plein air painting landscape workshops in Sedona Arizona

Schedule/Signup | Important Info | Customized Workshops | Paint Sedona Video | Brochure | About Michael Chesley Johnson | Home

(Didn't see a date that works for you? Visit Paint Campobello for summer workshops or see Michael's full workshop schedule.)

Here is a beautiful video of the Sedona area. For more information about the workshop, please scroll on down.


Frequently-Asked Questions

  1. What are the different workshop types?
  2. How do I get to Sedona - and do I need a car?
  3. What about travelling with paints?
  4. What's the weather like?
  5. What if I'm not doing oil or pastel but using some other medium?
  6. Do you have lodging suggestions? What about pet-friendly lodging?
  7. What's the daily schedule for the class?
  8. Can I get wi-fi access ?
  9. What should I expect?
  10. Who is Michael Chesley Johnson?
  11. Where can I get more information about the Sedona area?
  12. Can I see more photos of the area?
  13. What's a good way to prepare for the workshop?
  14. What about rainy days?
  15. Can I get a supply list?
  16. What can I learn about Sedona's geology?

Have a question? Ask Michael and he'll post the answer here.

1. What are the different workshop types? back to questions

We offer THREE different types of workshops, as follows:

  1. All-level STUDIO or OUTDOOR workshops (all levels of student welcome, from beginner to professional)
  2. Advanced outdoor workshops (intermediate-advanced students or professionals)
  3. Special outdoor workshops (intermediate-advanced students or professionals)

Each week features a different workshop. Please see the schedule. You are invited to take more than one week! Some students have done so and have really grown in their work.

Not sure what level is right for you? Read this blog post by Michael.

All-level Studio Workshops

All levels of student are welcome, from beginner to advanced. Students may work in pastel or oil or other medium by arrangement. They can expect daily lectures and demonstrations on the basics plus personal help at the easel.

A typical day starts with about an hour in the morning for critiques, lecture and demonstration followed by student painting time with Michael going to each easel in turn and offering help. If the student would like, Michael will give optional painting assignments to be done outdoors in the afternoons, when the workshop does not meet.

In the studio workshops, we will learn representational landscape painting as practiced traditionally. We will learn about value, color and depth and how these concepts can be used to create convincing landscapes. First, we'll learn to take what nature gives for design possibilities and improve upon it; next, we'll learn how color works in the landscape under a variety of weather conditions; and finally, we'll learn to manage depth in the landscape so our paintings read as "real." For reference material, we'll use photographs, pencil sketches or plein air sketches. Since the workshop meets 9-1, Michael will gladly give optional outdoor painting assignments to students who are interested in painting in the afternoons.

In the outdoor (plein air) workshops, the class will head to the field after a short studio talk on plein air painting fundamentals. Michael will first demonstrate, followed by student work. Michael will offer plenty of help at the easel as you work. You can also expect daily critiques of student work.

Advanced Outdoor Workshops

This workshop is for intermediate to advanced students or professionals. Students are expected to be comfortable with painting in their chosen medium. Students may work in any medium, but Michael will work in oil or pastel.

Michael will paint, and you may watch and treat it as a demo; or you may paint along. During the painting sessions, Michael will offer suggestions and help on technique and gear. Any lectures will be informal and impromptu. You can expect daily critiques. Although there is no "formal" instruction, you will still have the chance to learn the finer elements of painting, information that usually isn't handled in a regular workshop. We may also opt to work outdoors for these workshops.

Special Outdoor Workshops

These weeks are only for intermediate to advanced students or professionals, unless otherwise noted. Students are expected to be comfortable with painting outdoors and their chosen medium. Students may work in any medium, but Michael will work in oil or pastel.

Here are details on the special workshop for this season:

Painting with the Knife: For oil or acrylic painters only. We'll be using 9x12 panels or stretched canvas. A small, trowel-shaped knife (1" long or so) plus a couple of brushes for scrubbing in. Painting with a knife gives you a much richer - and cleaner! - color experience. You'll be surprised at how much you can accomplish with just a knife.

Exploring the Verde Valley: (All levels) We'll be traveling to some of Michael's favorite places in the Verde Valley such as historic Jerome and the Gold King Mine, the Verde River and more.

2. How do I get to Sedona - and do I need a car? back to questions

Yes, you will need a car. Due to liability insurance, students can't ride with Michael; we also can't guarantee that you can get a ride with a student. For plein air workshops, we will be driving up to 15 minutes from the studio (30 minutes if we go farther afield to Jerome). Besides, the area offers so much to see and do, why wouldn't you want a car?

Sedona is 2 hours (121 miles) by car from the Phoenix Sky Harbor airport (PHX). It's an easy drive, mostly in Interstate 17. Here's the map from Google:

Click for Larger Map and to View Complete Directions

By the way, if you are renting a car, know that it is expensive to rent a car at the Phoenix airport. It is much cheaper to rent one in Sedona or Cottonwood. You can take a shuttle from Phoenix to Sedona or Cottonwood to pick up a car. There are two shuttle companies:

3. What about travelling with paints? back to questions

Oil paints you can either ship ahead or put in your checked luggage. You shouldn't have any problem with them, since they are "artist's oil colors" made with vegetable oil and have a very high flash point. However, don't take mediums (e.g. Liquin) or solvents (e.g. Turpenoid), all of which are highly flammable. These you will need to ship ahead. Please note that there is no longer an art supply store in Sedona. Flagstaff has the closest (Visible Difference), and Prescott has the next closest (the Art Store); both are about an hour away. If you are coming through Phoenix, stop by the Dick Blick Store in Tempe. (I will try to have some Gamsol on hand for those of flying.) For details on traveling with paint, see Robert Gamblin's Studio Note #14.

Pastels you should take in your carry-on luggage. Put them in a container that will be easy for security to open, such as the Heilman Pastel Box. Make sure the container can be easily secured again so your pastels don't go spilling down the aisle.

If you need to ship your materials ahead, you are welcome to - just let us know.

4. What's the weather like? back to questions

Sedona sits in a valley at 4,300 feet, halfway in elevation between the Colorado Plateau to the north and the Sonoran Desert to the south. It has a generally mild climate. Nighttime temperatures may dip below freezing in winter with occasional snowfall on the surrounding mountains. Days are often bright, sunny and not too cold. It makes for great hiking and painting weather! We may have a cool start to the morning, so you should bring layers, plus a warm hat and gloves you can paint with.

Av. High Av.Low Av. Rainfall Av. Sun
Nov 65°F 37°F 1.3 in 76%
Dec 56°F 31°F 1.7 in 74%
Jan 55°F 30°F 1.7 in 77%
Feb 59°F 32°F 1.5 in 73%
Mar 63°F 35°F 1.7 in 76%
Apr 72°F 42°F 1.2 in 83%

5. What if I'm not doing oil or pastel but using some other medium? back to questions

You may work in any medium. Michael will use oil or pastel, but you may use acrylic or gouache. Michael teaches painting principles that apply to all media, except watercolor.

Special Note for Acrylic Painters Working Outdoors: Acrylics dry fast outdoors. Make sure you are prepared to deal with fast-drying conditions. Consider using a Sta-Wet Palette, retarder and mister. Or, try the new, slower-drying acrylics such as Golden Open or Atelier Interactive.

6. Do you have lodging suggestions? What about pet-friendly lodging? back to questions

We'll be meeting in the mornings in West Sedona. Our studio is at Gandolfo Studio, 220 Goodrow Lane, Sedona, Arizona 86336.

Now offering a lodging/tuition package! For $600, you get the workshop plus five nights' lodging at Gandolfo Studios. You will arrive on Monday and depart on Saturday.

Gandolfo Studios has four private bedrooms. The bedroom on the East side of the studio has a private bath and door to patio. On the West side of the studio, there are two bedrooms. The smaller room has a queen bed and sitting area. The larger room has a fireplace, two twin beds, a sitting area and an outside area. The outside area is fenced in. Both bedrooms share a small bathroom with a shower. The larger room has a door to the small bathroom. Outside the studio and adjacent to the carport is another small room. It has a trundle bed, but bathroom facilities are in the studio. The washer and dryer are in the outside room. This room is more appropriate for a man, due to bathroom issues. The kitchen has a large refrigerator, microwave, stove top and oven. There is also a brand new dishwasher.

Here are bedroom pictures. (Click for bigger version.)

The kitchen and dining area will be available for those using the bedroom. No pets, no wi-fi access (but there are many coffee shops in the area where you can get that.) **NOTE: Lodging arrangements, both registration and cancellation, are ultimately the responsibility of the student.** Once you've signed up for your workshop, let me know that you are interested in the studio lodging and I will give you contact information for them so you can book your lodging.

Closest to the studio are the Andante Inn and Days Inn. There are many other fine options, however.

Although Sedona isn't very big, avoid staying in the Village of Oak Creek (VOC.) VOC, on Route 179 and near I-17, is considered part of Sedona, but it's about 5 miles out and can be a very slow drive.

Craigslist for Sedona vacation rentals:
You can screen for number of bedrooms, pets etc.

Weekly rentals are available in time share places through this link. Just choose location and dates.

B&Bs such as the Sedona Bed & Breakfast Guild:

Come with a friend, spend some time, and rent a house through a Sedona Property Manager such as:
These are mostly furnished monthly rentals, but they do have some weekly rentals.

Then there are traditional hotels and motels and all other types of accomodations listed through the Chamber: This list is very comprehensive!

Sedona also has plenty of pet-friendly lodging. Check out the Trip Advisor page on Sedona Pet-Friendly Hotels.

If you have particular lodging needs, we'll be happy to discuss options with you.

7. What's the daily schedule for the class? back to questions

The workshop consists of four half-days (Tuesday-Friday unless otherwise noted) that run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. By agreement, we may meet at other times.

We recommend that you take advantage of your stay in Sedona and fly in on Saturday or Sunday to give you a couple days in which to explore the area before the workshop. Not only will this give you time to become acclimated to the somewhat higher altitude, it will give you time to become familiar with the "motifs" of the area - the beautiful red rocks, the cottonwoods and sycamores, and the rushing waters of Oak Creek.

8. Can I get wi-fi access? back to questions

Yes! Sedona is a full-service community, and you'll find that many locations have wi-fi. Certain restaurants, most coffee shops and the public library have it.

9. What should I expect? back to questions

Read the workshop descriptions carefully, and if you have specific questions or concerns, please ask Michael.

10. Who is Michael Chesley Johnson? back to questions

One of the country's top plein air painters, Michael works in oil and pastel painter in the American Southwest, coastal Maine and the Canadian Maritimes. He has been an invited artist to many national plein air painting events over the years and has competed in challenging locations such as the Grand Canyon.

Michael also specializes in teaching small-size plein air workshops in oil and pastel for the intermediate and advanced level painter and for painters desiring mentoring. Elected a Master Pastellist by Pastel Artists Canada in 2008, he is a Signature Member of the American Impressionist Society and the Pastel Society of America as well as a juried member of Oil Painters of America. He is the author of Backpacker Painting: Outdoors with Oil & Pastel and Through a Painter's Brush: The American Southwest . A long-time contributor to The Pastel Journal and Contributing Editor for The Artist's Magazine, he lives and paints on Campobello Island, New Brunswick, and in Sedona, Arizona. (Michael also teaches workshops in the summer in the Canadian Maritimes and Downeast Maine. Visit for details. He also travels to teach. Visit the workshop schedule page of his website for details.)

11. Where can I get more information about the Sedona area? back to questions

You might check out the Sedona Chamber of Commerce, the Sedona Tourism Bureau and the Sedona Gallery Association.

12. Can I see more pictures of the area? back to questions

Click on image for larger view

See our video on plein air painting in Sedona

13. What's a good way to prepare for the workshop? back to questions

One of the best ways, of course, is to simply - paint! William F. Reese said, "If you paint 3 days a week, you stay the same; if you paint 4, you will improve." I also recommending reading some good books on plein air painting. If you've not painted en plein air or outdoors before, check out my online courses for beginning plein air painters at

14. What about rainy days? back to questions

The workshops will take place in the STUDIO unless otherwise noted on the schedule. (Students may wish to inquire about optional afternoon outdoor painting assignments.) Our studio is Gandolfo Studios, 220 Goodrow Lane, Sedona, Arizona 86336. Please keep in mind that this is a working studio, and that you may be exposed to solvents and other materials commonly found in art studios.

15. Can I get a supply list? back to questions

I will be demonstrating in oil and/or pastel, depending on workshop needs. You may work in whatever medium you wish - however, I have decided to advise students to *not* work in oil pastel. (Soft or "chalk" pastel is fine.) Oil pastels, in my experience, simply don't allow for layering and adjustments as one can do with oil and pastel. Unless you are an expert in oil pastel, please don't bring them. I also advise against working in watercolor; it is just too different from the opaque media. Other media are fine - acrylic, gouache and, of course, pastel or oil.

We have two supply lists, one for oil and one for pastel. If you are working a different medium, just bring whatever you usually use for outdoor painting, unless you're taking the optional advanced option in a paint-along/retreat workshop. You also might just look at the supply lists to get an idea of what else you might bring. Click here for the General Landscape Supply List.

Michael's book on painting in Sedona!
available both as paperback and Kindle edition
For more information, click here.

Also, for lots of information about Sedona, visit

I highly recommend that you check out my books and videos. All the books are available through Amazon; the videos are available through Artist's Network TV for download, streaming or as DVD. Here are the items I recommend:


  • Backpacker Painting: Outdoors with Oil & Pastel (the basics guide to working outdoors)
  • Outdoor Study to Studio: Take Your Plein Air Paintings to the Next Level (a supplement to Backpacker Painting)


Get them at:


  • The Secret to Oil Painting with Light and Color
  • The Secret to Oil Painting Wet-into-Wet
  • The Secret to Pastel Painting En Plein Air

Get them at:

Also, check out my online courses for beginning plein air painters at


16. What can I learn about Sedona's geology? back to questions

Here is a useful video on the geology of the area.