Bound for Kotlas
Painter to Attend Russian Seminar

At Easel in Russia

An Artistic Sojourn in Russia

+ Bound for Kotlas

The Right Exposure


By Amy Calder

WATERVILLE — When Milton Christianson travels to Russia July 1, he likely will share with Russian artists his techniques for painting in watercolor.

"I was influenced a lot by the California School of Watercolor which started in the '20s and went mostly through the 50s," Christianson, an artist from Wellington, said.

"It was a big group of people out there, painting outdoors — ordinary painting, ordinary things — using strong color and bold brush strokes."

An impressionist painter, Christianson, 56, is going to Russia for three weeks at the invitation of the Waterville Committee based in Kotlas, Russia.

Kotlas, a city in Northern Russia, was established as Waterville's sister city in June, 1990.

The Kotlas Connection, a committee in Waterville, contacted Christianson after being asked by the Russians to find an appropriate artist to attend the painting seminar.

The seminar is being held in Kotlas to commemorate Russian artist A.A. Borisov, who painted in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Artists from Israel, Germany and England also are expected to take part.

They will paint outdoors and produce 300 works at areas along the Northern Dvina River. An exhibition of the pieces will be held at several cities following the seminar, and the Russians hope to make it an annual event to promote tourism and make historical and cultural connections.

Christianson said he looks forward to meeting artists and learning techniques to influence his own art. He also is enthusiastic about bringing what he learns back to Maine.

"I'm a cultural emisary, going both ways," he said. "I'm going to take a lot of photographs and slides."

Christianson met Thursday afternoon with Philip Gonyar, Herb Foster and Jack Mayhew — all members of the Kotlas Connection — to discuss the trip.

Gonyar and Mayhew are co-chairmen of the group; Foster is a member of the executive board as well. Gonyar has traveled to Kotlas four times; Mayhew, three; and Foster, once.

They gave Christianson tips and advice to use on his Russian visit.

"I'm going to give him a dictionary and crash lesson in the alphabet, and a phrase book written phonetically," said Foster, a retired Spanish and French teacher who also studied Russian.

Gonyar, also a retired teacher, said Russians will feed him at every stop. Mayhew, a retired service manager for Xerox Corp., said they are very generous.

"You'll be treated like royalty," he said.

Christianson will stay with Pavel and Valentina Sukhanovsky, an engineer and museum worker, respectively. Both 50, the couple has three sons. As part of his trip, Christianson also will travel to Moscow and St. Petersburg.

While the Russians will fund his visit to Kotlas, he is funding 90 percent of the trip. Anyone wanting to donate for expenses may send contributions to the Kotlas-Waterville Area Sister City Connection, P.O. Box 1747, Waterville, Me. 04901.

Gonyar said two Russian artists came to Waterville several years ago, and Christianson's trip is an opportunity for the Russians to reciprocate.

A native of Minneapolis, Christianson received a bachelor's degree in anthropology from Wesleyan University. He grew to love Maine while visiting Waterville with a friend who lived on his floor in college, he said. He moved to Maine in 1970.

He has painted in India, Nepal, and Australia, as well as in Canada and throughout the United States. He regularly shows his works at the Waterville Intown Arts Festival, in which he has twice won Best in Show. His works will be on display at The Last Unicorn during the month of July; at Railroad Square in December; at a garden tour June 28 sponsored by the Friends of the Library at the Tewksbury building on Island Avenue in Skowhegan; and July 26 at the Intown Arts Festival.

From the Morning Sentinel, Friday, June 13, 2003, pp. B1 & B3.
Text used by permission.