My goal as an artist is to strive toward continual growth in my craft and the ability to express my appreciation for the beautiful places I’ve been so privileged to experience and enjoy. This artistic journey will end at my last breath, yet beyond this I hope my paintings will share some essence of the joy in spirit and gratitude I’ve been blessed with by our creator for this brief lifetime.
Read on, in the chronology of this journey below, or have a look at my online portfolio by using the menu at the top of each page.
You’ve seen my posts and added pages for my handmade jewelry items, but I’ve finally stepped up to creating some pieces in solid 18k gold with fine stones. Working gold is similar to working with silver, but it takes some capital outlay and there is waste when sawing and filing (I try my best to catch it all for later smelting). Here are pics of these first two rings with the solid 18k bling. One is a spectacular, pick-of-the-litter, Ethiopian Welo Opal, the other is a gem quality Chrysoprase cabochon. They will soon be available in the *store page* for my handmade jewelry creations. Hope you like them…
I recently learned (with lots of help from YouTube) to sew.
That’s right–I bought an old Singer sewing machine and have began sewing some small items. But first, I had to take the sewing machine apart and replace all 5 of the gears and reset the timing. All of this effort has led me to explore the art of textile and fabric design.
I’ve got a Design Shop at Spoonflower, where you can see my first ventures in this field.
None of the designs are available for purchase yet, but that will come soon enough.
Here’s an example of one of my designs along with a link to the Spoonflower shop…
There’s so much hacking, fraud, and data theft happening out there in the wild that I finally added ssl certificate protection to my website. Now, anyone who may have scruples about making a purchase over the internet can rest assured that all data on this site and the store shopping areas is encrypted, secure, and protected. And, once you’ve taken the leap and proceeded to checkout, you are taken to PayPal to finish up, adding an extra layer of security and guarantee.
It was expensive…but you’re worth it 🙂
Click on the little green seal (if in desktop browsing mode) at the top of the page to see!
…so, what are you waiting for? The holidays are approaching fast and the gift of jewelry or art can be a wonderful surprise for your loved ones.
While my easel has a freshly primed linen canvas on it right now, I’ve also been working on another separate area of creativity for the last two years or so…
Jewelry making has always been on my bucket list of skills to explore and above you can see a few of my ring creations. I like to use sterling, fine silver and 18kt gold, along with various stones and cabochons. Each piece is entirely designed and hand crafted at my work bench from scratch, from crucible to jewelers bench. Here is a short video showing the elegant, long oval, Sleeping Beauty turquoise ring in the photo on the right, above.
And here are examples of my work in thumbnail format…
A sample of various designs by RLO
If you have interest in creating a special, custom gift for you or a loved one, let me know. I have some exceptional opals (and other stones) right now that are just screaming to be made into incredible, one-of-a-kind rings. You can email me at email@example.com
For now…just go to the menu bar at the top of this page and click on “Store,” to see the links to my paintings and my jewelry creations.
The Winter rains have brought the Ramona Grasslands back to life.
The last time I visited the Preserve, the scene was dire–the parched grass and oaks were severely stressed. Many of the trees were beyond recovery, as evidenced by the piles of firewood left by the Forestry Service. But… the recent rainy Winter has turned the situation around. Currently, this Spring, there are live streams of flowing water crossing the grasslands.
I recommend you visit the grasslands soon, before the arid months dry up the profundity. I took my camera along today on my plein air painting outing and captured some images. Here they are in a short video for your enjoyment…
The finishing flourish for any oil painting is the artist’s signature.
I use two signatures to finish my pieces.
I sign my paintings with my last name, “Oliver,” or with my initials, “RLO.” I use the latter when it fits better than the larger, “Oliver” signature.
The signatures above are a montage from various studio and plein air works. The simple lines of my signature indicate and compliment the style of painting conveyed in the works. The brush strokes remain as applied, informing the viewer by impression, rather than tightly rendered or controlled imagery.
San Diego has some great places for the plein air painter to park their easel and capture the beauty of nature with brush and paint.
One of the best places in the county is the nature reserve at San Elijo Lagoon, between Solana Beach and Encinitas. The lagoon and tidal estuaries meander East to West from the inlet at the coast. The tidal flow extends inland for almost two miles, flowing under the I5 Freeway before eventually ebbing to a stop in Rancho Santa Fe. I painted at a place along the Rios Avenue Trail, which is on the Southwest side of the Lagoon, on a peaceful, foggy, October morning. I can recommend the many locations at the lagoon as a places one could return to again and again and find something new to paint, each time.
Here are some photos and video I took to share with you. You’ll also see my completed painting at the bottom of this post.
A panoramic view of the Rios Trailhead, looking East at San Elijo Lagoon.
Birds and jumping fish break the stillness now and again…
Lifting fog on a mild October morning.
Here’s a short video that gives a 360 view.
Here is the painting after about an hour and a half of painting, when I decided to take it home. I made a few small touches and corrections back in the studio.
16×20 Rios Trail at San Elijo
…and here is the finished piece, “Rios Trail at San Elijo”
Rios Trail at San Elijo Lagoon, 16×20 oil on panel
Sometimes, posting a small digital image of a #pleinair oil painting won’t convey the sense of texture and detail. So, to help you get an idea, here are some detail images from my recent San Diego Plein air paintings…
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.
Plein air painters have many different surfaces to choose from on which to create their art.
There is duck canvas, linen, canvas panels, linen panels, birch board and many other choices for the outdoor artist. I’ve tried many of these and have come to my own conclusion and method that works best for my process. That’s why I like to use gessoed and oil primed hardboard panels for painting plein air. Some of the benefits of using panels instead of canvas is, they’re portable–you can carry many in a panel holder when travelling–they won’t tear or dent, and they never have the issue of sunlight coming through the back like you can get when you use canvas outdoors.
I made a video that shows how I prepare inexpensive hardboard panels with gesso and oil primer. They make a great surface to paint on. You might want to try using the methods I’m goint to share to see if you like painting on them as much as I do. Here’s the video if you’re interested:
The working artist has to wear many hats, one of which is the “Framers Hat.” The following framing tips show how I treat my paintings to ensure they look professionally done and will serve my clients and galleries well.
If you plan to sell paintings yourself through an online presence without the intermediary of a gallery or other representation, to keep costs down you should know some things about framing. If you do work with galleries, they will appreciate that your works arrive ready to hang with a professional look, both front and back.
Some tools that will come in handy are:
A Tape Measure.
Cordless Drill Driver
A typical 16×20 panel in a quality, wooden frame.
I use stainless steel hardware that will never rust. You don’t want your reputation tarnished by rusty parts a few years down the road. Usually I paint en plein air on hardboard panels as seen in the photo. Panels are portable, easy to mount and will not tear like a canvas could. It’s also easy to sign, date and add any other info to the back of the painting with a permanent “Sharpie” type marker.
Here’s a closer look at the information I put on my panels…
I like to add:
The Date and Place I Painted the Painting.
A Copyright Symbol and Year.
What I Used to Conserve the Painting.
In this case I used Dammar Varnish, so I’ve written that down in the lower right on the back of the panel. This will help future owners and conservators when it comes time to clean and re-seal the painting. They will know what solvents and cleaners are necessary to do their work and will appreciate that I’ve helped them out with this message.
You can see the screws I use are stainless steel, self tapping #6×3/8″. I prefer using these short screws because some frames have very thin face material and longer screws can actually penetrate through the front and ruin a costly frame. That’s not good! The 3/8 length is strong enough to hold most any painting up to about 18×24 inches. Beyond that, you may want to ensure your frames are more substantial and can take the longer screws without any issues. I don’t think the 3/8″ screws are adequate to hold larger, heavier frames. You can also see the “offset clip” I’ve used to hold the panel tightly in the frame opening. These clips come in different offset depths and it’s good to have an assortment because frames have differing rabbet depths and sometimes you may use a thicker panel or canvas so it’s good to be prepared.
I like the single-eye, D-Ring style, stainless steel hangers. These too are strong enough to hold small to medium-sized paintings but if you frame larger works, it would be good to get the heavy-duty hangers with two screw holes, so you can be assured they will hold the extra weight.
You can see the tips of the self-tapping screws in this photo. No need to pre-drill pilot holes when using these–saves lots of time. Just put the screw on the magnetic tip of your drill driver and place it where you want, then pull the trigger…in it goes!
I think it’s best to use vinyl-coated framers wire for the hanging wire. It protects your fingers (and your clients) as well as makes the installation easier. If you’ve ever had your finger pricked or had a strand of framing wire go under your fingernail, you’ll know why I recommend this 🙂
I use a slip-knot loop to attach the wire to the D-Rings at both ends. Leave about 4 or 5 inches of extra wire at each end in addition to the length needed to span the width from the D-Rings at each side.
Tighten up the slip-knot, then wrap the extra wire around the main length about a 10 or 12 times…
then cinch it down tight and cut off the excess, leaving a nice presentation with no fly-away ends. The D-Rings should be placed as near to the edge of the frame as possible without showing. This ensures that the painting hangs close to the wall.
I also like to add a business card with my web URL on it glued to the back. I use simple white glue for this because it will hold up well and dries clear.
The finished wire should be good and taught without much slack. Here you can see that with the D-Rings about 6 inches from the top of the frame, the wire flexes up when hanging by less than two inches, leaving about 4 inches of room for the hanger to be hidden from the top of the painting. This also makes sure that the top of the frame does not drift away from the wall.
That’s it! It’s not too difficult to Do It Yourself and make sure your art will hang correctly and with a professional appearance. Your clients and galleries will appreciate your art all the much more when it’s framed and ready to hang with professional, quality materials and techniques.
The act of plein air painting is an acquired taste.
Many artists see plein air painters at their easels in the open air, capturing the light and essence of a beautiful, natural scene before them and think, “I will do that some day!”
Little do they know that painting in the open air has its own specific challenges that make it much different from attacking a canvas in the relative comfort and the steady, even lighting of their studio. Still, plein air painting can be very rewarding for the creative soul and is well worth the effort to develop some proficiency in it as an art. Following are five “tips” for the beginning plein air painting admirer that just may help them become a plein air aficionado.
1.) Start small.
It is far easier to manage a small canvas and a small kit when a beginner, rather than diving in to tackle large canvasses or elaborate outdoor easels. When beginning, you are testing the waters and it makes sense to keep it simple to find if plein air is the right avenue for you. Expensive kits and brushes are not necessary to start. An inexpensive half box french easel and 6×8 in. canvas panels or hard boards and a cheap set of hog bristle, long-handled brushes are a good beginning.
2.) Use artist grade paints.
Student grade paints will cause more frustration than learning as a beginner. They have difficult consistency and do not mix or thin well as artist grade paints do. There are some very good quality artist grade oil paints, such as Gamblin and Rembrandt that are reasonably priced.
3.) Use a limited palette.
A split-primary palette is a good palette for the plein air painter (even for the seasoned veteran). A split primary consists of a both a warm and cool, single pigment choice for the three primary colors–Red, Yellow and Blue. Add a black, yellow ochre, and transparent red oxide and you have a very good start with only 9 colors and of course titanium white. Later on, you may wish to expand your palette with some specialty or convenience colors. Learn what the symbols and numbers mean on the paint tubes. There is much to learn about pigment properties such as transparency, light fastness, and mixing qualities.
4.) Composition is half the battle.
A poorly composed painting, no matter how adroitly painted, will read as a failure. Read up or web search for terms such as “rule of thirds,” “the golden section,” “avoiding tangents,” “focal points,” “lost and hard edges” among others. It’s always good to have a “center of interest” in your composition but that certainly doesn’t mean it should be plopped dead center in your canvas, which is generally the wrong thing to do. Avoid placing elements along the side of the frame or bisected by the outer perimeter of your composition. And finally, remember…rules are meant to be broken but break them consciously and for good reason, rather than by accident.
5.) Consider water mixable.
As a beginner, you have the opportunity to forego the hazards and hassles of working with oils and solvents with your paints. There are some excellent water mixable oil paints that will allow you to make professional quality paintings that cannot be distinguished from those made with the traditional oil and solvent media. Cobra and Holbein are two brands with good reviews for water mixable. They also offer water mixable mediums and impasto gels. As a beginner it may make sense to commit to learning and working from the beginning, with the water mixable products, rather than delve into the world of mineral spirits and turpentine.
These are just a few sound pieces of advice for the beginner who is enchanted by the sight of a painter standing at an easel in the open air of a natural scene. That’s where it begins…with the will to do, to be, to create outdoors at an easel–making the first steps to acquire your “kit,” then actually taking it to an inspiring place and taking the leap. There is a great deal to learn, but it is “so worth” every minute you will spend painting “en plein air!”
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.
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.
I focused on a particular part of the view that I thought would make for a pleasing result…
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.
…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 ~ 20×16 in. plein air by Ronald Lee Oliver
It was a beautiful, early Fall morning for plein air painting in San Diego at the coast. The area known as Sunset Cliffs Natural Park has many places for recreation, among which is plein air painting. There is no limit to the choice of subjects found there. If you come to San Diego to paint, I definitely recommend this as a good place.
Here’s a pic of my painting kit on site. That’s a 16×20 on the easel. I like that size for plein air because it allows lots of freedom for brush movement, though it is a large space to fill in one session.
The “block in” stage after about a half hour of painting…
…and here’s a short video I made after I finished…you can see the light has changed as compared to my composition on the canvas.