Painting the Sierras is a hiking-painting hybrid expedition led by Norwegian-born brothers Michael Knud Ross and David Ross. We’ll spend two nights and three days in the Emigrant Wilderness (just north of Yosemite), hiking in pristine forests and enjoying some of the most magnificent mountain views the Sierra Nevadas have to offer. Every few miles along the trail we’ll put down our packs and pull out our paints, and learn the two most essential lessons of watercolor painting: be quick and be bold. We’ll make watercolors in the old spirit of Winslow Homer, sidestepping the labored watercolor process that is often taught today. The group will be limited to six, so individual critiques and discussions will compliment group lessons. Campground meals included; you just need to carry your own camping gear (you can rent if you don’t own), clothing and personal gear, and paint supplies.

Details: Van leaves the East Bay at 9am on Friday, July 18, return ca. 7pm Sunday, July 20. Fee is $375 and includes transportation, food, instruction, adventure -- everything except art supplies and personal gear.

Above: Overlook near Watchtower by Michael Knud Ross, 5x7 inches, 2007, watercolor on paper


Dates & itinerary

The workshop is from the morning of July 18 to the evening of July 20, and will take place in the Emigrant Wilderness Area of Stanislaus National Forest, which is a few miles north of Yosemite in the heart of the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Friday, July 18
9am: Depart McArthur BART station.
1pm: Arrive at trailhead parking lot; lunch at trailhead
Afternoon: Hike 2 miles into our lakeside campsite, set up camp, group meeting.
Evening: First watercolor lesson; dinner; paint setting sun on mountain range.

Saturday, July 19
Morning: Breakfast; hiking/painting expedition 3-4 miles farther into the mountains.
Afternoon: lunch on the trail, more painting and painting lessons.
Evening: Dinner, hang out by the lake, relax
Night: Painting the full moon (weather permitting)

Sunday, July 20
Breakfast, morning hike and painting
Afternoon: Lunch, Pack up camp, hike 2 miles back to trailhead; drive to Knight's Ferry (halfway to Bay Area)
Evening: Swimming, painting, relaxing on the Stanislaus River at Knight's Ferry.
7pm: Return to McArthur BART


About the Instructor

Michael Knud Ross is both a plein-aire painter and a studio painter; he often takes the same canvas -- or pad of watercolor paper -- from the field to the studio and back again so he can blend insights gained from nature with insights gained from imagination. In his teaching, Michael focusses as much on the philosophical as on the formal and technical. Michael took his degree in anthropology at the University of Maryland, and also studied with the landscape painter Walt Bartman and with the narrative painter Odd Nerdrum in Norway and Iceland.

Michael grew up in Scandinavia, spent much of his life in the Washington, DC area, and currently lives in San Francisco. Twelve of his public sculptures remain on view in Washington DC, where he also regularly exhibits his paintings. His recent solo show at Geras-Tousignant gallery in San Francisco highlighted 20 paintings of the sea; Michael is currently working on paintings of meadows, marshes, and bird life. For more details, visit www.michaelrossart.com


About the Team Leader

David is -- by profession -- a green builder/designer, a freelance eco-project manager, and a multi-talented adventurer. He currently lives on a mountainside overlooking Santa Barbara, but the story begins much earlier, in Scandinavia, where he spent some early formative years. He moved to the east coast of the US as a kid, and eventually earned his BA in environmental studies at Ithaca College in 2003. Highlights from the resume since then include: five months managing a project to build eco-friendly agricultural drying ovens in Tanzania; two seperate, months-long biking tours through eastern eastern Europe (as in countries you've never even heard of, like Moldova); research assistant at a national forest in New Mexico, solar-panel installer in San Francisco, and countless backpacking trips in the US, Scandinavia, and Mexico -- some for organized groups, others just for fun. David's a terrific organizer of people as well as gear and cargo, and on this trip he's the guy who's going to make sure things run smoothly. He's also head cook -- and he's not half bad in the kitchen.


Camp food

Camp cuisine will be delicious, nourishing, energizing, and best of all--mostly organic! A typical day will include a scrumptous breakfast, followed by snacks and sandwiches made at camp for the watercoloring day hikes. A warm dinner and campfire will be waiting as evening approaches and we gather around for constructive critiques of each other's works, and to hear what everyone has learned.



Workshop fee is $375: That includes transportation from an east bay BART stop to and from the mountains, all park fees and permits, three camp meals a day, and painting instruction -- everything except paint supplies and personal gear.

If you don't have your own camping gear, you can rent for a nominal fee. Email for details

A $150 deposit secures your space. Payment in full is due by July 1. Mail check or money order to Michael Knud Ross / 1460 Golden Gate Av. #10 / San Francisco, CA 94115 or email for paypal instructions.


What to Bring

Here's a recommended list of things you'll to pack

The key with any wilderness adventure is to dress in layers and bring as little as comfortably possible. As a general rule of thumb, cotton clothes are not ideal because they absorb moisture and take a long time to dry.
• Winter hat
• Thin pair of gloves (so you can still paint if it’s cold!)
• Lightweight windbreaker
• Warm and cozy fleece for evenings
• Solid pair of pants that you can wear for up to three days (cargo pants recommended so as to carry your 5 x 7 block of watercolor paper)
• Bathing suit and one pair of shorts (for men this would ideally be same item)
• Two moisture-wicking and insulating tops (such as capilene/polypropelene)
• One or two t-shirts
• One pair long underwear
• Socks and long underwear for three days (remember, no need to overdo it!)
• One pair of warm wool socks for evenings

Things: Again, the less you bring and the less it weighs, the more enjoyable your hikes will be! If you don't have your own gear you can rent, contact us for details.
• Backpack (at least 3,000 cubic inches or 45 liters in volume)
• Small daypack (f.e. fanny pack)
• Sleeping Bag (a 30 degree bag will do)
• Tent (please let us know if you will need us to provide a tent for you!)
• Sleeping pad
• 1 liter water bottle
• Headlamp with good batteries
• Small tube of sunblock
• Sunglasses & sunhat
• Organic/biodegradable soap (for example a one ounce bottle of Dr. Bronners)

Painting Supplies:
• 5 x 7 inch pad of watercolor paper
• 11 x 14 inch pad of watercolor paper
• Small folding watercolor palette
• Watercolor tube paints -- your favorites or email for recommended list -- please only bring non-toxic colors
• 3 round brushes, small to large.
• Small (4-ounce or so) plastic jar with lid for water
• Tupperware or other container to hold paints, brushes, small water bottle, etc.



Contact either Michael or David with questions or to reserve your space.

Michael: 202.460.5569 or michaelrossart (at) gmail.com

David: 607.351.1693 or dross720 (at) yahoo.com