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Sunday, April 24, 2022

Encounter: Interview with Lorenzo Chavez

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View the Interview Here


For the last of my interviews of artists participating in my new book, I interviewed master artist Lorenzo Chavez.  

A native of New Mexico, Lorenzo was first inspired by the New Mexican landscape and the long succession of other artists who have found inspiration in the area.  Although he now makes his home near Denver, he continues to travel and to paint the American Southwest and the West.

Lorenzo graduated with honors from the Colorado Institute of Art in 1983 and continued his art education at the Arts Students League of Denver, starting in 1987.  He's painted professionally for over 35 years, working in both oil and pastel.  His work has won many major awards and is in many major collections, both here and abroad. A much-sought-after workshop instructor, he continues to teach throughout the US.

I'm very pleased that Lorenzo was able to contribute to my book, and it was a delight to interview him.  You can watch the interview below.  (Can't see the video?  You can see it at this link.)



You can watch all the interviews on this playlist here. This concludes my series of the artists who wished to be interviewed.

In case you haven't heard about my book, Beautiful Landscape Painting Outdoors: Mastering Plein Air, features 15 master artists who share their tips and techniques for plein air painting.  This 160-page book is packed with demonstrations, illustrations and, of course, beautiful paintings.  The book is available from both Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  You can get details at the following links:

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Starting with Richer Color—and Two North Carolina Workshops!

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"Juniper Ledge" 9x12 Oil - Available
One of our approaches with rocky bluffs such as this one
was to start with pure cadmium yellow deep in the sunny areas
and then a dramatically cooler red, such as permanent
alizarin crimson, in the shadows.  Using a very absorbent 
surface--hardboard primed with two coats of acrylic gesso--
and thin paint at the start allowed this first layer of color to
stay put when later, modifying layers of color were applied.
This absorbency is key.  Without it, the later layers would slide
around and mix up with the first layer too much.  Not such a 
problem when each layer is an analogous color, but if you are 
playing with layering complements, it would be a problem indeed.


A couple of weeks ago, I had a student out to my studio for a week of private instruction.  He was a previous student—my preference for these private workshops—and before he arrived we discussed areas he needed to improve in.  One was color.  A high school teacher of math and science, he and I are somewhat akin in that we tend to look at the world with a very scientific and “literal” eye.  When you see things this way, it's all too easy to end up with a rather dull painting.  As we all know, Nature most often offers us a dull palette, and if you paint what you see, that's what you get.  But he wanted more exciting color.  So, our goal that week was to push the color we saw by starting right off with rich, sometimes crazy, hues and then dialing back the richness until it felt right.  I offer with this post a few paintings of mine plus commentary.

By the way, time is running out to sign up for my North Carolina pastel workshops.  I have not one but two workshops that I'm teaching for the Appalachian Pastel Society in conjunction with the annual, all-state, three-society exhibition, for which I am the judge.  (Each year, the three major pastel societies in North Carolina coordinate a show and workshop.)  The first workshop will be a studio workshop that I'll teach via Zoom.  In it, we'll take plein air references—you'll be given in advance a tip sheet on how to gather useful reference material—and use them to create finished studio paintings.  The second workshop will be a plein air workshop in the Asheville/Black Mountain area, and in it I'll guide you through my process of painting outdoors in pastel and offer plenty of help at the easel.

Although you can take just one workshop or the other, I recommend you take both!  I also recommend that you join one of the three societies (if you aren't already a member) to get the member rates.  The three societies are:  the Appalachian Pastel Society, the Piedmont Pastel Society and the Pastel Society of North Carolina.   You can read the full description of the workshop here and the show prospectus here.

Dates for the workshops:
  • Zoom studio pastel workshop – May 9-11, 2022
  • Plein air pastel workshop (Asheville/Black Mountain area) – May 30-June 1, 2022
I hope to see you either in the Zoomiverse or in North Carolina or both!

Now here are some more paintings from the private workshop.

"Above the Willows" 9x12 Oil - Available
Again, rich cadmium yellows in the sunny areas.

"Dome" 9x12 Oil - Available
This was a difficult one.  There was quite a bit of 
light bouncing into the shadows of this formation,
and I found it hard to get the value right.  Later, back
in the studio, I ended up applying first a thin glaze of
ultramarine blue to the shadows to darken them; and 
after it dried, I applied a thin glaze of Indian yellow to bring 
back some of the warmth.  I also applied the glaze of
Indian yellow to the light areas to make them richer.
If I had gotten the relationships of light/shadow correct
at the start, I most likely wouldn't have had to do all
that glazing!

"Springtime at the Lake" 6x12 Oil - Available

And for fun: "Raku's Pen" 8x10 Oil
We had a windy day, and we found it useful to
seek shelter near Raku's pen to paint her.


Sunday, April 10, 2022

Why Take a Workshop?

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It's just about that time of year again, when the landscape blooms with plein air painters.  I taught my first plein air painting workshop this weekend, an introductory class for the local art council.  As is typical for springtime in New Mexico, we had wind and pollen!  But the students, holding true to the oath they took as novititates, held firm.  They turned out excellent work, which was satisfying not just for them but also for me as the teacher.

Why take a workshop? Let me count the ways.  A workshop is an opportunity to:
  • Learn a new skill or brush up on old skills
  • Pick up a new technique and discard the old
  • Get some practice if you don't paint regularly or generate new inventory if you do
  • See what everyone else has for gear, in case you're in the market for something new and better
  • Get valuable feedback not just from a master painter but also from your peers
  • Perhaps see a new landscape 
  • Or see an old landscape with new eyes, and
  • Enjoy the camaraderie of like-minded folks

I'm sure you can add to this list.

With my teaching season having begun, I'd like to share with you what I have currently on tap for this year.  Yes, it's a shorter list than previous years, but I'm cutting back a little to enjoy my life in other ways.  This also leaves space to add a workshop for you or your group.  If you'd like me to teach, either via Zoom or in-person, let's talk!

All-Level  Workshops

North Carolina

For the Appalachian Pastel Society, in conjunction with the annual statewide pastel exhibition.  (I will be judging the exhibition.)  Get details here: http://www.appalachianpastelsociety.org/?page_id=8683

May 9-11, 2022:  Studio Workshop (Zoom, pastel only)
May 30-June 1, 2022:  Plein Air Workshop (In-person, pastel only)

Maine, Lubec

August 1-4, 2022:  Plein Air Workshop (all media, all levels.)  Limited to 4 students. Visit www.PleinAirPaintingMaine.com


Painting Retreats for Experienced Painters

Retreats are $300, which does not include travel, lodging or meals.  Visit www.MChesleyJohnson.com for details or contact me directly.

Maine, Lubec /  August 7-12, 2022 / Waitlist

New Mexico, Taos / October 2-7, 2022 / Waitlist

Arizona, Sedona / November 7-10, 2022 / OPEN

Sunday, April 3, 2022

Living in the Internet Desert

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"All Dressed Up with Nowhere to Go"
Me in the painting studio, temporarily turned into
a video studio, and eagerly awaiting the test.

I'm using my laptop for the initial part of the interview and the slideshow. 
Connected to the laptop by a cable is a smartphone, pointed at the easel, where
I planned to demonstrate.  I'm running OBS for managing all this.
OBS is Open Broadcaster Software, an open-source program for
video recording and live streaming.


“Can you try hooking up to your modem directly with an Ethernet cable?”

I'd spent hours preparing a presentation for a live, online interview that would have hundreds of viewers:  a slick slide show followed by a masterful painting demonstration.  I'd rearranged the furniture in my painting studio, turning it into a passable video studio.  I'd spent days playing with new software that would allow me to manage multiple cameras.  I'd practiced and practiced and practiced.

But then came the pre-broadcast test the day before the interview.  “You're fuzzing out,” said the tech person, a thousand miles away.  “Let's run a speed test to make sure you have the bandwidth we need.”  She thought that connecting directly to the modem would bypass any issues with the wi-fi.  I wasn't as hopeful.

I knew very well that here, in rural New Mexico, we have woefully inadequate bandwidth.  On a good day, I get 10 Mbps download, 0.75 Mbps upload.  But having run Zoom classes before, I thought it would be enough.  Here's what Forbes recommends:  
For social media, email or light video streaming: 10-25 Mbps download bandwidth. For gaming or heavy use of video, especially 4K: 50-100 Mbps download bandwidth. For most households: At least 3 Mbps upload bandwidth, or at least 10% of your download bandwidth.
I'm at the lower end of “social media, email or light video streaming.”  With Zoom, I might get a “connection unstable” message, pixelated video or dropped frames, but I can usually manage.  For my interview, the interviewer would be using Streamyard, a service similar to Zoom.  The tech was worried that, with lots of people watching, the video would get even worse or possibly drop out altogether.  This was supposed to be a professional broadcast, not just me running a Zoom class out of my studio.

So I plugged in my laptop directly to the modem with a cable.  (I have lots of IT experience, so this was easy.)  Here's the result of the speedtest.



After consulting with the person interviewing me, it was decided to cancel the interview.

"Old Juniper" 14x14 pastel - Available
Here's the practice painting I made for the interview.
I would have painted a second version of this "live."

Someone asked me later, Can you pay for more bandwidth?  No, not with my current provider. My phone company (CenturyLink, the only phone company in town) can't provide more than 10 Mbps, and that costs me $50/month.  There is one other option—wireless internet—but only if I can get line-of-sight to the tower, which the installer, when he came out for a site visit, wasn't sure if I could. And wireless is very, very pricey.  To get the same bandwidth I currently get through CenturyLink, it would $80/month.  And if I wanted true broadband—the minimum bandwidth of which is a mere 25 Mbps—I'd have to pay a whopping $150/month!

Compare this with where I used to live, in a small community about 10 miles south of Sedona, Arizona.  I had cable internet and paid only $50 for 150 Mbps.

Sure, there are a couple of other options.  Satellite, but the latency, data caps and expense rule it out.  Starlink, which doesn't have the latency, is still months if not years away.   Starlink I hoped would save me, but it's not coming to my area any time soon.  Originally scheduled for rollout in 2021, I'm now told it won't be until 2023.  I've asked for my $100 deposit back.

But there is a solution.  Fiber and broadband have been rolled out to the elementary school down the hill from me, maybe a half-mile away.  I asked why the rest of our little, historic town—settled in the late 1880s—couldn't be hooked up to that and was told “it wasn't in the contract.”  Meanwhile, a contractor is now digging trenches and laying fiber to the Navajo reservation a few miles from here.  

My poor little town is being surrounded but bypassed by fiber.  We're an internet desert, a dry island in the internet stream.  (And no, I'm not moving to a city -- I love this place.)

And that's why you didn't see the interview with me this week.  The good news is, I've got enough bandwidth to watch a movie and to teach a Zoom class.  But not at the same time.