Thursday, September 24, 2015

Fog Lifting, Dead Spruce: Plein Air to Studio

Fog Lifting, Dead Spruce - 16x20 oil by Michael Chesley Johnson - Available

One foggy morning, I took my gear to East Quoddy Head, home of the Head Harbour Lighthouse. I wanted to spend some time painting a beautiful dead spruce I'd seen earlier. As I worked on this 16x20 oil, the fog began to lift. Knowing how fast things were changing, I chose to focus on the spruce, leaving the rest of the scene just roughly blocked-in.

Intermediate step in field

What I returned from the field with

A few weeks passed before I had chance to get back to the painting. Because I'd finished the spruce to my satisfaction in the field, I felt that memory and a photo I'd taken would be enough reference material to complete the painting in the studio.

I gave the painting a light coat of retouch varnish and went to work. Here is the finished painting. 


This technique is one of several I demonstrate in my new book, Outdoor Study to Studio: Take Your Plein Air Paintings to the Next Level. The book, which is being well-received, is available through

By the way, I am planning an "Outdoor Study to Studio" week as part of my Paint Sedona program this winter. Dates for the week are February 9-12, 2016. We'll also be learning to paint with a knife that week! For details on this and my many other weeks available, please visit

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