Saturday, April 22, 2017

Zion National Park 2017 Painting Retreat - Day 0

Dawn in Zion Canyon - Angel's Landing

Trina and I are now on our way back to Campobello Island, New Brunswick, for our summer season.  But first, we have a few stops along the way.  Right now, we are in Springdale, Utah, for a painting retreat.

It's been three years since our last retreat in Springdale, the "gateway" to Zion National Park.  Zion is one of my favorite places to paint.  Every bend in the road offers enough material for a full day of painting.  And, thanks to the combined efforts of the Park's shuttles and Springdale's, it's one of the most accessible parks.  This year, we've rented the same house we always rent, which is just a short walk to the first shuttle stop.  With only a backpack and a Park pass, we can get to all the best spots.

In previous years, we've had as many as ten on this retreat; this year, for a number of reasons, we have only five, including Trina and me.  It'll be a small group, but that only means more intimate gatherings and the possibility of reaching more out-of-the-way spots.

The retreats are intense.  Everyone stays under the same roof, which helps with communications and builds a certain camaraderie.  We have early breakfasts, followed by a show-and-tell of the previous day's work.  Right after making bag lunches, we hit the Park.  Quite often, we take a break after lunch at a scenic spot, but the concept of bag lunches gives us the flexibility to travel to another location for afternoon painting if we wish.  Sometimes, we head back to the house for lunch and a rest.  Afternoons, some folks paint, others sightsee.  Evening meals are communal or "dining out," followed by art talk and planning for the next day's outing.  By the end of the week, the body is tired but the spirit is refreshed, and everyone goes home with a clutch of paintings to remind them of their time here.

I doubt I'll post every day, but I do hope to share a few moments, photos and paintings with everyone this week.  Stay tuned!


Friday, April 14, 2017

April Newsletter from Michael

Plein air painting season is here!  If you are new to plein air painting
or just need a refresher, check out www.PleinAirEssentials.com.

April 2017
Sedona, Arizona


Spring has hit northern Arizona with a vengeance. Wildflowers on the hilltop behind our house have popped out—desert marigold, purple filaree, blackfoot daisy, Indian paintbrush, feather dalea—and the cactuses can't be far behind. Nor can summer! High temperatures here have been pushing the mid-80s.

What else does spring bring? Our annual trip east, of course. Next week, we will be on our way, with stops for retreats and workshop in Utah, Ohio and New York. We'll arrive on Campobello Island, New Brunswick, Canada, in the middle of May, where I'll begin working on some very exciting projects, the nature of which will be revealed this summer.

Workshops

Rockland, Maine, July 17-21. This workshop needs special mention. Unlike my usual summer fare, which consists of a schedule of four half-day workshops in Lubec, this one will be an intense five full days. You can expect a wealth of useful information and get lots of painting done besides. Rockland is home to a historic waterfront and village, so plan on boats, interesting architecture and more. (While you're there, you'll want to check out the Farnsworth Museum, which boasts a stunning art collection with three generations of Wyeths.) Downeast Magazine recently rated Rockland as the best place to live in Maine. (Read the article here.) Price: $650. Details and registration: Coastal Maine Art Workshops, 207-594-4813, https://cmaworkshops.com/Workshop-post/painting-the-maine-landscape-in-pastels-or-oils/

Montgomery, New York, May 9-10. Sponsored by the Wallkill River School of Art, this two-day workshop will take us to some of the local farms and historic sites. I like the school's mission statement: "The Wallkill River School is a non-profit artists’ cooperative that runs an art school and fine art gallery as well as a plein air art workshop series on local farms and open spaces. Our mission is to preserve open space through art and art activism." As a "steward of the land," I am very much in tune with this philosophy. Price: $240 Details and registration: (845) 457-ARTS, wallkillriverschool@gmail.com, http://wallkillriverschool.com/school/plein-air/

Lubec, Maine, July-August. Sign-ups have already started for my Downeast Maine workshops in the historic working waterfront village of Lubec. I'm expecting a full and busy season, so don't delay in registering! And remember, we offer a package that includes lodging at Artists Retreat Studios & Gallery, where the workshop meets each morning, for only $800. We still have lodging available in the much-coveted first two weeks of August. Full details can be found at www.PleinAirPaintingMaine.com

Scotland and Italy in 2018. Don't forget my two 2018 painting retreats in Scotland and Italy. We'll be in Scotland, June 3-13, 2018, visiting the Isle of Skye. We are at this moment fine-tuning details. Then, we'll be in Italy, June 16-23, 2018, near Florence with excursions to Siena, La Meridiana, San Gimignano and Barberino. I have full details now on the Italy trip and can send those right away.

A complete list of upcoming workshops is available at my website, www.MChesleyJohnson.com.

New Paintings

Starting July 29th, I'll be part of Acadia Invitational III, a year-long exhibit hosted by Argosy Gallery in Bar Harbor, Maine. For this exhibit, I was asked to paint three pieces featuring the landscapes of Mount Desert Island, home to Acadia National Park. A total of thirty nationally-recognized artists will be participating in this exhibit and sale, which will run from July 29th, 2017, through October 2018. Other artists include T.M. Nicholas, Kathleen Dunphy, John Cogan and Joe Anna Arnett. I am delighted to be invited to display my work at this prestigious gallery and in such good company.

By the way, I am posting new work at my new web site, which is www.MChesleyJohnson.com. Please check back frequently for updates.

That's all! Please make sure you sign up for my blog and visit my new website. My next letter will be from Campobello Island!


Michael & Trina

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Goodbye to our Dearest Friend

Saba 2000-2017
(Saba at Age 6)

On Monday, on the first full moon of spring and the first day of Passover, we said goodbye to Saba.  She'd been part of our family for nearly seventeen years.  Since we have no children, you can imagine what she means to us.

Saba in Burke, Vermont, age 2

Saba joined us in New Mexico in late winter of 2001, rescued from hunting scraps at a trading post on the Navajo Reservation.  Our vet thought she was about six months old, which would put her birth year in 2000.  From there, she traveled with us to new homes in Vermont, again in New Mexico, then Campobello Island and finally Arizona.  Her favorite places had snow and cool weather and grassy trails.  She did the cross-country trip from the East to the Southwest and back again with us every time we made the trip, which was almost every year.  She also met my students in all my plein air painting workshops, making many, many friends along the way.

Saba, Age 11


This morning, we took a memorial walk.  Spring flowers are plentiful this year on the mesa behind our house:  desert marigold, feather dalea, globe mallow, purple filaree, blackfoot daisy and Indian paintbrush.  Down by the creek, a pair of ducks had staked out their territory.  Surprisingly, they didn't seem to mind and even approached us.  The night before, we'd taken a walk, and they were there then, too, sleeping on a rock in their part of the creek, waking only to look at us.  This may sound strange and New Agey, but we suspect they may have a message for us.




Now we are in a land between numbness and grief.  We will journey out of this place some day, but we will always remember Saba.  We gave her the best life a dog could possibly have, and she gave us much love in return.

Saba at Age 16, Almost 17
April 9, 2017

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Dynamic Duo Plein Air Painting Workshop - Update


This past week, I taught a six-day workshop jointly with another artist.  Together, we led ten students through the pitfalls and pleasures of plein air painting.  When we first started batting around the idea, I wondered how well "tag team teaching" would work.  We have different styles and different approaches; would we end up just confusing the students rather than helping them?

The other instructor demonstrated in pastel, and I in oil, for a total of  ten demonstrations.  Our students painted in pastel, oil, acrylic and watercolor. When it came time to help students at their easels, sometimes we went separately, and sometimes we went together.  When I traveled solo to offer help, a student or two would say that the other teacher had given different advice.  I'm sure he heard the same about me.  Overall, though, students seemed to think that together we dispensed consistent words of wisdom, and they enjoyed having twice as much attention as they would get with just one instructor.

I may do this again, as it was a positive experience for the students.  If you're an experienced plein air instructor and might be interested in joining me in a "tag team" workshop, please let me know!

Here are some photos from the week:






"Wildland Passage" 9x12 oil by Michael Chesley Johnson

"Splendor Mountain" 9x12 oil by Michael Chesley Johnson

"Light on the Mountain" 9x12 oil by Michael Chesley Johnson

Monday, March 20, 2017

Painting Glare

I love to paint looking into the light.  Rim-lighting and, especially, glare—glare off water, sand or pavement—are some of my favorite lighting effects.  Getting the effect of glare in paint, though, is difficult.  If you paint like a tonalist, you may end up with something more akin to a nocturne.  To keep the picture in the daylight, you need to paint like an impressionist.

Here's one painting I did recently along the Verde River.  It was mid-morning, and the light was blindingly bright off the water.  I worked with a limited palette of earth colors (raw umber, burnt sienna, yellow ochre) and painted tonally.  To establish the feeling of glare, I had to step down the values of everything dramatically.  As you can see, there's a big chunk of the tonal scale  missing between the glare, which is my lightest value, and the rest of the painting.  When I took it back to the studio, I noticed the only thing keeping it from becoming a nocturne were the rich, dark colors.


Glare on the Water 9x12 oil – Available Here

I decided to make another stab at painting this scene.  I took my usual split-primary palette (a cool and warm version of each of the three primary colors) and purposely worked to keep the overall key higher.  In order to achieve the glare effect, I juxtaposed complementary colors.  Painting glare successfully requires you to manage both color and temperature contrasts.   Value has only a little to do with it.


Spring Comes to the Verde River 8x16 oil – Available Here

For the main part of the glare, I used the lightest tint of yellow I could manage.  I surrounded this with a tint of the complement, violet, making it just a step lower in value.  Finally, I dabbed into the center of the glare area pure white.  This alternated cool and warm to enhance the effect of the adjacent complements.  The violet is a cool note, surrounding the yellow, which is a warm note; and the white in the center is a second cool note.  You can see this in the detail below.



One warning about painting glare—it's hard on the eyes.  I always wear sunglasses when painting into the light.  If you suffer from eye problems or migraines, you might want to paint in another direction.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Greens for the Oil Painter - Plus a Workshop Review!


Looking for green this Saint Patrick's Day?  I'm pleased to announce that The Artist's Magazine
as made my Brushing Up article on greens for the oil painter available as a free download.  The article appears in the June 2017 issue, but you can also download and read the article here:

http://media2.fwpublications.com/TAM/GoingGreen_June17TheArtistsMagazine.pdf

I've had a lot of fun writing these articles over the years, and I've learned a lot while writing them, too.  Gamblin Artists Colors and Product Manager (and artist!) Scott Gellatly have been very helpful in making these articles possible.  This is the latest in my series of colors for the oil painter.  My final article on the topic will come out in October.  Can you guess what color it's about?

Last week, I had artist Nelia Harper in my Sedona workshop.  Nelia has published a great write-up on the week on her blog.  Reading it will give you a good sense of what my workshops are like.  You can read her blog post here.  Thank you, Nelia!

#theartistsmagazine #gamblincolors #gamblin #pleinairpainting


Sunday, March 5, 2017

Some New Small Plein Air Paintings

Contrary to popular belief, I've been painting.  Yes, I've been designing my new web site, creating my new online course plus working on a dozen other projects, but I have indeed been painting.  With that in mind, I thought I'd share with you some of my recent small plein air paintings.

"Group Portrait: Sycamores"
12x9 oil
I love the dancer-like quality of Arizona's creekside sycamores.  Degas
would have wanted to paint these.  Purchase it here.

"Portrait: Thunder Mountain"
9x12 oil
Also known as Capitol Butte and Greyback, this mountain dominates the Sedona area.
I can even see it from the hilltop behind my house, ten miles south of Sedona. Purchase it here.


"Spring Creek Rush"
9x12 oil
The creek is up due to recent rains and snowmelt.  I love the way the water
glows with olive green and yellow ochre.  Purchase it here.

"The Light that Envelopes"
12x9 pastel
Oak Creek passes near where I live.  Springtime, it possesses this beautiful
olive color.  The sycamore seems to enjoy the creek as much
as I do.  Purchase it here.

Friday, March 3, 2017

New! Online Painting Course: Outdoor Study to Studio

New Online Course!


As many of you know, I've developed a series of books and videos over the years that bring my plein air painting methods to folks who can't attend my workshops in person or who would like a supplement to the material I teach.  Well, I'm happy to announce I've created another self-study online course.

Outdoor Study to Studio:  Take Your Plein Air Paintings to the Next Level includes video demonstrations and written lectures designed to help you sharpen your skills and take your work from mere craftsmanship to Art with a capital "A."  In this course, I show you how to gather field references--drawings, color studies and photographs--and then bring them to the studio where you can create a masterpiece.

The course also gives you the downloadable version of my newest book, Outdoor Study to Studio.  This book goes for $24.95 paperback, so this alone makes the course worthwhile!

Until April 1st, I am offering a discount on this new course to the first 100 people who sign up.  The course is normally $25, but you can have it for $20--that's a 20% discount!  Coupon code is GOTOYOURSTUDIO.  To learn about this course, see free previews and to sign up, go to:

https://www.udemy.com/outdoor-study-to-studio/?couponCode=GOTOYOURSTUDIO

For your enjoyment, I offer this introductory video (don't see the video below? go here):



It seems like more and more artists are benefiting from online self-study courses like my ones at Udemy.com.  As an instructor and "content creator," these courses take a great deal of time and effort to put together, but I enjoy having them out there for folks who, for whatever reason, can't attend one of my workshops or who desire to have an always-available, online reference to my workshop material.  My Plein Air Essentials course especially is designed to help someone who's never taken a workshop with me get up to speed quickly.  It's great prep before taking one of my workshops! By the way, I also have many free videos on my Youtube channel.

Enjoy!

Saturday, February 25, 2017

New Online Course for Plein Air Painting Coming Soon - Plus Coupons!


Not everyone can fly out to Arizona or Maine to take a plein air painting workshop with me. For those who are unable to travel because of cost or obligations, I've created a series of books and videos.  I've also created three online courses: 
  • Plein Air Essentials:  Learn the Basics of Plein Air Painting
  • Plein Air Essentials:  Oil Supplement
  • Plein Air Essentials:  Pastel Supplement

Right now, I'm in the middle of creating another online course, the nature of which I will reveal in the next few weeks.  You can see a still from one of the accompanying videos above.  The observant reader will note that it's a picture of my studio--for a plein air painting course!  What's that all about? you may ask.   You'll find out soon enough.

In the meantime, I am offering a discount for my current online courses.  Until March 1st, the first 20 people who sign up get 15% off.  Below are the coupon codes and links.  Click on the link to get to the course and sign up.  With the discount, they are only $17.  That's about the cost of a lunch at a decent, reasonably-priced restaurant.  If you're new to plein air painting, I think you'll find these helpful.  Plein air painting season is upon us!

Plein Air Essentials:  Learn the Basics of Plein Air Painting - code GETITNOW

Plein Air Essentials:  Oil Supplement - code GETITNOWOIL

Plein Air Essentials:  Pastel Supplement - code GETITNOWPASTEL



Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Some New Small Plein Air Paintings - Plus a Coupon!

"Beaver Creek Ledge" 9x12 oil
When the sun hits the water, it creates a beautiful, luminescent olive glow.

I wanted to share with you some of my latest small plein air paintings.  These were done over the last few weeks either as workshop demonstrations or while painting with my local group.   Either way, each of them was a joy to paint.  I'll be posting more on my new website over time.  You can see (and buy!) these and others on my "Small Paintings" page:  http://www.mchesleyjohnson.com/small-paintings/

"Coffee Pot Ridge, Overcast" 9x12 oil
We do get our share of dull days in Sedona.  On this day, rather than "push" the color,
 I strove to be as accurate in my color notes as possible.

By the way, I am starting a new project.  As many of you know, in addition to my books and videos, I offer online courses through Udemy.  I hope to have a new course completed by this summer.  But in the meantime, I'm offering a discount on my "Plein Air Essentials" course.  Be one of the first 20 students to sign up for my course, Plein Air Essentials: Learn the Basics of Plein Air Painting, before March 1st and get 15% off! Coupon code GETITNOW  Details and sign up here: https://www.udemy.com/plein-air-painting-essentials/?couponCode=GETITNOW

"Oak Creek Rush" 9x12 oil
This was a little piece I did along the creek while the waters were rushing full-tilt with snowmelt.

This was painted at one of my favorite spots that requires a climb up to a ridge to get the view.
I like the morning light on the cliffs.

"Seven Warriors" 9x12 oil
This is only right half of the "Seven Warriors" formation.  I went out painting with my
friend. ML Coleman, and he  painted the left half.  

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Paintings for Acadia Inviational III at Argosy Gallery, Bar Harbor, Maine


As I mentioned in my last newsletter, I took some time off from teaching workshops this winter to work on a few special projects.  One of these projects was painting for the upcoming Acadia Invitational III exhibit.  It's a little strange, painting maritime scenes while in Arizona, but with a little music* and the right reference material, I found it easy to transport myself to Mount Desert Island and Acadia National Park.  I had a wonderful time re-visiting Maine this season, in a virtual sort of way.  Besides my plein air sketches and photos, I possess a vast internal library of memories of the hikes I've taken there over the decades.  You can't paint these scenes in the studio without them.

Before I go further, I should explain what Acadia Invitational III is.  Every few years, Argosy Gallery in Bar Harbor, Maine, invites 30 artists to be in this show.  The show runs for over a year, giving the public plenty of time to view and buy some really fine paintings of MDI and the Park.  It's rare to see this quality of work, and so much of it, in one place.  This year marks the third event, and it will run from July 29th, 2017, through October 2018. (Yes, you read that right – 2018.) Other artists invited include T.M. Nicholas, Kathleen Dunphy, John Cogan and joe Anna Arnett. I am delighted to be invited to display my work at this prestigious gallery and in such good company.

Each artist is allowed three paintings in the show; one large painting, and two smaller ones.  For my biggest piece, I chose a well-known but still beautiful view of Otter Point.  I particularly enjoyed painting the foreground rocks and ledges.  For my next piece, I decided the feature the schooner Margaret Todd, the only four-masted schooner still sailing the east coast.  (I've actually sailed on that ship – what an experience!)  For my smallest piece, I featured a quiet, little-visited part of the island.  I won't tell you where it is, but if you enroll in one of my workshops on Mount Desert Island, I may take you there.

I wanted to share these three paintings with you and to give you an idea of the relative sizes of each.  The image at the top of this post will give you that.  Below, I show you the images that you can then click on for a bigger view.

Acadian Summer 12x24 Oil

The Schooner Margaret Todd 12x16 Oil

On the Edge 9x12 Oil


* I have eclectic musical tastes.  Soundtrack this winter by Sigur Rós.

Monday, February 6, 2017

February 2017 Newsletter from Michael Chesley Johnson


"Acadian Summer"
12x24 Oil
by Michael Chesley Johnson
Available through Argosy Gallery in Bar Harbor, Maine,
As Part of Acadian Invitational III, July 2017-October 2018


February 2017

Sedona, Arizona


Here in Arizona, winter draws to a close. Back at the end of December, I started noticing the first alders along the creek putting out catkins; now the cottonwoods and sycamores show color. Flocks of stunningly-blue bluebirds arrived a few weeks ago. A bounty of bugs along the creek has brought the flycatchers and phoebes. I love to take a walk and watch these birds flit out to pluck a meal from the air.

Winter for me has been very productive. I took some time off from teaching workshops to work on two projects: a new website and paintings for an exhibition in Maine.

New Website


I'm very excited about my new website, www.MChesleyJohnson.com. I had a lot of fun putting it together, even despite a learning curve to understand WordPress. (You can read about my efforts on my blog.) The site is cleaner, easier to maintain, and you even can purchase paintings through it. The paintings are some of my larger pieces, but I am also posting smaller paintings for sale from time to time. (You can subscribe to my small paintings listing at this RSS feed link.) As for my old site, I plan to keep it running in parallel for awhile to keep the search engines happy.

New Paintings


My other project this winter was painting three pieces for the upcoming Acadia Invitational III exhibit at Argosy Gallery in Bar Harbor. A total of thirty nationally-recognized artists will be participating in this exhibit and sale, which will run from July 29th, 2017, through October 2018. (Yes, you read that right – 2018.) Other artists include T.M. Nicholas, Kathleen Dunphy, John Cogan and Joe Anna Arnett. I am delighted to be invited to display my work at this prestigious gallery and in such good company. I've included an image of my largest piece at the top of this newsletter.

Don't forget that if you come to Sedona this winter and spring, I am happy to open my home studio gallery by appointment. We are south of town about 10 miles on a good paved road. Just contact me at mcj.painter@gmail.com or 505-303-0702. You can also see my paintings at L'Auberge de Sedona on L'Auberge Lane in Sedona. By the way, my gallery in Sedona, Goldenstein Gallery, which manages the installation at the resort, will soon be opening at its new location. I'll announce details on my blog in the very near future.

Workshops


Sedona, Arizona. I still have openings left in my Sedona workshops through April. If you haven't painted the area's red rocks and beautiful creeks, I encourage you to come. The weather is warming up, spring is already here, and I predict a beautiful season. You can find full details at www.PaintSedona.com. And don't forget about the package that includes onsite studio lodging and workshop for only $600!

Lubec, Maine. Sign-ups have already started for my Downeast Maine workshops in the historic working waterfront village of Lubec. I'm expecting a full and busy July and August, so don't delay in registering! And remember, we offer a package that includes lodging at Artists Retreat Studios & Gallery, where the workshop meets each morning, for only $800. Full details can be found at www.PleinAirPaintingMaine.com.

Here's a brief calendar of workshops, with a more complete one at the end of this letter:


Now through April. Arizona, Sedona. My Paint Sedona workshops, with details at www.PaintSedona.com.

April 2-8, 2017: Arizona, Sedona. This is a full, intense week with my friend and fellow painter-instructor, Doug Tweddale. If you haven't met Doug, he is a pastelist and instructor recently featured in Pastel Journal. Unlike my typical Paint Sedona workshops, this will consist of full days and two instructors! Doug will be instructing in pastel, and I in oil. Limited to 12 students, this workshop will give you more bang for your buck for only $475. For details or to sign up, please contact me directly.

May 9-10 , 2017: New York, Montgomery. Sponsored by the Wallkill River School of Art, this two-workshop will take us to some of the local farms and historic sites. I like the school's mission statement: "The Wallkill River School is a non-profit artists’ cooperative that runs an art school and fine art gallery as well as a plein air art workshop series on local farms and open spaces. Our mission is to preserve open space through art and art activism." As a "steward of the land," I am in tune with this philosophy. Price: $240 Details and registration: (845) 457-ARTS, http://wallkillriverschool.com/school/plein-air/

July-August. Lubec, Maine. My Downeast Maine workshops, with details at www.PleinAirPaintingMaine.com.

July 17-21, 2017: Maine, Rockland. Usually in the summer, I keep to my own corner of Downeast Maine, but this summer I am teaching an intense, five-day workshop in scenic Rockland, home to the Farnsworth Museum. (The Farnsworth has a stunning collection of art from three generations of Wyeths.) If you're looking for something more intense and longer than my Lubec workshop, this is for you! Price: $650. Details and registration: Coastal Maine Art Workshops, 207-594-4813, http://www.coastalmaineartworkshops.com

Scotland and Italy in 2018. Don't forget my two 2018 painting retreats in Scotland and Italy. We'll be in Scotland, June 3-13, 2018, visiting the Isle of Skye. We are at this moment fine-tuning details. You can read about my previous retreat in Scotland at my blog. Then, we'll be in Italy, June 16-23, 2018, near Florence with excursions to Siena, La Meridiana, San Gimignano and Barberino. I have full details now on the Italy trip and can send those right away. Let me know if you are interested in these trips.

That's all! Please make sure you sign up for my blog and visit my new website. And have a great spring!

Michael & Trina

Michael Chesley Johnson
www.MChesleyJohnson.com
http://mchesleyjohnson.blogspot.com
www.PleinAirPaintingMaine.com
www.PaintSedona.com
505-303-0702 / mcj.painter@gmail.com

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2017 Workshops





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2018 Workshops



  • October 2017 – April 2018. ARIZONA, Sedona. My Paint Sedona workshops, with details at www.PaintSedona.com
  • May 4-5, 2018: ILLINOIS, Batavia. Michael returns to Water Street Studios. Details TBA.
  • May 7-9, 2018: MICHIGAN, Lowell. Workshop for Great Lake Pastel Society. $400. See Michael's website for details.
  • June 3-13, 2018: SCOTLAND, Isle of Skye. For full details, contact Michael.
  • June 16-23, 2018: ITALY, Florence. For full details, contact Michael.
  • July-August. MAINE, Lubec. My Downeast Maine workshops, with details at www.PleinAirPaintingMaine.com.
  • August 21-24, 2018: MAINE, Acadia National Park. Price: TBA To register and for details: www.acadiaworkshopcenter.com/MCJohnson.html
  • October 24-27, 2018: ARIZONA, Grand Canyon. Painting in Grand Canyon National Park via the Grand Canyon Association! Details to come.

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DVDs and Books



Michael's THREE full-length oil and pastel videos are now available from North Light Shop!


  • The Secret to Oil Painting with Light and Color
  • The Secret to Oil Painting Wet-into-Wet
  • The Secret to Pastel Painting En Plein Air


Go to www.NorthLightShop.com for these professionally-produced, downloadable videos!

All books below are available from Amazon! Visit www.Amazon.com/author/johnson

Outdoor Study to Studio: Take Your Plein Air Paintings to the Next Level
Print: $24.95 / Kindle $19.95
Learn how to gather reference material in the field and then take it to the studio to create finished works. 114 pages, 146 images with 13 demos in oil and pastel.

Backpacker Painting: Outdoors with Oil and Pastel
Print: $45.00 / Download: $20.00
How to paint outdoors (en plein air) by minimizing the hassle and maximizing the fun. 12 demonstrations in oil and pastel, 72 paintings and 125 illustrations. 164pp.
Also Available as a Download from North Light Shop!

Through a Painter's Brush: The American Southwest
Print: $40.00 / Download: $20.00
Artistic interpretations of the American Southwest in oil and pastel. In addition to a wealth of images (26 pastel paintings, 81 oil paintings plus 55 photos and illustrations), it includes essays on the landscape and on his artistic process. Two painting demonstrations are included along with a chapter on materials and techniques. 130pp., full color.

Through a Painter's Brush: A Year on Campobello Island
Print: $40.00 / Download: $20.00
Essays on the process of making art along with notes about painting on Campobello Island, New Brunswick, and in Downeast Maine. Over 150 images including 55 oils and 20 pastels of maritime scenery complete with detail shots and illustrative photos, two demonstrations in oil and pastel. 140pp.

Paint Sedona! A Plein Air Painter's Field Guide to Sedona, Arizona, 2nd Edition
Print: $10.00 / Download: $7.00
A plein air painter's field guide to Sedona, Arizona. 43 pp, 35 black & white photos with map. Also includes useful plein air tips and supply lists for oil and pastel plein air painters.

Fifty Paintings: Roosevelt Campobello International Park's 50th Anniversary.
Print: $25 / Kindle: $12

Artist as Steward: Landscape Paintings of Michael Chesley Johnson
Print: $15 / Kindle: $10
49 paintings in this portfolio.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Fly in the Ointment, Gnats in the Painting

"The Watchman" 12x9 oil

But first:  If you haven't taken my workshop survey, please do!  It'll only take a moment and is completely anonymous.  Here is the survey:    https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/ZZB8898

Now, on to today's topic.

A few years ago, I took a painting trip to Zion National Park in Utah.  Just after sunrise one cold morning, I headed out to one of my favorite locations along the Virgin River.  I set up and began painting in the shadow of the canyon rim.  It wasn't long, though, before the sun rose over the top and cast its warmth on me.  But I wasn't the only one enjoying the sun.  Clouds of gnats gathered around.  They were so thick I had to stuff paper towels in my ears to keep them out.  But I couldn't keep them out of my paint—or my painting.  Many small souls lost their lives that day.

A reader asked me recently what to do when this happens. After observing a polite moment of silence, you may be tempted to dig the insects (or other debris) out of your painting.  But as meticulous as you might be, you'll likely smear a carefully-placed brush stroke or worse, crush the insect and spread wings and body parts, making your job even tougher.

The best option is to wait until the painting has dried or nearly so.  With the point of a knife, you usually can pick out the deceased cleanly.  In some cases, a light brushing is all it takes.

As for your palette, there's not much you can do.  Gnats and other insects seem to be attracted particularly to my white (Gamblin titanium-zinc, made with safflower oil) and my cadmium yellows (also made with safflower oil.)  I just push them aside and keep going.  When I get home, I clean up the paint as best I can.  Spraying your palette with insect repellant is not advised, as art conservators have not yet evaluated how DEET or citronella affect the stability of oil paint, nor are they likely to do so in the near future.

Note:  Pastel painters will be encouraged to know that their medium of choice is not prone to acting like pheromone-laced flypaper.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Image Transfer to Make the Drawing Easier: The Schooner Margaret Todd

The Schooner Margaret Todd
12x16 oil
Will be Available Starting July 1, 2017 at Argosy Gallery


I like to paint boats.  I paint a lot of them at my summer studio in Downeast Maine.  They say "practice makes perfect," but where boats are concerned, practice makes only "pretty good."  I think that, no matter how excellent your drawing skills, you'll always find some part of a boat that needs correcting.  Sailors will be quick to point out the errors in what you thought was a beautifully-proportioned boat.

This past week, I wanted to paint a picture of the schooner Margaret Todd, based in Bar Harbor, Maine, for the upcoming Acadia Invitational III exhibit at Argosy Gallery this summer.  I had reference photos and a plein air sketch of this ship, which is the only four-masted schooner still in operation on the east coast.  Painting a boat properly can be time-consuming, even if you are using photos and not working from life.  To make the job easier, I decided to transfer a photo to my painting surface rather than to draw the schooner by hand.

Contrary to popular belief, we painters don't freehand everything.  Image transfer or tracing is a time-honored method used by both illustrators and "fine artists" to get a quick, accurate drawing in place.  Projection is another method, but for the size of this painting (12x16) and the scale of the boat (somewhat small), I didn't need to project. But I did want the perspective and proportions to be correct.

The scene I chose to paint was very close to what my reference photo contained.  I knew that if I placed my eye level (or horizon) line on the canvas as it was in the photo, the transfer method would work.  It most definitely will not work if you start playing with eye level placement.  Next, I needed to figure out  the scale I needed for the boat in the context of the landscape.  I made some pencil sketches to rough out the design, and then I printed out three cropped images of the schooner, each a different size.



I placed these directly on my painting surface, with the landscape lightly sketched in, to see which size worked best.  After settling on one, I coated the reverse side of the print with compressed charcoal, taking care to cover all the areas that needed to be transferred.  Then I taped the print directly to my painting surface where the boat needed to be.  With a sharp, 2B graphite pencil, I then traced over the important parts of the boat—masts and hull—until I felt like I had enough information transferred that I could successfully finish the boat without this aid.



Here's the finished painting, without the frame.

The Schooner Margaret Todd
12x16 oil
Will be Available Starting July 1, 2017 at Argosy Gallery

We'll be painting boats my Rockland, Maine, workshop for Coastal Maine Art Workshops this July.  I hope you'll join me.  You can find more details here.   If that doesn't work out for you, we'll also be painting boats at my Lubec, Maine, studio.  Visit www.PleinAirPaintingMaine.com for details.

By the way, if you take workshops, I have a short survey that I'd like you to take.  It will help guide future seasons of my plein air painting workshops.  You can get to it here:  https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/ZZB8898

Friday, January 27, 2017

July Plein Air Workshop in Rockland, Maine



Rockland, Maine, is one of my favorite places to visit in Midcoast Maine.  Why?  It's filled with historic buildings and a lighthouse, offers a beautiful waterfront, and it's close to many great plein air painting spots.  What's more, it's home to the Farnsworth Art Museum and its fantastic collection of original works by members of the Wyeth family (N.C., Andrew and Jamie) as well as other well-known American painters.  I always make sure to visit the Farnsworth when I'm in town.

So here's some news.  Usually, I stay put in my little corner of Downeast Maine to teach workshops in the summer.  But July 17-21, 2017, I will be heading to Rockland to teach a workshop for Coastal Maine Workshops.

Unlike my Downeast workshops which run four half-days, the Rockland workshop will be five full days.  This will be an intense painting experience for all concerned!  We'll have plenty of time to cover not just the fundamentals but also to delve into the deeper secrets of outdoor painting.  Each day will start with a studio lecture followed by a demonstration in the field, followed by student work and, time permitting, a second demonstration or illustration.  We'll also enjoy daily critiques and great seafood!

The details:

  • Workshop runs July 17-21, 2017
  • Tuition is $650
  • Suitable for all levels
  • I'll be demonstrating in oil and pastel, but I also welcome acrylic painters
  • Lodging suggestions are on the registration website.

For more details and to sign up, please visit https://cmaworkshops.com/Workshop-post/painting-the-maine-landscape-in-pastels-or-oils/

I hope you'll join me in Rockland.  To whet your appetite, here are some historic postcards of Rockland: