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Saturday, July 30, 2016

Plein Air Painting Workshops in Maine and New Hamphire

West Quoddy Head State Park, Lubec, Maine

Foggy Days are Good, Too!

Last Call for Plein Air Painting Maine

I know I keep plugging my workshops, but I feel that they are the best way to get what I have to offer as a teacher.  Blogs, books and yes, even videos, can only take you so far.  I believe strongly that personal feedback and critiques are the ideal way to make a real jump in your craft.  With that in mind, let me mention that I still have spaces in my two final Plein Air Painting Maine workshops, which are based in the scenic working waterfront town of Lubec.  August 23-26 is an all-level workshop; August 30-September 2 is for intermediate to advanced students.  At this moment, we can also offer lodging.  The workshop alone is $300; the package with lodging is $800.  For details, please visit

Bartlett, New Hampshire

On the Saco River
Plein Air Painting in New Hampshire in the Footsteps of the Hudson River Painters

About a month from now, I'll be driving to the White Mountains of New Hampshire to lead a two-day workshop in Bartlett, near North Conway.  I'm really looking forward to this one because the White Mountains are rich with plein air painting history.  Many of the Hudson River School painters, including Thomas Cole and Albert Bierstadt, spent significant time there, honing their skills.  How can we not be inspired, walking and painting in their footsteps?

Everyone, including me, will be staying at the historic Bartlett Inn.  The Inn serves a hearty hot breakfast each morning, and there are many dining options in the area for other meals.  Also, since our painting locations are close to the Inn, we'll maximize our painting time.

I still have spaces in this exciting workshop.  Prices are very reasonable, from $330 to $495 plus tax,  depending on your lodging selection.   Download a brochure here.  For details and to register, please contact Sharon Allen at

I hope you'll join us for one of these workshops!

Crawford Notch by Thomas Cole
By Daderot (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Castine Plein Air Festival - 3

I just delivered my six paintings to the Student Union at the Maine Maritime Academy in Castine, Maine.  Above you can see my table.  I'll post photos of the paintings below.  The opening is from 4-6 pm this evening.  If you're in the area, I'd be delighted if you'd come so I can meet you!  It's going to be a big show:  40 painters, 240 paintings.

Just a quick note on the day so far.  After thunder and rain last night, the morning cleared nicely.  I was able to get out and do my selection and framing  en plein air in a shaded spot.  (Plein air isn't limited just to painting; you can frame that way, too.)  I made another painting down by the wharf of the MMA training schooner, Bowdoin.  This painting isn't going into the show, because it's not quite finished yet.

After painting, I had a quick sandwich from the local market and then headed home to finish my paperwork.  Shortly after noon, I delivered my paintings.  Things look good!  I'm looking forward to the 3:30 award announcement.  (I've won in the past here.)

Now the thunder is starting to roll again.  Time for a shower.  More in my next post.

Dyce Head Light 8x10 oil
Lighthouse 6x8 oil
Sultry Morning Schooner (the Bowdoin) 9x12 oil
Evening Roses 9x12 oil
Waiting for Sunset (the Guildive) 9x12 oil
Incoming Weather 12x24 oil

Friday, July 22, 2016

Castine Plein Air Festival - 2

The wind blew much of the night, but by dawn, it had calmed a bit.  When I woke around 2:30, I could see a moon hanging over Castine Bay, telling of clear skies.  I wanted to get out early because I'd read that there was a good chance of thunderstorms.  My sources are three different weather sites (NOAA, WeatherUnderground and Weatherbug), and although they differ, this time they seemed to agree.

I was out at 5 a.m. to catch the sunrise.  Clouds had swept in, making for a beautiful one.  I painted another piece immediately following the first.  Both of these were small (6x8), so after a quick breakfast, I headed out to paint a 12x24 at Wadsworth Cove.  The clouds parted, revealing a good deal of blue sky, but still not wanting to be surprised, I moved on to a fourth painting, a 9x12, finishing all four before lunch.  I think that is a record for me.

In the afternoon, I wanted to spend some quiet time with my paintings in the shade.  I hadn't really taken a good look at them.  I'd finish a painting and throw it in the box, and move on to the next one.  It's always good to do this to get an idea of where you are in the process of building good inventory for the show.  I found I had hit the allotted maximum, which is six for this show.

Still, I decided to do one more.  Five in one day!  That is definitely a record for me.  I don't think I've even painted that many in a day at the Grand Canyon.

By the way, for this trip I wanted to carry 8x10s and 6x8s.  I pulled out my EZPort box from Artwork Essentials.  (  This box can carry a whole assortment of panels.  I'll include some photos below of it as well as shots for the day.

Tomorrow, we can paint in the morning - I plan to, even though I think I have all the paintings I need - and then we need to deliver our six to the show after lunch.  The opening reception is from 4 to 6 pm at the Student Union at the Maine Maritime Academy here in Castine.  I hope to see you there!

Oh - it never did rain.

The EZPort

Many configurations

My palette after the 12x24

Not shipwrecked, just painting.  Painters are easy
to spot in the field because of the umbrella.

Artist Michael Vermette

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Castine Plein Air Festival - 1

Castine, Maine, is always pretty at this time of year.  The elm trees are tall and deep green, casting cool shadows over the white clapboard houses.  Sailboats sit sleepily in the bay until the afternoon breeze kicks up, and then they wake, raising sail and heading out.  The town is quieter, too, since the Maine Maritime Academy is out of session for the summer.  You'd hardly know that there are 40 painters here now.

I arrived yesterday after dropping off new work at Argosy Gallery in Bar Harbor.  (See my previous post on that.)   After checking into my lodging, I headed over to the Castine Inn for the "meet'n'greet".  I saw several familiar faces but many new ones, too.  I was talking with one artist who, like me, as been here each year since the festival began, and she thought the mix has been shifting over the years.  Shifting to what, I'm not sure, but it'll be fun to see work by some new artists at the opening on Saturday night.

Threat of a weather change on Friday pushed all of us out early today.  It's been warm (80) and today, muggy, but you never know what the weather will bring.  I think many of us did quite a few paintings today.  I made four:  two 9x12s, one 8x10, and lastly in this diminishing series, one 6x8.  My first one was a scraper, so I did the honorable thing and scraped it, and then made a second attempt, which was more successful. 

This year, I will be focussing on boats.  (Oh, and the Dyce Head Lighthouse.)  I'm not quite ready to share all of today's efforts yet, pending better photographs and a computer screen I can trust (I'm on my Nexus 9 tablet, and the paintings look a little weird), so I will post one or two at the most.  Other than that, here is a series of photos from the day.

I'll write a longer post next time, but for now, enjoy!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Paintings for Argosy Gallery...and More!

Beehive from Sand Beach
6x8 oil by Michael Chesley Johnson

The opening of my show at Argosy Gallery in Bar Harbor was a great success!  As you might imagine, hearing that it just about sold out made me very happy.   Following the event, the gallery  asked me to paint a few more, which I was happy to do.  With that in mind, here are the next half-dozen 6x8 oils, which I will be delivering this Wednesday, July 20.  (One is above.) As a reminder, these paintings celebrate the 100th anniversary of Acadia National Park, and they make great reminders of our nation's natural beauty.

Acadian Meadow

Another Acadian Sunset

Otter Cliff Backlit

Quiet Wave

Sand Beach Wave

All are available through: The Argosy Gallery, 110 Main Street, Bar Harbor, Maine 04609 / (207) 288-9226 /

Wednesday is also the day I'll be heading to Castine, Maine, for the Castine Plein Air Festival.  This is my fourth time at the event, and I always enjoy it.  During the Festival, the Maine Maritime Academy is out of session, so town is pretty quiet, and there is plenty of parking for both painters and patrons.  The event runs from July 21-23, Thursday through Saturday, with a grand show and sale on Saturday evening.  I hope I'll see you around town during this three-day event.  For full details:

Finally, we've had a recent cancellation for one of our package workshops.  For $800, you get five nights lodging plus my four-day Plein Air Painting Maine workshop, all based in Lubec at Artists Retreat Studios and Gallery.  The workshop dates are August 2-5, with arrival on Monday, August 1, and departure on Saturday, August 6.  (There is a chance you come earlier.)  If you're interested, please let me know right away.

That's all for now.  Stay tuned for my Castine Plein Air Festival report, coming later this week!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

July 2016 Newsletter

Schooner Cove 12x18 pastel by Michael Chesley Johnson
Available at Symbiosis Fine Art, St Andrews, NB

July 2016
Campobello Island, New Brunswick, Canada

[NOTE: If you don't get my newsletter by e-mail, you can subscribe to it here.]

It's hard to believe, but I haven't sent out a newsletter since I left Arizona. I've been busy, of course, but now I'm happy to have time to catch up and share some news before summer gets away from me. The lupines and apple trees are done blooming, and now we are in the fireweed and roses season. It won't be long before the apples start ripening....


My exhibition of 24 miniature paintings of Acadia National Park at Argosy Gallery in Bar Harbor, Maine, has been a great success. Sixteen of the paintings sold right away at the July 1 opening. As a result, I am painting a few more to supplement the show, and I expect to deliver these in the next few weeks. Although some paintings have left with their buyers, you can see and purchase the remaining paintings at the gallery at 110 Main Street, Bar Harbor. Contact: 207-288-9226 or

Also, I just delivered two large paintings to Symbiosis Fine Art, my gallery in St Andrews, New Brunswick. These are two of my favorite pieces, which you can see at the top of this post and below. Symbiosis is located at 157-B Water Street, right beside the Honey Beans coffee shop. Contact: 506-321-1575 or

Clearing, Acadian Prince 18x24 oil by Michael Chesley Johnson
Available at Symbiosis Fine Art, St Andrews, NB

If you come to Lubec at some point please remember my studio gallery there, Artists Retreat Studios & Gallery, at 45 Washington Street. Either Trina or I will be there most afternoons, Tuesday-Friday, but if you'd like to visit us when we're not open, we'll be very happy to show you. Just contact me at .

Upcoming Plein Air Painting Events

I'm pleased to say that I've been invited to three very prestigious plein air painting events this year. The Grand Canyon "Celebration of Art" gives me a chance to paint in a spectacular location with some of country's top painters. I do very well at the show each year, and I'm looking forward to another successful run. Sedona's Plein Air Festival takes place basically in my back yard, but I have many "secret spots" that I love to revisit for it. Finally, the Castine (Maine) Plein Air Festival gives me an opportunity to paint scenery that's a little different from what I have in Lubec and on Campobello Island. Home to the Maine Maritime Academy, it hosts some rather big boats, such as the USS State of Maine—always a challenge to paint! Here are the dates, and yes! the public is invited.

Castine Plein Air Festival. July 21-23, 2016.
Sedona Plein Air Festival. October 15-22, 2016.
Grand Canyon Celebration of Art. September 10-18, 2016.

Workshops and Retreats

I just returned from a fantastic trip to Scotland. This was my first time in that ancient, green land, and I can say it's everything I heard it was. (If you haven't been following my blog, you can read all about the trip here.) Twelve of us traveled through the Central Highlands, visiting such places as Glencoe and Stirling, painting our hearts out. I enjoyed the painting retreat so much that I've decided to offer it again, June 3-13, 2018. This time, we'll be painting in two areas: the fishing villages of East Neuk and also the Isle of Skye in the west. Like the last retreat, this one will be limited to just 12 participants. If you're interested, please let me know.

Right after the 2018 Scotland trip, I'll be heading over to Italy for another painting retreat, June 16-23, 2018. Our group will stay near Florence at the Villa Fattoria Bac├Čo in Certaldo Alto with painting excursions to Siena, La Meridiana, San Gimignano and Barberino. Price starts at €2,200 (currently about $2400 USD) and includes transportation to/from the Florence airport, and 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, please let me know. We are now taking deposits for the trip.

If a painting retreat sooner than 2018 interests you, I am offering one in 2017 on the South Shore of Nova Scotia. I haven't pinned down the exact dates yet, but it will be in September 2017. We will visit such famous, paintable locations as Lunenberg and Peggy's Cove. (Think old fishing villages beautifully preserved for the painter.) This retreat will be very limited in size, so please let me know right away if you are interested.

For my retreats, by the way, I give preference to previous students. If you haven't taken a workshop with me yet, now's the time!

Speaking of workshops, I still have openings in my summer schedule in Lubec in Downeast Maine. The workshops are small in size—no more than four participants—so you can expect lots of personal attention. We are also still offering the package deal of workshop plus lodging at for $800 at our Artists Retreat Studios and Gallery. For full details on both the workshop and the lodging, visit I am also now taking registration for my Arizona workshop for the fall/winter/spring of 2016/2017. We'll paint in Sedona and the surrounding Verde Valley and explore some beautiful Southwestern scenery. For details, visit

By the way, I am teaching a special workshop with my friend and fellow painter, Doug Tweddale, April 2-8, 2017. 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 at

I also want to mention that my friend Albert Handell is returning to Sedona for his popular mentoring program. Although his October session is full, he has added a second session March 12-18, 2017. For details on this program with this very popular teacher, please visit

See the end of this newsletter for a full listing of workshops, including my fall workshop in Acadia National Park—always a great time with beautiful scenery.

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.

Michael and Trina

Michael Chesley Johnson

July 21-23, 2016. Castine Plein Air Festival. Castine, ME.
October 15-22, 2016.Sedona Plein Air Festival. Sedona, AZ.
September 10-18, 2016. Grand Canyon Celebration of Art. Grand Canyon National Park, AZ.


2016 Workshops

July-August: MAINE, Lubec.. Plein air painting workshops for all levels of painter in pastel, oil or acrylic. See some of the world's best maritime scenery! Price: $300. Details:

September 6-7: NEW HAMPSHIRE, Crawford Notch. All stay at historic Bartlett Inn. Price: $285 to $600, depending on lodging choices. To register and for details: NH Plein Air, Sharon Allen,

September 26-29: MAINE, Acadia National Park. Price: $595. To register and for details:

October 4-6: NORTH CAROLINA, Wilmington. Wilmington Art Association. Price: $350 WAA Members, $385 non-members. Contact: Ann Lees, WAA Education Chair,

October-December: ARIZONA, Sedona. Paint Sedona continues! Price: $300. Details:

Coming in 2017!

May 5-6, 2017: OHIO, Columbus. Two-day workshop. Details TBA.

July 17-21, 2017: MAINE, Rockland. Five-day workshop at a new venue for me, Rockland, Maine. Price: TBA. Details: Coastal Maine Art Workshops, 207-594-4813,

September, 2017: NOVA SCOTIA, Lunenburg. Painting retreat for advanced painters. Details TBA.

October 7-8, 2017: COLORADO, Durango. Private workshop.

Coming in 2018!

May 7-9, 2018: MICHIGAN, Lowell. Workshop for Great Lake Pastel Society. $400. See Michael's website.

June 3-13, 2018: SCOTLAND, East Neuk and Isle of Skye. For full details, contact Michael.

June 16-23, 2018: ITALY, Florence. For full details, contact Michael.

October 24-27, 2018: ARIZONA, Grand Canyon. Painting in Grand Canyon National Park via the Grand Canyon Association! Details to come.

Michael's THREE NEW 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

Book and Videos

All available from Amazon! Visit

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, July 7, 2016

Repairing Damage to an Oil Painting

I recently received a distress call from a good patron. A painting she'd bought from me a few years ago was damaged while moving it to another house. Several spots had gotten scraped, and she wanted to know if I could repaint those areas. I answered I could, but I'm always a little uncertain when it comes to something like that. Scraping down and repainting a work-in-progress is one thing, but repairing a sold work is another. There's varnish to remove, color and surface quality to match, and—worse—expectations to meet.

When I received the painting, I was happy to see that the areas to be repaired were small. Also, I'd noted on the back of the painting the type of varnish I'd used, which allowed me to pick out the right solvent for removing it. If you use damar varnish, the varnish is soluble in turpentine; it does not dissolve in odorless mineral spirits. Fortunately, I'd used Gamvar, Gamblin's arylic resin varnish, which does dissolve in OMS, and that made the job easier.

Using cotton balls, I used a little Gamsol (OMS) and a delicate, circular motion to remove the varnish from the entire painting. You can't just remove one area, as it is nearly impossible to get the varnish in that area to match the rest of the painting when you re-varnish. (I'm glad this wasn't a big painting!) What's interesting is that, even with a delicate touch, I picked up a little color on the cotton.

Once the OMS had dried off, I applied retouch varnish (Gamvar diluted 50% with Gamsol), which made the painting look "wet" again so I could match color better. I was able to match the paint exactly. I applied it with a small brush, taking care to "feather" the color around the spot and over the undamaged area so the spot would blend and disappear.

The only problem I ran into is that in one location the underlying gesso had been damaged, creating a groove. I was able to fill this in somewhat with thin paint, but if the light is right, one can still see a very slight depression. One might have tried filling in the groove with gesso first, but since this was a traditional gesso (made with rabbit skin glue and chalk) and not acrylic, I didn't want to step into the dangerous territory of trying to get a patch to hold. The groove is hardly noticeable now.

Although I am very happy with this repair, it's not something I want to make a career of. Please be careful with those paintings!