that puts the painter in a beautiful setting with a minimal amount of hiking effort.

Here’s a video I took, early on the spectacular April morning of this plein air outing.  You can see my easel, parked and ready to go–the 20×16 inch canvas, primed with a purple-grey undertone.

It really is such a wonderful place to paint, the problem is in selecting a composition from the many choices presented.  An interesting sinuous pattern created by the meandering estuary caught my eye and I decided to park my easel to find a composition that included it.

Ronald Lee Oliver plein air easel

I focused on a particular part of the view that I thought would make for a pleasing result…

Selecting a Composition

Of course, I did’t paint exactly what is in the framing box above, because while it is a pretty view, it is a photograph and not a painting. As an artist painter, I have license to arrange and to subdue or emphasize elements to fit my impressionistic depiction as I choose to frame it on the canvas.  It is this personal expression of omission or embellishment that makes painting an impressionist art, and not a craft.  Another artist, standing next to me, would bring their own interpretation to the very same view and create an image entirely their own.  Successfully finding this balance between representation and impression is the great joy and challenge of painting in the open air.

Here is how the painting looked when I decided to stop, take it home, ponder it for a few days and finish in studio.

San Elijo Morning ~work in progress

…and here is the painting after several days of rumination and the finish in the studio.

San Elijo Morning ~ 20×16 in. oil on canvas by Ronald Lee Oliver

San Elijo Morning 20x16 in. plein air by Ronald Lee Oliver
San Elijo Morning ~ 20×16 in. plein air by Ronald Lee Oliver

 

 

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Padre Dam Plein Air Outing

Padre Dam is the first Dam built in California by Catholic Missionaries.
Padre Dam is the first Dam built in California by Catholic Missionaries.

San Diego has a past that is inextricably linked with the Spanish colonization and works of the Catholic Missionaries that established the first outposts of Western Civilization on the American continent.  In Santee, California, about five miles from Lakeside, CA where I live,  is the site of the first water collection system created by the Spanish Missionaries.  Known as “Padre Dam,” it is now a ruin that is part of the Mission Trails Regional Park system. This dam provided water for agriculture which supported the established Mission de Alcala, about three miles to the West, where the missionaries and the indigenous people interfaced.

The dam, with its water and pools makes a picturesque subject and provides some green relief in this long period of drought we’ve had in Southern California.  Even in the hottest part of this dry year, there is still a trickle of water that flows here in the San Diego River–a river that originates in the Laguna Mountains that rise to just over 6000 feet, some 25 miles to the East.

This plein air painting was finished early in the morning while the air was still cool and the shadows were long.  The temperatures rose above 100 degrees fahrenheit later in the day and it was good to finish this 11 x 14 inch panel before it became truly miserable.

I painted quickly to capture the colors and light of the moment, as well as a sense of place.

I’m quite happy with the result.

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San Diego River Plein Air Painting

When life gives you lemons…paint a gray painting.

Gray, gloomy days are a real challenge for the plein air painter.  Capturing the light is what plein air painting is all about and when that light is not cheerful, colorful or dramatic, it can be difficult to find inspiration. This plein air painting was painted at the mouth of the San Diego River, early on an overcast, gray May morning.  Luckily, there were some dramatic moments where transient shafts of light momentarily peeked through the thick, cloud layer, illuminating the vegetation and meandering course of the river. These hints of color and bright reflections provided the impetus to capture that tonal difference and bring this image to life.  I knew this day would be gray, so I decided in advance to “embrace the gray” and make the best of a challenging situation.  It helped that I had previously toned my panel with a neutral gray that would support the composition.  That’s the nature of plein air–one  has to adapt and make the best of the view and the weather in a given place. Here’s the result of my effort that morning…

San Diego River Plein Air Painting

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Sometimes You Just Have to Toot Your Own Horn

I was surprised and pleased when an agent from Dick Blick informed me they wanted to feature an image of my painting, “The Watering Hole” in their Winter 2015 print and multimedia flyer.

Of course I agreed and also put in a plug for their “Masterstroke” brushes, which really are good quality sable brushes for the price.  I think it’s a fair deal–I get the benefit of some free (relatively) publicity and they get to feature a wonderful work of art to promote the sales of their brushes.

Above is an image of the ad as it ran in the flyer, along with the “Plug” from yours, truly. 🙂

If you’d like to see a time lapse video of me painting “The Watering Hole,” you can click on the play button below, which will play the video directly from my YouTube channel.

 

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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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What is a Plein air QuickDraw ?

Serendipity ~ 16 x 16" oil on canvas
Serendipity ~ 16 x 16″ oil on canvas

A plein air QuickDraw is an outdoor event where a group of painters, usually invited to the event by a jury selection process, all compete to produce the best painting (as opined by the event judge) in a limited amount of time…typically about two to three hours.

The above painting, Serendipity, was completed in two-and-a-half hours at the April 12, 2014 San Diego Botanic Gardens QuickDraw, which had 16 painters participating. Not all of the time was spent painting…much of it was spent talking with interested onlookers and patrons of the botanic gardens.  There were three ribbons awarded, which included some cash prizes.  No ribbon for Serendipity–but hey–what does a judge know about what is the best, eh? 😉

The important thing is to get a good result and judging by response from patrons and other artists at the event, this one was well received.  I am honored that Serendipity was selected by jury for exhibition in the June 2014 Regional Artists Show at the Museum of the Living Artist at the San Diego Art Institute in the Prado at Balboa Park.

~Buy this Painting~

I also took some photos of the Botanic Gardens and put them in a gallery.  You can have a look at them by clicking on the images, here:

Plein air QuickDraw at San Diego Botanic Gardens