Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Starting with Greys




Today is Canada Day, but that doesn't stop my plein air painting workshop here on Campobello Island.  Nor, for that matter, does fog stop it.  We had a good deal of fog this morning as we headed to our painting location.  Although fog can challenge the outdoor painter, I took it as a sign that I should show students how one can start with an underpainting of grey.

Starting with a monochromatic underpainting eliminates the delay that one runs into by trying to figure out both value and color at the same time.  We figure out the values first, and then apply the color later.  Of course, in this case, the greys were a natural fit for all the fog, but they also can help you mix the beautifully muted colors of a sunny day.

I failed to get a photo of the grey underpainting, but you can see the finished piece here:

Foggy Bluff, 9x12 oil/panel
Available unframed - $150 includes shipping

And here are the greys I used:

Gamblin Portland Greys

These are Gamblin's Portland Greys plus Chromatic Black.  (They must run into a little fog in Portland, Oregon, too.)  Although you can certainly mix your own greys, it's nice to have them pre-mixed and ready-to-go.

I found this patch of lupines after I did the painting.  Next time I run into fog, maybe I'll include them as a bit of richer color.


Later this month, I'll be one of the artists juried into the Castine Plein Air Festival.  This will be my third year.  I'm excited about this event, as it's always special and takes place in a beautiful, historic seaside town.  I'll write a blog post about what to expect in the next few days.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Workshop for Artist's Network University

plein air painting workshops on campobello island, new brunswick
On-location on Campobello Island, New Brunswick
www.PaintCampobello.com

For a few years now, I've been teaching an online plein air painting course through Artist's Network University.  The workshop is called "Getting Started in Plein Air Painting" -- and it means exactly that!  If you've always had a hankering to hike into the Great Outdoors and do some painting but didn't know where to begin, this is for you.  The workshop lasts four weeks with a different assignment due each week, and I give you a personal critique and good feedback on your work. Additionally, you get a ton of reference material to learn from including videos, written lessons and more.

The workshop starts July 7.  For details, please visit:

https://www.artistsnetworkuniversity.com/courses/getting-started-in-plein-air-painting

I always enjoy this course, as it gives me a chance to meet students (via the Internet) from afar.  Also, I get to take your paintings and "correct" them in Photoshop so you can see exactly what I mean in my critique, which is always fun to do.

By the way, this season's Paint Campobello workshops started today.  At the top of the post you can see this week's group, and below, my demonstration painting.  If you're interested in one of these workshops, please visit www.PaintCampobello.com.

On the Bluff, 9x12 oil
Available unframed - $150 includes shipping!

Monday, June 29, 2015

More Fun with Mixing Primaries from Secondary Colors

Salt Marsh Farm - 8x8 oil/canvas
by Michael Chesley Johnson
Available! - $80 includes shipping

I'm continuing to explore some options of mixing primaries from secondary colors.  (See my last post.)  As one of my commentors noted, this isn't really mixing primaries, since primaries are, by definition, pure hues.  These "primaries" are actually tint or shades.  But it's interesting the variety of muted reds, blues and yellows one gets.

My two "blue" tests are on the right.


For this experiment, I started off with permanent orange (Gamblin), thio violet (Grumbacher) and thio yellow-green (also Grumbacher.)  The "red" that the orange and violet gave me was pretty spectacular.  The "yellow" had a definite cool green cast to it.  The "blue" I was very unhappy with, as all I could get was a very dull brown.  The problem was the thio violet, which has a very strong red shift.  So, I added a fourth secondary, magenta violet (Gamblin), which leans more toward the blue.  For my "blue," I used this and the thio yellow-green.  This gave me a satisfactory blue with a green tint.

My friend and long-time abstract painter, John Warren Oakes, recommends a palette of permanent orange, magenta violet and permanent green.  I don't have the permanent green yet, but I am eager to try it.

By the way, tomorrow starts my season of Paint Campobello plein air painting workshops.  I'm very excited, as I haven't taught a workshop in several weeks now, and I'm hankering to get and share some of my favorite spots.  I have a very few openings left in these workshops.  If you'd like to come and paint some of the most beautiful (and unpopulated) scenery of Downeast Maine and the Canadian Maritimes, please visit www.PaintCampobello.com.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Mixing Primary Colors from Secondary Colors

When I first heard about this idea, of mixing primary colors, I said, "Really?"  I'd always been taught that the very nature of a primary color meant that it can't be mixed.   But you can, by using secondary colors.

By mixing the primaries from secondaries, what you get is a set of greyed-down primaries.  This is because two adjacent secondaries contains a bit of the primary that sits between them on the color wheel:

  • Orange and violet (which have red between them) yield a muted red
  • Violet and green (which have blue between them) yield a muted blue
  • Green and orange (which have yellow between them) yield a muted yellow

Also, depending on what pigments you use, you will get reds, blues and yellows that may be shifted a bit in temperature or hue.

I tried two different experiments.  First, I used Permanent Orange, Dioxazine Violet and Phthalo Green.  I liked the results, but found the Phthalo Green to be a little overwhelming.  Here's a little test palette, followed by a 6x6 landscape I painted with it.  I first toned the white canvas with Transparent Earth Red for a warm background; then I followed with mostly my mixed primaries; and finished by adding a few touches of my original, unmixed secondaries.

DV = Dioxazine Violet
PO = Permanent Orange
PG = Phthalo Green
At the top are my muted red, yellow and blue

Ragged Point 6x6 oil/canvas - SOLD!

So, for my second experiment, I used Viridian, which is a little less powerful than the Phthalo.Here's the palette for this one.  It's similar to the first, but the red seems a little cleaner and the blue, a little less intense.  Adding white, of course, both cools and mutes the color even more.

"MV" should be "DV" for Dioxazine Violet
V = Viridian
PO = Permanent Orange
At the top are my muted red, yellow and blue
Is this a useful exercise?  I think the natural landscape is made up more of secondary colors than the primaries.  Looking out my window at my woods this morning, I see a huge amount of green in the trees, a certain amount of an orange in the "browns" in piles of litter, and the little sky I see seems more violet than blue.  I don't really sense much red, yellow and blue out there—maybe just touches.  So, if I were to paint this scene, maybe starting with a palette of secondaries would be a good idea.

It'd be worthwhile testing this with a variety of secondaries.  Have any of you done this, and if so, what palette do you like?

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Workshop Openings Downeast Maine & Canadian Maritimes

Artist's Retreat Studio & Gallery in Lubec, Maine

I will soon get back to my educational blog posts, but I want to let everyone know that I've got only FIVE openings left this summer in my plein air painting workshops.  You can see what openings remain at http://paintcampobello.com/sched.html.

For one week, we are offering a special package:

Get six nights lodging at Artist's Retreat Studio & Gallery PLUS a four-day workshop for $800 USD.  Lodging from Sunday night, August 9, through Friday night, August 14.  Workshop, August 11-14 (Tue-Fri).  One person only or a couple who can share a bed.  For details on lodging, visit www.ArtistsRetreatMaine.com.  For details on workshop, visit www.PaintCampobello.com.

I know some of you out there really want to come out to this area to paint!  I  hope you'll take advantage of this special package or one of the other openings I have.

Now that you've read to the end of this post, I'm feeling a little guilty.  I really should give you some plein air painting information.  Well, here's a book I've been reading that I'd like to share.  It's the Metropolitan Museum of Art's exhibition catalog for a show they had of Hudson River School painter Sanford Robinson Gifford's work several years ago.  I was interested to learn that Gifford was the only member of that group who was actually born in the Hudson River area.  Also, he was quite the traveler, and took his sketchbox everywhere.  In one section, one of his letters is quoted that tells exactly what he took in his suitcase:  three shirts, one pair of pants, two travel books, two classics of literature, the sketchbox and maybe a couple of other small items.  The whole thing weighed only 15 pounds!  Other things he needed he bought on the road, such as an extra pair of shoes.

You can download the book Hudson River School Visions: The Landscapes of Sanford R. Gifford here.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

New Book! Outdoor Study to Studio: Take Your Plein Air Paintings to the Next Level



I'm proud to announce the release of my new book, Outdoor Study to Studio: Take Your Plein Air Paintings to the Next Level.  If you're like me, you may sometimes feel your plein air work could be better.  It may be a problem with composition.  It may be a problem with color or mark-making.  It may even be a problem you can't quite pin down.  In many cases, we can blame the environment.  Fast-changing light, gusty wind, mosquitoes, nosy tourists or just the tiring nature of  painting  outdoors will prevent you from doing your best work.

I've found that the studio is the perfect place to work out my plein air problems.  Rather than try to create a "finished" painting in the field, I'll just gather reference material.  These color studies, drawings and photographs don't require any commitment to a finished piece.  This means I can take a more relaxed and thus enjoyable approach to the field work.  Then, back in the studio, I have the freedom to enlarge my canvas, widen my scope and deepen my thinking.  I can create a much more satisfying painting.

In the book, which I wrote as a supplement to Backpacker Painting: Outdoors with Oil & Pastel, I show several methods, illustrated with plenty of demonstrations and examples, that will help you  improve your own work.  None of this means, of course, that you have to give up plein air painting!  In fact, the things you learn in the studio will also help you in the field.  As they say, one practice informs the other.

The book is now available through Amazon.com in both print and Kindle versions.

114 full-color pages, with 146 images and 13 demonstrations in oil and pastel.

$24.95 Paperback – Outdoor Study to Studio: Take Your Plein Air Paintings to the Next Level
$19.95 Kindle – Outdoor Study to Studio: Take Your Plein Air Paintings to the Next Level

If anyone out there would like to have me travel and teach a workshop on this theme, I'd be happy to do so.  Just contact me via e-mail:  mcj.painter@gmail.com.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Where in the World is Plein Air – Wrap-up



Well, it's been a fun three days!  I really enjoyed going out each day and painting in the "Where In The World Is Plein Air?" event.  Each day was a little different with respect to location, scenery and weather.   If you've been watching the videos and viewing my paintings, you'll have seen three very beautiful locations in this region.  If you've not been here before, I encourage you to visit.

By the way, the paintings are all for sale.  At the top of this post, you can see all three paintings, framed.  Below are the three paintings for you to view in a larger format.  You can see the videos and purchase the paintings at this link:  http://www.whereintheworldispleinair.com/2015-artist/michael-chesley-johnson/  Next week, I will ship these paintings off to the Illume Gallery of Fine Art in St George, Utah, for a month-long exhibition.

I guess the only sad thing with this event is that I believe each of us – 100 painters in all – were out there in solitary spots, away from all the other painters, working away.  Usually with a plein air event, there's a certain amount of friendship that gets created when you paint side-by-side.  I always enjoy making new friends and reconnecting with old ones at the events.  On the other hand, now I have 900 video clips to watch!  (Each painter painted three days and uploaded three clips each day.)  I'm looking forward to finding a rainy day, or maybe several, to spend some time surfing.

Now I'm off to other projects.  The proof of my new book is on its way, and I hope to have more news about this for you soon.  But even though that's nearly done, it's still going to be a busy summer.  I have several magazine articles to write, another plein air festival to attend (in person), a nearly-full workshop season to teach, a joint US-Canada exhibition to coordinate, plus some exciting painting projects.  I'll keep you posted.

Low Tide, 9x12 oil

Land's End, 12x9 oil - SOLD

Incoming Weather, 9x12 oil

Friday, June 12, 2015

Where in the World is Plein Air – Day 3



"Incoming Weather" 9x12 oil/panel
(If it's not online yet, it will be soon, so keep checking back!)

Above is my finished piece for the third and final day of the "Where in the World is Plein Air?" outdoor painting event.  For this day, I again went to the other side of the border, in Lubec, Maine, to the waterfront.

My goal was to paint some boats!  As difficult as they are to paint or draw, fishing boats are beautiful.  They come in many colors and have pleasing curves.  But they also speak to a way of life that is quickly vanishing.  The fishing industry in Downeast Maine and the Canadian Maritimes isn't what it used to be, partly because of overfishing, but also because of large corporations taking things over.  The little guy, who has to take out a house-sized mortgage for a boat, has to work hard to pay off that loan.  I know one fisherman from Campobello Island who has to take his boat all the way to Nova Scotia to make a living at fishing.

For the first time in three days, I finally had some visitors at my easel.  Three fellows sauntered up to take a look. When a fisherman says, "You got that boat just right," that's high praise indeed.   They also told me that they work on my central boat.  That was good news.  Because they weren't on the boat, it meant the boat wouldn't be leaving anytime soon.  That's one of the dangers in painting working boats – they tend to go out to sea.

Just as a reminder, Where in the World is Plein Air? consists of a hundred artists painting for three days wherever they happen to be in the world.  Each day, the artists post three videos – beginning, middle and end – of that day's painting efforts, plus a photo of the finished painting.  The paintings will be for sale that very same day and can be purchased immediately online.  The paintings, whether sold or unsold, will then be shipped to the event's sponsor, Illume Gallery of Fine Art in St George, Utah, for an exhibit that will run for the month of July.  Following the event, purchased paintings will be shipped to their happy owners.

So as they say, that's a wrap!  I now need to let the paintings dry a bit, frame them up, and ship them off to Utah.  You'll be able to see and buy the paintings online for a few more weeks.  As I mentioned in my videos, I'm really pleased with the way my paintings turned out, and I think they are some of my best maritime plein air paintings.

By the way, I still have a very few spots left in my Paint Campobello workshops this summer.  To find out more, please visit www.PaintCampobello.com.

Here are more photos from this last day.



Thursday, June 11, 2015

Where in the World is Plein Air – Day 2



"Land's End" 12x9 oil/panel
(If it's not online yet, it will be soon, so keep checking back!)

Above is my finished piece for the second day of the "Where in the World is Plein Air?" outdoor painting event.  For this day, I went to the other side of the border, in Lubec, Maine, to West Quoddy Head State Park.   This is another of my favorite spots – I just love this view with the little tree perched on the cliff.

One of the things that surprises me most about this part of the world is the sparse number of visitors that come.  June is one of the most beautiful months, but when I was out painting – and set up along the main trail, where you'd think there'd be lots of  people – not a single person hiked by.  It was just me and a couple of lobster boats tooling around in the distance.  In July and August, the height of the tourist season, you'll find a few more people around, but by September, they're mostly gone again.

Just as a reminder, Where in the World is Plein Air? consists of a hundred artists painting for three days wherever they happen to be in the world.  Each day, the artists post three videos – beginning, middle and end – of that day's painting efforts, plus a photo of the finished painting.  The paintings will be for sale that very same day and can be purchased immediately online.  The paintings, whether sold or unsold, will then be shipped to the event's sponsor, Illume Gallery of Fine Art in St George, Utah, for an exhibit that will run for the month of July.  Following the event, purchased paintings will be shipped to their happy owners.

Tomorrow I'll be off to my third and final location.  In the meantime, here are a few photos from today.




Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Where in the World is Plein Air – Day 1


"Low Tide" 9x12 oil/panel
(If it's not online yet, it will be soon, so keep checking back!)

Above is my finished piece for the first day of the "Where in the World is Plein Air?" outdoor painting event.  I set up in the Roosevelt-Campobello International Park in one of my favorite secret spots.  The tide was out, giving me a great view of the rock outcrop and the head jutting out in the distance.

If you haven't heard of this event yet, here you go:  It's a hundred artists painting for the next three days wherever they happen to be in the world.  Each day, the artists will post three videos – beginning, middle and end – of that day's painting efforts, plus a photo of the finished painting.  The paintings will be for sale that very same day and can be purchased immediately online.  The paintings, whether sold or unsold, will then be shipped to the event's sponsor, Illume Gallery of Fine Art in St George, Utah, for an exhibit that will run for the month of July.  Following the event, purchased paintings will be shipped to their happy owners.

Having to man the camera at key points during the painting process is interesting.  Although I'm no stranger to being on video, taking a "selfie" with the camera while at the same time remembering to say who I am, what the event is and also to mention all the other key points definitely required a few takes!  Even so, I found the process very enjoyable and am quite happy with the painting.

As one of the artists, I'm eager to see what everyone else comes up with.  Some of the other professional artists participating in this event include Lorenzo Chavez, Linda Glover Gooch, Marc Hanson, Lori Putnam, David Santillanes, Aaron Schuerr, Kim Lordier, Kathryn Stats, Timothy Horn and Charlie Hunter.  Although I know personally several of the painters, I've not seen most of them perform "live" before, so it'll be fun to see their videos.

Tomorrow I'll be off to another secret location.  In the meantime, here are a few photos from today.



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