Archive for Michael Chesley Johnson


Posted in art, How to Paint, Painting, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on September 3, 2014 by sebland

TOP OF THE WORLD ITOP OF THE WORLD IIIThe last day of our workshop dawned bright and clear. Michael took us to the overlook at Friar’s Head. It really felt like the top of the world. We could see across the bay to Lubec and Eastport, and island in between. He could not have chosen a better spot! TOP OF THE WORLD II Pointing out the lovely cloud formations, he chose as a demo to paint a pastel focusing on the fast moving clouds. He began sketching in the main shapes and worked up a value study. FRIARS HEAD I I have learned that this truly is the most valuable part of plein air painting – no pun intended.

Next, he sketched in the main shapes: FRIARS HEAD III All of us watched, enthralled, as he captured the movement of the clouds, almost as if by magic.

FRIARS HEAD V As his painting took shape, I looked around for my subject. There was plenty to choose from!


Liking the curve of the bay and the reflections on the water, I chose what should have been an easy subject, and began to lay in the masses. Michael said that it takes two people to make a painting. One is the painter and another is the friend with a gun to shoot that artist before they mess up the painting. I needed that second person on this day. I had a beautiful start and I kept on adding detail after detail until I totally messed it up.

FRIARS HEAD XIStill, it was a wonderfully beautiful day, lessons were learned and some good work was accomplished:

FRIARS HEAD VIMichael’s finished painting, Brian’s work in progress, FRIARS HEAD Xand Sue’s beautiful pastel:FRIARS HEAD IX

In such a beautiful spot, it’s easy to remember, it’s the journey!

FRIARS HEAD XII Tomorrow, goodbye to Canada.


The Sound of Fog Horns

Posted in art, How to Paint, Painting, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on August 29, 2014 by sebland

FOGGY DAY ELEVENWhen we arrived at Cranberry Point on the second day of our workshop, the fog was rolling in. I really enjoyed standing and listening to “Old Sparkplug’s” horn every ten seconds. It was a lonely, mournful sound, and I could have listened to it all day long.

However, Michael, our teacher, had other ideas.

FOGGY DAY SIX              Choosing his spot, he began again with the value thumbnail. This is a most helpful way for plein air painters to find the large masses and shapes and locate their darks and lights.

Today, Michael is using pastels, and I have to say his work and Sue’s, one of the other students, has whetted my interest. Pastels may be my next learning experience!

FOGGY DAY SEVENAfter sketching in some locating lines, Michael began to work his magic.

FOGGY DAY NINE Within an hour, he would have a beautiful piece of art. I wandered around the beach, finally settling on the perfect spot.

FOGGY DAY SEVENTEENI had decided to paint the lighthouse, “Sparky,” and watch the fog roll away.

FOGGY DAY FOURTEENI did my thumbnail, then roughed in the values and the main shapes.

FOGGY DAY FIFTEENBecause I had primed my canvasboards, the painting already has a warm glow, as if I were painting at sunset.

FOGGY DAY EIGHTEENMeanwhile, Michael has painted an alcohol wash on his pastel. He goes to warn the others who are on the beach to watch out for the incoming tide. Compare these two photos: Note where Sue is standing on the beach, working on her painting, then look at the second photo. She would have been washed away! The tide rose that fast – two hours maximum!


Content that I had a good study, I signed off on my second workshop painting.


Back in the studio, we critiqued our work. Mine is a little pink – I’ll go back and mute the colors a little. Sue’s lovely pastel and Brian’s oils all are looking good!

Brian's oilsSue's Pastel

DSCN0345 Michael’s finished pastel is really lovely – Now we know why he is the teacher!

Thank you, Michael, for inspiring us all!




Posted in Painting with tags , , on August 27, 2014 by sebland

CAMPOBELLO SEVENTEENCrossing over into Canada, the FDR bridge rose high over the Bay of Fundy. This amazing area has one of the highest tides in the world. Every twelve hours, the tide will rise 27 feet! Islands appear and disappear every day! Painting plein air becomes even more challenging, because in addition to fighting weather conditions, bugs and changing shadows, the rock formation you are trying to capture becomes an underwater blob!

FDR BRIDGEThe little town of Lubec, Maine, shown in the distance, is beautiful! Clean, quaint, and very friendly. We arrived mid afternoon and found our cabin on the coast just what we were looking for. Here is the view from our front porch.

CAMPOBELLO TWO Note the sandbar in the midground – it will be gone soon, as will part of the island. Tomorrow, the workshop begins.

CAMPOBELLO THREEOn location at Raccoon Point, our teacher Michael Chesley Johnson with two of the four workshop participants. Michael keeps his classes small and is a wonderful teacher – his suggestions are to the point and he is very good at finding our strengths while trying to help us with any weaknesses. It was a beautiful clear, cool day, and after a short meeting at his studio, he took us on location and demonstrated some of the finer points of plein air painting.

First, he studies his subject and makes a small thumbnail value study.

CAMPOBELLO FOURNext, he uses a thin mixture of paint to block in the major masses.

CAMPOBELLO SEVENThen he begins applying the values. Next he begins to pull in colors and lighter values. Note his island appears to be disappearing – that’s because the tide is coming in!

CAMPOBELLO EIGHT I go to find a shady spot and set up to paint my own impression on this, my first day in New Brunswick.

CAMPOBELLO SIX AND A HALF After an hour or so, I’ve done all the damage I can do. Happily, all of us felt we had learned some of the techniques we needed. Tomorrow, we will meet in Michael’s studio for some critique and advice.

CAMPOBELLO TWELVEHere is Michael’s finished painting. Beautiful!

MY RACCOON POINTHere is mine. Suggestions were to lighten the trees in the background, so that the island is pushed back. End of day one, we are all pleased with our efforts. Tomorrow: Forward through the fog!

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