Fifty paintings for a favorite American president

Friar’s Head in Winter, by Michael Chesley Johnson, oil on canvas
2014 marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Roosevelt-Campobello International Park. It is one of my own favorite summer destinations, and I first visited it not long after it was made a park.
Duck Pond Marsh Sunset, by Michael Chesley Johnson, oil on canvas
“I’ve spent several years now painting the cottages and the landscape in the Park, and it has become a significant part of my life as a painter,” wrote Michael Chesley Johnson. To honor the park’s anniversary, Johnson has created a series of fifty paintings featuring scenes from the park. The paintings will be exhibited at the Park’s new restaurant, The Fireside, from July 19-August 16.
The Ice House, by Michael Chesley Johnson, oil on canvas
As a child and young adult, Franklin D. Roosevelt summered on Campobello Island, where he sailed, swam, and otherwise generally confronted nature in a way we wouldn’t dream of allowing our children to do today. After his marriage, he brought his young family. It was here in August 1921 that he was stricken with poliomyelitis. He rarely returned after that, but Eleanor Roosevelt and their children continued to visit. 
Snug Cove, by Michael Chesley Johnson, oil on canvas
Although the Roosevelts were a prominent business, social and political dynasty at the beginning of the 20th century, their cottage at Campobello is simple by the standards of the day. It is large (34 rooms), but almost austere; it was a family vacation home, not a mansion. 
The park surrounding it is truly an international park, managed jointly by the United States and Canada. Campobello Island is in the Bay of Fundy, which lies between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia and touches the state of Maine. Roosevelt’s cottage is the centerpiece of the park, but there are other structures and 3000 acres of beaches, cliffs, meadows and bogs.
Glensevern Road Beach Swamp, by Michael Chesley Johnson, oil on canvas
I have two openings left for my 2014 workshop in Belfast, ME. Information is available here.

Getting it right

Landscape Remembered, 2010, James Morrison, oil on board
James Morrison, at age 82, seems to break most of the conventional rules for plein airpainting. His work is huge, painted on paper boards, and the paint is so thin that I had to check to be certain it was, indeed, painted in oil.
Having never been to Scotland, I am no judge of whether he is true to the landscape, but his work is romantic and monumental and it speaks to me. In some passages it soars with almost negligent disregard for the paint, in others, the detail is overwhelming. It reminds me most of calligraphy in that the open space is as important as the line itself. And of course his draftsmanship and perspective in the glowering clouds is superb.
Half Demolished Tenements, 1964, James Morrison, oil on canvas
My friend Martha Vail recently sent me a book of his work, Land and Landscape: the Painting of James Morrison. I find his perambulations through the decades of his career to be most heartening. He did monochromatic studies of a blackened Glasgow; he did exquisite studies of beeches in the style of Andrew Wyeth; he experimented with op-art and abstract-expressionism.
Perhaps if I live to 82, I’ll get it right, too.
“For any serious artist it is the next work which is the most important and complacency is the negation of creativity,” wrote Guy Peploe, the Scottish Gallery’s director. “So it is for Jim Morrison at eighty. He is lucky, even blessed, with the energy, vitality and curiosity that are creativity’s handmaidens and in this new body of work we can see new departures as he looks again at his favourite landscapes in all seasons and moods.”
Summer Fields, Balgove, 1987, James Morrison, oil on gesso board
Born in Glasgow in 1932, James Morrison studied at the Glasgow School of Art. In 1957, he founded the Glasgow Group of artists with Anda Paterson and James Spence. He is an Academician of the Royal Scottish Academy and a member of the Royal Scottish Society of Painters in Watercolour. He taught at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art in Dundee for 22 years before retiring in 1987 to paint full-time.
I have two openings left for my 2014 workshop in Belfast, ME. Information is available here.