In his landscapes, Michael always tries to get an interesting composition emphasizing strong use of the elements and principals of design. He emphasizes shape in his landscape teaching and painting, envisioning the basic shapes of common landscape subjects such as mountains, fields, rocks, trees and buildings. After establishing the shape, he looks for the light source and where the shadows will appear providing depth to the work. He believes in the necessity of darkness in contrast with light, which identifies colors, objects, details, and sets mood.
He may use single washes (the first layer of color) or glazes (any successive layers) to build up to the final colors and desired effect. The focal point of many of Michael's landscapes are skies, which he often sees as holding the energy of the entire painting.
Micheal paints from photos (his own), or plein aire. Bold color is central to his work; often his colors are applied in unexpected places to help establish pictorial depth and keep energy levels high. Michael has been known, for example, to do violet trees and raspberry grass, which he says will work perfectly if it is the right value.
Because value is more complex than color, Micheal does workshop demonstrations for every phase of designing an interesting composition, including value changes and color selections, from laying in the first washes to the finishing darks and final details. Demonstrations of techniques for adding textures and variety are central to his teaching, as are various colors and composition exercises.