Thursday, October 19, 2017

Painting Demonstration in Sedona, Arizona, for Goldenstein Gallery

Secret Mountain Wilderness by Michael Chesley Johnson
Secret Mountain Wilderness 12x36 oil
by Michael Chesley Johnson

I invite you to join me for a painting demonstration on October 29th, 2017, Sunday afternoon from 1-3 pm, along the shady banks of Oak Creek in Sedona, Arizona.  As part of Goldenstein Gallery's artist-in-residence program, I'll be down at the L'Auberge de Sedona resort, painting by the creek, just off the restaurant's outside deck.  The cottonwoods should be in all their golden finery by then.  You can enjoy a fine brunch, too!

The painting I make during the demonstration will be for sale through the gallery.  To whet your appetite, I'd like to share with you the paintings I currently have at Goldenstein Gallery.  You can see (and purchase them) both at L'Auberge de Sedona and also at the gallery.

By the way, although my November plein air painting workshop in Sedona is filled, if you are interested in another workshop there, please let me know.  I'll be happy to schedule another one!  You can e-mail me at, and if I get enough interest, I will let you know.

A Place to Stand Oil Painting by Michael Chesley Johnson
A Place to Stand 24x12 Oil

Autumn's Turn Oil Painting by Michael Chesley Johnson
Autumn's Turn 24x36 Oil
All paintings available through:
Goldenstein Gallery 
150 SR 179/ Suite 5, Sedona, AZ 86336
928- 204-1765

Evening Light Oil Painting by Michael Chesley Johnson
Evening Light 11x14 Oil

Into the Flow Oil Painting by Michael Chesley Johnson
Into the Flow 12x16 Oil

December Morning in the Desert Oil Painting by Michael Chesley Johnson
December Morning in the Desert 24x30 Oil

Quiet Bend (Marble Canyon) Oil Painting by Michael Chesley Johnson
Quiet Bend (Marble Canyon) 16x20 Oil

Red Rock Rising (Sedona) Oil Painting by Michael Chesley Johnson
Red Rock Rising 9x12 Oil

Slide Rock Fault (Sedona) Oil Painting by Michael Chesley Johnson
Slide Rock Fault 16x20 Oil

Season of Trees (Goldenstein, L'Auberge, Sedona) Oil Painting by Michael Chesley Johnson
Season of Trees 12x9 Oil

Monday, October 16, 2017

Secret Cliffs - and a New Plein Air Painting Program

"Secret Cliffs"
6x8 Oil by Michael Chesley Johnson

As many of you know, Trina and I have been driving cross-country to the Southwest, as we do every fall.  We are now home, but it's a new home.

We've returned to a part of the world where we feel a deep spiritual kinship with the land–New Mexico.  Back in 1999, we quit our jobs in Vermont to follow our dreams, and our dreams led us here.  I wasn't a full-time painter then, but I became one soon after.  Now that I’m back, I'm eager to explore this landscape with a paintbrush that has matured.  Near the Zuni Pueblo and El Morro National Monument, and on the shoulders of the Zuni Mountains at 7000 feet, our home and studios occupy a point in the universe where the air is clear; the sky, blue; and the sun, intense unlike anywhere else.  There's lots to explore, from lava fields to sandstone bluffs, from ponderosa-clad hills to blue lakes.

The location of “Secret Cliffs” (above) is a short, perhaps 15-minute, walk from my home, if I scramble down a cliff and through scrub oak.  It’s better to drive there, and then it’s only 5 minutes.  The lake depicted had been dry for awhile but filled up over the last two winters from snowmelt.  When I went out to paint this yesterday, the sun was going down and the waterfowl were tuning up for an evening of birdsong.  The place is gorgeous in autumn, and there’s a peace that fills the land.

I'm eager to share this new space with students who are experienced painters, as there is so much to paint here.  Starting in February of next year (2018), I will open up my home and studio to one person at a time who would like to study with me privately.  You'll get food and lodging (a tuition-only version will also be available, in case you want to lodge elsewhere) plus five days of intensive painting which I will fully customize after a consultation.  I'll write more about this new Private Painting Intensive Study program in a future blog post, but for now, you can find more information at  And you are more than welcome to sign up now!

Here's a short video of this painting location.  We'll be painting here as part of my new program.  (Link:

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Doug Dawson Plein Air Painting Workshop, Oct 30-Nov 3, 2017

In case you haven't heard, Master Artist Doug Dawson will be teaching a plein air painting workshop October 30-November 3, 2017, in Sedona, Arizona.  I've known Doug for many years, and I've sponsored several workshops with him.  Doug, who was given the title of Master Pastelist by the Pastel Society of America in 1985 and inducted into the Masters' Circle by the International Association of Pastel Societies in 2005, shares so much during a workshop.  Everyone gets a great deal out of the week, and he often has repeat students coming back for more.

The workshop will be based at the same studio I used for my PaintSedona workshops.  The cost of the workshop is $625 (not including lodging).  To register, contact Doug Dawson directly at 303-421-4584 or

You can find out more about Doug at his website, which is  I've included a couple of videos here.  The first (at the top, but here is the link) is an interview with Doug.  The second (below, link here) is a video I put together to advertise a workshop with him in Maine and New Brunswick.  Although it's not Sedona, it'll still give you an idea of the workshop week.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Workshop Report: Durango, Colorado

Two Aspens Study 6x8 Oil by Michael Chesley Johnson

Few places in the world are more beautiful than Colorado in the fall.  The mountains,  quilted with pink, blue and gold, buoy up the heart.  Hike up into some mountain meadow, and the splendor of aspens will wipe away the cares of the world.

Animas River, Durango, Colorado
This past weekend, I had the honor of teaching a private workshop for a group of plein air artists located in Durango.  This historic town hugs the Animas River between two mountain ranges, the San Juan and the La Plata.  From my host’s house and our meeting place, I enjoyed a stunning vista.  On our first morning, thick clouds surrounded the peaks, but as dawn broke, orange and pink seeped into the grey, overpowering it and drenching the world with autumn light.

Looking for something to paint - not so hard!
After a short morning lecture, we headed up to the Silverpick Lodge, located at 8900 feet, to paint the aspens.  A rather chill wind was blowing, but we found a sheltered spot for my first demonstration, which was in pastel.  After lunch, the wind began to blow harder, but I found a little road that led to a spot on the lee side of a hill where it was comfortably sunny and warm.  I set up at the edge of a meadow, in a gathering of aspens that was like a golden chapel.

Silverpick 9x12 Oil by Michael Chesley Johnson

Location shot for "Silverpick"
The next day, because the weather was forecast to be cooler, we decided to start at a lower elevation (7000 feet or so), along Lightner Creek.  Here we had a broad view of a meadow with views of Barnroof Point.  We’d gotten an early start, so the sun was rising over the hill and playing games with the light on the aspens.  It was tough painting, because the effect was so brief. Later, we headed up hill to the Hesperus Ski Area for lunch at the Kennebec Cafe.  From there, we had beautiful views of clusters of yellow and orange cottonwoods and aspens.

Aspen  Grove Study 12x9 Pastel by Michael Chesley Johnson

The happy group, minus one
My students were experienced outdoor painters, and it was a treat to work with them.  They were diverse:  a retired physical therapist, a fiddler/potter, an allergist, a geologist...I could go on.  But gathering them together was the common thread of painting in the beautiful outdoors.   I felt privileged to be in their company in such a beautiful part of the world.

I think private workshops are the way to go.  This group made me feel like a guest, and, I am grateful for their hospitality.

If your group would like to me teach a private workshop, let’s talk!

Sunday, October 1, 2017

A Special Plein Air Painting Retreat

West Quoddy Station

Special Plein Air Painting Retreat

West Quoddy Station, Lubec, Maine
August 13-17, 2018

I invite you to join us for a very special plein air painting retreat for experienced painters this summer. Unlike my usual workshops in Lubec, this retreat will be five luxurious days long, giving us plenty of outdoor painting time. Our base camp will be at the beautifully-renovated West Quoddy Station, a historic US Coast Guard compound right on the water. I have reserved the entire week for our retreat, with check-in on Sunday, August 12, and departure on Friday, August 17, for a total of five nights. (And of course, you are more than welcome to extend your stay!)

West Quoddy Head Light

The Station offers many choices for lodging as there are five buildings. Some are apartments for singles or couples; others are cottages for one or two couples; the Station House has five bedrooms. (All units have kitchens.) Because of the variety, I urge you to bring not just yourself but your painting buddies. If you are a member of a painting group, please extend this invitation to your members. You can find full details and pictures plus pricing on the compound at*

Painting the Bold Coast

The Station is perfectly located for our retreat, as it is right next to Quoddy Head State Park with its trails and lighthouse. If you've never been to this park before, it offers stunning views of the Grand Manan Channel with rocky cliffs and rugged beaches as well as interior trails that wind through bogs and spruce forests. Like I tell my students, I could spend the whole week painting just there! The Station itself, of course, has many picturesque possibilities for us painters.

Lubec, Maine

A short drive from the Station takes you to Lubec, a historic village with a working waterfront that includes fish houses and lobster boats. Lubec also has several restaurants and shops, as well as a nearby medical center and grocery store. (Check out for more information.) Beyond Lubec, there are several trailheads that offer painting opportunities, such as Hamilton Beach and Boot Head. You will need a passport, as we will visit my studio on nearby Campobello Island, which is in Canada, and also paint in the Roosevelt-Campobello International Park, which has 3000 acres of natural beauty. You won't want this retreat to end!

One of my favorite spots to paint!

Each day will start at 8 a.m. with critiques of the previous day's paintings. Following this, I will give some helpful pointers on painting in the area. After that, we'll paint as a group for the morning. Although I won't be giving any formal instruction, I will be offering demonstrations to anyone who wants to watch and also painting along with you. After lunchtime, I will give you optional painting assignments for the afternoon. Or, if you prefer not to paint, you can explore—go on a whale watch, take a hike, or visit some of the other villages.

More Bold Coast painting

To hold your space for the retreat, I will need a $150 deposit.** The price of the retreat is $300, which does not include lodging or meals. Please e-mail me at first to make sure I have space, and at that time I will give you information about where to send the deposit. After I receive your deposit, I will send a confirmation letter with details. Final payment is due one month before the retreat starts.

To reserve your lodging or to check on availability, please make your arrangements at West Quoddy Station by calling them at 877-535-4714 or emailing to You cannot book directly online. Make sure you tell them it is for the “Michael Chesley Johnson Plein Air Painting Retreat.” Once you have made your lodging arrangements, let me know where you will be staying and how many.

I'm looking forward to this retreat, as it is so different from my usual workshops here in Lubec. I hope you'll join us!


*Participants must stay at West Quoddy Head Station, as this guarantees the use of Quoddy Hall for our studio. Although the plan is to be outdoors painting as much as possible, it's important to have indoor studio space for critiques and rainy days. We will paint outdoors unless weather dictates otherwise.

**Deposit is non-refundable unless another participant can be found to take your place. You can read the full cancellation policy here.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Smartphone Apps and Painting

(Can't see the video above?  Go to this link:
Here's a video I shot in Instagram on my Nexus 6P

I recently caught up with the 21st century and got a smartphone. Two of the apps I installed on it are Instagram and Snapseed. I know I've come belatedly to the Instaworld, but I've become enamored of it as a cool way to see art. I have several artists I follow now—not just landscape painters, but also portrait and figure painters, commercial illustrators and even a tattoo artist or two. What I like about Instagram is that it's all about the image. There might be some accompanying text with the image, but the image takes up the most real estate on my screen. I can get my daily fix of beautiful, well-wrought images by some of my favorites.

I like Instagram much better than Facebook, since Facebook has gotten so cluttered with ads, games and other junk that its developers think I need. Instagram does have some drawbacks, though. I don't mind the square format, since there are some tricks that allow you to squeeze in an image that isn't square. But its image editing capabilities are somewhat limited.

And that's why I installed Snapseed. Snapseed lets me do just about anything with an image. What's important for editing photos of painting? Cropping, perspective correction, white balance adjustments and also tuning for hue, chroma and value. Snapseed handles all this well. (If you don't mind squinting down at a 6-inch screen!)

The other option to editing an image is to use Photoshop or the equivalent, but that's not going to happen on my smartphone. Instead, I adjust the image on my desktop (really a laptop) and upload the result to Google Drive. Instagram can fetch the image from this. This method, unfortunately, means I'm not Instagramming the image, er, instantly. All that said, Snapseed does most of what I need.

With Instagram and Snapseed, I can share my world. If I'm painting in a remote location, so long as I can pick up at least a 3G signal, I can post a view of my scene and also stages of my painting. With 4G, I can even share video. It's a new world, Van Gogh.

If you'd like to follow me on Instagram:

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

T.W. Wood Gallery Pastel Workshop in Vermont

Demonstration:  Bay View, 12x14 pastel by Michael Chesley Johnson

I always like to teach a workshop or two while Trina and I are making our cross-country trek.  Not only does it break up the trip, but I get to make some new friends and to help them on their way to becoming better painters.  This week, I taught a two-day pastel-only workshop in Montpelier, Vermont, at the T.W. Wood Gallery.  The weather in New England had turned hot—I think it hit 88 or 89 the second day—so we were all thankful it was a studio-only workshop, and that the studio had an air-conditioner.

Vermont's Capital City, Montpelier

T.W. Wood Gallery

Most of the participants were members of the Vermont Pastel Society, and none of them were beginners.   This let us break into some advanced material, such as my “extreme limited pastel palette,” and to dive deep into color theory.   I enjoyed fielding some very good questions from them and demonstrating my answers.

How cool is it in the shade?
12x9 pastel demonstration
Barre Street

Although this was advertised as studio-only, I did a plein air demonstration right outside the gallery on Barre Street the first morning.  A couple of students chose to work outdoors in what shade they could find.  Although there's not much natural landscape in Montpelier, the town is very old and offers a bounty of beautiful, old homes and scenic streets.  Maybe next time, when I'm sure it will be much cooler, I will hold a “painting architecture” workshop.

The Mystery Plein Air Man
One evening, while we were waiting to join students for dinner at Sarducci's, we toured State Street and happened across a plein air painter.  He was painting happily from a platform mounted on his pickup truck.  I rather admired his braveness, painting in the middle of Vermont's capital city on a Saturday evening, but then I realized nobody was going to bother him—he occupied a plane far removed from earth-bound tourists.  At the most, he received curious looks, but no inquiries, so far as I could see.

Now we are in Saint Louis, half-way through our trip.  Although Saturday was the first day of Autumn, we have had 90+ degree weather ever since we left Vermont.  It was 93 degrees in Buffalo, 91 in Cleveland, and it has been bouncing between 93 and 95 degrees since then.  We're expecting rain tomorrow when we reach Oklahoma.  What a blessing that will be!

Saturday, September 23, 2017

The Selfishness of Art

Portrait of Mozart (1756-1791).
Painted in 1762, when the composer was 6, by Fruhstorfer.

The making of Art is a selfish endeavor. It requires all your spirit; yet you can give it everything, and it will still demand more. To give it what it craves is to take away from others. Time and space, love and friendship, sympathy and concern—there will be none, if any, left for important relationships. It's an impossible position to be in, if you want to stay married and still have friends.

I, too, have struggled with balancing Art and everything else. When I give too much time to Art and sense that my relationship with others suffers, guilt sets in. I find it tempting to shift the blame to that gluttonous monster, Art.  But to be honest, it's not Art but only just me, wanting to do what I find immensely rewarding and fulfilling. It's a rather selfish attitude.

One reads about someone like Mozart, a child prodigy, whose father recognized his gift and turned his efforts to cultivating his son's talent. Unlike most preteens, Mozart probably didn't rebel against constant practice; he clearly enjoyed the effort. As one report has it, “He was keen to progress beyond what he was taught.” But was Mozart selfish? It's hard to think so when you listen to his Requiem in D Minor.

Of course, I'm no Mozart—or, to choose a name more appropriate to painting, no Rembrandt. I'd like to think that some day I'll reach a point where I've mastered the craft and have moved on to making Art with a capital “A.” Meanwhile, I try to balance all the things that make life worth living.

Personal goals aside, I believe that making Art may be necessarily selfish, but the sharing of Art is not. My hope is that my paintings will give others solace knowing that, in these times of doubt and soul-searching, there is still beauty.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Mental Sketch to Studio: Fog

Foggy Morning
6x24 oil by Michael Chesley Johnson

Recently, we had a spell of thick fog.  Dawn arrived with streetlamps shrouded in mist, moisture dripping from every leaf, and dew-hung cobwebs quilting the mown fields.  If the fog retreated offshore during the day, it crept back in toward evening.  Night always seems to come extra-early on foggy days.

As seductive as fog can be in the way it wraps the landscape in mystery and softness, it's a detriment to painting outdoors.  On foggy days, unless I'm teaching a workshop and want to demonstrate to my students how to treat it, I am more likely to take a hike than to pick up the brush.  This time, I took a walk at Herring Cove.

From the observation deck, which overlooks a mile of beach, I couldn't see much.  Seaweed-clad rocks nearby; a line of surf, arcing off into the fog; a rich, green glow, the only sign that a patch of beach grass lay out there, somewhere.  The fog made the breadth of the view seem curiously vaster than on a clear day.  The surf whispering against the sand seemed louder.

The moment held a quality that immediately spoke to me as a lover of landscape.  I decided to make a painting of it, but not having pencil or brush, I spent several  minutes observing.   First, I decided that the proportions of the scene before me were more important to recreating the feeling of its scope; so, using my hand, I measured distances and angles, committing these to memory.  Then I observed the relative warmth and coolness of different parts; the beach and water were warmer than the emptiness of fog, which was cooler.  Finally, I looked at value and chroma, noting that the darkest and richest parts of the scene were those closest at hand.

When I got back to the studio, I drew a design and made notes before the memory evaporated.

I didn't get back to this project until after I'd done most of my packing for our annual trip out west.  I made just this small piece, which is 6"x24".  I think a larger version, say 2 by 8 feet, would make an awesome over-the-couch piece.  I'll save that for another season.

By the way, as I was painting the foggy portions, I couldn't help but think of Agnes Martin, who is famous for her subtle, high-key abstractions.  If she'd continued to be a landscape painter, as she was in her early years, she might have become a master of fog.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Plein Air Painting Retreats and More!

Painting in Nova Scotia
[If you already receive my newsletter and have seen this, my apologies! But if you're not a newsletter subscriber, you can sign up here.]

September 2017
Campobello Island, NB, Canada

Trina and I just returned from a fantastic painting retreat in Nova Scotia. Our group was based near famous Peggy's Cove, which has a great reputation among painters and photographers. If you'd like to read about our experiences on the trip, I've written two blog posts about it, Part 1 and Part 2.

Now that we're back, we are on the verge of packing up and driving west to our home and studios in New Mexico! It's hard to believe summer has passed so quickly.


Some of you may have noticed I am scheduling fewer plein air painting workshops these days. Well, I'm not retiring so much as I am refocusing. If you've taken a workshop with me, you know how much I enjoy sharing what I've learned over the years. I don't intend to stop. But many of my students have asked for a different kind of program, one in which we explore not only more advanced topics but also new locations. With that in mind, I've been testing the waters with a series of painting retreats for the experienced painter, and the feedback has been wonderful.

Paint the Southwest!

Now that we're back from this latest retreat, let me tell you about a new one in New Mexico. This state has a very special place in our hearts; when we first moved to the Southwest back in 1999, those hills were the introduction to a place vastly different from our roots back east. One reason we love the area is that it's been home to several cultures for hundreds of years, including Native Americans (Navajo, Zuni and Acoma), old Spanish families, and the more recently arrived Anglo ranchers. But for me as a painter, it's also rich artistically, having a long history of painters and artisans. And the scenery! You can spend a lifetime painting its mesas and hills and mountain streams.

Why am I telling you about New Mexico? Because this will be the home for a special series of retreats that starts in the spring. I'll be offering private, one-on-one study for painters with experience. This program will be completely customized to your needs—it can include fine-tuning your painting skills, introducing you to new ways of seeing (and therefore, painting), the business of painting, or whatever I determine would help you best, based on a consultation via either e-mail or telephone. The program includes six nights' lodging at our home (private bed and bath), three meals a day, and more. Cost for the program is only $1500 and includes followup consultations for three months after the program. For full details, visit

Paint Santa Fe!

I'll also be offering a retreat in Santa Fe, April 16-23, 2018. Unlike the mentoring retreats at my studio, this will be a small group of painters exploring Santa Fe with both brush and camera. In previous retreats in Santa Fe, we've painted the historic Pueblo Revival adobes and cottonwoods, visited the galleries on famous Canyon Road and journeyed out to a historic Spanish hacienda for a day of painting. Cost is $1000 per person, which includes lodging and breakfast and lunch. Space will be limited to only six or eight participants. If you're interested, let me know right away, and I'll send you details.

Paint Lubec, Maine!

Another very special retreat will be in Lubec, Maine, August 13-17, 2018, for experienced painters. I want to give past students the first shot at this, so if you're on my student list, watch for a separate e-mail on that. After October 1st, I'll be opening the retreat up to the general public.

I'm also planning retreats and workshops abroad. Although the Scotland trip for next spring is filled with a waiting list, I do have space in my Italy trip, which is June 16-23, 2018. We'll stay at historic Villa Fattoria Bac├Čo in Certaldo Alto with painting excursions to Siena, La Meridiana, San Gimignano and Barberino. For full details on this, you can download the flyer here.

Finally, I want to remind you that I will continue to teach workshops for art groups and workshop centers. If you'd like me to teach one for your group, please let me know. I have a list of upcoming ones on my website.


This July saw the opening of the Third Acadia Invitational at the Bar Harbor Inn (Maine). Organized by Argosy Gallery, the reception had a great turnout. I was pleased to meet many of the participating artists that evening. The show has now moved to Argosy II, the gallery's second location on Mt Desert Street, just off the town green. It'll be up through October 2018. (Sold paintings will be replaced by the artists.) You can see the paintings on the gallery's web site here.

I'm also coordinating the annual exhibition for Plein Air Painters of the Bay of Fundy for next August. The exhibition will be in Saint Andrews, New Brunswick. Stay tuned for details!

That's all for now. Trina and I will shortly be on our way to New Mexico. I'll send everyone a note once we are there!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Nova Scotia Plein Air Painting Retreat: Part 2

Back Bay, Chester
9x12 oil by Michael Chesley Johnson

[For Nova Scotia Plein Air Painting Retreat Part 1, click here.]

Tuesday we headed in the other direction, to Terence Bay.  Terence Bay is the site of another tragedy.  In 1873, the SS Atlantic wrecked with a loss of 560 souls out of about 990 passengers.   The ones recovered are buried in a mass grave just below the Anglican church that overlooks the bay.  A trail takes you through the cemetery and to a memorial for the lost.  A very nice interpretive center tells the story and also raises funds for restoring the Terence Bay lighthouse.

SS Atlantic Memorial and Burial Site
Terrence Bay Light

The area around the lighthouse is very beautiful:  rugged, windswept, waves crashing.  But the wind was blowing so hard that painting anywhere but in a foxhole was impossible.  I found the equivalent of a foxhole—a little hideaway between some rocks near the waterline.  Sitting on a rock lowered me even more, and with my back to the wind, I was comfortable enough.  Except for my buttocks.  I ended up sitting on my roll of paper towels, which was quite cushiony.

Painting at Terrence Bay

How the Innovative Painter Keeps His Spirits Container from Tipping Over

Terrence Bay
6x6 oil by Michael Chesley Johnson
Afterward, Trina and I went off exploring again, following every little road that seemed like it might head to the water.  One place, a small bridge connecting Hennessey Island to the mainland, seemed the perfect serene spot, but it could only manage one or two cars, so was unsuitable for a group.  Sometimes you just have to go with taking a few photographs.

Peggy's Cove, Morning
9x12 Oil by Michael Chesley Johnson
Following the explorations, we found ourselves back at Peggy’s Cove again.  That place is truly irresistible for a painter.  Town wasn’t quite as busy as the holiday weekend, so I set up in a more open spot.  I parked my car back at the information center and hiked into town where I saw some cars parked. This seemed very much a public spot to me.  The cars were from a variety of places, including Texas, and so I set up two feet in front of them on the gravel pad with a view of some fish houses.  About halfway into my painting, I heard a car horn behind me.  I usually ignore those, because the noise is always meant for someone else.  But after about ten blasts, I turned to see what the problem was.  Two guys in a car were looking at me.  The driver, shouting across his passenger, asked if I had permission to paint in that spot.  I responded, “It’s public, isn’t it?”  “No, it’s not,” he said.  Flustered, I apologized, but then he said it was all right but he usually asks for a painting in exchange.  I replied we’d have to see how this one turned out.  After he drove off, I just couldn’t get rid of the fluster, especially after the embarrassment of all that rude horn-blowing.  I always try to do the right thing and feel terrible if I’m chastised.   So, I hurriedly applied a few final strokes, packed up and left.

I was positive I had set up on public property.  After all, there were cars parked there with plates from other provinces and even the US.  Later, discussing this with the others, we decided this was a local joker just giving me a hard time.  But maybe he really was the property owner, and I was indeed trespassing.  I know signs can be ugly in a tourist town, but private property where parking is a free-for-all should be clearly marked as such.   Maybe the guy thought I belonged to the car from Texas.

(As an aside, I should say that the day we set up on Lobster Lane, we made sure to stay at the edge, keeping the way clear for traffic.  This is a one-lane road that goes to a couple of cottages and a fish house or two.  A lady from the information center saw us there and said, “It’s okay to paint there, but just to let you know, sometimes the cottage owner will need to get through.”  And the Peggy’s Dogs lady said she had no problem with us painting a few feet from her cart.)

The DeGarthe Studio (right)

I de-stressed by visiting the DeGarthe Art Gallery, right across the street from the information center.  I’d never heard of William DeGarthe until we started researching this retreat.   From Finland, he came to Canada at 19 and finally settled in Peggy’s Cove, where he sold paintings to tourists.  It wasn’t long before he developed a bevy of collectors, including the Imperial Bank of Canada.  After he died at age 75, his widow donated part of his work to Nova Scotia, which established a provincial park with his home in Peggy’s Cove as the centerpiece.  The home is now the museum.  His studio, unmarked, sits down by the water, a lonely red building with that iconic view of the cove.  The paintings in the museum seem to show two different types of painting:  quick sketchy oils for the tourist trade, and more larger, more finished paintings destined for collectors.  DeGarthe was also a sculptor; you can see a nearly-finished sculpture carved into a rock ledge behind the home, the “Fishermen’s Monument,” which contains 32 figures.  The ashes of both DeGarthe and his wife are interred in the monument.

Peggy's Cove Sublime
8x10 oil by Michael Chesley Johnson
Wednesday was a day of not just wind but also fog.  Even so, we went back to Peggy’s Cove, where I did a demonstration at a spot overlooking a little cove, the water of which seemed incandescent in the fog.  I did a second painting for myself here as well, after a cup of coffee at a little shop down the road.  Afterward, we did some more exploring and ended up on Croucher’s Point Road and visited the eponymous gallery, which has some wonderful work by William Rogers, Ivan Fraser, and others.

Later, as we continued to explore, we found a delightful spot on Paddy’s Head Road in Indian Harbour with a view of the Indian Harbour lighthouse.  I did a quick painting and met another artist who lives nearby.  We had a pleasant chat, and she welcomed me as another artist enjoying her view.  Shortly, her grandchildren from British Columbia joined her, and they went down to the beach on the other side of the road.  I'm sorry my car alarm went off went I bent over with my keys in my pocket, disturbing their afternoon.

Peggy's Cove Preservation Area

Thursday, the rain came.  We'd been hearing it was coming all week, but were pleased it held off that long.  The only ones who painted were one or two participants who didn't mind tweaking plein air paintings in the dim light of the garage.  (It's almost impossible to rent a space that also has an area suitable for painting, but fortunately, we had an empty garage.)  We all went out for lunch at Rhubarb, just up the road, and afterward, the rain changed over to scattered bits of drizzle, so Trina and I took a walk on a short trail in the Peggys' Cove Preservation Area.  The trail goes up a nearly-treeless bluff with granite boulders and a fine view of the cove.  The rolling breakers were awesome, and you could sense their power from afar.

Gateway (Chester)
9x12 Oil by Michael Chesley Johnson
Friday, our last day, we drove off for Chester.  A painting acquaintance recommended it, and our scouting trip earlier in the week proved it had some good scenery.  Chester is a quiet little village, somewhat gentrified in that its waterfront hosts mainly pleasure craft; I don't think I saw a single work boat other than the Tancook Island ferry.   A great town for walking in, you can get some excellent coffee and visit some galleries plus enjoy the waterfront, all on foot.  (Sure, you can drive if you want to, but just park at Parade Square Road by the Chester Yacht Club and go for a stroll.)  It was such a beautiful day, I made two paintings before we headed home to pack and for our farewell dinner.

Preparing for Critiques

Our Happy Group

So, it was a great week.  I was happy to learn there's a lot to see and paint on Nova Scotia's South Shore.  I even enjoyed the spectacle of all those motor coaches lining up in Peggy's Cove.  (Maybe that was a perverse enjoyment, but there was plenty of room for everyone and spots to paint in away from the crowd.)  I especially enjoyed where we stayed, as McGrath's Cove, though a short drive from Halifax, was quiet enough that it felt much more remote.  I'm sure we'll go back for another retreat.

Speaking of retreats, I am putting together a very special retreat for August 12-17, 2018, in Lubec, Maine.  This retreat will have participants lodging at West Quoddy Head Station, a beautifully renovated US Coast Guard station.  Stay tuned for details!