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Zach Ross '21

Art major drawn to remote, wild places

As art major Zach Ross '21 has learned at Whitworth, art is all about taking risks. An oil painter, Ross says one of the most important lessons his professors have taught him is to not be afraid to change or mess up a painting.

"Every now and then I can still struggle with this," he says, "but I have become a lot more confident with taking risks and trying to improve something rather than leaving it because I don't want to make a mistake."

Perhaps the biggest risk Ross has taken as an artist was to change his major and explore art as a career path. "I originally was majoring in biology and thinking about the medical field or wildlife biology," he says. "I eventually made the switch to art because I was so passionate about it. I love how painting challenges my mind to think creatively as I attempt to create something beautiful and meaningful."

So far, Ross' decision to follow his passion has been a rewarding one. A Wyoming native, he has won the Gilly Fales Fine Art Award, part of Cody's Buffalo Bill Art Show & Sale, each of the past two falls. The award has provided him with scholarships and the opportunity to sell his Western-themed paintings.

"The first time I won the award, it enabled me to enter a painting into the show for sale alongside paintings done by famous wildlife/Western artists," Ross says. "It was the first painting I sold and a great encouragement to me. It showed me that people want to have my art and inspired me to continue to keep learning about painting and getting better."

Ross was also awarded last year with the Northwest Watercolor Foundation Scholarship and Barbara Pitts Award, which provided a $3,500 scholarship.

Ross draws inspiration for his art from the wildlife and scenery of his home state. He paints wildlife from photographic references he has taken and says his style is realistic yet expressive.

"I enjoy painting wild animals and nature because things that are remote and wild have always fascinated me. I grew up hunting, fishing and hiking and have a great respect for God's creation," he says. "Being able to observe these animals is already amazing, and being able to depict them in a way that shows their beauty and wildness is even better. They really show you something new every time you're out."

Ross has chosen a selection of his wildlife paintings for Whitworth's senior exhibition, which runs through May 22, 2021, in the Bryan Oliver Gallery. His work is also featured on the gallery blog at (see the entries dated April 20 and 27).

Although Ross changed his major to art, he has continued to keep his options open by taking science classes through Whitworth's pre-medicine advising program. He is currently taking an emergency medical technician course in anticipation of graduation.

"I have still not yet fully decided whether to pursue a career in art or the medical field, and I want to get more experience in both," Ross says. "My plan next year is to work as an EMT and make as much art as I can. I'm excited to see what happens!"


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