INTERVIEW with RICHARD J. OLIVER
WHERE ARE YOU LIVING?
Los Angeles, California
WHAT IS YOUR OCCUPATION?
I'm a Fine Artist ... an oil painter of both landscape and figurative paintings.
WHERE DID YOU GO TO SCHOOL?
I received my BA Honors degree in Fine Art from The University of the West of England, and I am undertaking a Masters in Fine Art at Cardiff University.
WHAT IS A LITTLE KNOWN FACT THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHARE?
I ran a 50K Ultra Marathon in Valencia to raise money for Williams Syndrome, a genetic condition that my youngest son has. I ran the Ultra marathon in sandals!
WHERE DID YOU GROW UP, AND HOW DID YOU GET INTO THE ARTS?
I was born and raised in South Wales in the United Kingdom, an old mining village. My school teacher opened my eyes to the history of art and I opted to study my degree in fine arts in the University of the West of England.
WHAT DREW YOU TO PLEIN AIR?
I love the outdoors. John Muir says “the clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness” and I concur. It is in the wilderness that I found my inspiration, where I was totally ‘in spirit’. I would receive healing and cleansing by nature. I decided to commit one day a week, a Friday, to plein air paint. I thought, “how hard could that be?” It turned out to be the most humbling experience I had ever had artistically and emotionally. It continues to be the most challenging thing to adapt to and learn, and as a result, the most rewarding.
Firstly, I was terrible, unprepared and immediately had my ego and my expectations smashed. To fail so dramatically and to not quit for good was the first lesson I learned to overcome. To learn to mix, paint, look and respond intuitively outdoors in an ever-changing environment is like starting from the beginning, there simply are no shortcuts. It will punish you and unless you can learn to see value in those frustrations and hard earned lessons, to put aside your ego in order to see the clear evidence of your shortcomings and what needs your attention.
The other astonishing thing that happened by painting outdoors was on a deeper level. Aside from the tiny incremental wins I was having each time I persevered with my plein air, I was learning to conceive and see deeper subtleties of tone, light, and color, as though life’s flavor was returning to my visual palate. I was getting sensory insight to the existential questions of life and death by completely immersing myself in the ever changing environment. New green growth pushing up through the soil, decaying trees scorched and blown down by the winds, light and clouds moving across unceasingly across the heavenly arc. Everywhere you look you see the expression of the universe, the fountain of life that cannot be stanched. Each time I went out to paint I felt as thought I could see even more nuances which made the rest of my life more rich. Watching the seasons pass, an incessant change gives me more inner peace and confidence to accept and surrender to the way of things, to life and death, mortality, vulnerability and fragility.
Painting outdoors has become an unintentional but valid practice of taoist meditation, going with the flow of life, moving in harmony with the changing environment, painting and adapting, being fluid and yet methodical. No longer do I find myself grasping for the details. I view things with a softer gaze while taking in a greater and grander perspective, un-strained focus, and a willingness to let go. All of these lessons were gifted to me by the pursuit of painting nature from life. All of these skills have helped my studio practice beyond words. Painting outdoors has asked of me to step well outside my rigid studio techniques, which are more confined, rehearsed and labored way of working, which was not at all affected by uncontrolled outside factors. Plein air painting has taught me to relax, it has given me stamina and yet revealed a delicate unforced focus that I didn’t know I had. It has also taught me to be more joyously playful and excited about color, shape and the tactile quality of paint. Plein air painting, in a way is a return to childlike wonder and innocence. It is humbling indeed.
WHERE CAN OUR READERS LEARN MORE ABOUT YOUR WORK?
They can find more of my work and get in touch through my website:
Or they can find me on Instagram:
THANK YOU FOR TAKING THE TIME TO TALK ART WITH US RICHARD!
My pleasure - thank you for having me.