Sunday, February 4, 2018

New Grand Canyon Painting

"After the Rains"
16x24 Oil by Michael Chesley Johnson
To Be Exhibited at the 10th Annual Grand Canyon Celebration of Art
(Update:  Readers have been asking about the secret violet color I used in much of the painting.  It's Gamblin's quinacridone violet--a beautiful color!)

I'm always amazed at how far tourists will go from the shuttle bus—which isn't far at all.  They spill out, head for the recommended view a few feet from the bus, take a few snaps of a loved one posing before a stunning view, and return.  If I'm looking for a quiet spot to paint in, I often need to walk just a short distance from the stop to be completely alone.

Mohave Point is one of my favorite locations at Grand Canyon.  It's very popular with tourists—after all, it offers a stunning vista, and the buses do pause there every few minutes—but just past the stop the Rim Trail snakes along quietly with only the occasional walker.  I can paint here with little interruption.

Just west on the trail, I can enjoy a glorious view of the Colorado River 4500 feet below.  As sundown approaches, the growing shadows pen a new drama every minute.   It's a view I've painted many times.

Recently, I decided to make a larger view of this scene, based on plein air studies and photos.   I worked out my design in pencil first and then charcoal; made a color sketch to explore harmony choices; and finally went to my 16x24 panel and got to work.  As I neared the end, I made a series of adjustments, mostly with color and modelling, but I also had to make a design change.  A second pair of eyes—Trina's—suggested that the tree I put in the bottom right interrupted the theme, and after some time, I finally agreed with her.  The painting is stronger because of that change, and it also opened up more terrain for the viewer to explore.

The painting will be my studio piece for the 2018 10th Annual Grand Canyon Celebration of Art this fall.  It will appear in the catalog and also be exhibited along with my plein air work.  The outdoor painting part of the event runs from September 8-15, 2018, with the exhibition and sale continuing until January 14, 2019.  For more details:

Please don't forget my plein air painting workshop at Grand Canyon October 24-28, 2018.  There are still a few spaces left.  I'd love to show you my favorite spots in the Canyon!  Details are here at  

Initial Design Sketch (Pencil, 6x9)

Value Study (Charcoal, 6x9)

Color Study (Oil, 6x9)

16x24 panel toned with Gamblin Fastmatte Transparent Earth Red
and references to the right.  Also had a tablet with photos to the left, not shown.
Ready to start painting!

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