Michael Chesley Johnson, Fine Art, Landscapes, Seascapes, Maritimes, Paintings, Oil, Pastel

About Michael | Paintings | Workshops | Events | News | Books & Videos | Plein Air Painter's Blog | Contact | Home

Plein Air Workshops
with Michael Chesley Johnson

Important Information About Workshops

In each plein air workshop, Michael will focus on fundamentals for painting outdoors - how to begin, how to proceed and how to finish. He'll show you how to capture the moment quickly and effectively but without sacrificing mood and magic. The workshop will include demonstrations, plenty of time for student work plus group critiques. Michael gives personal attention at the easel, complete with helpful tips and suggestions. In the event of bad weather, students will paint in the studio. Some workshops are for special-topic workshops or mentoring workshops for advanced students and thus have a different focus and format. These are noted in the schedules.

Students must provide their own supplies and equipment. Please make sure you have everything you need or have made arrangements to get it. There are no art supply stores on or near Campobello Island. There is one in Sedona, Sedona Art Supply. Other workshop locations may have art supply stores nearby, but please check before traveling. Supply lists are available here.

If you are signing up for a plein air workshop, you should have some prior painting experience. This doesn't mean you can't be a beginner! Serious beginners are more than welcome. It just means that you should be reasonably comfortable with handling brushes and paint or pastels. If you have never painted before or don't feel capable, we recommend that you take an introductory class and practice with your materials. Special-topic and mentoring workshops are for intermediate or advanced painters and are not suitable for beginners. If you are a beginner, please read How to Prepare for a Plein Air Workshop.

Michael Chesley Johnson teaches a variety of different workshops:

Plein Air Painting Maine - Taught from his summer studio, Artists Retreat Studios and Gallery in Lubec, Maine. Small size, no more than 4 students. Traditional workshops for all levels as well as a few advanced/mentoring weeks available. Approximately July - August. **Lodging and workshop packages also available!**

Paint Sedona - Taught from his winter studio (Pumphouse Studio Gallery) in Sedona, Arizona. Small size, no more than 4 students. Advanced/mentoring weeks with a few traditional all-level weeks available. Approximately November - April. **Lodging and workshop packages also available!**

Plein Air Essentials - An on-line study program for the novice painter who may never have worked outdoors before.

Workshops for Art Organizations - Workshops taught for arts organizations and painting societies. Listed on the Master Schedule page.

Michael teaches throughout North America and also conducts intensive workshops at Plein Air Painting Maine in Lubec, Maine ("Way" Downeast Maine) at Artists Retreat Studios and Gallery and in Sedona, Arizona, at Pumphouse Studio Gallery. All students, from beginner to professional artists, praise his relaxed but helpful manner of teaching. He has taught at workshop centers and for art groups such as: Art Barn (IN); Acadia Workshop Center (ME); Sedona Arts Center (AZ); Old Forge Arts Center (NY); Sunbury Shores Art & Nature Centre (NB); Pastel Artists Canada (ON); New Hampshire Plein Air (NH); Pastel Painters Society of Cape Cod (MA); York Art Association (ME): Springfield Area Pastelists (IL); Los Reyes Gallery (AZ); Bay River Art Guild (AL); Roswell Museum (NM); Hubbard Museum of the American West (NM); ArtCenter Traverse City (MI); Lawrence Academy (MA), Cloudcroft Art Workshops (NM) and Scottsdale Artists School (AZ). (Click here to visit his current workshop listings.)

Michael's Thoughts on Workshops

What's the best way to fast-track your painting skills?  Some seem to think that taking lots of workshops is the way.  But no, that only makes you more educated, not more skilled.  Especially if that's the only time you paint.

The best way to improve your skills is to practice outside of a workshop.  A cellist doesn't get better at playing Bach's solo cello suites by reading textbooks and listening to recordings; he gets better by playing.  Sure, the cellist needs feedback, and that's why he works with a cello teacher.  But every cellist knows that the cello lesson isn't the only time you practice!

It's the same with painting.  You can watch all the videos, read all the books and take all the workshops - and get a virtual MFA in the process - but it's not going to make you a better painter unless you practice on your own.

There's a type of student we painting instructors call "workshop junkies."  These are students who take workshop after workshop and build up a formidable warehouse of painting knowledge, but who rarely paint outside a workshop.  They don't have time, because they are busy travelling and taking workshops.  These students have so many different ideas about how to paint that they've picked up from so many different instructors that they don't know which end is up.

Here's what I recommend.  Treat  yourself to one real workshop a year, just one.  Pick a painter whose work you like.  Check around to see if he's a good teacher.  (Some pretty good painters aren't.)  Read through his material - his book, a magazine article he wrote or his teaching philosophy on his website - and see if he's on a path you want to go down. 

Then, take the workshop.  Be humble, and listen.  Ask lots of questions.  Take notes.   Listen some more.  During the workshop, try to incorporate what you've learned as you paint.  Finally, don't take another workshop for a year.  Just go out and paint, and remember what the teacher said.   If you found it valuable, use it; if not, discard it - but don't stop painting.