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

Thursday, February 29, 2024

Reminder: Meet the Mentor

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**Authentically Human! Not Written by AI**

I just want to remind all my followers that you can join me for FREE in the Mastrius “Meet the Mentor” hour today, Thursday, February 29th, at 5 PM MT. (4 PM PT / 5 PM MT / 6 PM CT / 7 PM ET.) Join me at this link via Zoom.

During the program, I’ll be interviewed briefly, and then I’ll launch into my presentation on “Making Your Best Guess” in pastel. I hope you’ll join me!

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Join Me for my "Meet the Mentor" Session!

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**Authentically Human! Not Written by AI**

Mark your calendars! On February 29th, Thursday, at 5 pm Mountain Time, I’ll be live on Zoom and interviewed by Mastrius, the group that I am now mentoring for. You can join me for FREE at this link at that time:

(4 PT / 5 MT / 6 CT / 7 ET)

The program will last an hour, and I’ll be talking about what I do, why I do it and how I do it. Then, I’ll give a short demonstration of a painting technique that I call “making your best guess.” Are you a painter and frustrated with that first step in making color choices? In this technique, I show you how making an exact choice doesn’t matter! Just make your best guess, and take comfort in the knowledge that you can adjust that choice in the next phase. The demonstration will be in pastel.

Also, the program is an introduction to me as a Master Artist and mentor for Mastrius. Starting March 10th, I’ll begin mentoring up to 10 aspiring artists. If you’re looking for guidance, consider this online group mentoring program. You can find out more details about my program here.

I hope to see you “live” via Zoom on the 29th!

Sunday, February 18, 2024

I'm Now Over on Substack!

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**Authentically Human! Not Written by AI**

Did I fail to mention that I'm now over on Substack?  If you're an email subscriber to this blog, I've already moved you over to it to make sure you get every post, uninterrupted.  If you're viewing this blog through its RSS feed, you'll want to change your feed reader to go instead to:

Best, though, is if you simply subscribe either at or here:

I offer both FREE and PAID subscriptions.  Paid subscribers get monthly podcasts and paid-only posts.  Although I may not add new posts to my Blogger blog, I'll keep it up for awhile longer.  Thanks!

Sunday, February 11, 2024

What is Casein?

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**Authentically Human! Not Written by AI**

Here's my set of casein colors.  Also, I highly
recommend using a Sta-Wet palette to keep the paints moist.

At this point, most of you should be familiar with gouache.  It seems like every painter out there on social media is playing with this opaque, water-based medium.  But do you know about casein?  If you've heard of "milk paint"—once used to paint houses in the 1800s—it's basically the same thing, but with pigment.  This old medium is edging back into the spotlight, and deservedly so.

Casein is similar to gouache in most of its properties except one.  Made with a binder derived from milk, it can't be re-wet once dry, a property which, besides casein's cheapness, made it useful for house painting.  (A dilute solution of ammonia will help clean up any dried-on paint.)  The fact that the surface is durable and can be varnished makes it perhaps a superior medium to gouache.  It should still be framed under glass, though, if the painting is done on paper.  

By the way, casein tends to have a slight odor, which some artists find unpleasant.  I consider its smell, and in fact that of any art material, to be simply part of the magic that goes into making our art.

I first found out about casein from Stephen Quiller, whom I consider the master of water media.  Having painted in it for many years, he finally wrote a book about it, Casein Painting with Stephen Quiller.  He also helped Jack Richeson develop a new line of Shiva casein colors.  (The line is named for artist Ramon Shiva, who created the first casein paints for artists in the 1930s.)  With Stephen's encouragement, I picked up a set of colors and got to work.  You might give it a try.

If you'd like to learn more about casein, the Richeson Art web site has some excellent information here.

Thursday, February 8, 2024

Announcing a New Mentoring Program

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**Authentically Human! Not Written by AI**

I’m very excited to share with you some good news. Mastrius has selected me to be a Master Artist for its excellent mentoring program. If you haven’t heard of Mastrius, it’s a learning platform for artists with the mission of taking them to the next level in both craft and career. What’s more, it specializes in mentoring, working with both aspiring and emerging artists as well as more accomplished ones. When I researched the company and interviewed, I was very impressed with the program and the good reviews given by participants—and mentors, too.

In my online program, I’ll be conducting group sessions each month, with no more than ten participants, in a non-competitive, mutually-supportive atmosphere. Here’s what I offer:

Our group will focus on helping artists get to where they need to go–which is not necessarily where they think they need to go! We’ll look at recent samples of everyone’s work, listen to concerns and goals of participants, and then determine a mutually-agreed-upon path forward for each individual. As each month goes by, I’ll critique assignments and give further guidance. Because I will be working with aspiring artists, we’ll pay particular attention to some of the basics—design, color and finish—and also to process and technique. We’ll even get into the business and marketing side of things as needed.

I invite you to learn more about my program at this link. Besides our monthly sessions, you’ll have a monthly Q&A session with me, access to ongoing chats, and lots more.

I hope you’ll join us! But don’t wait to long, as my mentoring program starts March 10.

Sunday, February 4, 2024

Useful Practice: Copying the Masters

**Authentically Human! Not Written by AI**

Who's the artist?
(, but I'm copying John Singer Sargent)

Copying masterworks is nothing new.  Art students have done it for as long as there have been art students.  It's a useful practice, because it helps you understand the master's process, and it can teach you about composition, color use and more.

Recently, I started taking an online Schoolism course from Nathan Fowkes, one called "Environment Design."  (Perhaps more about that in a future post.)  As one of the first exercises, he asks the student to copy ten paintings that the student admires, paying special attention to simplifying the painting and to exaggerating what each painting's about.

As much as I'd love to go to a museum and plop down my easel in front of a beautiful painting, I don't live anywhere near one.  Intead, I went to my collection of art books—these are big coffee table books that a weightlifter might use to train with—and laid them out on the workbench in my studio.  Paging through them, I put yellow sticky notes on paintings that I've admired over the years.  I went through a lot of yellow sticky notes.

Next, I pulled out my casein paints.  (Not sure what casein is?  I'll write about that next.)  As I worked on each copy, I propped up the book—not an easy task when it seems to weigh 20 pounds—and got to work.  Each copy was small, less than 9x12, and quick, no more than an hour, to avoid having time to add detail.  

With each copy, I posted an image of it on social media and asked followers to guess who I'd copied.  Most folks got them right, but one puzzled all but a friend of mine, a collector who knows his art. I thought I'd share my copies here, along with the names of the artists.  There were so many more I could copy, but I want to move on to the next section of Fowkes' course.

What did I learn from this exercise?  I'm not going to tell you.  Try making some copies yourself, and see what you learn. 

Yes, another Sargent.

Joaquin Sorolla

Granville Redmond
 (A California impressionist, but not a household name.)

Eduoard Manet