Thursday, October 22, 2015

Sedona Plein Air Festival - Update 3

My secret spot on Oak Creek in Page Springs!

The theme for the Sedona Plein Air Festival this year is "Water in the Desert." I've done my share of red rock paintings* so I was excited to be given a different focus. There are surprisingly many water-painting opportunities in the area if you explore a little. Wednesday, I decided to avoid the crowds in Oak Creek Canyon north of Sedona and instead headed downstream to Page Springs. After last year's festival, the theme of which was wine**, I discovered a beautiful bend in Oak Creek just behind Page Springs Cellars.

I headed out early to make the most of the morning and got there around 8. I scrambled down to the water on travertine rocks, slippery with seeping moisture and the night's rain. At that time of day, there's not much happening on the creek. A couple of ducks entertained me, and a big heron stood sentinel on a rock in the middle of the stream. He stayed there most of the time I was painting, a very patient fellow, indeed. Or maybe he was just waiting to see if the fishing was any better where I was.


Morning on the Creek, 12x16 oil by Michael Chesley Johnson - Available

I spent most of the morning on this piece. At the end, though, I had a small accident with my pochade box. I was using an older version of Alla Prima's "Bitterroot Lite" box; this one has a spring assembly to hold the panel in place. As I was detaching my panel, that little sucker shot off to my left -- and into the deepest part of the creek. There was no retrieving it. Fortunately, Ben Haggett of Alla Prima Pochade was able to come through with a replacement part. "I haven't used those in 8 years," he said, "but I found a spare covered with dust in the workshop." Thank you, Ben!

Bird's-eye view of the public sale at L'Auberge de Sedona

My painting is in the beautiful gold frame on the right.

Thursday was our Quick Draw event at L'Auberge de Sedona along Oak Creek in uptown. The Festival hasn't held an event there in several years, so it was great to be back. There are always a dozen or so ducks on the premises, and one year, an artist fed them crackers so they would be still long enough to paint them, but no one painted ducks this time.

Water in the Desert - 9x12 oil by Michael Chesley Johnson - Available

I chose to focus on rocks and water, something that I've learned a painting knife does well with. A knife creates some great blending effects to simulate rushing water, a task that is difficult with a brush. I enjoy the way it can weave together rich but complementary colors without muddying.

Tomorrow (Friday) is the last painting day of the Festival. Artists get to hang their work around noontime, and then there is a private (ticketed) reception at 4 at the Sedona Arts Center at 15 Art Barn Road followed by a public sale from 5 to 7.  I hope to see some of you there!

* If you'd like to purchase some of my red rock paintings, please contact me. I'll be happy to have you out to the studio.
** To merge these two popular festival themes, "Water Into Wine" will be the theme for next year.

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