Writer Joseph J. Airdo // Photography by Loralei Lazurek
Each spring, Anthem resident Cynthia Eral eagerly awaits the desert blooms of the different varieties of palo verde trees.
“I have never gotten tired of seeing the transformation of color around the Valley,” says Eral, noting that the metamorphosis is gradual, sweeping from the warmer parts of Scottsdale to the higher elevations of Sedona, Prescott and Flagstaff, which see temperatures rise a bit later in the season.
“The roadside gets brighter and more yellow as you drive up north. The progression through the season is so subtle. And I look forward to seeing that change every year.”
She adds that it is as though the entire Valley has been lying dormant through the winter and is slowly coming to life, each flower, shrub, bush or tree showing its personality. She knows that when that happens, it is high time to head out for a hike with her camera to gain some inspiration for her art.
“I believe in channeling my creative urges in order to produce unique artwork,” Eral explains. “My inspiration for my work is the miracle of life. Art is how I battle against the indifference of humans and offer new ways of viewing the world.”
A juried artist with the Sonoran Arts League, Eral’s paintings focus on landscapes, botanicals and wildlife — subject matter that comes natural to her after having grown up on a small farm in Minnesota.
“It is a beautiful place and it is surrounded by nature,” says the artist, noting that her parents still reside on the farm. “I really had a chance, as a kid, to have my own pets and explore all of the acreage and just get lost in nature. So that has always been a big, important part of my life.”
At age 9, Eral received a set of oil paints from her parents, thus beginning her creative journey. She took private lessons, continued to study art in school and eventually pursued employment opportunities in home furnishings and design.
Eral moved to Arizona with her husband 25 years ago.
“We never really intended to stay,” she says. “It was just going to be a vacation for the winter to get away from the cold and things like that. But Arizona instantly grabbed our hearts — especially its scenery, which is completely different than what you find in the Midwest.”
The couple moved to Anthem about a year and a half ago.
“I love that it is small and quiet and nature is still close by,” Eral says. “We enjoy walking the various trails in the area. They provide such a calming experience.”
The trails also provide Eral with plenty of inspiration for her art. Whether it is a wild animal, a majestic sunset or one of the beautiful botanicals that are unique to our Sonoran Desert, absorbing the natural world helps the artist connect with her subjects and find the right feeling or emotion that she wants to convey.
Depicting a gorgeous agave plant betwixt the rocks of the Grand Canyon, surrounded by other desert foliage, “Bright Angel Trail Agave” was the first painting that Eral completed after moving to Arizona.
“I was mesmerized by the large array of desert plants in the Southwest,” Eral explains. “The ability to flourish in our extreme conditions day to day still has my attention. Through this painting, I have applied more paint to the canvas to bring out the textures of leaves, petals and thorns that are my inspiration to always look for new subjects along the trail.”
Eral takes care to characterize each of her subjects’ unique personalities. For example, she spends plenty of time observing the burros that she paints so that she can accurately showcase their sweet and gentle nature. And, yes, even plants have personalities.
For example, take the agave — which, in her earlier work, illustrated how life always finds a way to flourish. Conversely, the agave in her “No Easy Way Out” poses a warning to those who may pose a threat to its survival.
“The colors are cool and calm but the thorns are real and sharp,” Eral explains. “Their armor is necessary to keep desert animals at bay — especially in drought conditions in the Sonoran Desert.”
Meanwhile, her “Up All Night” — depicting a Night Blooming Cereus (also known as the Queen of the Night Cactus) — is an example of her inspiration to stay fresh and innovative.
“Creating this large-scale flower was a challenge,” she admits. “You have to be up early to capture your image before the petals fade to the hot morning sun.”
“On My Way Home” — Eral’s most recent piece — focuses on a number of elements that have caught the artist’s interest in recent years. Boasting bright orange and yellow colors, it shows a sun descending into a desert vista of saguaros and other plant life.
“It is often the case that our most natural and erotic desires are reflected from nature,” she observes. “Through this setting, I attempt to use art as a unique and creative tool with which to explore different levels of realities.”
The interpretation of those levels is up to the individual viewer, but Eral’s art encourages us all to slow down and enjoy the natural environment in which we are blessed to live. It has also had a similar effect on the artist herself.
“Nature is so subtle,” says Eral, whose work is exhibited at The Finer Arts Gallery, Big Bronco, Dorleg Creations and Desert Foothills Land Trust’s seasonal events in Cave Creek; Tierra Del Lagarto and Bungalow Furniture and Accessories in Scottsdale; and Camelback Gallery on the web. “My art has reminded me to stop my vehicle and get out of the car every once in a while to take pictures of a sunset on the way home from work.
“Do not look at that as a delay in your day or your list of projects. Become more aware of our desert — because it is so beautiful and it is very fragile. I hope that those who bring my artwork into their home experience the calm that I do and that it is a constant reminder to take time to step back and enjoy their surroundings.”