Artist of the Month

We are looking for a writer to take over the this column or contribute part time! 

We are also looking for more Artist’s who would like to showcase their work.  Musicians welcome!


Cynthia Brownell is an artist and art instructor, who specializes in water-based mediums. Education is important to Cynthia and her family, and she makes homeschooling her youngest son her priority. Cynthia also writes curriculum for, a website she designed and maintains.


Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came to be involved in the Arts.
I spent most of my childhood in the Adirondacks living in Jay, N.Y. which is about 18 miles east of Lake Placid. Arts were always a part of my life, my mother painted and my step father was a musician.

Have you always been a creative person?
Always! I would spend hours drawing, writing, and daydreaming. I would read every book I could get my hands on at the local library about the arts. I may not have understood a lot of the techniques at the time…but I would just absorb the information.


What inspires you?
My family. My older brother is an Adirondack guide and he is my toughest critique. If I didn’t paint a guide boat correctly, I heard about it! When I was a teenager I spent most of my time trailing after him while he climbed the 46 high peaks. I have about twenty of them under my belt. The exposure to the Adirondack Mountains and wilderness was a huge influence on how I developed my style.

Do you have a formal art education, or are you self-taught?
When I first went to college in the 1980’s I wanted to be the next Frank Lloyd Wright. I loved architecture and felt it was my calling. I went to school at Cazenovia College and received my A.A.S in Interior Architecture Design. At that point I was disillusioned by the commercial aspect of the business, so I decided to take a break. I took a ten year break. When I went back to college I earned my B.A. in Studio Art with a concentration in Photography at Plattsburgh State University. Realizing a degree in Studio Art probably wouldn’t put that much food on the table, I went back to school at Plattsburgh State and earned my Masters in Education. I became a certified Art and Elementary Teacher.


Do you also work a “day job” or are you lucky enough to support yourself with art full-time?
At this point I am home schooling my youngest son. We are committed to his education so I have stopped teaching full time and work around his schedule. I work on writing curriculum for a web site I designed, and for publication. I have been creating new paintings/ photographs so that I can show at a gallery and receive representation. I write grants and teach local community art classes for children. I have also been working on writing and illustrating my first children’s book. And lastly but not least I work at Carthage Central School and I teach digital photography to the children that are part of the CASE program.

What does a typical day look like for you?
A typical day starts out at the computer. I will either answer emails or start writing. I typically do this until my son wakes up and we start his studies. While he is working on subjects, I will try to continue working on writing or drawing. If I have a deadline, I will typically try to give him more reading and writing so that I can accomplish more that day. By lunch time we take a break and get outside. Whether it is, taking a walk, snow shoeing or biking. Now that the weather has warmed up, my son loves taking out his scooter. By the afternoon we pack everything up and head for class. I teach Monday through Thursdays in the afternoon. When class is over we will sometimes go to Sterling’s music lessons, 4H meetings, or play baseball with some of his homeschool friends.


What does an ideal day look like for you?
No interruptions! When I started working at home, friends and family thought this was the best time to call. I love talking to them and I do have a hard time saying no…but it does eat up a lot of the time set aside for work. Next thing I know it is time to head to class. I have really had to put a stop to the interruptions. Suggestions have been to shut the phone off during work hours. So if you every want to reach me email is the best way☺ Sometimes when our work is finished, Sterling and I like to explore different areas such as Sackets Harbor, the Adirondack Museum, and the Wesley Island nature center. Have camera will travel.

What are some of the tools that you use to create?
When I create illustrations and painting I usually work with water based paints such as watercolor, gauche, or acrylics. When I am working on my photographs I will use my digital camera. I was a film advocate for years, but I am falling in love with the digital age. When I am writing I am on our monster desk top. No cute small lap tops for us.


How have these tools changed over your career?
Computers and the digital age. When I first went to college everything was drawn by hand. I was really good with the mechanical arm and slide rule. When I graduated in 1989, the CAD program was starting to become a necessary tool. As for photography, film and labs is where I first gained my knowledge. Now everything is digital and it took me a while, but I was able to embrace the new technology.

Are there artists or photographers who have influenced you in your career?
I was very fond of the arts and crafts movement. I loved the idea of form following function that is why Frank Lloyd Wright was my favorite architect. When I attended school in Cazenovia, I was exposed to the Art Nouveau movement. I loved the drawings of Aubrey Beardsley, Alphonse Mucha, and Gustav Klimt. The design, color and organic lines were fascinating. As for photographers: I love the photographs of Dorthea Lange. The social statement and power of her camera and images were incredible.

What motivates you to keep creating art?
I am always creating…whether thinking about the next idea or project I always have something going on in my mind. Some people refer to as distraction, ADHD, or becoming the absent minded professor…it just the process.

In your current body of work, which piece is your favorite? Why?
I have two pieces that are my favorite. The first piece I panted after the last spring storm. It felt as if a wall of white was surrounding us. I painted the image based on a memory of a tree in a field. I think I was successful presenting the mood of the last storm. The second painting was of a tree clinging to life near the Lyons Falls paper mill. It took three photographs to get the tree completely framed in. When I painted it I wanted to give it the feeling of spring and life.


What is the one thing that you know now, that you wish you knew when you started creating art? Learn to take my career as an artist seriously. Treat it as if it is a successful business. I was always told art was to take a second seat to your “real career”. Well my “real career” has always been art. I would have made a horrible architect and I am an ok teacher. What I love doing the most is creating.

What are you doing when you’re not creating? If I am not creating I am usually throwing my kids in the car, grabbing my camera and exploring. We have taken road trips driving across the country to Oregon and California, we have driven to Texas, Maine, and Canada. We even broke down in Nevada and experienced our first “western rodeo”. If we are not hitting the road, I am usually reading or researching the next new project.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?
My father was a pilot in the US Air force. We moved around a lot when I was a toddler. One place we never did live was Alaska. After I graduated from Cazenovia I moved to Alaska to pay off my student loans. I was a traveling waitress and moved around to where the next season was. Glen Allen near Wanakeena for the snowmobiling, and King Salmon near Nanackneck for the Salmon fishing. I was able to pay off my student loans, get married and start my family. We lived there for a little over five years. An “out of this world” experience!


Do you have any tips/words of wisdom for other artists?
A successful artist friend of mine from the 1980’s gave me this advice when I first went to college, “Live! Explore. Don’t be afraid to fail and don’t be afraid to succeed”