Authentically Human! Not Written by AI!
All Content Copyright © Michael Chesley Johnson AIS PSA MPAC

Sunday, November 26, 2023

Canyon Abstraction: Crevice

View in browser

**Authentically Human! Not Written by AI**

"Crevice" 16x20 Oil

Not long ago, I sold a large painting from my Canyon Abstraction series.  It was one of a trio that I had hung in the bedroom, and I have been missing it like an old friend.  This past month, I had some free time and decided to paint it again.

I pulled out my pandemic gouache journals, which had most of the color studies I needed.  I also printed out a copy of the painting I sold, plus a few photos of this particular part of the canyon.  Interestingly, the only reference I ended up using was the photo of the original, and I used that just for the composition, not for color or form – all this other information was conveniently held in memory, thanks to having spent much time sketching in the canyon over the last few years.

I started off by toning my 16x20 panel with Gamblin's Transparent Earth Yellow.  This is a beautiful, luminous yellow that served well as a base color for the canyon wall.  After that, I used Burnt Sienna and Viridian to create a warm dark for the shadows and cracks, and Cerulean Blue Hue for reflected skylight.  Finally, I used touches of Naphthol Scarlet and Cadmium Orange to indicate hot spots of reflected canyon light in the shadows.

After my first pass at color, I shot a photo of the panel and used my photoediting app (Krita) and a Wacom Intuous tablet to do a little digital painting.  I wanted to experiment with color and get a sense of where I might go in the next stage.  I liked the result, and I used some of it in the finished painting, such as the cool pinks in the edges of the wall and the cool, blue-green stains on the rock.  But as much as I enjoyed my digital painting session, my preference is for using a real brush to push around thick oil paint.  Even so, I found the detour useful, and I'll probably do it again.

Another tool I used was the new "gesso and ground blade" from Gamblin.  Neat tool, which I also used in this painting for spreading paint over large areas and also scraping back areas.

Gamblin's Transparent Earth Yellow

Initial Drawing

Blocking in Darks plus a Few Lines

Adding Some Color

Wacom Tablet and Digital Painting

The "Digital Version" of the Painting
(Note that in the final version of the oil, I
departed slightly from this.)

Scraping with the Gamblin Tool

The Gamblin "Gesso and Ground Blade"

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

2024 Calendar is Ready!

View in browser

**Authentically Human! Not Written by AI**

New Calendar is Out!

Each fall, I put together a calendar with paintings I love from the past year. This time, the calendar showcases snowy scenes from New Mexico and summer vibes from the Maine Coast and Canadian Maritimes. You can see a preview of the calendar in the video above.  To order, you can either scan the QR code at the end of the video (or here) or go to this link:  

By the way, my Fall Studio Sale continues!  You can get 50% off on any Southwest painting over $300, which includes free shipping to the continental US.  For details, click here.  

Sunday, November 19, 2023

Fall Studio Sale

View in browser

**Authentically Human! Not Written by AI**

It's that time of year again.  Twice a year, I offer a 50% sale on paintings.  Now it's time for 50% off on any Southwest painting over $300!  I've got a huge inventory of work, some studio paintings but many plein air pieces from New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Utah.  Go here to see the Southwest paintings


  • Paintings are shipped unframed
  • Shipped free to the continental US (I'll contact you for extra shipping if you're out of this area)
  • You can pay by personal check, but I will also take Zelle and Paypal (contact me for payment details)
  • Coupon code (important!) is "fallishere" (all lower case, no spaces)
  • Coupon good until December 31, 2023

I'm sorry to see any of these paintings go, as they represent so many beautiful places I've painted in and so many wonderful times I've had.  But the walls and racks are a bit crowded, and I am still painting, and I need somewhere to put all the new ones!

Sunday, November 12, 2023

Time to Sketch

View in browser

**Authentically Human! Not Written by AI**

I love sketching trees, the deader, the better.
(Well, I do like live trees, too!)

This past week, I made my presentation to the committee that will determine which of the five finalists will be awarded the project to create public art for the McKinley County Courthouse Rotunda.  It's been fun – it's always fun to be in the running for a $100,000 award – and I learned a great deal about the county's cultural diversity and history while putting it all together.  Plus, I had the pleasure of figuring out my new Wacom tablet and tuning up my Powerpoint skills.  (In a future post, I'll write more about this project.)

But that's all done now.  While I wait for a decision, it's time to get back to tuning up some other skill – drawing.  Here in New Mexico, we have entered the monochrome season, a time best interpreted in pencil.  The glorious color of fall has passed.  Instead, the landscape is filled with ochres and umbers, dull yellows and browns.  Even the greens of the junipers and pines don't offer any relief, as they are a very dull, greyed-down green.  It's as if the world has been pulled into Photoshop with the color saturation dialed down to 5%.

While I wait for the snows of winter, which act as a sort of prism, breaking up the light and decorating the landscape with a rainbow of hues, I have pulled out my sketchbook and pencil.  It's a nothing-fancy kit.  The sketchbook is just something cheap I had lying around, and the pencil is so non-descript it doesn't even have a hardness rating stamped on it.  But I can make a dark mark, so it's probably something softer than a #2.

It's a very portable kit, and I am now taking hikes down into the canyon with it.  I find a rock outcrop with interesting shadows and cracks, or a tree (nearly dead or completely dead, the best kind of subject) and sit down.  Or, if I can't find a level-enough rock to sit on, I stand; a sketch only takes a few minutes, so I can tolerate standing.  It's a meditative process, and it's so much more satisfying than sitting at the computer, playing with the Wacom tablet and tweaking Powerpoint slides.  

But as enjoyable as sketching is, I am patiently waiting for this monochrome season to end.  My tubes of paint are at the ready.

Sunday, November 5, 2023

Report: Lake Paintout with Plein Air Painters of New Mexico

View in browser

**Authentically Human! Not Written by AI**

Here's my painting from the paintout:
The Delicateness of Autumn, 8x10 Oil - Available

As the Western Coordinator for Plein Air Painters of New Mexico, I have the pleasure of hosting a couple of paintouts in my part of the state each year.  In the fall, I host one at the lake in my neighborhood.  This year, six members attended—a good number, actually, considering how far the lake is from Albuquerque and Santa Fe, where the bulk of the members seem to live.  Rather than do the drive all in one day, about half of them camped overnight nearby at a local campground.

This year, we hit the fall color at peak, and I think everyone enjoyed the day.  And, since my studio is close by, I invited members to visit at the end.

By the way, as you read this, I am in Sedona, Arizona, catching the end of the Sedona Plein Air Festival after teaching my workshop for Art Fest in Mesa.  I participated as an Invited Artist at SPAF many times, and it is good to see my colleagues having a fun and productive time!

Here are some photos to show you the glorious color at the lake:

Saturday, November 4, 2023

Realism Live: Paintings up for Auction

View in browser

**Authentically Human! Not Written by AI**

Once again, as an "artist emeritus" of PleinAir magazine's online conventions, for Realism Live I've been asked to put up some recent paintings for auction.  The auction starts Monday, November 6th, and ends on Saturday, November 11th.

The paintings I'm offering are from the Pagosa Springs fall painting retreat that I led in October.  (Well, there is one extra painting that's not from that trip--instead, it's a view of the lake near my studio.)  They are all 8x10 unframed oils, and sure to please!  Above are thumbnail images of the five paintings.

You can get to the auction here.