Cyndi Thau: A Flair for Flowers


By Louise Sheldon MacDonald

Contributing Art Reviewer


I first ran into Cyndi Thau at the front desk of the Sedona Arts Center where, as Assistant Gallery Director, she can often be found. Cyndi, as a person, is almost too good to be true. She is kind, thoughtful, helpful-and, on top of all that, a very good painter! She will inform you about the exhibit; if not, the school's mascot, Lucy the dachshund, will. More about Lucy later!


If you are lucky that day, one of Thau's floral paintings will be on show in the main exhibition hall.


"I love to paint flowers!" she says. Indeed, throughout her life this artist has painted lilies, tulips and iris, as well as many other flowers, always in oil paint, often inflating the size of one flower to fill a medium-large canvas.


Take "Tiempo," a magnificent example of how a painter can treat a single iris blossom with infinite care and patience. Here the gradations of blue, dark to light, with soft reds create a thrilling harmony of color. Explicit attention is paid to the frothy yellow beard on the petal. Excitement and verve are created in these ebullient paintings with sharp contrasts between lights and darks; here, white and yellow stand out against the thunderous dark of the foliage behind. With no lessening of her sense of delicacy and subtlety, Thau demonstrates a keen sense of drama in her works, which is lacking in many painters of flowers. Is it because she zeros in on one flower, virtually making a personal portrait of it, that she succeeds so with floral paintings?


Cyndi Thau describes photographing the iris, "As I zoomed in close to accentuate the otherworldliness of the interior, I noticed how the cellular structure of the petals was glistening and knew that it would provide the perfect opportunity to add sparkle to the painting."


One cannot deny the delicacy of the rose tints in "Spring Fling," an oil painting of tulips.


How precious is the background of muted, blended colors! And how original is the bent posture of these flowers without betraying a sense of wilting. One might have thought that this painting, as well as others by Thau, is a watercolor, but no, she has achieved great delicacy in oils without the transparent qualities of watercolor.


Voila! Here is the Queen of Flowers. Can anyone paint individual flowers as Cyndi Thau does!


Thau has recently taken up landscape painting in oils. These depictions of the red-rock landscape are not as dramatic in content or as dazzling to behold as her paintings of flowers. However, the lines flow smoothly, in thoughtful compositions. She has imbued the landscape with a flowing, fairytale quality.


To achieve more originality and the excitement that she creates with her flower paintings, she might choose more vivid color, more unusual sites and viewpoints of these landmark red-rock locations that we know so well.


Cyndi Thau was born in Phoenix, but raised back east. She returned to Phoenix where she attended high school and the University of Arizona. She graduated with a degree in design from the College of Architecture and with a second degree in computer graphic design. What a far cry these degrees seem from her current work, but there is a correlation between her success with flower painting and her study of design.


In 1994 she began a six-year stint in Alaska working at a "fly-out, fly-fishing" lodge in a remote section of Bristol Bay which provided a fine opportunity to observe the wildlife and culture of Alaska. Here she had little time to paint, but she did learn to fly fish on the remote rivers of the area. She also spent a welcome five months in a remote area of Chile, where she escaped the cold of the Alaskan winter.


In 2000 she moved to Costa Rica, living for seven years in the small beach town of Tamarindo on the north Pacific coast. Here she owned and operated a small art gallery called Galeria Mar y Sol. And in this lush country her love of flowers blossomed and matured. "I am fascinated by the forms, colors, depth, and the play of light and shadow that interact to make a painting," she says.


There, on her own, Thau devised a glazing technique in flower painting in oils. To achieve lustrous results she applies thin layers of paint, one over the other allowing for drying time in between "to achieve the translucency that I associate with all things in nature." It is with this careful touch, this layer-by-layer approach, that Thau has achieved an unusual delicacy with oil paints.


On the beach in Costa Rica she found a six-week-old female puppy. She adopted the small dog, put it through dog school and was soon kayaking with her. Later she watched "Lucy" romping in shallow tide pools on the beach. Once she saw Lucy nimbly catch a fish in her mouth, eluding the swift net of a fisherman. Over time Thau became totally attached to Lucy and the dog came with her to the United States.


And so today thirteen-year-old Lucy, a little black dachshund with touches of gray, walks smartly through the halls of the Sedona Arts Center, greeting all visitors.


Her lively and amusing blog on (scroll down to Lucy) will tell you all about upcoming exhibits.


When Cyndi Thau returned to Arizona, moving to Sedona, in 2008, she took art lessons with Betty Carr, Tom Browning, Gretchen Lopez and Joshua Been. She is now Assistant Gallery Director at the Sedona Arts Center and a member of the teaching faculty. She gives courses in her specialty, glazing with oil paints with emphasis on "Color, Light, Shadow and Translucency." And she sees that Lucy keeps her blog at the Sedona Arts Center up-to-date with a spritely touch. Be sure to check in with Lucy, the "Official Greeter!"


Thau's website is