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Shipley Nature Center Saga – 2011

In 2011 I started on a journey that continues to this day. Below is an account of the start of this journey into a life time at the Shipley Nature Center in Huntington Beach

If you are interested in purchasing one of the pleinairs please contact me at and I let you know availability. Purchase price is $300 with free shipping.

Pleinair setup at Spot 13, sometime in 2011

The conceived of this series as a way to understand how nature changes with time here in Southern California, and how my learning of the scene changes with it. The goal is to have completed a series of 12 paintings that illustrate how art can be used as a learning tool and accomplish great esthetics when one understands and feels a vista. The agenda will be to go out the the Shipley Nature Center in Huntington Beach California and paint a plienaire painting (on-location) every month. It is important to paint from the same spot every time; Spot 13 as disignated by a marker at the Center. My intent is to finish this location completely with studio work to be performed in 2012.

This is a photo of the scene taken in July 2011, it gives you a general idea of the Spot 13. I choose the spot because I wanted a location that was foliage rich and not your ‘traditional’ landscape vista. In this way, I would have to respond to the changing of the natural foliage throughout the year.

January 2011 – Pleinair 9″ X 11″ oil

This was the first painting at Shipley. It was an introduction to the scene and place. What I like about this painting is the light moving through the scene and the brushstroke are looser than my past pleinair paintings.

Feburary 2011 – Pleinair 9″ X 11″ oil

Trees are beginning to fill out though relatively spares. Some flower’s are beginning to bloom which was exciting and began to saturate my pallet. I like how things are beginning to warm up and those violet flowers.

March 2011 – Pleinair 9″ X 11″ oil

A very strange day, the clouds were heavy and there was a constant change in light. The foreground continues to be expressly derived and the middle ground is looking more distinct and integrated.

April 2011 – Pleinair 9″ X 11″ oil

This was a very melancholy day and rather dark. It seems the changing of the season is creating a level of anticipation in the plants. I learned a lot on this trip, more what not to do than what to do though. Having been more familiar with the scene I thought that I could blocked in the scene quickly and then free-form on details. I ended up trying not to muddy up the painting from the under paint. In any case I like the energetic mark making.

May 2011 – Pleinair 9″ X 11″ oil

An absolute beautiful day; the best so far. The flowers buds look happy and ready to bloom, the foliage is filling out and finally the background trees are full and robust. The previous month taught me much about approaching the scene in a holistic manner. I was not worried about blocking in and allowed the under stain to peak through.

June 2011 – Pleinair 9″ X 11″ oil

The scene is in full bloom! I was shocked by the growth. The Shipley Nature Center is a tendered preserve and I’m was very happy that nobody has removed any foliage. I’m starting to ‘get’ the background. My approach is becoming more abstract such that the approach is more in tune with values, forms and inter-relationships of color; definitely less than what the object “actual” is. Even though my approach is more abstract I would still like to capture a bit more detail in the foreground.

July 2011 – Pleinair 9″ X 11″ oil

A hot and humid day which seems a little early for Huntington Beach, but the plants seem to like it. The scene is fully overgrown, almost to a fault. I would not have picked this spot if I seen what it looks like today. When I first saw the overgrowth, I thought, ‘How am I going to paint this’? In any case it turned out to be one of the most rewarding painting to date. I like to mark making that the scene demanded and rich variety of colors, inter-related shapes an dark deep values. I also like the depth of field.

August 2011 – Pleinair 9″ X 11″ oil

This was a very gloomy day, with a heavy layer of fog. I painted from 9:00am to 12:00pm and by the time I was done the overcast had burned off. This presupposes the problem of huge light an color shifts while painting. Monet used to carry more than one canvas at a time to avoid this problem and at the same time capture the mood, but alas I had only one canvas. In any case, I like the distribution color and the force of nature that comes through.

September 2011 – Pleinair 9″ X 11″ oil

This was actually a very pleasant date. Though the sun was out it was nice and cool. (a few days later it was very hot). The foliage is overgrown and the middle ground is nearly covered. This forced me to focus a bit more on the foreground objects. The big change continued to be the abstract way I’m approaching the application of paint; it is put on thick and direct. I’m also enjoying the mark making and freedom of the brush stroke. The background interplay between the sky and the trees was a challenge; I now understand the struggle Cezzane continued to work with throughout is life

October 2011 – Pleinair 9″ X 11″ oil

This was an extremely hot day and difficult to paint in. I also forgot some items I like to work with, such as latex gloves and a trash bag, so my attitude was a little bent. In any case, the foliage again has grown, but added the challenge of painting objects very close to me as well as the background tree at a distance. The plants have turned a shade of white and there was little ground to be seen. The warmth of the ground helps to balance the coolness of the foliage, so the white had to be used as a warming element. The trees in the background are starting to change color (never changes much in southern California) and are losing their leaves, this allow a lot of light to poke through them causing a provision of lite shadows; beautiful

November 2011 – Pleinair 9″ X 11″ oil

The landscape is coming around full circle now. When I think of my first painting from Spot 13, I remember the redness of the background trees and that is what I’m beginning to see today. The overgrowth is astonishing which is due to the Director letting it grow, (she was aware of my studies here and didn’t let anyone tend it) In any case, I wanted to keep the free brushwork but put a little effort into capturing the foreground details, and I believe I accomplished that goal fairly well. The painting has some interesting colors and the light of the day comes through. It seems a bit unbalanced though, this is due in large part to the concentrated areas versus the abstract areas. This will become very important when I start the studio painting.

I didn’t paint at the Shipley in December, but instead began to layout my large studio painting which I continue in a subsequent blog “Shipley Nature Center Saga – 2012”.

Thank You for reading this feel free to contact me if you have any questions or would like to purchase any of these paintings.

Cheers, Ronald Ray Reekers

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Printing an Etching – the Intaglio Process

This video is a detail instructional video on how to print from an etched plate.  The process is called “Intaglio” which is a process where the image is produced from the etched portion of the plate by apply ink to the plate. The video itself was a live video produced with the help of my friend Richard Chau-Davis and can be seen in full at  The video is an edited version with descriptions along to way to help the viewer understand the process better. 

We start with the paper preparation and how to tear the paper instead of cutting with scissors to create the size we need.  The paper used is Arches BFK Rive, fine grain, acid free 280g, 100% cotton page (sometimes referred to a rag paper).  After the paper is torn to size we need it is put into a vat of water for approximate 20 minutes minimum.

We move to the inking station and begin the preparation of the ink.  I start by applying Art Cream Guard from Winsor Newton to my hand and putting on Latex or Nitrile gloves.  The ink used here is Graphic Chemical and Ink co. 1lb Perfect Palette Intense Black. We first begin by warming the ink up by continually mixing it on the glass palette using a putty knife.  I demonstrate the effect of the ink by adding clear oil (Huile Claire from Charbornel) which will make the ink less viscous (more runny); this is done partially if your ink is too stiff.  In order to reduce the “oiliness” of the ink I add Magnesium Carbonate purchased from Daniel Smith, it absorbs some of the oil without compromising the ink opacity.  A tack test is done by placing the putty knife on the ink and then lifting to see the length of the ink stream.  Once the right viscosity is made (personal preference) I then add Vaseline to reduce the task (stickiness of the ink), again this is done to feel.  Finally, I add Easy Wipe from Graphic Chemical and Ink co.  This will make the removal of the ink from the plate surface easier. Note: there are inks that don’t need to be modified, but in my experience, temperature and relative humidity plays a big part in the inks characteristics, so understanding these techniques for modifying your ink is important.

Once the ink is prepared I can then ink the plate using cards (collected from the mail).  I softly run the ink in all four directions to fully cover the plate.  I clean up the edges using toilet paper and then ‘stamp’ the plate using old Yellow Paper pages to further distribute the ink evenly.  In order to remove the ink from the copper surface I use Tarlatan (can be purchased at most print supply stores) and then graduate to Yellow Page paper and finally my palm (which is why I applied Guard Cream).  The fat part of the palm lightly pats the plate surface.  When all the ink from the surface is removed to my satisfaction I can now print the plate.

I have a Charles Brand press which I have preset to the height I need as well as mark the bed for the plate and paper placement.  With clean hands (I tend to wash my hands before ever touching the paper) I remove the paper from the soaking tray and blot using clean towels.   I have a large roller and usually roll back and forth about 3 times.  The damp paper is then aligned and placed over the plate.  I covered the paper with the press blankets and roll the press bar over the plate.  The final product is the print! 

A production of prints can then be made.  I make a series of 100 prints in which all prints need to be exactly the same.  I do each session in tens and remove any anomalous prints (these are later made into monoprints).  In this way, the buyer is assured to have a print of the series without flaws. In addition, the Buyer is assured I printed all prints in the series by hand.

I hope this process is clear to the viewer.  There are different methods available, but for me, this method works the best. Please email me at if you have any comments or questions.

Below is a list of material used in video:

Paper – Arches BFK Rives, Fine Grain, Acid Free, 100% Cotton, 280g

Vaseline Petroleum Jelly

Easy Wipe – Graphic Chemical and Ink co.

Ink – 1lb Perfect Palette Intense Black, Graphic Chemical and Ink co.

Huile Claire (Clear Oil) – Charbornel

Magnesium Carbonate – Daniel Smith

Art Guard Cream – Winsor Newton


Flex Putty Knife – Huskey

Glass Scraper – Stanely

12” sq Glass Palette

Toilet Paper

Yellow Page


Latex or Nitrile Gloves

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Bonsai Drawing Series – Perception

Instructional video on understanding Perception in Bonsai Drawing

Perception is a subject studied by Philosophers and Artist throughout the ages.  Maurice Merleau-Ponty in his book ‘Phenomenology of Perception’ writes how Perception is the background of experience.  Artist looks at Perception as a relationship between what we see and a clear understanding of that experience; in our case the viewing of a Bonsai Tree.  In this video I take on that subject of Perception and how it can help you understand ‘what you see’ and translate that to a drawing descriptively and clearly.

One way of understanding “Perception” is to explore the phenomenon on how we see an object and how we interpret it in space.  As a child we draw the world flat and symbolically, whereas when we mature, and experience the world 3-dimensionally, we begin to “describe” the world more in terms of space; this is reflected in how we approach drawing.  The drawings created by the child is therefore much different that of an adult.

This video illustrates that they’re learnable tools that can help us define a descriptive space such that overlapping items, removing ambiguity, detailing and value shifting in the motif can better illustrate the tree we are drawing in a mature way. 

I sincerely hope this video clarifies your understanding of Perception in drawing and furthers your interest in our goal to help accurately draw your Bonsai tree.  Most importantly further your enjoyment of the beautiful Art of Bonsai.

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Bonsai Drawing Series – Types of Drawing

Instructional video on methods for drawing your Bonsai

In this video I discuss the 3 types of Bonsai drawings; Symbolic, Imaged and Descriptive. The video uses a Femina Juniper Bonsai as our ‘model’ and discusses the method for drawing in these 3 particular types, as well as the Pros and Cons for these methods.

In drawing a Bonsai Tree (or anything for that matter) we use all three types of drawing in one way or another. This video, and subsequent videos, will show how to recognize your approach and ultimately give you a good understand on how to do your own drawings within your own aesthetics.

My method is to tilted towards the descriptive way of drawing for getting a better understanding of “seeing” and a better method for understanding and visually experiencing your tree. The goal is to increase your appreciation for the beautiful world of Bonsai and help you develop the tool of drawing to increase your experience of Bonsai.

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Video Blog – Developing a Etching Plate

This is a video blog that goes into detail how I approach an etching for my Japanese Garden Series. The video shows how I develop the plate by first etching into it the motif, then to develop the value structure through aqua-tinting.

This is Part 2 of a 2 Part video series (see

Thank you so much for checking this out. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions and be sure to subscribe to my mailing list. If you a interested in purchasing a print please go to


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Socal Papa Interview

This is an Interview by Diane Pendergast from the SocalPapa Pleinair painting group for an upcoming online show of Back Bay and OC Parks . Each year there is a pop-up show, but due to the corona virus on July 11th to 19th they will have an online show. There is talk of having actual pieces in the show but since the Muth Conservatory is where it is shown, it is high unlikely that it will be available.

The interview is about 7 minutes long and disusses my plienair painting experience, general ideas regarding painting outdoors in Southern California, and the painting that was submitted to the show.


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Video Blog – Prep-Work for an Etching

This is a video blog that goes into detail how I approach an etching for my Japanese Garden Series. The video shows how I use photos that my wife or I took of our travels through Japan and how in my sketchbook (along with other sketches) I create a motif. I subsequently transfer that motif to bond paper in order to create a detail pen and ink drawing. The P&I drawing helps me define my line-work and textures that will be drawn on the plate. I then create an ink-wash painting to help me with an “aqua-tinting plan”. The video will describe the medium and tools that are used. From that, all is complete to create the etching motif.

This is Part 1 of a 2 Part video which will cover the actual development of the plate and how I used the prep-work to accomplish it.

Thank you so much for checking this out. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions and be sure to subscribe to my mailing list.


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Art Critique January 2015

It’s been a few months since I wrote a blog about our critiques, so in good old fashion New Year resolution making, I rededicated myself to this effort.  We are going on 4 years of this critique and it has been an exciting fellowship of Artist.  I’m look forward to us continuing on and developing our vision and increasing our body of work.

We start with Ron Howlett’s two watercolor studies.  These are finished works of art but I call them studies because Ron mentioned that these works are more like sketches made to develop a new series of artwork.  If you follow the old blogs you can see that Ron is further developing this motif.  Before there was the chasm between his rock formations under a very dramatic sky, where the ocean acted like a silent conduit between the two.  Now the ocean has become alive and begins to be a major part of the dialog between rocks and sky.  The first watercolor “Sea Night Fall” has five rocks in the foreground within the ocean which is actionable with whitecaps and rolling waves, all contrasted with a bright sky accompanied by a storm brewing on the left.  There was little to constructively critique except with the five rock formation’s intersection between ocean and rock seems lost due to the dark shadowing; they begin to flatten out and lose some volume.

In the other watercolor “Oregon Coast” the ocean is loud with intent and rises up to make itself know to the large rock in the foreground.  It reminded us all of Winslow Homers dramatic ocean scenes which a lot of Watercolorist strive hard to achieve; Ron has done this beautifully.  There is a power that is greater than the whole in the artwork.  The combination of the powerful ocean waves and the bold strong rocks heighten the drama of nature.  The only little critique we had was creating a bit more texture in the shadow areas of the rocks, particularly the far left rock, but that is a minor issue to the greater success of creating the feeling of movement, flow of mist and the time worn battle between the rocks and the pounding ocean.

Thom’s work “Attitundal” revisits work from years past. The figure harkens back to a time when West Coast Artist were not willing to get rid of the figure for the sake of a fully abstracted piece.  They wanted to use the East Coast aesthetic of bold mark-making, but juxtapose that against saturated colors and high value shifts within a known environment or motif, like figure, still lifes or landscapes.  I suppose that is precisely the problem we saw in the piece.  There is very little contrast in the work and in the areas that that happens there are element that mute that impact.  For instance, the yellow around the figure’s head, the bright green against the figures highlighted left thigh and the value in the window which matches the interior.  We suggested exploring the window more abstractly and contrasting the interior with the exterior through value.  This is not unprecedented, there is a long history in art where exterior and interiors are contrasted and become a major part of the motif.  On the other hand, we really like the mark-making that Thom had started and his always unique approach to balancing compositions with line and interesting shapes.  We look forward to see how he resolves the piece.

I ‘finally’ finish my last Shipley Center painting.  Last year I had a few distraction so it took some time to finish this piece (I’m still attempting to relieve myself from these distractions).  In fact, it was the only major piece I did all year!  In any case, it was well received and by showing it each critique it gave the group a chance to see my process (or madness) when it comes to building up layers of paint and abstracting from what I had previously learned by going out and doing a plein air painting of the same scene (in this case 6 times during the year) and then putting into practice what I had learned.  As a side note, I’m starting a new series of plein air paintings at the Shipley Nature Center and I found a new spot there.  Now I need to dedicate myself to getting out there each month.  In any case, I like the finished piece which is called “Sage Mound”.

I hope you enjoyed the blog, and we look forward to reading your comments, and a perhaps joining us in 2015.

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Art Critique May 2014

May’s critique welcomed two new members and of course they contributed wonderfully with the group.  Much of what we presented and talked about was our community with the world around us, and in particular the ‘natural’ world.

Thom brought a dynamic painting focused on how two worlds can influence on each other.  This paintings graphically describe the dramatic phenomenon of plate tectonics.  The patterns and texture of the surface are beautifully rendered and add an interesting approach to the idea.  The texture was greatly enhance by the cutting of the surface and glued on backing structure, which gave one the direct effect of a fractured surface.  The upper right globe is a bit subdued and bringing up the saturation and mark making would help the object work with the larger more dominate globe.  The white between the two planets was skillfully done and adds to the understanding of space within the work.

Jim just started with the group and brought a few well-conceived pleinair paintings.  The color composition of the painting shown in the blog works very well with the type of back lighting affect one sees in the piece.   The value structure of the work could be settled by darkening up the shadow edges and bringing more of the background light into the foreground objects.   But all together, there are some very hard fought colors in the rock shadow and background sky that make the painting an enjoyable experience to view and ponder over.

Jared is back from his residency in the Netherlands and brought some thought provoking photos.  These are photo from a museum out to the street, which brings up the idea of art discovery (and too me ‘irony’).  The irony being that he is in a museum to see the unbelievable artwork from the Dutch Masters and instead takes pictures of a rough surface glass of the outside.  Beside the irony though, these are interest works of art on their own merit.  There is a Diebenkorn feel to these photos and on a pure color/composition they work wonderfully.  The problem will be context though, and how these photos are sized and shown on the wall will require a lot of thought and care.

Pat is another new member and she brought a very personal painting.  It is sometime difficult to do a critique on artwork of a very personal nature, but done properly can be very cathartic and insightful for the Artist.  We all just loved the little girl, there is something very intimate in the pose and the eating of the apple that gives the viewer a feeling of comfort and joy.  The trees in the background is also very well done, though the tree on the left stop the viewer and over powers the left-side composition; removal would be potentially good.  The paint does lack richness but only because of a lack of paint on the surface.  In order to help saturate the surface and allow the painted surface to be richer with mark making and texture we suggested adding more paint, but to be careful not to change the color or value.

Having two new members was a great joy for everyone.  The more the merrier I say.  In any case, we look forward to share our time with them and anyone else that would like to join our critique.

Au revoir

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Art Critique March 2014

This month we had a very eclectic group of art which often provoke the greatest amount of discussion, especial focused on art making and processes.  All participates seem to draw from nature, but in much different ways of expression and feeling.

Donna presented a group of ‘ghost prints’ of waterfalls, or an idea of a waterfall.  These are built works developed from ink jet transfers, mono-printing in ink and drawn over repeatedly as she is working the idea.  We found these ‘prints’ to be very original and speak most about the self and how one feels within the elements of water, plant life and earth.  Yet on the other hand, they seem very solitary, or without human presence which highlights the idea of an untouched ebb and flow of nature. These are very delicate work and bode very well as a series, the difficulty will be in the way she chooses to present them; framed, floated, cut edge or broken and viewing level.

The manner in which Donna approached the work harkened back to a series of monoprints I did of Yellowstone. I had been working on a series of views from a car and the original photo inspired me to explore the image further. It is of an elderly women walking toward the hot springs in Yellowstone where steams and the mountain environment are active in the background.  Most of the group was interested in process and how one can create a plethora of feelings just by the act of making the image; there are a total of eight of them (you can see all eight at each inspired and pushed the other; this is the beauty of the mono-print technique.

Jared will be going to Holland and so in preparation did a series of images of streets named after cities in the Netherlands and kitschy images of windmills from miniature golf courses.  These are highly conceptual ideas and sparked a discussion of pre-actual-post effect of the residency he is to experience.  If one has never been out of the United States, one tends to have a preconceived, and most often narrow view, of the world outside, but once experienced in world travel those ideas fade away and are replace (as in my case) with a more thorough and enlightened idea of the world outside our familiar existence. We are sure this experience will play well into his future work.

Thom brought a cubist painting focused on Global Warming (GW) and its direct killing effect on trees. The work is executed with a cubist style and the color was of a mostly bright warm palette.  The wonderful colors used seemed to contrast against the pessimistic view of our effect on the world’s climate and the subject trees. To bring the harsh impact from GW back into focus we suggest applying more aggressive mark making around the subject thereby imposing violently on the trees as opposed to the current more playful marks that frame them.   On the other hand, Thom’s whimsical style (note the smiles and lollipop trees in the composition) may better be served to turn the pessimism of GW to the optimism of recover (may be asking a lot) and thus perhaps giving an ironic tone to the work.

These critiques continue to provoke ideas and bring into focus the environment in which we all live in, and most importantly for us, how this is translated into art-making