Monday, November 19, 2018

2019 Calendar!

Yes, it's that time of year again when artists put out their annual calendars.  What makes mine different?  I travel to paint, and the calendar shows works that are not only seasonably appropriate but also representative of some of the places I've been.  In this one, you'll see scenes from Scotland, Maine, Arizona and New Mexico.  Plus, it has not only US holidays but also Canadian ones!

I've created the calendar on, and they're offering a 15% discount until November 22.  You can use this discount code when purchasing:  FIFTEEN.  My calendar is only $14.99, so with the discount it's only $12.75. 

You can preview the calendar and also purchase it here:

Support independent publishing: Buy this calendar on Lulu.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Sedona Plein Air Painting Workshop Wrap-Up

The Big Vista 6x8 Oil / Available

Trina and I just finished a delightful week in Sedona, Arizona, with a small group of painters for my November plein air painting workshop there.  This time, we had a new addition to our family joining us, Raku.  (Her full name is Raku the Firecloud Rez Dog, for reasons which I will explain at some future point.)  Raku enjoyed meeting the painters, but she enjoyed most, I think, pouncing after locusts, little birds and wind-blown leaves.  At perhaps 18 months old, she still has a good bit of puppy in her!

Raku, our chauffeur to the painting location

We couldn't have had finer weather this week.  Although mornings started off crisp, with a little wind the first day, we enjoyed plenty of sunshine and warmth.  Sedona is a truly fabulous place to paint, with plenty of red rocks, babbling creeks and quiet places for the painter.  I've included a selection of photos from the week, as well as four of my demonstration sketches.

Sparkly River 9x12 pastel / Available

Stand Alone 9x12 pastel / Available

The Big Mountain 9x12 oil / Available

By the way,  as I have mentioned before, I'll be teaching in Sedona one last time April 2-5, 2019.  (In the future, rather than teaching workshops there, I'll be running the occasional painting retreat for past students.  The retreats are different from the workshops in that there is no formal instruction, but plenty of critiques, camaraderie and art talk.)  This final workshop will be for all levels and will run four days from 9-1.  If you like to travel with family or friends, you'll have your afternoons free to explore -- or to paint on your own, if you like to immerse yourself in the craft.  We have limited lodging left at the studio, so don't delay if you're interested.  Details Full details are at  I hope to see you there!

Helping at the easel

Sun dogs over the Verde River

My setup (Prolific Painter's "Day Tripper" easel)

#gamblincolors #sedonaarizona #pleinairpainting #paintingworkshops #blueearthpastels #prolificpainter

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Last Week's Painting Intensive

Rock Cliff Study, 6x9 oil

We just finished up a fantastic week with near-perfect weather at this last one-on-one painting intensive.  My student, who is from the far northern part of New Mexico, worked with me on painting rock faces and cliffs, and tried to nail down good value observations while modeling rock forms.  (You can see one of the demonstrations I did on value here.)  Mornings started off a bit cool, but by the time we got to our location, things always warmed up nicely.  I think both of us got a lot of value out of the week!

By the way, this is my last one-on-one painting intensive week until next spring; if you are an outdoor painter with some experience and are interested in joining me for this unique program customized to your needs, please take a look at

Now I'm off to Sedona, to teach an all-level plein air painting workshop.  (And if you are more of a beginner at outdoor painting and wish to join me in an all-level workshop, I'll be teaching in Sedona one last time April 2-5, 2019.  Details are also at

Below I offer some of the pieces from the intensive.  All are available for sale.

Rock modeling exercise, 6x9 oil

Simplifying shadows demo, 6x9 oil

More modeling of rock cliffs, 6x9 oil

More cliff shadows, 9x12 oil

Cliff Shadows, 12x9 oil (see earlier post)

Backlit tree demo, 9x12 oil

Expanse of rock wall demo, 12x9 oil

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Chasing Shadows

Cliff Shadows
9x12 oil demonstration
Michael Chesley Johnson

How many of you have run into the problem of complex shadows changing faster than they can be painted?  All of us, I suspect.  Over time, though, I've gotten pretty good at taking mental snapshots of the patterns and working from memory.  However, this method requires practice!  A more sure-fire way is to first block the shadows in very simply with a mid-value grey.  This establishes both the shape of the shadow and a starting value.   Once you've done this, do NOT change the shape of the shadow!

Next, paint the area immediately around the shadow with color.  If the sunlit area is warm, this step will force the grey to "feel" cooler.  Following this, paint color into the shadow, trying to adjust the coolness so it seems right when compared to the sunlit area.  You may have to go back-and-forth a little between shadow and light making adjustments.  Aim for getting the right contrast of value and temperature.  When you're done, you will have created a foundation around which to build the rest of the painting.

I know it'll be tempting to paint elsewhere in the painting while you're working on this step, but refrain from going off-topic.  Your painting will be the better for it.

Below are some step-by-step photos of a demonstration painting from this week's one-on-one Painting Intensive.  The grey I used was Gamblin's Portland Grey Medium.  I've been using this approach all week, and it's worked quite well.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

This Winter's Plein Air Painting Workshops

Now that I'm settled into my New Mexico studio for the season, I thought I'd bring you up to date on the workshops I have this winter.  You may not think of winter as being prime-time for outdoor painting, but you can plein air paint in any season!  Especially here in northern New Mexico, where a sunny day in January at 50 degrees can feel quite balmy.  By the way, some of the workshops below are in even warmer places.

November 13-15, 2018:  ARIZONA, Sedona.
This workshop happens next week!  I still have spaces left.  Sedona is at 4300 feet, so although you get winter, you get very little of it.  In fact, November is still fall color season.  The autumn foliage can be stunning against the red rocks, and with Oak Creek winding through the scene, paintings almost paint themselves.  The workshop is four half-days (9-1), so if you like to travel with friends or family, you'll have your afternoons free to explore with them.  Or, you can paint all day! $300.  Details here.

February 20-22, 2019:  ARIZONA, Tubac.
Sponsored by the Tubac Center of the Arts, this promises to be a great winter get-away.  Tubac is a little village about an hour south of Tucson with lots of historic buildings plus much natural scenery.  Lodging is limited in this little town, so if you'd like to join us, you should sign up now.  Three fulls days, $350.  Details at

March-April, 2019:  NEW MEXICO, near Zuni.
This is the time in the late winter/early spring when I run my Painting Intensive for painters with experience.  This is a one-on-one, very intense week that is completely customized to the participant.  If you need to bring your painting skills up a notch, this is for you!  I also do mentoring and business help.  We'll work side-by-side in the field or studio in the mornings, and for the afternoons, I give you assignments to help you along on your chosen path.  At the end of the week, I create an Action Plan for you for the future and offer three months of free consulting.  Lodging and meals included.  $1400.  (There is a tuition-only version at $700, if you prefer to lodge on your own.)  Details here.

April 2-5, 2019:  ARIZONA, Sedona.
I know I've said this before, but this April workshop really will be my FINAL workshop in Sedona.  I may lead painting retreats there in the future--painting adventures for experienced painters with me as the guide--but my retreats are exclusively for artists who have worked with me before.  This April workshop week will be just like the November week, but with spring colors! Limited lodging is also available in the studio. $300.  Details here.

Now, get out there and paint!