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

Thursday, December 29, 2016

2017 Landscape Painting Workshop Schedule

"Autumn's Turn" 24x36 oil/canvas. Available thru Goldenstein Gallery
928- 204-1765 :: ::

Michael Chesley Johnson
2017 Landscape Painting Workshop Schedule

I offer you my 2017 plein air painting workshop schedule. Thank you, and I hope to see you at a workshop this year! - Michael

January – April 2017: ARIZONA, Sedona.
Another season of Paint Sedona continues! No more than four students with customizable workshops. Price: USD $300. Package deal! 5 nights lodging at Gandolfo Studios + tuition for only $600! Details:
January 3-6, 2017; January 10-13, 2017; January 17-20, 2017; January 24-27, 2017; February 7-10, 2017; February 14-17, 2017; February 21-24, 2017; February 28-March 3, 2017; March 7-10, 2017; March 21-24, 2017; March 28-31, 2017; April 11-14, 2017
April 2-8, 2017: ARIZONA, Sedona.
Special Joint workshop with pastel artist Doug Tweddale. Unlike the Paint Sedona workshops, this will be six full intense days with two instructors to work with! Price: $475. Details:

April 22-29, 2017: UTAH, Zion National Park. FULL. Wait list.

May 5-6, 2017: OHIO, Columbus. FULL. Wait list.

May 9-10 , 2017: NEW YORK, Montgomery.
Two-day workshop hosted by Wallkill River School of Art. Price: $240 Contact: (845) 457-ARTS

July 17-21, 2017: MAINE, Rockland.
Five-day workshop hosted by Coastal Maine Art Workshops in scenic and historic Rockland, Maine. Price: $650. Details: Coastal Maine Art Workshops, 207-594-4813,

July-September, 2017: MAINE, Lubec.
Another summer of Plein Air Painting Maine continues! No more than four students with customizable workshops. Price: USD $300. Package deal! 5 nights lodging at Artists Retreat Studios & Galllery + tuition for only $800! Details:
July 4-7, 2017; July 11-14, 2017; July 24-28, 2017; August 1-4, 2017; August 8-11, 2017; August 15-18, 2017; August 22-25, 2017; August 29-September 1, 2017

September 2-9, 2017: NOVA SCOTIA, South Shore. FULL. Wait list.

September 23-24, 2017: VERMONT, Montpelier.
Two-day STUDIO workshop hosted by T.W. Wood Art Gallery. Price: TBA Contact:, or call 802-262-6035

September 29-30, 2017: INDIANA, Valparaiso.
Two-day workshop hosted by Art Barn. Michael returns to the 60-acre Art Barn! Pond, meadows, woods - all the painting will be done right there as there is no need to leave with such beauty. Price: $215. Contact:, 219-462-9009,

October 6-7 , 2017: COLORADO, Durango.
Private Workshop.

A student writes: 
It was a pleasure to spend four days with you painting around Sedona. It was great to have your 'insider' perspective of the area and find new places to visit and paint. Your curriculum was ideal for those new or rusty at plein air painting, with comprehensive instruction and daily demonstrations. You were very generous with your time and individual attention to each of us. Thank you for a great workshop and I hope to return next year for another one.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Looking Back at 2016

Behind Sand Beach 6x8 oil
I thought I'd share a selection of my paintings from this past year for your enjoyment.  Some you might have missed, others you might have already seen, a few might be new to you.  Here's my offering.  Don't forget you can always see more at my website, Happy holidays!

A Place to Stand 24x12 oil

Autumn's Turn 24x36 oil
Canyon Trails 12x24 oil

Condor's Realm 9x12 oil

Gatehouse 6x8 oil

Evening Clouds 6x8 oil

High Desert Juniper 12x18 pastel

Highlands Cottage 16x20 oil

Late Spring Snow 9x12 oil

Lifting Fog 12x16 oil

Lighthouse 8x10 oil

Days of Umber 9x12 oil (self-portrait)

Reaching Up 20x16 oil

Ready to Sail 12x9 oil

Red Butte 8x16 oil

Rocks & Foam 6x8 oil

Seawall Sunset 6x8 oil

Secret Mountain Wilderness 12x36

Out of the Shadows 9x12 oil

Sunday Brunch 16x8 oil

Surge 6x8 oil

Toward Otter Point 16x20 oil

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Looking to Refresh Your Art Collection?


Trade In Your Old Painting - Get a Larger One!

I often run into collectors of both my work and others who wish they could "refresh" their collection. They may have some smaller work by an artist that they still love, but they'd like something a little bigger. Lately, I've been painting larger work, something I haven't done much of before. So, if you have some of my work and would like to trade it in for one of my larger pieces, read on!
  • I will take back your current painting (including frame) and apply what it would cost today to a larger painting (it must be for a larger painting)
  • You pay me the difference in price between the current painting and the new one
  • You ship your current painting to me at your cost
  • I ship the new painting to you at my cost

For example, let's say you have a 9x12 that in today's market would go for $700. The one you want is a 24x36 at $4200. You would pay me only $4200 - $700 or $3500 and ship me your 9x12 for replacement.

Interested? Then check out my larger pieces on my paintings page and let me know what you'd like.

Here are a few examples:

"Et in Arcadia Ego" 12x24 oil/panel #9981

"Highlands Cottage" 12x16 studio oil #2016071
Appearing in The Artist's Magazine, July/Sept 2017

Secret Mountain Wilderness 12x36 oil

Slide Rock Fault 16x20 oil

"Sunrise at Campobello " 12x24 studio oil #9940

Autumn's Turn (Red Rock Crossing, Crescent Moon) 24x36 oil

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Muse Takes a Holiday

4 a.m.  (digital painting via ArtRage) by Michael Chesley Johnson

It's the holiday season, but does your muse really need a holiday?  I like my muse working 24x7, but once in awhile, she does take a break, whether I give her permission or not.  That's not happening to me at the moment (thankfully!), but I thought I'd share with you a technique for getting her back to work again.

The main reason the muse packs her bags is because the ho-ho-ho has become a little ho-ho-hum.  By adding excitement to her day, she'll stick around.  I do this by trying something new and fun.  It should also be something easy.  If you have to work at trying something new, it's not fun.

Trying something new and fun that's also easy might be:

  • Pulling out some of those tubes of colors you've never used and giving them a spin;
  • Toning your surface a gaudy color if you usually tone with neutrals; 
  • Painting a landscape in a 1:3 ratio if you typically settle for the same-old 9x12;
  • Leaving your brushes behind and using just one small painting knife.

I'm sure you can think of lots of other new and fun but easy things to do.  Right now, for example, I've pulled out my tablet that has the ArtRage app installed on it.  Because I like to get my fingers messy with paint and pastel, I tend to forget it's there, but now I'm using it to paint nocturnes from memory.  It's too cold (and dark) to paint outdoors at night right now, so I go out for a few minutes, observe the scene carefully, and then return to my tablet to paint it.  I've also tried a few of these in oil in the studio.  My muse seems to be sticking around for these experiments.

If you have a favorite way of getting the muse back to work, I'd love to hear from you.

You won't hear from me again until after Christmas, so Merry Christmas!  If you're still looking for a gift for yourself or another painter, please don't forget my $50-Bring-a-Friend deal, as described in a recent blog post.  The deal is still good through Saturday.

Also, my "Michael Chesley Johnson Plein Air Set" - a 50-piece set of stunning but very useful colors for the landscape from Pastels Girault - is available now with $10 discount plus free shipping! Order from the US distributor, Pastel Etc.: Michele Aplin, or 310-640-8388.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Still Time! Bring a Friend.

One of Sedona's Beautiful Painting Locations

I thought I'd put out the call one more time for my "Bring a Friend" program in my Paint Sedona plein air painting workshops.  Deadline is December 25th,   Read below for full details.

And here's another offer:  If you're the first person to sign up, you can pick whatever topic you want for the week.  Here are some options for you:

  • Plein air only
  • Studio only
  • Combination plein air to studio
  • Pastel only
  • Oil only

If you have another topic you're interested in, let me know!  Now, on to details about the "Bring a Friend" program.

Bring a Friend

If you're thinking of taking one of my Paint Sedona workshops this winter, I want to give you something to encourage you.  If you sign up by December 25th, I will give you $50 for each friend you bring.  Here's how it works.  The workshop is regularly just $300 – still inexpensive by most standards! – but if  you bring a friend, it's only $250.  If you bring two friends, just $200.  Three, and you pay only $150.  This is my Christmas gift to you.

As a reminder, the deadline to sign up for this deal is December 25th.  You must bring at least one friend who will take the workshop  The gift will be applied to your workshop balance after paying your initial deposit of $150.  To register and pay your deposit, please visit

But wait, there's more!  Sedona can be an expensive place to stay for a week.  I am offering a package deal of five nights' lodging at the studio plus the workshop for just $600 per person.  That's only $60/night per person for lodging!  There are four very comfortable bedrooms with a shared kitchen at the studio, and you and your friends can stay there, space permitting.

I hope you'll join us this winter!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Product Review: Daytripper Easel from Prolific Painter

Photo by Trina Stephenson
UPDATE 8/4/20:  People who have read my blog have reached out to me recently that the manufacturer is addressing shipment and customer service issues, and these are improving.  But please, do not contact me about this easel, as I cannot provide any more information than is on the maker's website and in my review below.

Like most people, I enjoy a new toy for Christmas.  This one came a little early:  the Daytripper Easel from Prolific Painter.  I've seen the easel in action at several plein air painting festivals over the last couple of years.  Designed and built by my friend, artist Joshua Been, it seems like most of my painting friends at these events use one.  Despite the fact that I have closets filled with pochade boxes, tripods and easels, I decided I needed to try this one out.

I already have a good tripod, so I just purchased the palette and upright panel holder.  Both of these are made of strong but lightweight wood, so the whole package is very portable if you want to hike in to some remote location.  (I didn't weigh it, but Joshua says it's a little over 6 pounds with the Dolica tripod he sells; mine's a little heavier.)

The palette is well-designed with an adjustable hanging system, plus holes for brushes, wing shelves for knives and other small items, a cord for hanging your paper towel roll with a clip for your turps can, and an optional Plexiglas interior for easy clean-up.  (I opted for the Plexiglas.) The inside of the palette is a mid-value, neutral grey to make accurate color-mixing a snap.  The rest of the palette is painted flat black to minimize glare in the field.  The palette rests on your tripod's two front legs at a slight angle to eliminate any bounced light off the Plexiglas.

The upright panel holder, which attaches to the quick release mount of the tripod head, comes in three different lengths and two different configurations, which means you have lots of choices for panel sizes.  I chose the 18" off-center mount, which lets me paint on an 18x24 canvas in the horizontal position.  That's about as big as I want to paint in the field!  The only issue I had was that the brackets for holding the panel or canvas were a little hard to adjust.  You adjust these by sliding them up and down.  I found a little bar soap worked into the mechanism did the trick.

What I like especially about the system—besides the fact that it is lightweight but very stable—is that I can raise my panel to eye-level.  Although in these photos I have it a little lower than that (hey, I'm just getting used to the system!), here's a photo proving otherwise.  I'm a tad over six feet.

Joshua has done a great job at giving all the information plus many photos on his website.  You can read more about the Prolific Painter Daytripper (and other goodies) here:

Oh, and here's the painting I did while testing out the system.  I'm looking forward to my next outing!

Oak Creek Afternoon (Study) - FOR SALE! $150
9x12 oil by Michael Chesley Johnson

Friday, December 9, 2016

What Makes a Good Reference for Studio Landscape Painting?

You, a plein air painter, have decided that it's now cold enough outdoors to retreat to the studio.  You'd like to work on something big, but you're not sure what.  You start pawing through boxes of old plein air sketches, scrolling on-screen through thousands of digital, but that's tiring work!  Maybe you'll spend the morning watching YouTube videos instead.

Well, here's a video for you.  If you're looking to take your plein air painting to the next level by doing some studio work, you need to know what constitutes good reference material.  In this video, I describe what makes good reference material and how to gather it so your studio time will be more successful. Pencil sketches, color studies and photographs all have their place in your work, whether your medium is oil, acrylic, watercolor, pastel or something else.

So sit back with a cup of coffee, and enjoy.  It's only six minutes long, the perfect length for a coffee break.  Afterward, I expect you to get back to the studio.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Skill and Confidence: Is My Work Any Good?

Is my work any good?

This question is a thorn throughout one's entire art career, but it seems more painful when just starting out.  You have little or no confidence at this point, and for a reason – you don't know anything yet, so of course your work isn't very good.  However, as you practice and learn more about your craft, you can't help but improve, and so your confidence level rises.

Early on, it's easy to get over-confident and to think you are really something.  My late mentor, Ann Templeton, once told me:  "When you're just starting out, you get better fast.  But then you get to where it's hard work to get better, and it also takes more time."  For awhile, you may not see any improvement at all.  When this happens, your confidence can nose-dive.

But then you make a little jump in your craft – maybe you discover a different way of applying paint that brings your work to a new level – and your confidence follows.

There's a dance that happens between your level of confidence and your skill level.  My conversations with other artists tell me this is very much a shared experience.  But if you're just starting out in your career and are in a hole, take heart.  It does get better!

I've created this short video to explain how it works.  If you've been in this dance, too, I'd love to hear about your experiences.  (Don't see the video?  Here's the direct link: )

By the way, don't forget that my 2017 calendar is available.  You can see a preview and get it here:

Also, my $50 rebate for workshops is available until December 25.  For details, please see my previous blog post:  Bring a friend!  I hope you'll join us this winter.

Also, please don’t forget my books (available at and my videos (available at North Light Shop) and my workshops (on my web site)!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Bring a Friend to the Workshop, Get $50

If you're thinking of taking one of my Paint Sedona workshops this winter, I want to give you something to encourage you.  If you sign up by December 25th, I will give you $50 for each friend you bring.  Here's how it works.  The workshop is regularly just $300 – still inexpensive by most standards! – but if  you bring a friend, it's only $250.  If you bring two friends, just $200.  Three, and you pay only $150.  This is my Christmas gift to you.

As a reminder, the deadline to sign up for this deal is December 25th.  You must bring at least one friend who will take the workshop  The gift will be applied to your workshop balance after paying your initial deposit of $150.  To register and pay your deposit, please visit

But wait, there's more!  Sedona can be an expensive place to stay for a week.  I am offering a package deal of five nights' lodging at the studio plus the workshop for just $600 per person.  That's only $60/night per person for lodging!  There are four very comfortable bedrooms with a shared kitchen at the studio, and you and your friends can stay there, space permitting.

If you've not been to Sedona before, the video above will give you an idea of what you will experience.  (If you're receiving this blog post by e-mail, you won't see the video, but here is the link: I hope you'll join us this winter!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

New Painting: Autumn's Turn

Autumn's Turn
24x36 oil/canvas
Available through Goldenstein Gallery, Sedona, Arizona

This winter, I'm spending more time in the studio, working on larger projects.  I want to share with you the result of my latest project.

One of my very favorite spots on the planet is Red Rock Crossing in Sedona, Arizona.   The clear, cool snowmelt and spring water from the mountains and forests of northern Arizona descend through Oak Creek Canyon to this special place.  Here, the rushing waters widen and rest, lapping gently at shelves of red rock edged with graceful sycamore trees and gnarled cottonwood, all beneath the eternal gaze of Cathedral Rock.

For many years I've wanted to make a painting of what, to me, makes this place so special.  Although I love Cathedral Rock, for this piece I've chosen to keep its magnificence in the background and instead to give the creek center stage.  I've presented Red Rock Crossing as it appears in autumn, when the cottonwoods and willows are at their best color, and when the red rocks beneath the surface glow with a sympathetic light.  "Autumn's Turn" offers a window onto this restful place and time.

I chose to present this moment in a way that shows the full breadth of the creek without being impeded by a frame.  Although you could frame this 24 by 36 original oil painting, I have painted the edges of the canvas to create the illusion that the scene continues beyond its bounds.

"Autumn's Turn" is available only through Goldenstein Gallery in Sedona, as noted above.  This is a one-of-a-kind vision of Red Rock Crossing.  No reproductions of it will be made, so you will be guaranteed to have the one and only original.

Here is a video of the painting (can't see it? here's the link: )

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thoughts on Artist Web Sites

I'd rather be doing this than building web sites.  Wouldn't you?

The title of this blog post may have you thinking that I am offering my thoughts on web sites for artists.  But actually, I'm asking for your input.  My own web site ( has been up and running for about 15 years.  I'm proud to say I built it with my own two hands.  Well, it's not the Victorian Age anymore.  This steampunk site needs to be rebuilt for the 21st Century.

My fingers aren't as nimble as they used to be, so I am thinking of using a web host that's artist-friendly with templates and the like.  I want this to be simple.

I have a list of features I'd like to have available.  These are:

  • SSL (https).  Google apparently is going to start giving demerits for sites that don't use SSL certificates for security.
  • Mobile/tablet friendly.  Although Google Analytics tells me the majority of my visitors still use desktop computers, the percentage of mobile and tablet users will surely rise.  
  • Easy-to-use and customize templates.  I really don't want to be writing HTML or JavaScript code anymore.  (And I don't want to be learning Drupal.)  Also, I want my site to look different from yours, so I'd like to be able to customize the template easily.
  • Clean, uncluttered and easy-to-use image presentation.  For an artist, it's all about being able to present the images.
  • Social media integration.  Specifically, I want to make it easy to pull in feeds from Facebook, Instagram and my blog.
  • Multiple domain hosting, management and integration.  I have many domain names, and I'd like to manage them all in one spot.  Some have to do with the art, others to do with workshops, and others with my writing.
  • Good tech support.  I'm pretty handy with Internet technology, but when I need tech support, I want it now, and I want to reach someone who knows something.  I'd like to bypass the first tier of support.  By the time I call, I've already tried rebooting my computer and don't need to be asked that.
  • A host that stays on top of the technology.  When IEEE 802.99 comes around (I imagine that it will be a telepathic global network), I want my host to be ready for it.
  • Finally, I need to be able to manage the whole thing under Windows and my Chrome browser.  I don't want to switch to Apple.  If Windows and Chrome go away, I'll deal with it at that time.
  • Oh, and a shopping cart.  I'm not sure I'll ever use this, but it'd be nice to know it's there should the bricks-and-mortar galleries wither away.

So, my questions to you are:
  • What hosting service would you recommend, and why?
  • What is missing from my wish list, and why would I want it?

I appreciate your input very much!  I'm hoping to get this all started very soon.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Paint Sedona Adding Studio Workshops

I don't know about you, but it seems like everyone's painting en plein air these days.  And now there are plein air conventions, plein air magazines, plein air festivals and plein air competitions.  This might be a good thing, but many of us who paint en plein air exclusively are forgetting that the studio is where creative synthesis happens.  In the field, we observe how the elements of light, volume and depth operate; in the studio, freed from the distractions of outdoor painting, we can incorporate these field observations into more meaningful works.  In the studio, we can also resuscitate the inspiration we had in the field and give it new life.

With that in mind, I've decided to give all you plein air painters the opportunity to return to the studio to develop your art more fully.  I am adding studio-only weeks to my Paint Sedona calendar.  We'll paint from any plein air references brought by students, which could include color sketches or even "finished" pieces.  For students willing and who have the equipment, I will suggest optional outdoor painting assignments for outside the workshop day.  (If you've already signed up for a workshop with me and are expecting plein air, not to worry; those weeks will still take place outdoors.)  In the studio, I'll be teaching value and design, color mixing and color use, and adding depth to your landscapes to create that perfect illusion.  We might even give reality a little push here and there.

For those of you who were really looking forward to a plein air workshop with me, don't despair!  There are several scheduled in Sedona this spring.  Also, I will conduct a plein-air-only workshop if you can bring at least two friends, plus I will schedule more plein air weeks in the future.  Finally, my Downeast Maine workshops will continue to be exclusively plein air.  Check out

I look forward to seeing you in the studio!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

2016 Holiday Sale!

Every year about this time, I go through my studio inventory and try to pick out a few, select paintings that I want to offer at a special price for my loyal followers.  This year, I have both oil and pastel paintings, going anywhere from $120 up to $200.  These paintings are all unframed but with free shipping to the USA! *  Scenes range from Arizona to Maine and points in between.

I hope you'll consider one of them for yourself or a loved one for the upcoming holiday season.

Above is a collage showing some of the paintings.  To see the full page, please go to  I'm accepting payment via Paypal.

*I will also ship to Canada and elsewhere for extra.