Holladay Artist of the Month creates art every day to stay interested and involvedJan 10, 2022 03:35PM ● By Peri Kinder
Holladay Artist of the Month, Eileen Vestal, takes time to paint or sketch every day. (Photo courtesy Eileen Vestal)
By Peri Kinder | [email protected]
Eileen Collins Vestal taught art to children across the country for more than three decades. From upstate New York to detention centers for at-risk youth in Salt Lake County, the 70-year-old New York native, and Holladay resident since 1984, is inspired by the bright colors of the American Southwest.
“I grew up in New York and the sky is always white,” she said. “The landscape is grays and greens and blues. You go to Southern Utah and there’s that cobalt blue sky against the orange rocks and the purple shadows. It’s just a feast for the eyes.”
Vestal has been interested in art since she was a child, eventually earning an arts education degree from SUNY College at Buffalo, and a master’s degree in education from Rochester Institute of Technology.
Her paintings are influenced by Maynard Dixon’s big depictions of the American West, Georgia O’Keeffe’s large-format flowers and Emily Carr, a Canadian artist whose work depicts Indigenous people from the Pacific Northwest.
“The way they all see nature is astounding. It was a different way than anyone who came before them,” Vestal said.
Although Vestal taught art in New York, at Salt Lake Community College and Granite School District, she misses the challenges of teaching at-risk students.
“Some kids are pretty surly and hard to like, but others are just teenagers,” she said. “They’re enthusiastic and energetic. A lot of them had a lot of anger issues and art was an outlet. It was a way to express themselves. There was never any boredom. It was constant problem-solving.
“Once the kids asked which [correctional] programs my own children were in. I told them they were just in public school. It blew their minds. They had a hard time putting that together.”
Vestal’s medium of choice is watercolors or acrylics, mostly selected out of necessity. As a young mother with little children, she didn’t want to have easels, oil paints, solvents or other tools necessary for oil paintings laying around the house. Watercolors were much easier to use, with little set-up and mess.
Vestal is now retired, after 33 years of teaching art, and she spends time gardening, hiking, biking or skiing. She is proud of her three children and has five grandchildren she adores. To see Vestal’s art pieces, visit eileencollinsvestal.com
“Every day I paint and draw, even just a little,” Vestal said. “It keeps me interested and involved. I’m always doing something. I love the land and nature and how people fit into it.”