Oil Painting Classes in Shoshone, California, with the Wildflower Bloom

Desert gold during the Death Valley superbloom last winter in 2016. 

Beginners welcome! If you have never lifted a paintbrush in your life, this class will help you get a start with the wonderful world of oil painting. This workshop is designed for anyone who wants to try painting and learn how to start depicting landscapes and natural history subjects, both indoors and out in the field in the beautiful Mojave Desert.

If you have oil painting experience and want to learn more about traditional techniques I will show you what I have researched about landscape painting methods from history, through the Renaissance to the French Academy, and Impressionism.

Flat-tailed horned lizard, oil on cotton rag paper. Copyright Laura Cunningham.

The wildflowers should be amazing by mid March--the region has received a lot of rain, and I will take you out to the nearby desert to explore the diversity of plants and wildflowers. We will also do some birdwatching and observations of lizards (and perhaps even a desert tortoise). Death Valley National Park is right next door.

Supplies will be provided! You can bring your own drawing and painting material, sketchbooks, and plein air equipment if you want. But no lists will be needed, just bring your curiosity and I will show you the materials to dive deeply into oil painting. (Bring your binoculars and camera too.)

Students will learn about materials to prepare surfaces for archival oil painting, drawing and sketching, and the diversity of grounds, brushes, pigments, and painting media. We will discuss shadow and light, underpainting and overpainting, and the difference between layering in oils (the real key to oils that you cannot get with any other medium), and quick paintings done in one sitting (alla prima) to capture the effects of daylight outdoors. Simple and easy to understand exercises will get you started. I will give presentations on history and methods as well.

The main class will be from 9 AM – 4 PM Saturday March 18, 2017 (includes demonstrations with materials, presentations on oil painting, and plein air sessions). We will have lunch and dinner at the Crowbar Inn, which has vegetarian items. The Wildflower Field Trip will be on Sunday morning, March 19, 2017.

Our itinerary: Saturday March 18

  • 9 AM - meet at the Flower Building in Shoshone, introduction.
  • Slide presentation on the history of landscape painting, introducing some of the materials and techniques we will use.
  • Hands on course about oil painting materials, drawing materials, supports, and media.
  • Intro to oil paint and media: each students will experiment with a small support, brushes, and paint with different media (linseed oil, solvents, damar varnish, etc.) to learn about the different working properties of oil paint.
  • Then we will go outside to sketch, look at wildflowers, make natural history observations in the desert, and observe the sunlight and color of shadows. There are some beautiful nature trails next to town and the Amargosa River that harbor birds such as phainopeplas and verdins, as well as possible breeding Least Bell's vireos!
  • Noon - LUNCH
  • 1 PM - Exercise in layering and blocking in an underpainting with various techniques and colors, using different traditional methods.
  • Talk on topics such as preparatory drawing, shading, composition, light and shadow, and use of photography. Part of my library of various art books will be passed around to review the work of traditional landscape masters.
  • We will then go outside to practice painting a landscape using techniques learned.
  • 4PM - finish, free time, dinner.

Sunday March 19

  • 9 AM - wildflower tour, sketching, talking about how to see and light and colors and translate your observations into oil paint.  Identify and enjoy the wildflowers  I will scout the region beforehand to find the best blooming hotspots.
  • Noon - end of workshop. You are free to go visit Death Valley National Park nearby and I can give you ideas for places to go to.

How to register for this workshop: download the registration form (pdf) and mail a check to Laura Cunningham Art, PO Box 70, Beatty NV 89003, or pay when you arrive.

Or send me an email at lauracunninghamart@gmail.com and ask to sign up. You can sign the registration form at the workshop.

Hotel accommodations and camping are available in the town of Shoshone http://www.shoshonevillage.com. There is a store, gas station and café in town. Meals and accommodations not included.

Limited to 20 people.

Imperial woodpeckers on a ponderosa pine in the San Jacinto Mountains above the Salton Basin, California Desert, long ago before European contact. Oil on cotton rag paper mounted on panel. Copyright Laura Cunningham. 

Bring your sketchbooks and supplies for some field sketching, and I will also provide sketching materials.

We will also learn how to do plein air oil paintings outdoors.


  1. good post about oil painting,nice to read this article,thanks for sharing this informative article .


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