“View Across the Volga, Kostroma,” by Garin Baker

American artists joined several Russian artists for three weeks of painting, touring museums and private studios, and sharing information. What did each artist gain from the experience?

A group of American artists that included Stapleton Kearns, T.M. Nicholas, Ken DeWaard, Aimee Erickson, Stephen Wood, and Garin Baker agreed to meet in Russia to paint and interact with local artists (from October 13 to November 3, 2017). They decided to meet in Moscow and spend a few days adjusting to the time and location before the painting event. During those first days, they visited museums and saw the sights.

Red Square, Moscow. Left to right: T.M. Nicholas, Stapleton Kearns, Stephen Wood, Garin Baker, Ken Dewaard, and Amy Erickson
Irina Rybakova, Stephen Wood, Stapleton Kearns, T.M. Nicholas, Oleg Zhuravlev

They stayed at the famous Metropol Hotel, created with great artistry in 1906. Lenin gave speeches there, and it was later shelled during the Russian Revolution of 1917. The travel plan also included painting along the banks of the Volga River, not far from where the Great Russian painter Isaac Levitan once lived, and a culminating public group exhibition of the works created during the excursion. The Americans would all be transported, fed, and accommodated in Kostroma for free.

Stephen Wood and Stapleton Kearns painting just outside the City of Kostroma
T.M. Nicholas’ painting of a church along the road to Kostroma

The trip was spawned in quite an informal way by an invitation from Russian artists Irina Rybabkova, Yury Martynov, and a Russian art curator named Larissa Goncharova. Martynov and Goncharova, who are husband and wife, offered the use of a resort they own as a home base. The resort, Volshskiy Priboy, was located just outside the City of Kostroma.

Ken DeWaard’s painting of a rural onion-domed church in Kostroma

“For as long as I can remember and since my last years at Pratt Institute, I had become quite enamored with Russian art of the late 19th and early 20th centuries,” recalls Garin Baker. “Visiting the Tretyakov Gallery was to immerse oneself in marvel at the riches of Russian art. Room after room of paintings and sculptures unfolded chronologically, one floor to the next.”

Stephen Wood recalls his experiences in Russia: “To venture out into the countryside, and stay in Kostroma, was to experience all at once modern and historical Russia,” he says. “People were unfailingly polite everywhere we went.”

Stapleton Kearns offers his impressions of the rural Russian landscape: “The landscape I saw looks just like the Russian paintings of the past. Almost nothing has changed out in the countryside since the 19th century.”

Adding his thoughts of our Russian painting compatriots, collaborating artist Ken DeWaard had these reflections: “What a treat it was to share each day from start to finish eating, chatting (with the help of Google Translate), and working side by side with Russian artists. Their work habits and passion for painting is very much the same as ours. However when it comes to applying paint, they are not at all timid. They are very bold, direct, and to the point. No mess, no fuss. There is a real air of confidence and authority when watching them work. Not a lot of pondering,  just dancing that brush from note to note, building and then rebuilding when necessary. Applying strokes without the previous ones being lifted or affected.”

All in all, the American artists had a magnificent time, and there was much they learned and took home. With an invigorated spirit for what truly matters in art, the collaboration was successful. Across the globe and worlds away, all the participating artists felt totally connected to Russian artists. “Through creating from the heart, and with an unbridled passion and vision, we achieved more as individuals working together collectively,” Baker concludes. “Plans are already afoot for more of these collaborations in art and paint, as we hope to return the favor to our Russian peers and host them here soon.”


  1. I’ve read this article with great interest, because I live in Russia. I”m very pleased that American artists have had the opportunity to visit Russia, share their experience with my colleagues. I will be glad for further contacts between American and Russian artists.
    Sincerely, Sergei Kurbatov


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here