This is the Skier

My grandfather was predominately known as a landscape painter.  Most of his fans are familiar with the various Mission Inn and other architectural scenes he painted throughout his career.  It is not unheard of for artists of this caliber to dabble in the occasional figurative work.  However, in the 1990's,  Don took on an incredible challenge, he went beyond figure work and painted action filled sports scenes.   As our mountains of California are full of snow I could not find a better time to showcase this wonderful painting.

This is The Skier

A professional skier, racing down a mountain with a trail of white powder snow behind him.  You can feel the raw action and movement in this painting.  A massive contrast from the usual calm and relaxing feeling that my grandfather's paintings bring out.   There is a lot going on with this painting so let me tell you a bit that I know about the back story.

When I first started taking watercolor classes in late 2005, I told my grandfather that I purchased some liquid maskoid, a product which an artist may use to block off certain parts of the paper in which they do not want the paint going.   My grandfather passed away about a year and a half after I took my first watercolor class so this was one of the very few lessons I ever received from him.  He used this particular painting to illustrate the lesson.

The white snow you see in the painting is not white paint but the white watercolor paper.  He used various techniques to apply the liquid maskoid.  In the background where you see the burst of white snow he used a spontaneous throwing of the medium while in the white powder use used a more calligraphic brush technique.   These two techniques allowed him to save the white space while having a rich background with flakes of snow and a natural looking chaotic foreground.

He did not tell me if this painting was a limited palette, however I have strong reason to believe that he only used four colors.  A warm orange, perhaps two blues, and a hit of yellow.  The skier was painted with a calligraphic approach while the background was painted, likely with all the same colors as the figure, as a large direct glaze approach which makes up the rich background.  The heavy use of both calligraphic brush strokes and direct glazes are cornerstone techniques which make up the California Watercolor style.    To execute this painting Don just had to use four colors, four basic techniques, and 30 years of dedicated practice.

You can see this print on our online store at and we produce it in four different sizes with each one individually printed on archival grade watercolor paper.  When properly framed the print will look nearly identical to the original painting and will hold its vivid color for decades.  

You can see The Skier at

Every painting has a story behind it.  Some of these paintings I was fortunate enough to have my grandfather give a direct lesson, others I learned about from his writings, and some I have had to play detective to learn about on his own. 

Riley O'Neill 


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