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March 15, 2013 / pleinairman

A Pastel Plein Air Week

Cross the Gully, 18×12, pastel

Occasionally, I get students clamoring for a workshop with a theme.  This past week, we did a “pastel-only” advanced workshop.  It was good to get out with those dusty old sticks.  They seemed to fit right in with the dusty warm weather we’re having now – and with the dusty pollen.  The junipers are blooming, and even a slight breeze causes a small explosion of pollen.  (Note to self:  Don’t set up easel right next to junipers again. *Sniff*)

We got some good painting in.  The day I set up next to a particularly pollenaceous juniper, I was able to make a really good start on a vertical 18×12 piece.  I usually work much smaller in pastel – 9×12 or less – so I enjoyed having a little more time to work on something bigger.  (The workshop was a paint-along, so we all painted together.)  After about two hours, the shadows changed significantly and I moved on to another project.  But it didn’t take more than another hour in the studio to finish this one off.  (See above.)

I also did a study – starting with a grey block-in that I washed in with alcohol – of one of my favorite hills.  The greys helped a great deal in capturing the sense of distance for this one.

Evening Glow, 9×12, pastel

I also did a couple of small studies of some short-lived effects – snow in the hills and water in ordinarily dry Dry Creek.  (It’s hard to believe that last week we had snow, and this week we have temperatures hitting 80.)  Dry Creek was rushing with beautiful, golden water, water that was colored with the Sedona dirt.  Thunder Mountain had some little scraps of snow left in the cliff shadows.

Snow in Shadow, 5×7 pastel

Three Rocks, 6×9, pastel

These pieces are all available for auction at my Daily Paintworks page.


Leave a Comment
  1. Donna T / Mar 15 2013 4:20 pm

    Nice work, Michael! The big one is really a beauty!

  2. Nancy L. Vance / Mar 15 2013 7:34 pm

    These are really nice Michael! I agree with Donna, the big one is great! Your colors seem more saturated in these, but maybe it is my monitor.

  3. Michael Chesley Johnson / Mar 15 2013 7:46 pm

    Thanks, Nancy! The colors are a little more saturated in the big one. I now use TWO monitors to tweak my images in – my laptop, plus a bigger LCD screen attached to the laptop. The laptop screen is cool and blue; the big LCD is warm and redder. Things look more contrasty in the laptop. Everyone's monitor is different, but images tweaked on the big LCD screen seem closer to the actual painting, people tell me.

  4. Stephen Williamson / Mar 16 2013 11:22 pm

    Great job catching those red colors and moving shadows. What kind of pastel paper do you use?

  5. Michael Chesley Johnson / Mar 17 2013 1:10 am

    Hi Stephen – Thanks! I use Kitty Wallis paper, either the Belgian Mist color or the white.

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