Watercolors in the Wild: Sierra Flora

General Description:

This in-depth art retreat for all levels will give clear start-to-finish instruction on the methods, materials, and magic of painting with watercolor to reveal the unique beauty, palette, and complexity of Sierra flora. Discussions, demos, and step-by-step exercises will cover paint brands and pigment properties, paper choice and preparation, types and care of brushes, effects of gum arabic and ox gall, color theory and paint mixing, wet into wet and glazing, working in layers, tips for customizing your own field kit, and framing and other finishing options. Forays to Lakes Basin, Yuba Pass, and around Camp, will allow time to sink into the mountains, identify and study early summer wildflowers, and practice new painting strategies designed to demystify watercolor and empower your own creative process. Our days will end with optional painting during the sunset hour. You’ll take home one completed panel-mounted painting and an impressive collection of studies for future reference and inspiration.  

Andie Thrams is a painter and book artist with a lifelong devotion to creative work in wilderness locations. Her work is widely exhibited and is held in both private and public collections including those at Yale University and the University of Washington. She earned a BA in art practice from the University of California at Berkeley and, in addition to Field Camp, she teaches for San Francisco Center for the Book, Sitka Center for Art Ecology and many more. She is currently creating a series of unique artist's books called In Forests. The In Forests books, which record her experiences during treks on foot and by kayak into wild forests from California to Alaska, are a contemporary hybrid of the illuminated manuscript and the field journal. More may be seen on her website: www.andiethrams.com

Class Schedule
Please plan to arrive at Field Camp on Sunday, August 10, and allow plenty of time to find your way to your tent, unpack, and settle in. The first class meeting will take place at 5:00 p.m. late Sunday afternoon on the deck just outside the Dining Hall. Each day we'll spend a varying combination of time indoors, in the field, and around Camp, with optional informal sunset painting after dinner. Our walks will range from 1/4 mile up to 3 miles over moderate terrain. Our final meeting will conclude by early afternoon on Friday.

Supplies and Other Useful Items

Art Supply List

    • 3 full-size sheets 140 lb. watercolor paper, preferably 1 each: rough, hot press and cold press. (Arches or Fabriano are recommended. Buy the best you can afford. Student-grade papers will not work as nicely as better papers will.)
    • Cut or tear each sheet into 6 pieces, each measuring approximately 10 X 11 inches. One full-size sheet of watercolor paper (usually 22 x 30 inches), will yield six 10 X 11-inch pieces. Be sure you do this BEFORE coming to Camp please!
    • One 8X8 or 10 X 10-inch gessoed or unfinished cradled painting panel (such as Ampersand or American Easel brands)
    • No. 2 or HB drawing pencil
    • Metal ruler at least 12 inches long
    • Pencil sharpener
    • Kneaded eraser
    • Fine or extra fine black felt tip pen (such as Pigma micron in size .01)
    • Two large bull dog clips • Light weight drawing board at least 11 x 12 inches
    • One manilla file folder
    • Mixing palette with ample mixing space
    • #10 and #6 round watercolor brushes such as Winsor & Newton sable or synthetic brushes. Good brushes are Winsor & Newton brand's Cotman, Cirrus, Septre Gold & Series 7’s, or Creative Mark brand's Rhapsody. Always buy the best brush you can afford. It will pay off in the long run.
    • 1/2-inch flat watercolor brush
    • Script, rigger or liner brush
    • Optional: 1/4-inch angle brush
    • Prismacolor “cream” pencil
    • Optional: colored pencils and/or pastel pencils you may already have in colors you like
    • Foam or flat brush 1 1/2 inches wide or wider (cheap craft or house painting brushes are fine)
    • Two small containers for paint mixing & painting water, such as a yogurt container or jar
    • Optional: small eye dropper
    • Hand wipes (useful for working outdoors)
    • Small spray bottle
    • Rag or paper towels
    • Tube watercolor paints in the following colors. Please do your best to find these colors as they are the colors I strongly recommend for any basic watercolor kit, and will give you the best results during our workshop. With these paints, you can mix more colors than you’ll ever need! The better brands are Winsor & Newton, Daniel Smith, M. Graham, Utrecht and Holbein. All are readily available in art supply stores and online. I will have extra paint to share, so if you are missing a color or two, you will be OK.)
    ⁃ Quinacridone rose or pink (purple-biased red)
    ⁃ Cadmium red (orange-biased red)
    ⁃ Ultramarine blue (purple-biased blue)
    ⁃ Phthalo or cerulean blue (green-biased blue)
    ⁃ Lemon yellow or cadmium yellow pale or hansa yellow light (green-biased yellow)
    ⁃ Cadmium yellow deep (orange-biased yellow)
    ⁃ Sap green (good all around green)
    ⁃ Oxide of chromium (helpful green for plants)
    ⁃ Ultramarine or dioxazine violet or other purple you like
    ⁃ Pyrrole orange or other orange you like
    ⁃ Burnt sienna
    ⁃ Quinacridone gold
    ⁃ Permanent white gouache (not watercolor)

    • A materials fee of $20 will be due to the instructor during class to cover additional materials and handouts.
    • It is very important that your day pack be able to hold your art supplies, water bottle, clothing layers, etc.

Field Supply List
  • Day pack for comfortably carrying art supplies, water, lunch, and extra clothing (you will really want everything to fit into one day pack, so that you'll have your hands free for sketching along the trail!)
  • Insect repellant & sunscreen
  • Camera (optional)
  • Water bottles, enough for drinking and for paint water
  • Warm hat and sun hat or visor, clothing layers for warm or cool weather, sunglasses, sunscreen, rain gear, etc. Please note that it is very important to be prepared for mountain weather conditions, as we may be outdoors all day
  • Field guides (optional)
  • Watch (important!)
  • Sitting pad, fold-up stool or Crazy Creek chair, for sitting comfortably on the ground (and that can be carried with ease.)
  • Lunch fixings will be set out each morning for us, so it is nice to have a sturdy plastic container for your sandwich. 

Camping gear


    Days are warm, even hot, while evenings are quite cold (close to freezing). Clothing that can be layered for variable weather conditions is best. T-shirts and shorts or lightweight pants are often perfect during the day, with a wind jacket or raincoat as backup. Long pants, warmer shirts and sweaters with a coat are necessary in the evening. Sturdy hiking shoes/boots and comfortable shoes for around camp, sun hat, wool hat and gloves are all important. A swimsuit may come in handy.

Helpful Reading

  • John Muir Laws, The Laws Field Guide to the Sierra Nevada, Heyday Books
  • David Bales and Ted Orland, Art and Fear, Consortium Book
  • Michael Wilcox, Blue and Yellow Don’t Make Green, School of Color Publishing


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