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Saturday, February 25, 2017

New Online Course for Plein Air Painting Coming Soon - Plus Coupons!

Not everyone can fly out to Arizona or Maine to take a plein air painting workshop with me. For those who are unable to travel because of cost or obligations, I've created a series of books and videos.  I've also created three online courses: 
  • Plein Air Essentials:  Learn the Basics of Plein Air Painting
  • Plein Air Essentials:  Oil Supplement
  • Plein Air Essentials:  Pastel Supplement

Right now, I'm in the middle of creating another online course, the nature of which I will reveal in the next few weeks.  You can see a still from one of the accompanying videos above.  The observant reader will note that it's a picture of my studio--for a plein air painting course!  What's that all about? you may ask.   You'll find out soon enough.

In the meantime, I am offering a discount for my current online courses.  Until March 1st, the first 20 people who sign up get 15% off.  Below are the coupon codes and links.  Click on the link to get to the course and sign up.  With the discount, they are only $17.  That's about the cost of a lunch at a decent, reasonably-priced restaurant.  If you're new to plein air painting, I think you'll find these helpful.  Plein air painting season is upon us!

Plein Air Essentials:  Learn the Basics of Plein Air Painting - code GETITNOW

Plein Air Essentials:  Oil Supplement - code GETITNOWOIL

Plein Air Essentials:  Pastel Supplement - code GETITNOWPASTEL

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Some New Small Plein Air Paintings - Plus a Coupon!

"Beaver Creek Ledge" 9x12 oil
When the sun hits the water, it creates a beautiful, luminescent olive glow.

I wanted to share with you some of my latest small plein air paintings.  These were done over the last few weeks either as workshop demonstrations or while painting with my local group.   Either way, each of them was a joy to paint.  I'll be posting more on my new website over time.  You can see (and buy!) these and others on my "Small Paintings" page:

"Coffee Pot Ridge, Overcast" 9x12 oil
We do get our share of dull days in Sedona.  On this day, rather than "push" the color,
 I strove to be as accurate in my color notes as possible.

By the way, I am starting a new project.  As many of you know, in addition to my books and videos, I offer online courses through Udemy.  I hope to have a new course completed by this summer.  But in the meantime, I'm offering a discount on my "Plein Air Essentials" course.  Be one of the first 20 students to sign up for my course, Plein Air Essentials: Learn the Basics of Plein Air Painting, before March 1st and get 15% off! Coupon code GETITNOW  Details and sign up here:

"Oak Creek Rush" 9x12 oil
This was a little piece I did along the creek while the waters were rushing full-tilt with snowmelt.

This was painted at one of my favorite spots that requires a climb up to a ridge to get the view.
I like the morning light on the cliffs.

"Seven Warriors" 9x12 oil
This is only right half of the "Seven Warriors" formation.  I went out painting with my
friend. ML Coleman, and he  painted the left half.  

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Paintings for Acadia Inviational III at Argosy Gallery, Bar Harbor, Maine

As I mentioned in my last newsletter, I took some time off from teaching workshops this winter to work on a few special projects.  One of these projects was painting for the upcoming Acadia Invitational III exhibit.  It's a little strange, painting maritime scenes while in Arizona, but with a little music* and the right reference material, I found it easy to transport myself to Mount Desert Island and Acadia National Park.  I had a wonderful time re-visiting Maine this season, in a virtual sort of way.  Besides my plein air sketches and photos, I possess a vast internal library of memories of the hikes I've taken there over the decades.  You can't paint these scenes in the studio without them.

Before I go further, I should explain what Acadia Invitational III is.  Every few years, Argosy Gallery in Bar Harbor, Maine, invites 30 artists to be in this show.  The show runs for over a year, giving the public plenty of time to view and buy some really fine paintings of MDI and the Park.  It's rare to see this quality of work, and so much of it, in one place.  This year marks the third event, and it will run from July 29th, 2017, through October 2018. (Yes, you read that right – 2018.) Other artists invited include T.M. Nicholas, Kathleen Dunphy, John Cogan and joe Anna Arnett. I am delighted to be invited to display my work at this prestigious gallery and in such good company.

Each artist is allowed three paintings in the show; one large painting, and two smaller ones.  For my biggest piece, I chose a well-known but still beautiful view of Otter Point.  I particularly enjoyed painting the foreground rocks and ledges.  For my next piece, I decided the feature the schooner Margaret Todd, the only four-masted schooner still sailing the east coast.  (I've actually sailed on that ship – what an experience!)  For my smallest piece, I featured a quiet, little-visited part of the island.  I won't tell you where it is, but if you enroll in one of my workshops on Mount Desert Island, I may take you there.

I wanted to share these three paintings with you and to give you an idea of the relative sizes of each.  The image at the top of this post will give you that.  Below, I show you the images that you can then click on for a bigger view.

Acadian Summer 12x24 Oil

The Schooner Margaret Todd 12x16 Oil

On the Edge 9x12 Oil

* I have eclectic musical tastes.  Soundtrack this winter by Sigur Rós.

Monday, February 6, 2017

February 2017 Newsletter from Michael Chesley Johnson

"Acadian Summer"
12x24 Oil
by Michael Chesley Johnson
Available through Argosy Gallery in Bar Harbor, Maine,
As Part of Acadian Invitational III, July 2017-October 2018

February 2017

Sedona, Arizona

Here in Arizona, winter draws to a close. Back at the end of December, I started noticing the first alders along the creek putting out catkins; now the cottonwoods and sycamores show color. Flocks of stunningly-blue bluebirds arrived a few weeks ago. A bounty of bugs along the creek has brought the flycatchers and phoebes. I love to take a walk and watch these birds flit out to pluck a meal from the air.

Winter for me has been very productive. I took some time off from teaching workshops to work on two projects: a new website and paintings for an exhibition in Maine.

New Website

I'm very excited about my new website, I had a lot of fun putting it together, even despite a learning curve to understand WordPress. (You can read about my efforts on my blog.) The site is cleaner, easier to maintain, and you even can purchase paintings through it. The paintings are some of my larger pieces, but I am also posting smaller paintings for sale from time to time. (You can subscribe to my small paintings listing at this RSS feed link.) As for my old site, I plan to keep it running in parallel for awhile to keep the search engines happy.

New Paintings

My other project this winter was painting three pieces for the upcoming Acadia Invitational III exhibit at Argosy Gallery in Bar Harbor. A total of thirty nationally-recognized artists will be participating in this exhibit and sale, which will run from July 29th, 2017, through October 2018. (Yes, you read that right – 2018.) Other artists include T.M. Nicholas, Kathleen Dunphy, John Cogan and Joe Anna Arnett. I am delighted to be invited to display my work at this prestigious gallery and in such good company. I've included an image of my largest piece at the top of this newsletter.

Don't forget that if you come to Sedona this winter and spring, I am happy to open my home studio gallery by appointment. We are south of town about 10 miles on a good paved road. Just contact me at You can also see my paintings at L'Auberge de Sedona on L'Auberge Lane in Sedona. By the way, my gallery in Sedona, Goldenstein Gallery, which manages the installation at the resort, will soon be opening at its new location. I'll announce details on my blog in the very near future.


Sedona, Arizona. I still have openings left in my Sedona workshops through April. If you haven't painted the area's red rocks and beautiful creeks, I encourage you to come. The weather is warming up, spring is already here, and I predict a beautiful season. You can find full details at And don't forget about the package that includes onsite studio lodging and workshop for only $600!

Lubec, Maine. Sign-ups have already started for my Downeast Maine workshops in the historic working waterfront village of Lubec. I'm expecting a full and busy July and August, so don't delay in registering! And remember, we offer a package that includes lodging at Artists Retreat Studios & Gallery, where the workshop meets each morning, for only $800. Full details can be found at

Here's a brief calendar of workshops, with a more complete one at the end of this letter:

Now through April. Arizona, Sedona. My Paint Sedona workshops, with details at

April 2-8, 2017: Arizona, Sedona. This is a full, intense week with my friend and fellow painter-instructor, Doug Tweddale. 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.

May 9-10 , 2017: New York, Montgomery. Sponsored by the Wallkill River School of Art, this two-workshop will take us to some of the local farms and historic sites. I like the school's mission statement: "The Wallkill River School is a non-profit artists’ cooperative that runs an art school and fine art gallery as well as a plein air art workshop series on local farms and open spaces. Our mission is to preserve open space through art and art activism." As a "steward of the land," I am in tune with this philosophy. Price: $240 Details and registration: (845) 457-ARTS,

July-August. Lubec, Maine. My Downeast Maine workshops, with details at

July 17-21, 2017: Maine, Rockland. Usually in the summer, I keep to my own corner of Downeast Maine, but this summer I am teaching an intense, five-day workshop in scenic Rockland, home to the Farnsworth Museum. (The Farnsworth has a stunning collection of art from three generations of Wyeths.) If you're looking for something more intense and longer than my Lubec workshop, this is for you! Price: $650. Details and registration: Coastal Maine Art Workshops, 207-594-4813,

Scotland and Italy in 2018. Don't forget my two 2018 painting retreats in Scotland and Italy. We'll be in Scotland, June 3-13, 2018, visiting the Isle of Skye. We are at this moment fine-tuning details. You can read about my previous retreat in Scotland at my blog. Then, we'll be in Italy, June 16-23, 2018, near Florence with excursions to Siena, La Meridiana, San Gimignano and Barberino. I have full details now on the Italy trip and can send those right away. Let me know if you are interested in these trips.

That's all! Please make sure you sign up for my blog and visit my new website. And have a great spring!

Michael & Trina

Michael Chesley Johnson
505-490-6139 /


2017 Workshops


2018 Workshops

  • October 2017 – April 2018. ARIZONA, Sedona. My Paint Sedona workshops, with details at
  • May 4-5, 2018: ILLINOIS, Batavia. Michael returns to Water Street Studios. Details TBA.
  • May 7-9, 2018: MICHIGAN, Lowell. Workshop for Great Lake Pastel Society. $400. See Michael's website for details.
  • June 3-13, 2018: SCOTLAND, Isle of Skye. For full details, contact Michael.
  • June 16-23, 2018: ITALY, Florence. For full details, contact Michael.
  • July-August. MAINE, Lubec. My Downeast Maine workshops, with details at
  • August 21-24, 2018: MAINE, Acadia National Park. Price: TBA To register and for details:
  • October 24-27, 2018: ARIZONA, Grand Canyon. Painting in Grand Canyon National Park via the Grand Canyon Association! Details to come.


DVDs and Books

Michael's THREE 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

Go to for these professionally-produced, downloadable videos!

All books below are 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, February 2, 2017

Fly in the Ointment, Gnats in the Painting

"The Watchman" 12x9 oil

But first:  If you haven't taken my workshop survey, please do!  It'll only take a moment and is completely anonymous.  Here is the survey:

Now, on to today's topic.

A few years ago, I took a painting trip to Zion National Park in Utah.  Just after sunrise one cold morning, I headed out to one of my favorite locations along the Virgin River.  I set up and began painting in the shadow of the canyon rim.  It wasn't long, though, before the sun rose over the top and cast its warmth on me.  But I wasn't the only one enjoying the sun.  Clouds of gnats gathered around.  They were so thick I had to stuff paper towels in my ears to keep them out.  But I couldn't keep them out of my paint—or my painting.  Many small souls lost their lives that day.

A reader asked me recently what to do when this happens. After observing a polite moment of silence, you may be tempted to dig the insects (or other debris) out of your painting.  But as meticulous as you might be, you'll likely smear a carefully-placed brush stroke or worse, crush the insect and spread wings and body parts, making your job even tougher.

The best option is to wait until the painting has dried or nearly so.  With the point of a knife, you usually can pick out the deceased cleanly.  In some cases, a light brushing is all it takes.

As for your palette, there's not much you can do.  Gnats and other insects seem to be attracted particularly to my white (Gamblin titanium-zinc, made with safflower oil) and my cadmium yellows (also made with safflower oil.)  I just push them aside and keep going.  When I get home, I clean up the paint as best I can.  Spraying your palette with insect repellant is not advised, as art conservators have not yet evaluated how DEET or citronella affect the stability of oil paint, nor are they likely to do so in the near future.

Note:  Pastel painters will be encouraged to know that their medium of choice is not prone to acting like pheromone-laced flypaper.