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Saturday, December 26, 2015

Holiday Newsletter for 2015

In case you aren't subscribed to my newsletter, here is the newsletter I sent out yesterday.  (By the way, you can sign up for my newsletter here.)

"Noon on the Verde River" 
9x12 oil by Michael Chesley Johnson
$575 includes frame, shipping to U.S. - Contact Michael

December, 2015
Sedona, Arizona

Now that we've passed the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere, we can look forward to earlier sunrises and later sunsets. For the outdoor painter, the prospect of longer days is good news indeed. I plan to get out as much as possible this winter to paint—but as you'll see in a moment, I also have a few projects that will keep me close to the studio.

Grand Canyon Celebration of Art
I'm pleased to announce that I've been invited back to Grand Canyon for what I consider to be one of the best plein air events today. This will be my fourth time as an invited artist to the Celebration of Art. If you're going to be in Arizona in September, look for me on the South Rim from September 10-18. I always enjoy visiting with collectors and students during that week, and I hope to see you there.

There'll be something a little different at the 2016 event. Next year marks the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. To celebrate this anniversary, artists, who are always asked to include a studio painting for the exhibition, are being asked to paint a picture of one of the country's 59 other parks. I've chosen to paint my other favorite park, Acadia. (Acadia also celebrates a birthday next year! See below.) For more details, please visit

Grand Canyon Miniature Paintings
The Grand Canyon Association, which organizes the Celebration of Art, has asked me to create a set of small paintings featuring the Grand Canyon landscape. These oil paintings will be available at the Kolb Studio gallery on the South Rim starting in February. I've just finished painting the series, and I think this is some of my best small work. I really enjoy painting these small pieces. You can get a preview of them here:

100th Anniversary of Acadia National Park—and a Special Exhibition
As I mentioned earlier, 2016 marks the 100th anniversary of two entities that are important to me as a painter: the National Park Service and Acadia National Park. To celebrate Acadia's birthday, the Argosy Gallery—one of the best galleries in the Northeast and located in Bar Harbor—has asked me to create a series of small paintings. I'll be painting these over the winter. There will be an opening on July 1st, about which I'll have more details later this spring.

Argosy has also asked me to participate in Acadia Invitational III in 2017. The two previous Invitationals have been popular, high-profile sales events. I participated in the second one in 2010, and I'm very pleased to be asked to join the other artists for the third.

Judge of Awards for Arizona Plein Air Painters Exhibition
Arizona Plein Air Painters have given me the honor of judging their annual Juried Members' Show this spring. I'm very excited about this, as there are many fine plein air painters in the group, and it'll be uplifting to see their work all in one place. This show, which will be at Scottsdale Artists School in Scottsdale, AZ, happens this April. In conjunction with it, I'll be teaching a three-day workshop, coordinated by APAP and Scottsdale Artists School, Friday-Sunday, April 22-24. I'm looking forward to taking a group of good painters to some of the beautiful spots nearby. I may also do a public demonstration before the workshop. Details are still being worked out, so go to for updates.

Juror of Selection for Upcoming Pastel Exhibit
The Arizona Pastel Artists Association has asked me to be the juror of selection for their 2016 Open Arizona Spring Show, which will run April 13-26 at the Sedona Arts Center. If you're an Arizona pastellist, I encourage you to enter this show. The deadline is March 8th. You can find the prospectus here: Many fine painters are in this group, and I'm sure I'll have a hard time choosing for the show!

Who Wants to Join Me in Italy?

June 16-23, 2018, I will leading a workshop in Florence, Italy. Imagine a week of painting the Tuscan landscape! Our group will stay at the Villa Fattoria Bacìo in Certaldo Alto with painting excursions to Siena, La Meridiana, San Gimignano and Barberino. Price starts at € 2,200 (about $2400 USD) and includes transportation to/from the Florence airport, daily transportation to locations and all meals. The group sponsoring the trip has run many such workshops there with some big names, so I was very excited when they approached me about teaching. If you're interested and would like details as I get them, please let me know.

That's all for now. As always, please follow my Plein Air Painter's blog for painting tips and techniques, and my Michael Chesley Johnson website for new paintings, videos and books, workshops and announcements.

Happy Holidays!

Michael & Trina & Saba

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Holiday Time is Painting Time

Painting at Courthouse Butte

As we get closer to the holidays—and if we're not too busy with holiday preparations and family—our time opens up a bit.  People take time off from work and use up a few vacation days.  Even though most folks consider what I do for a living "fun," it is work, and I, too, try to take a few vacation days.

For me, this means heading to the field without an agenda.  I go out just to paint.  Period.

This past week, I went out with my friend M.L. Coleman to paint some of the local Sedona scenery.  Here are two paintings I did, both of which I think are successful partly because I did go without an agenda.

Evening Light 6x8 oil
Unframed - $100  incl. shipping

Almost Sundown 6x8 oil
Unframed - $100 incl. shipping

Although I painted these on a vacation day, I'm putting them up for sale.  Maybe you're still working on your gift-buying?  And don't forget that my holiday sale is still on:

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Little Grand Canyon Paintings

This week, I'm working on little Grand Canyon paintings.  I'm creating a series for the Grand Canyon Association, which will have them for sale at the Kolb Studio in February.  I did this a couple of years ago, and the paintings were very successful.  When I get them all done, I'll post them here.  In the meantime, you'll have to enjoy this photo of the five I've done to date:

Some of you are asking how does one take the magnificence of the Grand Canyon and squeeze it all into a 6x8 panel?  It's not easy!  The trick is to take a small piece of the Canyon and just suggest the magnificence in the background.

For these, I'm using Gamblin's FastMatte colors.  These dry quickly, even though I'm painting a little thicker with a knife, which will make sure I can get them varnished in time for delivery.

By the way, I still have room in my Paint Sedona workshops.  Visit for details.  So far, it's been a pleasantly warm winter!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

New Work in Great Southwest Gallery for the Holidays

Morning in the Plaza 8x6 oil
by Michael Chesley Johnson

I delivered these two new paintings to Great Southwest Gallery today - just in time for the holidays!  Both of these feature scenes from the famous Tlaqueupaque Village, which is where Great Southwest is located.   Please stop in and take a look.  Ask anybody; everybody knows where Tlaquepaque is.  Great Southwest is in Patio de las Campañas.

La Campaña 8x6 oil
by Michael Chesley Johnson
Also, I want to remind everyone that I have a series of pastel-only classes coming in January.  These are on Saturdays (January 9, 16 and 23) from 9-2 and are for all levels.  The first class will be on Pastel Basics; the second, on Color for the Pastel Painter; and the third, Plein Air Basics for the Pastel Painter.  These classes are fully independent.  That is, you can take any one of them or all of them.  Cost is $75 per class with pre-registration required.  Classes will be held at Gandolfo Studios in West Sedona, Arizona.  For details, please contact me at or visit

Don't forget about my regular Paint Sedona workshops!  These will be happening all winter, each week.  Workshops run Tuesday-Friday, 9-1 each day.  Because the workshop size is limited to four, this will give you plenty of personal attention.  I'll demonstrate each day with a lecture, and you'll have the rest of the time to paint.  I'll go from easel to easel offering help.  For details, please visit

Friday, December 4, 2015

Figure in the Landscape

Warm Afternoon 9x12 oil
Not a finished painting, but a color study.  I spent most of the session
observing and recording color notes.

As I think I've mentioned before, I very rarely have the opportunity to paint the figure from life.  I relish the chance when it comes.  Why?  Because in my opinion, the figure is the most challenging subject for the artist.  This practice will improve your drawing skills dramatically.

You can tell at a glance if a figure is off.  As humans, the proportions of human anatomy are wired into our brains.  You can get away with a poorly-drawn landscape, but not with a poorly-drawn figure.

This week, I spent an afternoon working from the model outdoors with some friends.  I was excited by the prospect, since this combined my two favorite genres, figure and landscape.  Even more exciting was the fact that my colleagues were all professional figure and portrait painters.*  They knew exactly what to ask of the model—not something most landscape painters know much about.

We headed out to a secluded spot at a pond near Page Springs.  Most of the trees had lost their leaves, but there was still a good deal of color in the grasses and brush.  The more muted notes created by the empty branches played a nice contrast to the warm tones of our model Cynthia's  clothing.  Also, at this time of year, the sun is low in the sky, so the light was warm and rich.

Painters in the landscape

The afternoon consisted of one long pose, followed by a photo shoot at the "golden hour" just before sunset.  For the painting session, I let all the pros get up close.  I hung at the back because for this outing, I was more interested in painting the figure in the context of landscape.  Although general proportions were important in this exercise, Cynthia's pretty facial features and the folds in her outfit weren't.  Also, I was painting in a small format (9x12) with a knife, and any detail with a knife at that scale is mostly accidental!  A knife forces you to paint broadly.

Our model, Cynthia

*I was pleased to be painting with Gretchen Lopez, Jean Hildebrandt, Mary Rochelle , Sherri Aldawood and others.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Help Me Pick a Design

UPDATE:  The winner is Design "A"!  Thanks for voting, everyone!

I will be placing an ad in Plein Air Magazine in the near future.  Being conversant with Adobe Photoshop, I'm designing my own ad.  I've come up with three different ones, but I'm having trouble settling on just one.  Like they say, they're all my children - how can I love one more than another?

So once again, I'm asking for your help.  Here are the three designs.  Please use the poll on the right to vote for your favorite.  I'm grateful for the help!

(And by the way, as you probably already know, the 2016 calendar is done - thanks to you.  Here's the link for it:

Now, for the ad designs:

Design "A"
Design "B"
Design "C"