Don Olea

Don Olea

Don Olea

Biography and Works

As an Airborne Army veteran (1983-86), and an amateur military history buff, Don Olea has been inspired through his watercolor and digital paintings, to honor and tell the story of those who came before him serving with honor and distinction. His realism style serves the historical military art genre well and helps to tell their story to fellow veterans, family members and enthusiasts. His goal is to eventually have at least three paintings representing every major military conflict from the Revolutionary War to the present. As a proud veteran and artist, Don Olea will not let the flame of patriotism vanquish.

Olea has been an artist all his life, starting with simple pencil drawings as a child, then charcoals and pen and ink, etc. His grandfather gave him his first camera when he was a sophomore in high school in 1979 and that began his of love of capturing the world around him on film. ...see more...

As the computer age ushered in a new era of graphic designers and digital photography, Olea gravitated toward commercial art and advertising design as well as newspaper and magazine design.

Working as a commercial artist he was able to take advantage of both his drawing and photography skills. Olea spent 10+ years as a photographer and graphic designer for Billboard Magazine, The Hollywood Reporter and Amusement Business Magazine in Nashville and Los Angeles.

The music, entertainment, and sports industries have always been among his favorite subjects to paint or draw. However, in an effort to expand his subject matter, he turned his attention to depicting historical military art.

Although a native of San Diego, CA, Don and his wife have lived in Gallatin, TN for the past 23 years. He has more than 30 years of professional experience as an award-winning illustrator, photographer, digital and watercolor painter. He is currently a board member of the Nashville Artist Guild and a member of the Tennessee Watercolor Society.


Artist's Work 1
"Rampant Raiders"
My 20"xl6" watercolor painting on Arches CP paper represents the A-4F Skyhawks which served with Navy attack squadron VA-212 aboard the carrier USS Hancock in the early 1970s, during the Vietnam War. VA-212 flew throughout the conflict in Southeast Asia, making a record seven combat deployments. It became one of the three carrier-based A-4 squadrons in Vietnam, flying from the USS Hancock (CV-19) along with VA-55 and VA-164.
Artist's Work 2
"Silent Terror"
This is my 24"xl8" watercolor painting on Arches CP paper featuring Royal Flying Corps and their swarming technique applied with little success against the German airships. The Germans enjoyed great success with the Zeppelin over the course of 1915 and 1916, terrorizing the skies over the British Isles. The first Zeppelin attack on London came on May 31, 1915; it killed 28 people and wounded 60 more. By May 1916, the Germans had killed a total of 550 Britains with aerial bombing. In August of 1916 the British had finally managed for the first time to shoot down a Zeppelin, using incendiary bullets.
Artist's Work 3
"The Electronic Overlord"
My 20x 16" watercolor on Arches CP paper features the E2-C Hawkeye, or as my Cobra pilot buddy, Grover Wright likes to call it: "The Frisbee plane". The E-2C Hawkeye is the Navy's all-weather, carrier-based tactical battle management airborne early warning, command and control aircraft. The E-2 is a twin engine, five crewmember, high-wing turboprop aircraft with a 24-foot diameter radar rotodome attached to the upper fuselage. Hawkeyes of VAW-123 "SCREWTOPS" provide all-weather airborne early warning, airborne battle management and command and control functions for the Carrier Strike Group and Joint Force Commander. Additional missions include surface surveillance coordination, air interdiction, offensive and defensive counter air control, close air support coordination, time critical strike coordination, search and rescue airborne coordination and communications relay. An integral component of the Carrier Strike Group air wing, the E-2C uses computerized radar, Identification Friend or Foe and electronic surveillance sensors to provide early warning, threat analysis against potentially hostile air and surface targets.
Artist's Work 4
"The Hogs Are Hunting"
This is my 20"xl6" watercolor on Arches CP paper. When Lt. Col. John "Karl" Marks took off from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri on Sept. 1, 2021, it wasn't just another training sortie: it was a record-breaking flight that would firmly establish him as the most experienced A-10 attack plane pilot in history .During the sortie, the 57-year-old Marks reached 7,000 hours of flight time in the A-IOC Thunderbolt II across his 32-year flying career, more than any other A-10 pilot. Best of all, Marks, who first started flying during the Cold War (where he got his call sign "Karl," though now he's called "Cuda" when he's airborne), doesn't plan on stopping any time soon.
Artist's Work 5
"Eagle Squadron"
This is my oil pastel/Prismacolor drawing featuring Eagle Squadron volunteers on 12"x 9" toned grey paper. In 1940, on the other side of the world, American pilots flocked in droves to British and Canadian recruiting stations. Approximately 15,000 joined the Royal Air Force and Royal Canadian Air Force where, as a rule, they were assimilated into various flying units. The exception was the famed Eagle Squadrons which, contrary to popular belief, consisted of three individual squadrons, not one. Manned entirely by American pilots, these three RAF units, Numbers 71,121 and 133 Squadrons, flew Hawker Hurricanes and Supermarine Spitfires in combat over Europe from Feb. 5,1941, to Sept. 29, 1942, when they were transferred to the AAF. Formed into the 4th Fighter Group, they provided numerous experienced combat veterans who proved invaluable to the inexperienced AAF fighter pilots who began to arrive in England in large numbers in 1943.
Artist's Work 6
"Semper Paratus"
My 24"xl8" watercolor painting on Arches CP paper is a tribute to some dear friends who are retired "Coasties" and as fate would have it, I finished it on the USCG's 233rd birthday. It is loosely based on a Navy pilot who had to eject from a training jet and was rescued from the ocean near Key West, Florida. The F-5N aircraft went into the water about 25 miles from Boca Chica Field. The pilot, who was uninjured, was assigned to Fighter Squadron Composite 111, known as the "Sun Downers," based at Naval Air Station Key West.
Artist's Work 10

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