Oil on Water

Plein-air painter Ronaldo Macedo is drawn to the places where land meets sea and sky.

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Maui plein air

Ronaldo often accompanies his kids on their surf competitions to other islands, and even to other countries. The portable nature of plein-air painting allows for some great results. “I got the idea for ‘The Gathering Place’—a Waikīkī Beach scene with the iconic pink Royal Hawaiian [hotel] in the background—when I went with Summer to O‘ahu for a WSL event. I did a small painting on site and a larger version in my studio.” Ronaldo’s smaller plein-air paintings often become studies for larger works. His medium is oil on paper, or when travelling, acrylic on illustration board. “In a quick study, I can get down the colors, the values, the cools and the warms.”    

Ronaldo admits that his technique has changed over his thirty-year career. Early on, he painted with a palette knife, but later traded the knife for brushes, “because on location I like to paint on panels, and [the knife] doesn’t work well on panels.” His style, too, has changed. “The palm trees I painted twenty years ago were completely rendered; now I want to focus on shapes and color and brushstrokes.”

He credits plein-air painting for this evolution. Ronaldo has participated in juried and invitational events in Hawai‘i and on the mainland, including the Maui Plein Air Painting Invitational, which he cofounded. “The interaction with and feedback from other painters made me a better painter. I changed to a looser, less rendered style that is more about lighting and shapes—not just duplicating what I was seeing, but making something that was my own.”

Ronaldo also changed to a simpler palette of primary colors: lemon yellow, cadmium yellow, cadmium red light, alizarin crimson, ultramarine blue, cerulean blue. “I like working with primary colors because the greens are coming from the yellows and blues, and everything stays harmonious.”

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