Cyndy Carstens – The Flower of Stubborn Passion

Cyndy Carstens is an exceptional artist. She was not born and nourished into a creative culture; she is an artist because the artist within started seeking expression. Consider her own words…

“I was very ill as a small child. My parents bought an adjustable easel that would sit over my lap while
I was in bed, along with crayons, pencils and tempera paints. I was too young to read, so I started drawing and painting to occupy my time. One of my paintings won the award of a summer scholarship to the Minneapolis Art Institute. I was six.

“That summer experience planted a seed for love of the arts, and a passion within for making art that I still can’t quite explain. At that time, I only knew that being an artist was what I needed to be.”

Throughout her school years Cyndy was not encouraged in the direction of pursuing art as a vocation, but her inward determination was still to do just that; to become a professional painter.“I wanted to study art at the university. My father told me he would only pay for me to go to college if I studied any other subject, but not art. Determined, I worked three jobs to save enough funds to pay for two semesters of college including room and board. I carried as many hours as possible those two semesters while working part time at the university newspaper and waiting tables. The result was failing my first painting class (devastating) and hospitalization for exhaustion.

“Still, I would not quit. There had to be a way; one I had not found or figured out yet. I was young, naïve and very stubborn … The deep connection/meditation I felt while creating art – I just wanted to keep doing it.”

Cyndy proved stubborn enough to pursue her dream through a variety of arts-related accomplishments, both as a worker-bee and as an entrepreneur.


Through decades of working in and around the commercial arts, Cyndy has had many palettes in her hand. She has been a graphic artist, a printing press operator, a greeting card publisher, an art director for on ad agency and also for two different magazines. For fifteen years she operated as a respected muralist, often stylistically favoring tromp l’loeil applications. Her expertise
has been shared as an instructor and advisor on many levels too. But what is wonderful about her life today is that she is doing just what she always wanted to do – she is an oil painter.

And why does this medium in particular elevate her heartbeat? Here’s what she says:

“Early on I only had access to crayons, pencils and tempera paints. I graduated to colored pencils and watercolors around 10 years old. Acrylics and India inks entered my art realm in high school. I was at the university before beginning to work with oil paints.

“Today I still love the fluidity of watercolor, the precision of ink pens, and drawing with graphite. But
my first love is traditional oils. The intensity of the pigment and buttery consistency of the paint is a joy. I will use acrylic only when called upon to do so.

“Painting would always be my passion. While employed doing other art-related things, I continued forward with learning all I could about composition, technical skills required for drawing and painting, attending university classes and workshops whenever possible.”

Through the decades Cyndy was found consistently polishing her focus and her skills, however she recalls two specific years that produced growth- rings in her career that have had powerful and far-reaching effects.

“I began to focus my work on atmosphere around 2003. Light, its refractions, transparency, color strength or lack thereof – these are my favorite subjects. The character of tree forms is also particularly interesting to me. Each tree tells a story of growth, heartache, difficulties, tragedies and victories. I also love rock formations and reflective surfaces of water.”

The year 2011 was another pivotal year of fulfillment. That was the year for opening a studio/gallery in the renowned Arts District of Old Town Scottsdale. “I very much enjoy sharing my work with the public and painting almost every day. It is a good balance for me – time to share and time to work.”


A distinguishing feature of Cyndy’s skillset came into being because of what she determined was lack of product availability for use on her painter’s palette. Note how she creatively solved the problem:

“I wanted to combine drawing and painting in the same completed artwork. One can draw on top of an almost dry oil painting, but there is no way to engender the graphite permanent, even with varnish. If the varnish is ever removed to clean a painting surface, the drawing would be removed also. So, I began researching the making of oil paint and then experimenting to create an oil paint using graphite as the pigment. After investigation, evaluation and testing to ensure its permanency, I began using the graphite oil paint in some of my work, especially to do portraitures of trees.

“With this knowledge I was able to make other oil paints in colors not commercially available by mixing different pigments to equate the luminosity and concentration of color in my imagination.

“The process involves use of a binder(s), drying agent and dry pigment. In oil, the paint must be applied thick over thin (fat over lean). But there are times when I want to tint or tweak areas of color slightly. Making my own paint allows me to make a thick transparent layer that will not interfere with the archival integrity of the painting. To my knowledge, there are no other artists using graphite oil paint in their work.”


In response to a question on the subject of an impactful experience that may have been involved in forging her entire being, she revealed, “Caregiving” and explained, “If you have ever been a caregiver, you know how challenging, rewarding, and life-changing it can be. Being a caregiver is what catapulted my art to move from landscape to skyscape. Emotional anguish taught me life’s toughest lessons and gave me the gift of focus and empathy. The heartache spurred my eyes upward and I have, to-date, refused to change my gaze.”

Inspiration is the breath of life for artists of all genres. Where does it come from? For Cyndy Carstens
that inspiration has arrived in waves throughout her life, but succinctly she summarizes personal recognitions on this subject by saying:

“Nature inspires the eye, but it is the heart – the soul – that inspires art.”

With the well-earned qualifications to advise her peers, and those coming along behind us, she shares three thought- provoking expressions, gleaned from experience, that all can benefit from:

~ Artists and the art they make is personal, and public at the same time.

~ Artists expose their inner-most lives
to be scrutinized or applauded – to be either admired or despised. Artists tousle and tumble between being worthy and (having feelings of ) worthlessness.

~ If we take ourselves too seriously, we can become arrogant. If we believe in ourselves to slightly, we become nothing more than jellyfish trying to make art without feeling.

A visit to Cyndy Carstens’ studio and gallery is an experience worth having. It is located in Old Scottsdale at 7100 East Main, Suite B, and visit online at

Cyndy Carstens Carstens Gallery ARTSource

Cyndy Carstens – The Flower of Stubborn Passion | ARTSource America Volume 8

Author: ARTSource

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