All Content Copyright © Michael Chesley Johnson AIS PSA MPAC

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Scaling Up - And Plein Air Live



Scaling up a small painting presents many creative problems, but a more mechanical one has to do with drawing the transfer grids.  How many of us have struggled with the math?  

For example, let's say you have a sketch that is 7 inches wide, an odd number, but you want the larger painting to be 24 inches, an even number.  It'd be helpful if that sketch were 8 inches wide, wouldn't it?  On the sketch, you could simply draw a grid with 1-inch-wide columns and then, on the larger surface, a grid with 3-inch-wide columns, resulting in each having 8 columns of the same width.  But 7 inches!  You would need to divide the sketch into 7/8-inch columns.  This gets messy, fast.

Well, there's an easier way, no matter the dimensions.  Here's a short video that explains (https://youtu.be/A_OI9Sk4C9g)


By the way, today is the LAST day to get the good discount on Plein Air Live.  You can certainly sign up after today, but if you sign up today you get $500 off the program.  I'll be demonstrating!  Here's the link

Sign Up Here!

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Finally! A Gouache Demonstration



As most of you know, I've been sketching in gouache over the last year.  Since this medium is new to many of you, I've had requests to present a demonstration in gouache.  Well, wait no longer!  I've filmed two videos for you.

The demonstration is in two parts.  In the first part, I talk about my Pandemic Sketchbooks—the what, when, where and why.  In the second, I give you the how. 

Both of the videos are on my YouTube channel.   You can see the first one here (https://youtu.be/lh2wwJDayvg):



and the second one, here (https://youtu.be/0oUEokVHgqI):




Thursday, February 18, 2021

Plein Air Live

Join the Masters at Plein Air Live!

 As you've probably heard, the Plein Air Convention, which had been scheduled for this May in Denver, has been moved to May 17-20, 2022, and it will be in Santa Fe.  As much as I was looking forward to being on the faculty this year, it's probably a good idea to give us more time to get ahead of the virus.  

Good news:  I'll be on the faculty in Santa Fe next year.  I might even try holding a workshop or retreat before or after the convention, somewhere close by.

And here's more good news.  Replacing the "real" convention this year will be Plein Air Live.  This will be a virtual conference with live demonstrations and Q&A sessions with the faculty.  You can sit in the comfort of your own home (or studio) and learn from the masters.  There's a lot more to it, so I suggest you go to the website for more information.  Last year's was a big success, and I imagine this year's will exceed it.

Dates for Plein Air Live: April 15-17, 2021, plus a "beginner's day" on April 14th.  I know they're offering discounts if you sign up early, so you might want to look into it soon.

I'll see you there!  I'll be part of the program, demonstrating in gouache for the "beginner's day."


Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Paintings at Goldenstein Gallery

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


 Back when I lived near Sedona, Arizona, I hooked up with what I consider one of Arizona's premier galleries:  Goldenstein Gallery.  Due to a number of issues, the gallery closed its physical space a couple of years ago but began having the artwork "hosted" by Sedona resorts.  Interestingly, that business model is how Goldenstein started, and so when it returned to it, it knew what was doing.  Today, I have my paintings hung at Seven Canyons Resort and L'Auberge de Sedona where, should you visit, you can see them.

I want to share the paintings  with my blog readers, in case you don't have the opportunity to visit Sedona and its beautiful "red rock country."  All the paintings are available via Goldenstein at this link.


December Morning in the Desert
24x30 oil/canvas

Evening Light
12x16 oil/panel

Storm to the North
16x12 oil/panel

Red Rock Rising
9x12 oil/panel

Secret Mountain  Wilderness
12x36 oil/canvas



Sunday, February 14, 2021

A Video Demo and a Plea for Cheap Broadband

End of the Canyon
11x18 Oil - Available


This past week, I joined Eric Rhoads for a live demo in his ongoing daily series with artists.  I spent a delightful hour with Eric, the publisher of PleinAir Magazine and a generous supporter of artists, in which I showed how I take a field sketch and scale it up into a larger studio painting.  The video was recorded, and you can see it here (https://youtu.be/G7EnK_btKZg):


Below is the gouache plein air sketch I made, which served as a reference for the studio piece.  When you compare it to the studio painting (top of the post), you'll see the colors are a bit different.  This is because my gouache kit contains a different set of colors than what I have on my oil palette.  When going from study to studio, I like to change mediums, as this requires me to reconsider my color mixtures, revving up the excitement in the studio.

5x8 Gouache Sketch - Reference


Although most comments on my presentation lofted me up with high praise, a few made me sad.  They had to do with the quality of the video.  It was neither my fault nor the host's but that of the inadequate Internet speeds common to rural New Mexico.  Although the host was crystal-clear, my image was at times pixelated and ghost-like, making it difficult for viewers to see exactly what I was doing.

To the comments I jokingly replied, “That's the price I pay for living in a stunningly beautiful, rural area.”  And this is quite literally true.

Here in my village at the foot of the Zuni Mountains, I am lucky if I can get a 10 Mpbs stream on my DSL connection.  And that's only when the schoolkids, who have been working from home lately, haven't yet roused themselves out of bed to enter the “on” ramp.  Sure, I could get a much better connection were I to live in a city.  Back when I lived in Arizona, near Sedona, I enjoyed a 150 Mpbs stream for about what I pay now.

We do have other options here—wireless Internet, satellite, LTE—but they aren't feasible for a number of reasons.  One option we don't have:  cheap broadband.

This is the case in many rural areas, not just where I live.  But there's no reason cheap broadband can't be rolled out to every home.  The Internet has become as crucial to our country as electricity, telephone and the highway. It has joined those three as an essential part of America's infrastructure, and it should be treated by our government as such.  Subsidized and price-controlled, if necessary.

Oddly, a few years ago, a company rolled out broadband fiber to the schools in town but, because of the contract, wasn't able to extend that service to any homes.  A missed opportunity, indeed.


Those of you who've seen my studio will
recognize that this is not that.  To make sure
we had the best connection to our inadequate
Internet service, we had to set up a faux studio
right next to the DSL modem...in the bedroom!


Sunday, February 7, 2021

Blogs I Follow: Muddy Colors


In my blog posts, I rarely mention other blogs I follow—but I do follow quite a few.  Most of them concern landscape painting, but a few reach outside of this category.  I'm particularly fascinated by illustration art.  Illustration art is commercial art; that is, an illustrator is an artist who creates images for a variety of industries, such as animation, book publishers, billboard agencies and the like.  I'm fascinated by this craft because most illustrators went to school specifically for it, and they learned—and are expert at—many of the skills we plein air painters often learn only through workshops, books and videos or (alas) trial-and-error.  Illustrators are people we plein air painters can learn a great deal from.

Here I'd like to mention Muddy Colors.  From the “About” page:

Muddy Colors is a collective of more than 20 artists, dedicated to providing a free, online resource for aspiring and professional artists alike.

With a library of thousands of articles, and a new one being posted each day, Muddy Colors is the largest educational website dedicated to the Fantastic Arts.

“Fantastic Arts” isn't all about buxom ladies in dire situations being rescued by steroid-pumped he-men wielding laser pistols or, depending on the milieu, broadswords.  It's about landscapes, too.  Even the most fantastic, otherworldly ones draw on elements from our own world.  You'll find many similarities in terrain, weather, lighting effects and more.  The illustrators who depict these worlds use the same techniques we plein air painters do.

As an example, here's a useful post by Gregory Manchess on mixing color:  https://www.muddycolors.com/2020/09/10-things-mixing-color/

By the way, at the bottom of my blog, way down below the last post on the left, I offer a short list of some of the blogs I follow.  The most active blogs are at the top.

Happy reading!

Saturday, February 6, 2021

My Interview with Eric Rhoads


Mark it on your calendar:  Noon Eastern Time, Wednesday, February 10, 2021.

Eric Rhoads, publisher of PleinAir magazine and long-time supporter of the plein air painting movement, will interview me for his series of LIVE daily interviews with artists.  The interview will last about an hour, and I'll be talking about my painting process and also demonstrating.

Having been working in near-isolation for almost a year now, I'm looking forward to sharing my work and process with someone other than Trina and Raku!

You can watch the interview LIVE on both Facebook and YouTube.  Here are the links:

Facebook - https://fb.me/e/1YzAuVViV

YouTube - https://youtu.be/G7EnK_btKZg

The last time Eric and I talked, it was in 2018 for his PleinAir Art Podcast series.  You can listen to the interview here (https://youtu.be/jue19FzYqDs):