Plein Air Painting on Campobello Island and Lubec, Maine, with Michael Chesley Johnson

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Details & Important Information

About the Workshops | Is This Workshop for Me? | Our Day | Where to Stay
How to Get There | What to Expect | What to Bring | Supply Lists | Photos | Local Links

Are you new to plein air painting? If so, I strongly encourage you to take my online plein air painting course. It's only $15
and includes a downloadable text and several helpful videos for you to watch!

About the Workshop

Michael is reserving summer in Lubec, Maine, to offer en plein air workshops. Both oil and pastel are welcome, and every level of student, from beginner to advanced, will benefit from his classes. (Occasionally, he will offer a special week for mentoring intermediate to advanced students. This is noted on the schedule. Keep reading for more on this great opportunity!)

Michael will demonstrate materials and methods for painting en plein air with plenty of instruction at the student's easel. Each day starts with a lecture followed by a demonstration in the field; afterward, students work with Michael visiting each easel in turn. A critique of student work either follows the session or at the start of the next day. Painting locations may include Lubec's historic waterfront, the Roosevelt Cottage and grounds, and scenic working harbors such as Head Harbour.

Sessions, which consist of four (Tueday-Friday) half-day sessions will give painters plenty of time to explore Lubec and adjacent Campobello Island on their own. (Sessions are 8-12 Eastern Time, 9-1 Atlantic Time.) While visiting, you can go on a whale watch...take a hike at West Quoddy Head State Park...go bike riding on one of the Roosevelt Campobello International Park's many gravel roads...or visit two of the most scenic lighthouses, the West Quoddy Light and the Head Harbour Light.

This is a small workshop. Typically no more than 4 students!

Lubec, Maine, is only two hours from Bar Harbor or the Bangor International Airport. Lodging and dining are plentiful in Lubec and on nearby Campobello Island. (We encourage you to bring your passport so you can explore that Canadian island.)

Even though each session is a complete course, feel free to take several weeks to hone your skills! There is no minimum number of students for the class. Please note that some of the weeks are marked "advanced/mentoring" and are not suitable for beginners.

A passport, passport card or Enhanced Driver's License is highly suggested for the workshop. This will allow you to visit Michael's studio on Campobello Island, which is in Canada.

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Is This Workshop for Me?

This workshop is for someone who wants to experience painting outdoors in a beautiful location. If you've never painted outdoors but would like to, Michael will guide you through what painting "en plein air" is all about. If you're an old hand at outdoor painting, Michael will share his method of capturing light, shadow and color quickly and how he brings a painting to completion on location. Both beginners and experts will benefit from the workshop

You will need to be able to walk short distances on sometimes-uneven ground with your equipment. The group will rarely walk far from the car, but occasionally you may need to negotiate a set of stairs from the parking area, walk to a small viewpoint or onto a rocky beach. Restrooms may not always be nearby, but painting sessions typically last only two hours.

Although the workshop is for any level of student, from beginner to advanced, we suggest that you be comfortable with your medium of choice. If you have not painted before, we suggest you take an introductory indoor workshop first.

A typical day starts with about an hour in the morning for critiques, lecture and answering questions; then to the field to do a short demo on the process (although Michael may flip that on the third day and let students paint first); followed by student painting time with Michael going to each easel in turn and offering help and answering questions. Michael may also paint, too, time permitting, and students are welcome to follow along or watch as an additional demo.

Occasionally, Michael will offer a special week for intermediate/advanced or mentoring students. This is noted on the schedule. Advanced/mentoring weeks are for painters comfortable with working outdoors and in their chosen medium. In the advanced/mentoring workshop, you'll have the chance to learn the finer elements of painting, information that usually isn't handled in a regular workshop. But it's not just about advanced instruction. It's an opportunity for the serious painter to address issues that are bigger than mere craft. As you work shoulder-to-shoulder with an experienced professional, you may:

  • Give your art a mid-course correction
  • Create an action plan for the future
  • Define where your career is headed

Students wishing to take the advanced/mentoring week should come prepared with a list of issues that they would like addressed, especially if they desire mentoring. When the group goes into the field, Michael will paint, and students can watch and treat it as a demo; or they can paint along or on their own. A typical day starts with critiques and optional lecture, followed by painting time and consultation by request.

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Our Day

The workshop runs Tuesday through Friday. Each day is a half-day, 8-12 Eastern Time, 9-1 Atlantic Time, which means you will have the opportunity to explore the area on your own. (If you prefer, you can use this time to paint, and Michael will gladly critique anything you do.) We will most likely paint in the mornings, but be prepared to paint instead in the afternoon or evening if the weather is better then.

We will meet Monday afternoon at 5pm (Atlantic Time -- which is 4 pm Eastern Time) at Artists Retreat Studios & Gallery in Lubec to discuss our plans for the week. Instruction will likely end by lunchtime on Friday, but you may wish to stay several more days to explore the area.

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Where to Stay

Two websites give many options for lodging. These are: and If you are looking for a specific kind of lodging, please ask us and we'll help you.

Lubec Lodging

Also, see or for lodging options in Lubec..

Campobello Lodging

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How to Get There

Do you need a car? Yes! Exploring on your own after our painting sessions will be a major part of your stay, so we recommend that you judge your needs accordingly.

By Air. From the US. The closest airport is Bangor, ME. Bangor is 2.5 hours by auto from Lubec. (Another option is the Bar Harbor airport in Trenton, also 2.5 hours away.) When you head out for Lubec (see "By Auto" below), you have two choices for a route. The quickest and least trafficky is the interior route: Rte 9 to Wesley, then Rte 192 to Machias and then Rte 189 to Lubec. The coastal route, Rte 1, is scenic but extremely busy during high tourist season (July 4th through Labor Day), especially around Ellsworth.

From Canada. The closest airport is in Saint John, New Brunswick, also 2.5 hours away. (See From there, follow US 1 to either Letete (see "By Auto," below) to St Stephen.

By Auto. If you are coming from the US or mainland Canada, head for Lubec, Maine. During July and August, when the Deer Island Ferry is running, you can also come from mainland Canada via Letete, NB. (You will still need a car!) A bridge connects Lubec and Campobello. There is no fee for crossing, but you will cross the US/Canada border and will need to have appropriate travel papers.

Google Map directions from Bangor (click on View Larger Map for directions and route):

For ferry information, see

Workshop Location is Artists Retreat Studios & Gallery at 45 Washington Street, Lubec, ME 04652.

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What to Expect

Map of Downtown Lubec (Adobe Acrobat Reader required)

Lubec is uncrowded, quiet and beautiful. (Which is why we live here!) Besides lodging, Lubec has restaurants, a gas station, a small grocery store, a medical center and gift shops. Nearby Campobello has a grocery store, pharmacy and restaurants. (There is no gas station on Campobello.) has more, such as gas stations, an IGA grocery store, hardware store, etc. There are no art supply stores, so you must bring all the art supplies you need.

With several parks nearby -- the Roosevelt-Campobello International Park, the Herring Cove Provincial Park, West Quoddy Head -- and also the Cobscook Bay Trails system, there's plenty of hiking and biking. There's also whale watching tours and deep-sea fishing, art galleries and gift shops. The Summer Keys program in Lubec sponsors a free weekly concert where you can hear world-class performers. (See And don't forget that we have plenty of fresh local seafood!

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What to Bring

Until mid-June, you may encounter some fog and drizzly days. After that time, though, the weather dries out and warms up nicely. Still, be prepared for the occasional day of rain and cool weather. Although we won't paint in the rain, for your own comfort bring a raincoat and warm layers to dress in. We may paint in the fog. We have a mosquito or two, so bring insect repellent if the little critters bother you. (See the supply lists for other items.)

Although the workshop is based in the US, you will need a passport, passport card or Enhanced Driver's License. We require this for the workshop. This will allow you to visit Michael's Campobello Island studio and to paint in the Roosevelt-Campobello International Park. For travel information, visit or

You will want to make sure you bring all the art supplies you need. There are no art supply stores within a day's drive. The studio has no supplies to sell or loan. If you're flying or traveling light and don't want to pack your easel, we may have one available for rent. It is $25/week, and you must reserve it in advance as we have a very limited number. We also will have Gamsol available for those students who are flying.

There is a frame shop that stocks a limited amount supplies. If you are planning to buy from them, call to see what they have, and if they don't have what you need, they will order it for you. For more information:

Holly-Garner Jackson
Woodwind Custom Framers & Gallery - 10% off for students! Let Holly know you are taking the workshop.
62 Dublin St # H, Machias, ME 04654
(207) 255-3727

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Supply Lists & Other Helpful Resources

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. Other media are fine - acrylic, watercolor, gouache and, of course, pastel or oil.

Special Note for Acrylic Painters: 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.

If you're new to plein air painting, I highly recommend that you check out my books and videos for plein air painters. 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!


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click thumbnails for large image

West Quoddy Lighthouse
(Lubec, ME)

Historic Lubec Smokehouses
(Lubec, ME)

Herring Fishing Weir
(Campobello I.)

McCurdy Smokehouse Complex
(Lubec, ME)

Old Fishing Weir, Friar's Bay
(Campobello I.)

West Quoddy State Park
(Lubec, ME)

Low Tide at Friar's Bay
(Campobello I.)

Sugar Loaf Rock, Liberty Point
(Campobello I.)

Mulholland Light with Lubec in Distance
(Campobello I.)

Lobster Boats in Bay
(Lubec, ME)

Kingsbrae Gardens in St Andrews-by-the-Sea
(St Andrews, NB)

Hamilton Cove Beach
(Lubec, ME)

East Quoddy Light
(Campobello I.)

Mill Cove
(Campobello I.)

Lobster Boats at Head Harbour
(Campobello I.)


East Quoddy Head Sandbar (low tide)
(Campobello I.)

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Local Links

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