Watermill painting tutor Sandra Strohschein


Sandra Strohschein

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Painting by watermill tutor Sandra Strohschein

Lake Michigan

Watercolours: 15” x 22”

This watercolour won Second Place in the 2015 Michigan Watercolor Society Competition. It is currently part of a year-long travel exhibit. This painting represents the method I use most often painting en plein air: painting directly on dry paper from the top down, laying down the correct value immediately, sometimes putting down very dark pigment and then adding water, pulling away from the dark towards light. Of course, I have to wait until things dry before I can add the final drybrush techniques, but this is a fast method of painting which works very well in the field

Painting by Sandra Strohschein a tutor at the watermill in Italy

Maci’s sunflower

Watercolours: 12” x 9”

This is typical of my direct, fast and loose approach to many subjects. This simple painting was rendered in less than 10 minutes. I don't care about detail for the most part, but I care greatly about energy and emotion. Watercolour lends itself so beautifully to my interests as an emotionally driven artist.

Painting tutor at the watermill in Italy Sandra Strohschein


Watercolours: 15” x 22”

I employ different techniques as the situation dictates.  In watercolour of the busy harbour in Vancouver, British Columbia I chose the traditional method of painting from light to dark in a three step process. Laying down a first large wash establishes mood and temperature. A second wash with darker values, establishes shapes and shadows. And the third phase of final darks and highlights drives home the focal points with detail where needed.

Painting tutor Sandra Strohschein at the watermill in Italy

Fivizzano in the Rain

Watercolours: 16” x 12”

We were so lucky to be in the market place in Fivizzano painting on a lovely rainy morning. Yes, even rainy days in Tuscany are beautiful. The market place was full of activity and people holding colourful umbrellas. You will see rain splotches on this painting!

Course dates

Course Completed



Sandra Strohschein is a self-taught watercolourist from Holland, Michigan in the USA, who has achieved remarkable success in a very short period of time. She began painting only in 2009 but has achieved a master level of work, spending easily 16,000 hours painting and travelling the world studying with modern masters. She has exhibited and been honoured in many juried fine art shows and her work can now be found in national and international private collections.

Sandra works in a fast, loose impressionistic style of painting which is structured by solid art principals. She places a strong emphasis on composition, light, lost and found edges but paints passionate, emotionally charged paintings that are full of energy.

Sandra also has a remarkable online presence, with thousands following her Facebook posts, which motivates artists to begin their own creative process on a daily basis. She's also an inspiring and sympathetic teacher and has taking been teaching workshops for the past couple of years.

Sandra's painting course at the watermill

Sandra's teaching style is to demonstrate a painting from start to finish, usually in less than an hour. She talks through the entire process explaining her thoughts about composition, capturing light, colours, value changes.... everything that goes into the painting is clearly articulated as she paints. She says: "I am comfortable addressing questions while I am painting and encourage student interaction during my demos."

Sandra says: "My method is fairly simple. Differing from many watercolourists, I often work from dark to light. This is a very direct method of painting which works very well for en plein air studies. I work from the top of the paper downward preserving my white highlights as I go. I use my paper as the palette letting the watercolour pigments mix themselves on the sheet as I introduce or suggest shapes with simple brush strokes. To see the interaction of the pigments merge and mingle on the paper....this is magic to me."

"In the studio I often employ the more traditional method of painting which is to paint three washes. The first to capture light and local colour. The second to define areas with mid values. The third to add dry brush strokes to tie the piece together. Being a minimalist, my work is surprisingly simple and fresh."

She adds: "I think what separates me from other watercolour instructors is my diversity in subject. Nothing is beyond my reach if I find myself inspired. And I have employed many different methods to get the results I am looking for. What works in one painting may not work in another. I am not limited by a formula. I know many different ways of approaching problems that watercolourists face. As well....I easily see what is missing in paintings and have a great ability to critique compassionately and foster artistic growth."

"What I hear over and over again is how much fun people have in my workshops and how nobody ever wants them to end. I think that is a great thing.....to leave people wanting more."

Sandra's course will include two demonstrations daily: one in the studio and one on location. The studio work will be painting demonstrations from photo references or life in a controlled environment where a student can actually learn about her process without being frustrated by changing elements outdoors. There will be an afternoon critique for those who are interested

Sandra says: "I have learned a lot about teaching from studying with Janet Rogers, Keiko Tanabe and Alvaro Castagnet. I believe that my relative inexperience teaching keeps me in tune with what a student is looking for in an instructor. Most importantly, I just want to render beautiful paintings clearly sharing my process and helping each student realize substantial personal artistic growth after studying with me."


Comments from guests on Sandra’s course at the Watermill in 2017:

Many thanks to you both for a fabulous week. Your forethought, hard work and professionalism are very much appreciated. Nothing was too much trouble and nothing was at fault. You have created a gem. Please pass on our sincere gratitude to all your lovely people. - CD

My week at The Watermill was better than I could have imagined. We were fed watered and dined in style and managed to eat huge meals which were all extra delicious. My favourite was on the first night, which was the Gorgonzola soufflé, divine indeed. Sandy was full of enthusiasm and talent and made every day a joy. To have two chances most days to paint was utter heaven and in such wonderful surroundings. I didn't paint a masterpiece but thoroughly enjoyed my week. I hope to remember some of the tricks Sandy taught us and use them in the future. - JG

And comments from guests on previous courses:

We had the greatest time. The unique venue offered us so many amazing opportunities to paint! The creative rewards will stay with us forever... TL

“I must once again thank you for the unbelievable week at the Watermill. I felt so relaxed and pampered. I appreciate your kindness and warmth. I hope to make it back someday. I've learned a lot from Sandra and from you. The best learning vacation ever! Beautiful does nothing to describe the scenery and accommodations. Bill and Lois were wonderful hosts. Sandra Strohschein is a fantastic instructor. I hope to do this again sometime.” - LK

And more comments from previous students:

"Sandra's immense talent for teaching her classes is only exceeded by her enthusiasm for painting!" - CB

"Sandra is an excellent instructor who shares what she knows unhesitatingly in a clear and concise manner. She explains her method well, and keeps her essentials simple and easy to remember... I can honestly say that she has helped me improve at a far faster rate than I would have been able to achieve on my own." - ZR

"Sandra is a great teacher! Many artists like to have open workshops where you learn very little and at a slow pace. Sandra has a flexible lesson plan and implements a variety of teaching techniques. It is an amazing experience to witness how Sandra takes a concept and moves it to a finished painting with so much enthusiasm and skill. I highly recommend that anyone interested in learning to become a better watercolourist, especially in the impressionist style, sign up for one of her workshops." - CGF