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Plein Air at Point Loma

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...
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.

…and of course, here’s the finished piece…

Pappy Point at Sunset Cliffs

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Painting Lavender Fields

San Diego Plein air painting of lavender fields by Ronald Lee Oliver
Lavender fields meet the sea on a gray day…

Keys Creek Lavender Farms is a great place to plein air paint in North San Diego County.  It is a difficult subject however because the landscape there is hilly and chaotic with lots of visual clutter, such as outbuildings and sheds.  My first attempts at this painting were “wipeouts,” where I actually destroyed what I had painted in the background by wiping it off with a paper towel dipped in solvent.  Eventually I decided to invent my own background (because I can do that, you know?) and paint something to suit the beautiful lavender which sloped down the hill in front of me in real life.

I chose the sea.  Hope you like it.

RLO

 

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Some Recent San Diego Plein Air Paintings…

I’ve done a few paintings in the last weeks that I’ve yet to post on this blog, so here they are.  These were painted on site around San Diego County, mostly with the San Diego Plein Air Painters group , of which I’m a member.  I’m also a member of the Laguna Plein Air Painters Association — LAPAPA, as well as the Southern California Plein Air Painters Association –SOCALPAPA and the San Diego Museum of Art Artist’s Guild — SDMAAG.

Batiquitos Looking West ~ plein air oil painting by artist Ronald Lee Oliver
Batiquitos Looking West ~ 11 x 14 in. plein air oil painting by artist Ronald Lee Oliver
Batiquitos ~ plein air oil painting of Batiquitos Lagoon by artist Ronald Lee Oliver
Batiquitos ~ 12 x 12 in. plein air painting by artist Ronald Lee Oliver
Osprey Rock ~ 11 x 14 in. plein air painting by Ronald Lee Oliver
Osprey Rock ~ 11 x 14 in. plein air painting by Ronald Lee Oliver
Coronado Anchorage ~ 11 x 14 in. Plein air painting by Ronald Lee Oliver
Coronado Anchorage ~ 11 x 14 in. Plein air painting by Ronald Lee Oliver

 

 

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Valentine’s Day #Pleinair Painting at Point Loma

February 14th, 2015 in Southern California.  The air temps got up to over 90 degrees in the inland areas.  I headed West, early this morning to paint at the area in Point Loma known as “Sunset Cliffs.”  It was already warm and not the least bit cold as I painted at the top of a cliff, near waters edge above the surf below…here’s a short video of the beautiful conditions and the painting I made.  11 x 14 inch oil on panel.

…and here’s an example of how it would look in a nice “New Rustic” solid wood frame by Randy Higbee galleries…

This is my "go to" frame to compliment my plein air paintings...
This is my “go to” frame to compliment my plein air paintings…
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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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Hawaiian Floral Seascapes!

Like the ocean?  Like Hawaii?  Like flowers?  Why not combine all three in a series of Hawaiian Floral Seascape paintings!?  I’ve been working on just this feat, recently and really enjoying the process. It allows for the play of some bold, complimentary colors and the challenge of arranging a pleasing composition.  Here is a composite of four, recently completed panels (12×12 in. oil on deep cradled birch).  I haven’t run out of flowers that are suitable for this series, yet, so there may be few more forthcoming!

Hawaiian Floral Seascapes ~ Original Oil Paintings by Ronald Lee Oliver
Hawaiian Floral Seascapes ~ Original Oil Paintings by Ronald Lee Oliver
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Lae O Na Kohola (Cape of Whales)

Lae O Na Kohola (Cape of Whales) 24 x 24 in. oil on canvas
Lae O Na Kohola (Cape of Whales) 24 x 24 in. oil on canvas

On the Northwest side of the Hawaiian island of Kaho`olawe is Ahupu Bay, whose Western point is called Lae O Na Kohola, or Cape of Whales. There, the great leviathans return in yearly consort to make connections with one another. To win paternity. To begin Maternity. To give birth and protect the newborn.  To establish lineage and once again venture Northward to the yearly feeding grounds, where they will fatten to return again and renew the cycle.

Here, I’ve depicted one of the majestic Kohola, or humpback whales, breaching in the fiery dawn of a typical Hawaiian sunrise.  Here is a detail section from the larger painting:

kahola_DETAILLR
Detail from Lae O Na Kohola (Cape of Whales) by Ronald Lee Oliver

This painting was achieved in one session, or “alla prima,” an artsy Italianate term for “at once.”  It requires that the artist have a good idea of where they are going before they first lay brush to canvas.  I toned the canvas with a mixture of transparent orange and burnt sienna the night before, which allowed it to dry and act as an underlying accent color.  The overnight drying time ensured it would not smear and mix with the strokes of color placed on top. Most of the colors in the upper layer are transparent oil paints, as opposed to opaque tints, which allows for a certain depth and serendipitous atmosphere that can’t be achieved with the opaque pigments.

This painting is 24 x 24 inches and is framed in a complimentary black frame with matte and glossy accents.

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Pua Akala (Pink Hibiscus)

Pua Akala (Pink Hibiscus) 12 x 12 in. oil on deep cradled panel by Ronald Lee Oliver
Pua Akala (Pink Hibiscus) 12 x 12 in. oil on deep cradled panel by Ronald Lee Oliver

Another in my series of Hawaiian Floral Seascapes.  Seen just about everywhere in Hawaii but like a younger daughter, the Pink Hibiscus must always be subordinate to the elder, yellow hibiscus which is the State Flower of the Islands  …she is just as delicate and beautiful though.

This is in the same format as some of my other Hawaiian floral oil paintings, which are all in the 12 inch square format on 1.5 inch deep, hardwood cradled, birch panels, suitable for hanging with or without a frame.  This colorful series of paintings brightens any space with a vibrant, tropical splash.

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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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Makana Kai (Gift of the Sea)

As I’ve said before, Hawaii is one of my favorite places to photograph and paint.  This could be a beach just about anywhere in the Hawaiian Islands.  I call it “Gift of the Sea” or in the Hawaiian tongue, Makana Kai.

Makana Kai (Gift of the Sea)
Makana Kai (Gift of the Sea) 24 x 24 in. oil on gallery wrap canvas
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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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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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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!

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Winter Swell, Cabrillo

I got out for a plein air session last week-end. Had been sick for some time with a nasty flu that left me with a persistent nasal drip and cough. It was good to get out and the day was absolutely gorgeous. I’ve been meeting up with a painters group that uses online social media to designate places to have painting sessions. This morning, I was the first to show up (as usual), and I arrived early at the Entrance to Cabrillo National Monument on Point Loma in San Diego. It was a crystal clear and chilly December morning. As I drove into the park and headed down the hill to the lower parking lots where there is access to the tide pools, a magical thing happened…

…a Peregrine falcon swooped down not more than five or ten yards in front and to the left side of my slow moving truck–and without flapping soared down the hill about three feet off the blacktop pavement…it was almost skimming the tops of the buckwheat and sage bushes at the side of the road, leading me into the park. It was so magical, I was laughing as I drove behind my escort. I followed it all the way to the bottom of the hill–nearly half a mile. What a great way to start the day.

When I parked, I got out with my easel and bucket and took some photos as I went…I’ll share them with you…

First I got out and took a photo of the view from the parking lot…

Then, I walked down the trail a ways and saw this…

and this…

and I painted this…

which came out like this…
(apologies for the phone photo)

And then I packed up, hiked back to my truck and drove out of the park but had to stop and take some shots because it was just too beautiful to resist…

looking West…

…and looking East…

A very quiet and emotional place.

What a great day it was.

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Plein Air at Sunset Cliffs

16 X 20 Plein Air Ala Prima

I couldn’t decide where to set up my easel for a plein air outing this morning. At first, I thought I’d stay close to home and try setting up at Lake Jennings Park at sunrise. I was up at 5:00 and the park opened at 6:15. I would have plently of time to set up before the good light hit and left. I wasn’t too sure about Lake Jennings though, I haven’t been there in about 25 years, and decided at the last minute to try the view from Lowes Coronado Resort on the Silver Strand (the long isthmus that connects San Diego’s South Coastal Community, Imperial Beach, with the “Island” of Coronado. As I remembered, there were some great views of the city skyline and Coronado Bay Bridge form the back of the resort. Having packed the easel and supplies in the truck the night before, it was easy just to motor down there before sunrise. When I got there, the fog was too thick and showed no sign of clearing, so I scrubbed the idea and headed back to Coronado Town. Along the way, I stopped in two places, looking for a view that would be a good subject for my plein air outing. Nothing inspired me–maybe I’m just too picky. Anyhow, I carried on and drove over to Point Loma and the Sunset Cliffs area. When I got there it was foggy, but not so foggy that I couldn’t make an attempt at filling a canvas. The good thing is that parking is free and there is plenty of it and there are lots of good places on the sandstone formations above the cliffs and the waves.

The fog was challenging. It was rolling in and clearing in waves, so the scene was alternating between highly visible and partially obscured throughout the whole session. That didn’t bother me though and I kept plugging away. I chose a 16 X 20 canvas on stretcher bars, which is a fairly ambitious size for plein air. All in all, it was a good time, once I found a place that inspired me to paint.

Attached are some shots of the easel and the view. I’ll be posting the finished painting in the next few days.

Reference View for “Sunset Cliffs Fog”