Fast & Loose in Watercolor, Part Deux

Building on lessons learned from Fast & Loose in Watercolor, part One, we will continue to explore using these techniques to develop subjects from concept studies to finished compositions. Sunday art critique sessions will be scheduled to give each student the feedback and review they need to gain skill and confidence. Download the complete course description and materials list.

Online Class, September 16 to 30, 2020
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Sketching the Southwest!

Watercolor painting and sketching art retreat in Sedona, AZ.


Sedona Art Retreat – September 9-13, 2020

September 9 – 13, 2020. Price: $1600 per person. Maximum of 6 guests! Price includes: Private bed/bath accommodations at Junipine Resort; art instruction/demonstrations/critique; ground transportation; plein air outings; breakfasts & lunches (or packed lunches for outings) at Junipine. Price does NOT include: airfare, artist materials, restaurant dinners or lunches out, individual travel insurance.

Sedona in September is an ideal time to visit the Southwest; temperatures and weather are GORGEOUS, ideal for hiking and sketching/painting desert vistas. While the towns of Sedona and nearby Flagstaff are filled with galleries and restaurants to appeal to everyone, there’s so much more to see and do beyond the towns’ city limits. Oak Creek Canyon, Red Rock Scenic Byway, the mining-ghost town of Jerome, the Palatcki Heritage Site, and (of course) the south rim of the Grand Canyon offer endless art opportunities.

Course description: Art retreat open to all skill levels, Cynthia will focus on the fundamentals of developing dynamic journal pages. In covering outdoor sketching and watercolor painting – from composition ideas to color selections that reflect the scenic Southwest – she’ll show you how to capture the moment quickly and effectively without sacrificing mood and magic. Each day will include art instruction with plenty of time for student work and group critiques. Mornings will be spent learning techniques and concepts with demonstrations; afternoons will be used to explore the stunning Sedona environs to apply those lessons en plein air.

Materials List: to be emailed at time of registration.

Accommodations: We will have 3 units rented for our group at the lovely Junipine Resort at Oak Creek Canyon. 2 attendees to a unit, each has a living room, fully appointed kitchen, deck or balcony, fireplaces, private bedrooms with bathrooms en suite. Some bedrooms have fireplaces (first come, first served on those!)

Itinerary: September 9th – meet at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. I will provide ground van transportation to Sedona (2 hours away). Junipine Resort check in at 3pm. Get settled into rooms, meet & greet, retreat introduction, dinner out in Sedona.

Septembers 10th, 11th, 12th – 8:00am breakfast together followed by art lesson til noon. Lunch. Afternoon – plein air sketching out and about (or personal down time, as you choose). Dinner out in either Sedona or Flagstaff.

September 13th – 8:00am breakfast together, sketching, pack up and leave for airport (checkout by 11am). Sketching on drive back to airport, time permitting.

Things to do in Sedona Area: Hiking, Oak Creek Canyon, Flagstaff, Red Rock Scenic Byway, Tlaquepaque Arts & Craft Center, Palatcki Heritage Site – Native American dwellings & petroglyphs, Jerome – old mining town, Gran Canyon (south rim).

Registration/refund policy: 50% deposit – refundable up 60 days prior. Non refundable balance is due 60 days prior (July 9) to check in. Cancellations after July 9 can be refunded only if a replacement can be found (I’ll be keeping a waiting list). If retreat organizer cancels for any reason, full refunds will be given.  Travel insurance is highly recommended.

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Experimental Watercolor

Market Street Senior Center

222 Market Street, Santa Cruz, CA 95060; March 11- April 15, 2020; 9:30am – 12:pm.

CLASS IS FULL!! Please write or call to be placed on waiting list.

Contact: Cynthia Armstrong – 408-966-5214;

This class approaches watercolor from an experimental angle, using chance strategies to create new works. Working from traditional sources such as landscapes and still life subjects, students will harness the unpredictable qualities of watercolor to create improvisational, process-based images. Students will have the opportunity to work in a range of styles and motifs, including both representational and abstract images. This 6 week series will explore all the wonderful creative techniques that watercolor offers. Demonstrations, individual attention, and classroom discussions/lecture will help you to create exciting paintings. We will learn how to plan for success by using the elements of design, color theory, and making painting plans. Enjoy the liquidity and spontaneity of watercolor.

Terms and conditions: Price – $170 – payable via PayPal ( or check.

The full amount is due at time of registration. This reserves your spot. A full refund will be honored up to 1 week prior to class date, after which it is non-refundable (unless another can be registered from waiting list).

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NUMU Gouache Workshop

I’ll be teaching an introduction to Gouache workshop at the New Museum Los Gatos.

Sunday, May 31, 2020; 10am to 4pm

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Fun Forms: Nature Illustration in Fungus Fair Posters

Thrilled to be featured at the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History….past fungus fair posters.

Fun Forms: Nature Illustration in Fungus Fair Posters

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National Public Garden Workshops

I’ll be teaching a series of 3 botanical themed workshops at the UCSC Arboretum & Botanical Gardens. May 15, 16, & 18, 2019.

Learn to sketch botanical wonders!

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Salt Spring Island Art Retreat

Watercolor Sketching the Pacific Northwest

This art retreat is designed to capture the nature and spirit of the Pacific Northwest, a place where sky, water, and land meet in ever changing light and movement. Our class will explore the beauty of Salt Spring Island, in the Gulf Island archipelago, British Columbia, Canada, while staying at the lovely Skipping Stone Beach B&B and cabin.

Dates: September 12-16, 2019 (Thursday – Monday)

Retreat offerings and pricing:
4 nights including 4 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 1 dinner, wine and cheese reception; transportation (private shuttle) from Victoria International Airport to Salt Spring Island and return.

Early Bird Price til April 15: $1400 CD ($1049 USD); from April 16 to May 15: $1500CD ($1126.00 USD).   Please note: Local and Provincial taxes will be applied on top of that amount.

Maximum 6 guests

What is NOT included: artist materials, dinners out, airfare, additional accommodations and meals in Victoria (if extension is opted for), entrance fees to Butchart Gardens.

To Register or for more information: Contact Tanis Wilkie or Paul Whidden at Skipping Stone Beach B&B, (250) 537-2519; email:,

Registration/refund policy: 50% deposit – non-refundable (travel insurance is highly recommended); balance is due 30 days prior to check in. Cancellations 30 days prior to check in date can be refunded only if the attendee can find a replacement. If retreat organizers cancel for any reason, full refunds will be given. To register or ask for more information email Tanis with the subject heading: Painting Retreat Sept. 2019.

Tanis and Paul are happy to speak to you about the different room accommodations in the B&B and Cabin.

5 Day Itinerary:

Day 1: Arrive Victoria International Airport; Meet Cynthia to transport to Swartz Bay & the Salt Spring Island ferry. Settle into rooms at Skipping Stone Beach B&B; wine and cheese reception, dinner out at one of the many fine restaurants on the island.

Days 2, 3, 4: Breakfast; instruction from 9am to 12pm, Lunch; afternoons – combination of rest/free time, work on assignments, or plein air painting outings (may involve some hiking, or at least walking to reach viewing spots). Dinner in Ganges Harbor or other Island location. Dinner at Skipping Stone Beach on the last evening (Day 4).

Day 5: Breakfast; return to Victoria Airport.

Possible extension stay to explore Victoria, tea at the Empress Hotel, sketching trip to Butchart Gardens. Email me if you’d like to discuss this option:

Features of retreat art instruction include: indoor workshop instruction on some basic watercolor and sketching techniques and specific elements of landscape painting. Landscape elements including water, sky, trees, rocks. Glazing for depth and atmosphere, negative space painting. Compositional elements: how to use thumbnail sketches to decide what to put into a painting and what to omit. Explore ideas for creating layout and design in journal pages. Outdoor/plein air painting/sketching to capture the wealth of subject matter that autumn in the Gulf Islands offers: colorful arbutus trees, beaches, misty forests, vistas, rocky bluffs, and old farm buildings, seascape scenes. We will work in pen, ink, and watercolor.

Materials list:  Each artist is responsible for bringing their own materials. There is an art supply store on the island, but I don’t know how well stocked they are.

Moleskine journal (or other suitable for watercolor – Stillman & Birn – Beta, Zeta, or Delta series)

For those wishing to paint on larger sizes than journals allow: #140 cold pressed paper – I suggest no larger than quarter sheet size – think travel ease; support for the paper – gator board is lightweight and strong, cut to an inch larger than your watercolor paper sheet size. Make sure it fits in your travel art bag (back pack) for plein air painting.

Pencil/eraser, sharpener

Selection of Pigma Micron pens – 0.01, 0.05, 0.08, 0.1, 1

Travel watercolor palette (See Winsor & Newton, Schminke, Rembrandt) – with your favorite colors (some suggested colors for painting the Pacific Northwest islands include: Undersea green, Quinacridone Gold, ultramarine blue, cerulean blue, azo yellow, yellow ochre, cadmium red, permanent alizarin crimson, Quinacridone burnt orange, burnt umber, indigo, cascade green or sap green, dioxazine purple, sepia, ArtGraf water soluble graphite tin). NOTE: you do NOT have to buy all these colors. Pick a few primaries and a couple of other favorites.

Watercolor brushes: a range from #4 to 12 rounds, 1/2 inch flat, 1 inch flat. (Niji waterbrushes in large, medium, small are super for travel).

Water bottle

Sta-wet sponge – or other sponge for blotting/cleaning brushes

Art bag (or back pack) suitable to carry supplies , water, snack

Small square of oil cloth to sit on ground for plein air painting

Private decks at Skipping Stone Beach B&B

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Art in the Garden

Thrilled to be an ‘Artist in the Garden’ during the Home Garden Tour sponsored by the UCSC Arboretum – April 27, 2019; 10am to 4pm

I’ll be hosted by a generous Arboretum supporter, meeting and greeting visitors as I paint and sketch her lovely garden.

Click HERE for information on purchasing tickets to this wonderful event supporting the operations of the Arboretum & Botanic Garden.

Lush succulents surround lemon trees
Home Garden Tour April 27, 2019

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Student Reviews – Santa Cruz Art League

“Bijou” – French for Jewel (Bijou Box = Watercolor kit for the field)   One of the many things I learned in “Keeping a Nature Sketchbook” class, Cynthia is a jewel in our community!  Santa Cruz is lucky to have such an experienced instructor willing to share her vast knowledge of the medium.  She teaches us to open our eyes to the beauty around us.  Cynthia communicates techniques in a clear, interesting way.  She shows many examples and demos.  The atmosphere is light and fun.  I learned to focus on textures, diverse surfaces, interesting shapes and patterns.  I don’t think I have ever looked at anything so closely.  She pulls you out of your comfort zone and encourages you to test and explore artistic boundaries.  She is always helpful and answers any questions that come up.  Cynthia is a “Bijou” indeed!  What a privilege to spend time with such an entertaining and engaging artist.  I can’t wait to sign-up for another class.  Gaye Muir

“Cynthia is a very well-prepared instructor who makes lessons accessible to all levels of artistic experience.  Her class is a great balance of direct instruction, independent practice and supportive individual coaching.  She has a good sense of humor.  I highly recommend Cynthia’s classes.”    Shoney Sien

“I took a few journaling classes with Cynthia and now I have a great journal about journaling.  Not only can I look back and remember the exercises I did and the techniques and tools that I experimented with, but I have pages of notes regarding authors, artists, art supplies, and all sorts of information regarding color, format, process and composition. After that I took her classes on gouache and watercolor landscapes and found them as enjoyable and productive.   It was easy to see that there was a lot of planning and preparation for each class but Cynthia was also open to feedback from the class in terms of what individuals were interested in around a topic.  Factored in was time for practice exercises and individual check-ins and feedback during the process.  Being in her class was a pleasure and helped my knowledge base and confidence tremendously.”    Beverly Flemming

“Cynthia is one of the best painting teachers I’ve had.  She’s super organized, which allows her to cover a lot more material in a few hours than most teachers.  She’s serious but has a wicked sense of humor.  From her good direction, for the first time in my life, I actually think I ‘get’ how to paint the lights and darks in pine trees!”      Kristen Davis

“Cynthia is a wonderful artist and a generous teacher.  I have taken several of her classes and can say she takes her students seriously.  She meets you where you are in your skill level and starts with the basics everyone should know. At the same time she is creative in presenting challenges for those ready to move ahead.  No one gets lost in the shuffle.  Everyone’s understanding of the material is addressed individually.   She is always well prepared, with visuals, demonstrations, exercises to improve skills, new materials to try, and books to read.  There’s no pressure,  just a wealth of information for you to use as your time and interest permits.  She shows you the path to becoming a better artist.”   Janet Platen

“I have to confess that I always felt overwhelmed and challenged by watercolor media.  After taking a few classes with Cynthia, where she practically took me by the hand and showed me different ways to gain control of watercolor, I now have a clearer understanding about paints and composition.  I love the clarity and systematic way Cynthia presents this vast ocean of information.”   Yonat Michaelov

“Where to start….I have taken a number of classes from Cynthia and each one of them was a treasure!  She is a gifted teacher who comes to class highly prepared to present and share her considerable knowledge of art and watercolor, in particular, with her students.  I had some art training previously but no other teacher in my experience dove as deeply into color theory, composition, materials, etc., as Cynthia.  She spends time with her students analyzing the ‘order of operations’ from examples.  This in particular has really helped me improve my skills and understanding of watercolor.  Don’t miss an opportunity to take a class from her.”    Katy Foster

“I have learned a tremendous amount from the 2 classes I have taken from Cynthia (The Illustrated Journal and Landscapes in Watercolor).  Her knowledge and expertise is seemingly boundless, and her ability and intent to pass on that knowledge through well organized presentations, demonstrations, and personal feedback has helped me expand and develop as an artist.  Her classes are comprehensive, including everything from addressing the inner critic, studying in-depth characteristics of the medium, choosing appropriate tools and accessories, examining and exploring the principles of composition, color theory, color mixing, and learning very practical strategies for creating desired effects, all of which I so appreciate!  I actually am grateful that she pushed us to do homework, to do multiple studies, to consciously expand our awareness in so many ways.  I would not have the motivation to follow through on my own to that degree, and I now have a better appreciation of the benefits of following through and maintaining that focus.  What a resource to draw on! ”   Khalila Alldis (student and artist)

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Excited to be part of the ‘tiny’ show!

C.Armstrong.For me? C.Armstrong.Glass CandiesThrilled to be taking part in this year’s ‘tiny’ show at the Studio Gallery, November 8th – December 23rd, 2108.

Reception: Sunday November 11th.

Studio Gallery

1641 Pacific Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94109.

415.931. 3130

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