Authentically Human! Not Written by AI!
All Content Copyright © Michael Chesley Johnson AIS PSA MPAC

Monday, December 26, 2005

Christmas Eve - Benson Ridge Aspens

I know this is being posted in backwards order -- Christmas Eve, after Christmas Day? Well, this little painting -- Benson Ridge Aspens -- was done on Christmas Eve, but as I only had limited time that afternon, I had to "tweak" it in the studio on Christmas Day to finish it. "Tweaking" my plein air pieces is never a big deal. The only things I did were to sharpen up some of the highlights on the aspen grove and the nearby aspens and to warm up the foreground a bit.

"Benson Ridge Aspens," 8x10, oil/panel, en plein air.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas Day

It's Christmas Day, and it's supposed to get to 54 degrees today in our mountains. Even though some snow is left, and it would be pretty to paint, it's Christmas, and even a plein air painter needs a day off.

Enjoy the day. Pray for peace. Pray for health. And if you're a plein air painter, pray for the skill to present the beauty of this world to others.

Merry Christmas.

"Red Barn, Red Bush," pastel, 7x11.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Snow Scraps

One of the pleasures of living and painting in the mountains of New Mexico is that, yes, we do have snow, but no, it doesn't last long. We had a small snowstorm a week or so ago that dropped perhaps an inch at my studio. Further up the mountain, it was a few inches more. Now, a week later, though, even most of this at the higher elevations is gone. The dry air and the warm sun vanishes all but the snow in the shaded areas. This snow can linger for quite some time.

I love to paint these "snow scraps." Here are two paintings done this week.

"Winter Passage" (the first one) and "Snowfence" (the second one.) Both are 8x10, oil/panel, en plein air.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

A Book to Read

I came across a wonderful new book: An Artist's Way of Seeing by Mary Whyte. The book urges the reader to move beyond the technical aspects of painting by learning to bring what I call the "moment" to the painting. This "moment" is whatever it is that you felt when you first saw your scene -- what it was that attracted you in the first place. Learning to see as an artist is what it's all about. Whyte explores this through her beautiful watercolors and well-written text.

The practice is something I try to incorporate into the creation of my studio pieces. As a dyed-in-the-wool plein air painter, I would always much rather be outdoors painting than in the studio. (Yes, even though I have hot coffee and some nice classical music in my studio -- things difficult to get when you backpack in a few miles.) However, when it's 30 outside and a light snow is falling, as it did so yesterday, the studio is the only place for me.

Yesterday, I finished up this piece:
"Mulholland Light from the Lubec Channel," 16x20, oil/panel.
I worked not just from photographs but also from strong memories. My memories were so vivid that I could remember exactly how pure the light was on the sand and exactly what shade of green the smokehouse roof was. They allowed me to bring the "moment" to this piece. These memories, of course, are so vivid because I have learned to see as an artist, much as Whyte details in her book. You can't make a painting this strong from a photo without that ability to see.

Wednesday, December 7, 2005

Another Studio Day

The weather is turning downright cold here in the mountains of southern New Mexico, and it's been a week for studio work. (Tonight the low is supposed to be all of three degrees!) My little electric space heater does the trick, though, and the studio warms up to 40 degrees in no time. Plenty of warmth for painting!

At any rate, here is the latest studio effort. "Evening at the Narrows," 19"x25", Pastel.