All Content Copyright © Michael Chesley Johnson AIS PSA MPAC

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Painting Tourism v. Deep Painting

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Postcard painting.  I recently spent a few days at
the Basin Harbor Club in Vermont, along the shores
of Lake Champlain.  It was hard not to resist the
view of the hills across the lake in New York.  I took
my kit and settled down on a rock to paint the scene.
5x8 gouache.

Second postcard painting.  After completing the 
first sketch, in which my goal was to just get 
something down on paper, I decided to make a 
more complex composition--yet I was still entranced
by the view.  5x8 gouache.

Finally, I was able to enter a state of deep painting.
I was no longer concerned about capturing
the long view of the lake and distant hills.  This beautiful tree,
knee-deep in the water, was located at the edge of the
same rock I'd been sitting on for the previous two sketches.
5x8 gouache.


In my daily painting practice, I aim for “deep painting.”  I go repeatedly to the same location, painting the same landscape, hoping to deepen my relationship with that tiny corner of the world.  For me, painting isn't so much about the final product as it is about the experience.

But when I travel, I tend more to a type of “painting tourism”—I end up painting the postcard view of some beautiful place.  The scene, often featuring a trite composition that includes a scope far too wide to make a really good painting, lures me in.  Its pull is just enough to overcome the nearly-equal pull to practice deep painting.  This is not an epic battle of right versus wrong, or of greater versus lesser.  Rather, the process of painting, whether superficial or deep, addresses a purely personal need. 

Often, although I may be pleased with my postcard view, I leave the place unsatisfied. Yet if I spend a few days—or make a series of sketches during one session—I always find myself moving into deep painting.  I may start off making postcard views, but once I have that urge flushed out of my system, I settle down.

Sunday, June 19, 2022

Pastel Live!

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Sign up here!


One positive has emerged from the pandemic:  Many conventions, now easing back into in-person formats, are continuing their online versions.  It turns out that many people love the option.  Delayed flights?  Lost luggage?  Crappy hotels?  COVID lurking in the hallways?  None of these are a problem with a virtual convention.

So I'm glad I've been invited to teach at the online convention Pastel Live!, now in its second year.  I'll be demonstrating on “Beginner's Day,” which will be August 17th.  My demonstration will show how any pastel stick can make a variety of useful marks, plus I'll share ways to create special effects that will add pizzazz to your paintings.

Since my demonstration, like all the others, will be pre-recorded, you may wonder where “live” comes in.  Well, I'll be online at the time of broadcast, and you'll have the chance to ask me as many questions as you like.  Outside of my demo, there will also be critiques, question and answer sessions, roundtable discussions and group painting.  Whether you're just starting out with pastel or are an experienced painter hoping to take your craft to the next level, I hope you'll join me.  You can find all the details at this link: https://pastellive.com/pastel2022?affiliate_id=2989212

Friday, June 17, 2022

Report: North Carolina Pastel Workshop

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When we set up to paint early in the day, we didn't realize
that this was the "kiddie pool" end of the creek!  Some of the
kids and most of the parents came over to admire our work.


As part of my cross-country trip from New Mexico to Campobello Island, I stopped in North Carolina to teach a plein air workshop in pastel. Run in conjunction with the annual statewide pastel exhibition, which I judged, the workshop was held in the beautiful mountains around Asheville and Black Mountain. Under the sponsorship of the Appalachian Pastel Society, several of us ventured out in the perfect weather to paint streams, trees and mountain views.  I say “perfect weather,” meaning that it didn't rain, but even the locals in the group declared it a tad warm.  Fortunately, the workshop coordinator brought bottles of water for us—much needed, even though we always managed to find shade.  Thank you to everyone who organized the event, and to the students who never scattered too far from the teacher!

Now I'm comfortably settled at my studio on Campobello Island.  Two summers have passed since I was last here—I'm having a ball going through the studio, remembering paintings, gear and materials that I'd forgotten about.  I'll have some new paintings to post soon.  But in the meantime, some photos and demos from the workshop!

Shadowy rocks in the creek demo 9x12 pastel

Early morning sunlight on the lake demo 9x12 pastel

Shadowy path through the the trees
demo 12x9 pastel

How to paint a tree demo 12x9 pastel

A challenging subject: the arched bridge
over the stream, mostly in shadow with
a lot of stuff going on thereabouts demo
12x9 pastel



Sunday, June 12, 2022

June Newsletter!

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"Lifting Fog at Dawn" 11x14 Oil - Available


[I try to post my semi-monthly newsletter here, but once in awhile, I forget.  This time I didn't.  So, here's my June newsletter.  If you'd like to sign up for my newsletter, you can do so here.]

June 2022
Campobello Island, New Brunswick
Canada

It has been a whirlwind couple of weeks with travels.  First, the Plein Air Convention in Santa Fe, followed by a pastel workshop in North Carolina; and finally, Campobello Island.  Along the way, sadly, we had planned to attend two memorial services for lost parents, one in Georgia for my father and one in Vermont for Trina's.  But even more sadly, as I approached Georgia for my father's, I was notified that my mother had just tested positive for COVID.  Because of a mandated ten-day quarantine period, we had to cancel the service, and I was unable to visit her.  COVID can touch us in many unexpected ways.

The Plein Air Convention was huge.  I didn't get an actual count, but I was able to calculate the number of chairs in the main stage area, and most of those 800 seats were filled at times.  As a faculty member, I gave a pastel demonstration one evening that turned out very well.  I also enjoyed the afternoon paintouts, which were held at several scenic locations, including the historic Santa Fe Plaza.  I think my favorite part, though, was watching the demonstrations of some of the best painters in the world.  (You can read a full write-up of the event on my blog.)  I'm honored to have been invited back for next year's convention in Denver, which will be the tenth anniversary.  They're expecting upwards of a thousand attendees.

After a quick trip home to pack for the cross-country trip to Campobello Island, I traveled to North Carolina.  The workshop was small, but that didn't disappoint me, as I prefer small groups.  It was held in conjunction with the statewide pastel exhibition, which is sponsored annually by the three pastel societies in that state.  Asheville and Black Mountain provided cool upland territory to paint in, and we enjoyed painting mountain streams and lakes.

When we finally arrived on Campobello Island, we found it much as we left it:  sunny and green and surrounded by a beautiful bay.  Better yet, even though we weren't able to be in residence the last two summers because of closed borders, we discovered the house and studio to be in fine shape.  I'm looking forward to unpacking the studio and painting at some of my favorite haunts.

Now, let me tell you about my upcoming events:

July 15:  Judging for an online exhibition for the Arizona Pastel Artists Association.

July 21-August 9:  One-person show at Mulholland Market, Lubec, Maine.  As I'll be trying to clear out my studio this summer (see the next item), I plan to put very low prices on  the paintings.  

All Summer:  Almost Everything Must Go Sale.  I'm closing down my Campobello studio, which means selling painting gear and art supplies.  As I don't want to deal with the hassle of shipping, you will need to come to Campobello for this “cash-and-carry” sale.  If you're interested, let me know, and I'll send you a list plus pricing and the dates I'll be available.

August 1-4:  All-level plein air painting workshop in Lubec.  This is full, but I will put you on the wait list if you are interested—I do sometimes have cancellations

August 7-12:  Plein air painting retreat for experienced painters in Lubec.  Again, full, but I will put you on the wait list.

August 17-20:  Pastel Live!  I'll be teaching at this online conference.  This is hosted by PleinAir Magazine, and it's part of the enterprise that includes the Plein Air Convention, Plein Air Live and Realism Live.  My session will be on Beginner's Day, which is August 17.

Also in August, I'll be judging the annual juried members' show for the Vermont Pastel Society.  I'm honored that VPS considered me for this, as I've taught for them and was also a member when I lived in Vermont.

Maybe it's too early to talk about the fall, but I will be at these two events:

  • Escalante (UT) Art Festival, September 16-21
  • Prescott (AZ) Plein Air, October 13-16

and don't forget my two fall plein air painting retreats for experienced painters: 

  • October 2-7: Taos, New Mexico
  • November 7-10: Sedona, Arizona
I still have space in both of these.  For full details, please visit the workshops and retreats page on my website at www.MChesleyJohnson.com.  And don't forget Instagram, where I post frequently, chiefly new paintings and painting-related travel photos.  Also, my blog, where I have more room to expand on painting en plein air.

That's all for now.  Stay well!

Sunday, June 5, 2022

My Art History: Jules Bastien-Lepage

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Jeanne d'Arc
Jules Bastien-Lepage, 1879 / Oil on canvas, 100x110 in
Metropolitan Museum of Art

One of the first “isms” I learned about as a young painter was French Impressionism.  Like an infant, I was enchanted by its bright, shiny things.  The vibrancy of complement-on-complement, the loose and energetic brush work, the apparent lack of a need for good drawing skills—these helped me develop into a sloppy painter.

Much later, I stumbled upon Jules Bastien-Lepage (1848-1884) and French Naturalism.  Appreciating this style of painting required a more mature, sophisticated outlook:  one that craved good drawing, controlled brush work and, above all, an ensemble of colors that did not involve a brass section.  I think I saw his “Jeanne d'Arc” first and fell in love with the muted silvery greens, the dull earth colors, the accuracy of the drawing.  The artist had created a world beautifully unified in mood.

Naturalism is related to Realism.  Here's what Wikipedia says:
Realism in the arts is generally the attempt to represent subject matter truthfully, without artificiality and avoiding speculative fiction and supernatural elements. The term is often used interchangeably with Naturalism, even though these terms are not synonymous. Naturalism, as an idea relating to visual representation in Western art, seeks to depict objects with the least possible amount of distortion and is tied to the development of linear perspective and illusionism in Renaissance Europe. Realism, while predicated upon naturalistic representation and a departure from the idealization of earlier academic art, refers to a specific art historical movement that originated in France in the aftermath of the French Revolution of 1848.
Even though I rarely think about how to paint something—I paint without trying consciously to achieve a particular style—once in awhile I try to paint the scene exactly as I see it, and sometimes, the result looks like a Bastien-Lepage landscape.  I recommend this practice to anyone who wants to hone their observational skills.
Les foins
Jules Bastien-Lepage, 1877 / Oil on canvas, 180x195 cm
Musée d'Orsay, Paris, France

Pauvre Fauvette
Jules Bastien-Lepage

Weary
Jules Bastien-Lepage, 1881