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Pua Aloalo (Yellow Hibiscus)

The yellow hibiscus is the State Flower of Hawaii.  Some of the specimens that can be seen there are Amazing!  I like to say, in a voice reminiscent of the young Forrest’s Doctor in the movie, Forrest Gump,

“They’re large as dinner plates!”

This painting captures the bold, lush petals of a giant “Pua Aloalo” against a backdrop of Blue Hawaii.

Pua Aloalo (Yellow Hibiscus) 12" x 12" oil on 1.5" cradled panel
Pua Aloalo (Yellow Hibiscus) 12″ x 12″ oil on 1.5″ cradled panel


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Kahakai Lani (Heavenly Beach)

Just about any beach in Hawaii is beautiful but some are absolutely heavenly. On the South West side of Maui, there are some little sandy coves between the fingers of lava that provide views of the islands across the channel.

Kahakai Lani (Heavenly Beach) 24″ x 24″ oil on gallery wrapped canvas.

Kahakai Lani (Heavenly Beach) 24" x 24" oil on canvas
Kahakai Lani (Heavenly Beach) 24″ x 24″ oil on canvas
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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


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Plein Air at Rosecrans National Cemetery


Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery 18 x 18" oil on canvas
Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery 18 x 18″ oil on canvas

I got out early with my plein air kit and drove…no particular destination in mind but felt the water pulling me to the West. It had been a few weeks since I’ve painted the environs of our Southern California coast and it is always a source of excellent subjects for rendering with a brush and paint.

I found myself heading up the Point Loma Peninsula via Rosecrans Boulevard. Once inside the Navy Base and Federal Reserve lands up there I was amazed, as always, at the sense of height and distance from that perspective. Downtown San Diego and Coronado are seeming miniature villages, miles away and below as you drive through the hallowed grounds of the National Cemetery. It is a somber, yet peaceful and beautiful place. I recommend that any visitor make the drive, but definitely stop and get out of your vehicle. It is worth the effort to take some time to feel the fresh sea breezes, hear the peaceful quiet and take a few moments to reflect on the fallen soldiers and military who rest in peace there.

I did…and this painting is my tribute to them.

“To the Fallen”
18 x 18 oil on canvas
Available here

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The Progress of an Oil Painting ~ “Chanticleer” by Ronald Lee Oliver

"Chanticleer" 16 x 16" Oil on Canvas by Ronald Lee Oliver
“Chanticleer” 18 x 18″ Oil on Canvas by Ronald Lee Oliver (SOLD!)

I’ve recently finished a painting of a proud rooster named “Chanticleer,” who presides over his flock of hens, seen looking on with interest from their nesting boxes. The new day’s dawn is suggested through the window to the outside of the barn.

Having kept backyard chickens for 15 years or so, the subject comes naturally and I was inspired to make a painting that showed not only the proud character of a rooster but also the morning light that invokes the racket he makes to let his hens know the new day has dawned.  This painting evolved from the simple concept of a colorful rooster, well-lit, to capturing a lifelike barnyard moment, very quickly.

Here are some shots of the evolution of the painting’s progress. Roll over the images for captions.

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Hawaiian Dawn ~ A Recent Studio Painting by Ronald Lee Oliver

Hawaiian Dawn oil on canvas 24 x24" by RLOArtist
Hawaiian Dawn oil on canvas 24 x 24″ by Ronald Lee Oliver

I’ll admit…Hawaii is one of the most inspiring places for me, as an artist. These islands in the remote waters of the North Pacific Ocean are blessed with such abundant natural beauty, it is almost impossible not to find something worthy of painting in every scene gazed upon.  I am especially enthralled with the sunrises and sunsets.  The play of long, refracted twilight upon the clouds, water, shore and not-so-distant neighbor islands is absolutely breathtaking.  I’ve tried to instill some of this natural magic in one of my latest studio paintings, titled Hawaiian Dawn ~ 24 x 24″ oil on deep gallery wrap canvas.

To see this painting in a larger format, click on the image above and arrive at my online studio gallery, where you can click again to make larger. The original painting is also available for purchase at that venue.

Affordable prints of this painting are available on metal, acrylic, fine art paper and canvas here.



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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:

North Torrey Pines Beach
North Torrey Pines Beach


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Meyer Lemons Plein air

Meyer Lemons Plein air painting by RLOArtist
Meyer Lemons Plein air painting by RLOArtist

While most of the rest of the country was in the grip of a deep blast of Arctic sub-zero temperatures, my backyard here in Wintergardens, Lakeside–a borough of San Diego County, in California, USA, was sunny, bright and a balmy 70 degrees Fahrenheit. To protect myself from the Winter sun, I put on my wide-brimmed cowboy hat, walked out the back door with my easel and paint supplies in tow, intending to paint a nice composition, featuring the Meyer lemons that are now fully ripe on the little tree along the Western fence between ours’ and the neighbor’s lot. I already had the antique, gilded gesso frame, which is very ornate and figured a botanical theme would not stylistically clash with it.  I’m happy with the result.  I hope you like it.


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Holiday in Hawaii and Recent Plein Air Paintings

In mid-December, my wife, Jackie and I were fortunate enough to visit the island of Maui, Hawaii, once again. We stayed in an intimate little oceanfront condominium in the Kahana area of West Maui. The balcony or “Lanai” of the second story unit was literally within spitting distance of the ocean, which lapped against a seawall down below. The sea turtles could be seen, munching on sponges growing on the rocks. I took some video with my phone–have a look:

It was a great and relaxing stay. Christmas was coming soon and there were Hawaiian Christmas songs on the radio and lots of Holiday spirit, which was very nice. Once again, I traveled with my painting kit and was able to find some brief time to paint. On an early Sunday morning, I hiked afoot from our rental condo about a quarter mile down the lower Honoapiilani Road and found a public beach (all beaches in Maui are public beaches) that offered a nice view of a small bay and the island of Molokai, across the Lahaina Roads Channel. The day was overcast and threatening rain (it only rained once during our stay and that was at night), so the typical bright Hawaiian color palette was a bit muted. Here is the quick little painting that I came home with:

Molokai from Kahana - by Ronald Lee Oliver
Molokai from Kahana – by Ronald Lee Oliver

It was tough to leave and come home to the mainland. Once back, however, after the holidays I’ve got back to painting with regularity. Here are two of my most recent–first, one I call “Blue Agaves,” which was painting on location at the San Diego Botanic Gardens in Encinitas, California.

Blue Agaves - 12X16" oil on panel by Ronald Lee Oliver
Blue Agaves – 12X16″ oil on panel by Ronald Lee Oliver

I’ll be painting with some well known California plein air artists in April in a quickdraw competition at the same Gardens–stay posted!

Here is one done last Saturday in Del Mar, which I am calling “Penasquitos Lagoon from Del Mar Bluffs.” This one is 16X20″ oil on canvas. You can see the fantastic view of the Penasquitos estuary from my easel set in this photo:

Freshly completed painting by Ronald Lee Oliver
Freshly completed painting by Ronald Lee Oliver

…and here is the full image of the painting:

Penasquitos Lagoon from Del Mar Bluffs by Ronald Lee Oliver
Penasquitos Lagoon from Del Mar Bluffs by Ronald Lee Oliver

It’s good to be back home and into the rythm of the new year.

Happy New Year to all.


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A Showing of My Recent Plein Air Works

You're Invited to Attend the Artist's Reception, December 6, 2013 -- 5:00pm to 8:00pm
You’re Invited to Attend the Artist’s Reception, December 6, 2013 — 5:00pm to 8:00pm

To all my friends, family and patrons who have shown interest in my art and painting, I thank you for your continued support and encouragement.  It was a great (and busy) year for me and I completed a few nice paintings.  Having friends, family an patrons who care and encourage is invaluable to me as an artist and without this support, it would not be possible. I thank you, dearly, for providing the love.

Thankfully, a local gallery owner has provided support in the form of a venue for me to display my work and I have selected some dozen, done within the last year or so.  They all have the common theme of being painted in the open air and depicting some of the local iconic scenery of San Diego County.  They will be on view and available for the month of December at Silver Creek Gallery and Custom Framing in Downtown El Cajon, California.

If you have the time, I’d be happy to see you at the Artists Reception on Friday, December 6th from 5 to 8pm.  There’s no obligation to buy anything and there will be some light hors d’oeuvres and wine poured, so stop by and say hello if you can.  It will be a completely casual event.  There are some decent restaurants (Mexican, Italian) within walking distance of the gallery and other shops and galleries that are open for the evening, sponsored by the Merchants and City of El Cajon.

Seeing oil paintings in person, framed and in good lighting, with all their texture and varnished glory is much different from seeing them on your computer monitor.  I invite you to come and have a look.  I’d love to share them with you.

Once again, thanks to all.


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Ramona Grasslands Redux, Plein Air, Clearing Haze

original oil painting, San Diego plein air, Ramona, artist, Ronald Lee Oliver

I’ve been so busy with updating websites and social media profiles lately while also working on paintings in the studio so I haven’t had many opportunities for outdoor plein air painting.  Don’t get me wrong–there have been opportunities–just none that really piqued my interest.  I’ve enjoyed painting at the Ramona Grasslands Reserve in the past so when the local painters group suggested it, I made the time to be there for some painting fun.

Here’s a map of the area if you’d like to visit sometime.  It’s a great place to hike, walk your dog, ride either a  trail bicycle or a horse (no motorized vehicles allowed) or to go and do some art!

Map to Ramona Grasslands Preserve
Map to Ramona Grasslands Preserve

There is an ample parking lot and if you get there early (the gate opens at 8:00 am) you’ll get a choice parking spot.  Later on the horsey set arrives and their trucks and trailers fill most of the spaces.

The sky was socked in and grey as I drove up the 67 past Mt. Woodson, which is near the Grasslands Preserve.  However, It steadily cleared as I hiked around looking for a vista to paint until it finally wound up a gorgeous, sparkling, clear day.  In season, there are standing ponds but in late Summer/early Autmn, before the Fall rains come the ponds can be completely dry and caked with cracked mud.  There are a couple of loops to hike on and the trails are very well maintained.  The Preserve is fenced in its entirety and is an open cattle range so you can expect to see some of the bovine type roaming about.  I got some photos of them today, before I started painting:


…and there were several of these little guys, some of which were hiding in the grass… you can just see the head of one on the right side of the above photo.


Eventually, I found a view I liked and wanted to paint.  I brought only a small 12X12 cradled birch panel to paint on because I thought it was so overcast, I’d rather do a small one but as I said, the day cleared up very nicely.  Maybe I should have brought a larger canvas or panel.  Here is the place I set up my easel–you can see how nicely maintained the trails are…

Panoramic view of easel set by Ronald Lee Oliver
Panoramic view of easel set by Ronald Lee Oliver

It’s not all open sun, either. There are some nice shady places with wooden picnic tables within easy hiking distance.  All in all, I really recommend the place, especially after the rains or in the spring when everything is emerald green and glistening with dew in the early morning.

A view of the painting on the easel in the unfinished state.
A view of the painting on the easel in the unfinished state.

Here’s an iPhone photo of the little painting I walked away with.


Clearing Haze, 12X12 inch oil on cradled birch panel by Ronald Lee Oliver
Clearing Haze, 12X12 inch oil on cradled birch panel by Ronald Lee Oliver

Ronald Lee Oliver is a self taught artist creating plein air, studio, photography and digital art in Southern California. Original and print versions of Ron’s art can be purchased online.



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Fight Another Day

An original oil painting of a Nez Perce Indian Warrior, 36 x 48 inches on gallery wrapped canvas.  I finally got a good photo of it to share, signed, below.  There are lots of expressive textures and strokes in this one and as usual, seeing a photo of it just doesn’t do justice.  Good news, however! This painting, along with several other of my paintings will be on display at the Westin Emerald Plaza Hotel at 402 W Broadway, in Downtown San Diego for the entire month of June, starting on the 2nd.  If you happen to walk by the Hotel, they’ll be showing in the gallery windows on State and C Streets.  If you are a San Diegan or in the area, you can have a gander in real life!

Nez Perce Warrior

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Reflecting Pool, Balboa Park

I went to Balboa Park on Sunday, early and sought out a place to fill a small (12 X 12) panel. I roamed around and found a couple of spots that were potential candidates but for various reasons decided it wasn’t quite right, until I came upon the reflecting pool, near the arboretum. This has always been a favorite spot for artists and painters and the upper part of the pool, closest to the arboretum, was not damaged in the flash-mob vandalism that ended a political candidates career, last summer. I parked my easel and painted the scene in front of me. There were many comments from tourists from around the world, fascinated by the painting. In particular, a young father with his eight-year-old daughter came back three times during the creation of the painting. He said his daughter was taking painting lessons back home in Guadalajara and she wanted to see the painting progress. Here is the finished result:

Reflecting Pool, Balboa Park


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Flat Rock Plein Air Painting at Torrey Pines State Reserve

Torrey Pines Sunset

Yesterday afternoon, I returned to Torrey Pines State Reserve and hiked from the lower parking lot to the place known as “Flat Rock,” which is at the South End of the park, right on the beach. You can get there via the “Beach Trail,” which descends from the upper elevation of the park–or you can hike the mile or so down the wide sand beach (at low tide).

They say the best artists have to suffer for their work and boy I sure did, carrying the full French easel and a five gallon bucket with my supplies, drinking water, brushes, paints, mediums, palette knives, etc. I plodded along to my destination, knowing I had a limited time to paint before the returning tide would make it difficult or impossible to return via the beach. I definitely did not want to hike up and out of the park. When I got to the site and framed up my subject with a viewfinder, I took this little video:

Here is the finished painting. It looks so much nicer in person 😛Flat Rock at Torrey Pines State Beach



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Razor Point Trail en Plein Air

Razor Point Trail at Torrey Pines State Reserve

Here is a plein air piece I did last Sunday near dusk in Torrey Pines State Reserve.

Painting like this requires anticipation of lighting effects and incorporating them into the work before they happen. There just isn’t enough time to paint this before darkness falls. Of course, I could use my battery operated music stand lights to illuminate my canvas and palette but since the State Reserve at Torrey closes at seven–right about the time this light fills the scene this time of year, this is not an option. To work beyond that time would risk the park ranger locking the gate and leaving my vehicle stuck in the park overnight! In this case, the knowledge of what the scene would look like three hours after I started the painting allowed me to represent the light at the finish of the painting.



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April Morning at Torrey Headlands Plein Air

April Morning at Torrey Headlands

18 X 24 Oil on Cradled Panel

This is really large for a plein air piece with this much detail. I wanted to get at least one larger painting to choose from the possible entries for the “Art in the Pines” plein air competition, which happens May 4th in the Torrey Pines State Reserve. If you get the chance, you should go. It’s May 4th and 5th in the parking lot at the visitor’s center up at the top of the park. There will be a free shuttle-bus that transports visitors from the lot at the bottom up to the art fair, where over 100 artists, photographers, ceramicists and textile artists will display and offer their work for sale. The Plein air winners will be anounced at noon. So, it’s a great chance to enjoy the park, hike the trails, and see some amazing art!

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Art in the Pines ~ Plein Air Competition

Art in the Pines is a yearly plein air painting competition which takes place in the Torrey Pines State Reserve, here in San Diego County.  A jury selects artists who are allowed access to the park to paint for a full month (April) and then submit their best painting for competition in early May. The park is particularly beautiful this time of year and has lots of blooming wildflowers.

Torrey Wildflowers

Torrey Pines, is one of my favorite places in San Diego and I have visited it probably a hundred times either hiking, jogging, swimming or surf fishing on the shore, so the subject matter is something I know very well.  I was fortunate enough to be juried in as a competing artist this year and will be completing several paintings over the next few weeks, so that I might have a good one when it comes time to submit the work for the competition. I went out to the park yesterday, with my camera, my easel and painting supplies.  I chose the area of the park called the “Guy Fleming Trail.”  The trail is about a 2/3 mile loop that wanders through the chaparral and Torrey Pine forest…

Torrey Pine Forest Panorama

skirts by the sheer cliffs which drop down to the State beach below…

View from Cliff Top

…wanders through some spectacular rock formations…

Torrey Sandstone

and loops back to the starting point.

I had hiked the trail the day before, scoping out areas that would make good compositions for a painting and decided on a scene that depicted yucca trees on a steep slope, catching the light from the setting sun. This is an unusual view of the park and one that I think may catch the eye and inspire the judges, who probably see lots of the same-old-same-old.


So I set up my easel on the trail, out of the way of the hikers (many of whom shared words of encouragement about the painting as they walked by), and went to work.  I had pre-toned the canvas the night before so I wouldn’t have to waste that time when I was ready to paint.

Easel Start

…and here is a little video I took and a picture of the completed painting.  I like this one quite a bit. So far, it’s a good start for the competition. I hope to get in at least four or five more paintings to choose from.  I hope you like it!

Evening Yuccas