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Plein Air Painting in Two Sessions with Michael Chesley Johnson

Plein Air Painting in Two Sessions with Michael Chesley Johnson

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This demonstration is an excerpt from the feature article, “Livin’ Large” by Michael Chesley Johnson. If you enjoy this step by step demo, subscribe to Magazine for 10 full issues of instruction and inspiration per year!

Plein Air Painting in Two Sessions
by Michael Chesley Johnson

1. Tone: Before taking my 18×26 stretched canvas to the field, I toned it with a thin wash of an acrylic mixture of yellow ochre and magenta. By varying the proportions in the mixture, I could get a cooler or warmer tone.

2. Drawing: Once in the field, I spent about an hour making my initial drawing with a little cadmium red dulled with ultramarine blue. This established the major shapes in dark, light, and midvalues, and recorded the shadow patterns.

3. Block-In: By the end of the first day, I’d completed my block-in, establishing the average values of the hues. I’d also started adjusting shapes. The entire session on this first day lasted about two hours.

4. Adjustments and details: On the second and final day, I continued comparing the major shapes to each other and adjusting them as seemed necessary. I also broke up the bigger shapes into smaller shapes to show more of the landscape’s details. This painting session also lasted about two hours. Here you see the finished painting Apple Trees and Raspberry Canes (oil, 18×24).

Michael Chesley Johnson has Southwest—Painting the Four Corners States and Backpacker Painting: Outdoors With Oil Pastel, available at He’s also produced two instructional videos—Backpacker Painting With Michael Chesley Johnson: Oil on Location and Backpacker Painting With Michael Chesley Johnson: Pastel on Location—that are available as downloadable videos through and In addition to his own workshops (listed at, he teaches classes for


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Click here to view a preview of “Oil Painting on Location with Michael Chesley Johnson.”

Watch the video: Plein Air Painting Workshops 2016 in Downeast Maine Lubec (August 2022).