Do I need a visa?

Yes. You cannot enter Russia as a U.S. or EU citizen without a visa. Russia requires a letter of invitation to receive a visa, which we will provide. We will arrange visas through our travel partner three months before the trip.


Will there be someone who speaks Russian?

Not only do we have two translators, both are versed in art, which is important in the communication of art direction. You’ll be safe with local guides, and you’ll get to see Russia more like a local and visit places most tourists won’t see.


How much time will I get with the Russian master?

You’ll spend at least six hours daily with Nikolai Dubovik and with John Wurdeman V, a recent recipient of the Surikov Institute Award of Excellence. They will work with you individually on your painting daily, do demos, give lectures, and walk you through the top museums and artist studio visits.


I’m intimidated by Russia. Should I be?

Russia is unlike any place else you will ever visit. It can be intimidating, and the best way to see it is with a local who knows his or her way around the culture. You’ll find the people to be generous, giving, and friendly, but parts of Russia will appear rough to most Americans. On this trip you’ll be perfectly safe and well cared for, and you’ll never feel uncomfortable.


Why can’t I just go paint Russia on my own?

To access the private studios of famous artists, interact with the artists through translators, hear their interpretations of Russian art in museums, and benefit from their guided teaching in an intimate and uninhibited way would be next to impossible without decades of networking and building relationships of trust, friendship, and knowledge, and that is what we are offering. Painting in Russia is not easy for tourists because it requires a local to know the paint spots, the light, and acceptable places to paint. Though you can go and paint on your own, you’ll miss out on all the special visits we have planned.


How does this differ from a workshop?

It will be more thorough and focused on learning about the whole Russian tradition and culture surrounding this school of art, not just technique. You will be brushing up against a living, powerful school of realism that transcends the centuries. We will not just do demos, we’ll work to transform the work of every artist so they can achieve a deeper level of painting, develop the Russian style (if they wish), and become a stronger painter. Even the top-tier artists in attendance will see deep, life-changing growth. We will travel to Moscow, St. Petersburg, and the deep northern part of traditional Russia, plus we’ll take you to the studios of top artists and to museums to view Russian art with guidance from Russia’s top artists. You’ll grow in many ways.


What will we be doing in Moscow?

Meeting artists in studios, visiting museums, walking through scenic parks, and enjoying local cuisine and culture, as well as studying the local architecture. We will also make a point of spending part of one day painting in Moscow (probably one of its famous landmarks) so you have a painting from a known iconic spot.


What is the plan for St. Petersburg?

The same, but the architecture and spirit of the place are quite distinct from Moscow. So activities will be similar, but the experience is quite different. We plan to visit the Hermitage, Russia’s greatest museum, and the Russian Museum, home of the great Russian masters.


Why are you going to the Great Ustyug?

This interior northern area is unknown to most Americans, yet it is one of the most beautiful regions in Russia, with much deep traditional Russian culture and heritage. This is where many Russian plein air students spend their summers because of the broad variety of subjects. Here we will be focused entirely on painting and interacting with the masters. This is a corner of ancient Russia untouched by the modern world, where the beauty is still unexploited.


What will the impact on my painting be?

Russian training is the finest in the world, especially in plein air work. On this trip you’ll have the opportunity to learn to see in a much deeper and more perceptive way, using your eyes as tools for deciphering space, color, and tone. And hopefully, you’ll be inspired by the tradition that has created some of the finest realists in history.


Where will we be staying?

In St. Petersburg and Moscow, we’ll stay in clean, modern hotels, though not luxurious (Moscow can be very expensive). In Great Ustyug, we will stay at a provincial hotel with simple amenities — we’re going there, for the beauty of the region, not the fancy hotel. Accommodations are clean and comfortable, but very basic.


How will we get around in Russia?

In the cities, we will provide transportation with vans or buses, depending on the number of people in attendance. We will fly to Ustyug, and while there we’ll be in walking distance from just about everywhere we need to go, though vans and buses will be at our disposal should we go on some outings in the area.


Is airport transportation provided?

It depends on when you arrive. Our plan is to collect our guests on arrival day and take you to the hotel before we meet up. You have an option of early arrival if you wish to overcome jet lag or arrange for some touring beforehand. Our travel partners can offer guides or travel packages in addition to what is provided with the painting package.


What about meals?

In Ustyug, we will provide all three meals. In Moscow and St. Petersburg, breakfast will be provided by the hotel, and on each day we will provide either lunch or dinner. On those days the other meal will be up to you, so you can choose to rest, try various dining experiences, or otherwise spend a little time on your own. (Alcohol not included with meals.)


What is the weather like?

Ustyug is like going to northern Canada in the fall; it could be nice, or it could be quite cold. Typically, the weather is cool and sweaters and jackets are necessary, and there is always a possibility of freezing temperatures. We’ll paint in all conditions — even snow, though it’s unlikely so early in the season. Moscow and St. Petersburg should be very pleasant, like Maine in the fall.


I don’t get around too easily. Will I be comfortable?

If you have mobility problems due to age or health issues, this might not be the best program for you. Russia does not typically have accommodations like America. We will be keeping up a vigorous pace, doing a lot of walking and spending a lot of time outdoors. Days will be long (white nights can stay light till midnight), and we plan to paint as much as possible when in Ustyug. Though we don’t expect to do any climbing, this trip is best for people in good health.


Which airports should I fly into and out of?

Our travel partners will make recommendations regarding airports.


Do I have to attend the whole trip?

You can choose to do Great Ustyug only, or you can add on Moscow and St Petersburg. We recommend all three for the full experience. Since we will start in Moscow, you will probably want to include at least the Moscow portion.


Should I carve out extra time for my own sightseeing? Is it safe?

Yes, it is safe to sightsee. We will give you recommendations on where to go. There will be personal time every day for exploration, shopping, etc.


How much money will I need once I’m there?

Depends on how you like to shop, drink, and eat. Prices are high in Russia, but you can get by frugally, or you can splurge! Moscow is very expensive — more expensive than New York — but, as in any city, you can find places to eat inexpensively. You may want to bring money for shopping, gifts, and souvenirs. We may even find ourselves in a Russian art store or sable brush outlet.


Can I travel with my paint and easel? What if they don’t arrive?

Extra bags can be costly on international travel, but it’s usually cheaper than shipping to Russia, which is very expensive. We recommend a compact easel, panels, and paints, and you can use our airline sticker (link to it). If your luggage is lost, you can purchase easels in Russia, which make nice souvenirs. And you may want to pick up some unique Russian colors too; they are reasonably priced.


Once I’ve booked my airfare, is there any chance this event won’t happen?

We must meet a minimum attendance to hold this trip. If we cancel, we will refund 100 percent of your money. But we feel as though we will exceed our minimum participant count; unless there is a major international problem, we don’t plan to cancel. Before you book your flights and apply for your visa, we will know if the minimum has been met, so you can be comfortable booking. We do recommend travel insurance (see below). Once we pass our cutoff date, you cannot give up your reserved slot, though you can substitute someone else if there is time for that person to get a visa.


Should I buy travel insurance and travel health insurance?

Travel insurance is a good idea. If you get sick and can’t go on the trip you can get a refund (depending on the policy), and you can get a policy that pays for your health care if you get sick while in Russia. Most U.S. insurance does not pay for overseas care, which can be very expensive.


How much painting will we be doing?

You can choose your pace. We will paint least six hours daily in the Great Ustyug, but minimally in St. Petersburg and Moscow (just enough so you can say you painted there and get one good painting). You can do what you wish on your free time. You may rest or spend time on your own; we encourage you to pick your own pace.