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The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

Former City College student creates central coast-inspired art

Kevin Ham
Former city college student Oliver Aquilon stands on the beach where he gets his inspiration for his art on Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019, on Leadbetter Beach in Santa Barbara, Calif. Aquilon is a painter and also makes sculptures out of driftwood in his garage here in Santa Barbara, Calif.

When former City College student Oliver Aquilon was two years old his mother gave him a set of art supplies.

26 years later, he continues to prove his mother’s gift useful as he shares his art with the local community.

“It’s my way of expressing myself,” Aquilon said. “Growing up, I’ve always been pretty shy.”

He feels most at home near the ocean, which is evident in his choice of subject and materials he uses in his work.

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“The beach is just a place of enjoyment, of mystery,” Aquilon said. “It’s the last frontier on Earth.”

His oil on canvas coastal landscape paintings, which can be seen on his website and social media accounts, feature the Central Coast prominently. The area is captured with great attention to detail and a touch that came with years of practice.

“I didn’t always like painting, I was better at drawing,” Aquilon remarked.

Throughout his four years at San Marcos High School, he drew praise from instructors. 

Mike Irwin, a former art teacher, noted that he was becoming a “master of reality” with his oil paintings.

Aquilon finds the process of painting as therapeutic.

“I take it slow, try not to rush things. Just go at my own pace,” he said. “I can set up the canvas for hours.”

Once he gets going, he takes care in recreating the reality of the moment.

“Capturing it, seeing how the light plays of the water. Getting the proportions just right. For portraits, skin tones are especially hard to get right,” Aquilon said.

He takes his painting aesthetic from masters like Heironymus Bosch and local painter John Comer, but recently has began experimenting with other ways of approaching his art.

“When it gets late and kind of delirious, things take on a different form,” he said. “I like variety, trying new things. I don’t like getting bored.”

This has shown through his newest venture DriftersSB, a craft shop focusing on creating works of art out of found driftwood pieces.

“It started with my girlfriend. She needed something to hang her jewelry on,” he said.

The two began to gather rocks and driftwood while taking walks along the shore.

“Just trying to find good material. Smooth, nice shape,” he said. “Then I’d make things out of them, and take them to the Funk Zone and sell them.”

His driftwood pieces range from hangers and wall decor, to his favorite, a Christmas tree made completely out of materials found locally.

Aquilon keeps very busy, and though he has fun with the wood sculptures, he is trying to find other ventures to get into.

A jack of all trades, he works full time at Trader Joe’s, does part time modeling work, is a part time caterer, and keeps an online shop for old books, which he buys at thrift stores or garage sales.

“I just bought 2,000 books yesterday, so I’ve been busy labeling them and putting them up, I love it,” he said. For Aquilon, there is never a dull moment. 

“Oliver has not yet reached his potential. He can create in many ways with great skill,” said Bobby Sanchez, Aquilon’s godfather. 

You can find his paintings on display locally at Community West Bank in Old Town Goleta, and Cottage Hospital.

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