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The City Journals

‘Every picture you do is a self-portrait’ says local Holladay artist

Mar 07, 2018 01:58PM ● By Holly Vasic

DeAnne Ethington sporting skull-head earrings and Halloween bracelets, loving autumn and the opportunities it brings to paint pumpkins with her family. (Courtesy of DeAnne Ethington)

DeAnne Chapman Ethington is a life-long resident of Holladay. Aside from a few years abroad when she was younger, she can’t remember a time she wasn’t an artist. Through the ebb and flow of life she has continued to paint and has found a new focus in oils as she strives to create what she calls, her “best painting.”  

Ethington, named artist of the month by the Holladay Arts Council, was an art student at the University of Utah when her husband swept her away. She spent a few years in Germany with him, and set aside her love for oil painting while she had young children. “You know once you have a family, things have to be really quick. I would do water colors because all you had to do is swish a brush around and it was water,” Ethington said. Even now, on family vacations, the water colors still come out. “We all take our water colors and we’ll do water colors, cause it’s just easier.”

Ethington made her way back to oil paints 12 years ago when her first husband passed away. “I really love the feel and the texture and everything about the medium. So, oil is kind of where I’m glad to be right at the moment” she said. 

Ethington did re-marry eight years ago and said he is very supportive of her work. Family is an important aspect of Ethington’s life and art. On Tuesdays one of her daughters comes over to paint with her or that’s the goal anyway. “We try to. We have so many interruptions that happen, that’s what we attempt.” 

Every time her granddaughter from Houston comes to visit they paint as well and other grandchildren come to paint too, especially in autumn. “Halloween type of pictures, with little Haunted Houses, and pumpkins,” Ethington described of the fall scenes she has done with them. 

Ethington has been an eternal student, taking workshops and classes to learn technique and hone her skills. She is also a teacher herself, for the past 20 years she has taught art as well as Institute and Seminary—part of Ladder Day Saint religious studies—but her favorite students are those, she says, who share her DNA. These bounding experiences have been invaluable to her after being diagnosed with lymphoma and going through chemotherapy, which proved successful.

 Though Ethington calls herself a pessimist when it comes to how hard on herself she can be about her paintings this doesn’t seem to be the case when it comes to the rest of life. 

“I try to just keep living and live everyday as positively as I can,” Ethington said. She does not want to focus on that part of her story too much but, it has put time into perspective. “I feel like I have yet to paint my best painting and that really drives me now. That’s something that inspite of the cancer I just feel is so important to me.”

Ethington is hesitant to sign her work and call it complete because there is always, according to her, something she can fix. “I know that was the best that I can do at that time and hopefully I have other experiences, and other techniques, and things that I’ve improved on that now can help me for future paintings,” Ethington said. 

She says artwork is a self-portrait. “It says more about who you are then about the subject matter that you’ve painted,” whether one paints with a brush, words or any other medium. This is one of the reasons Ethington believes selling art can be so scary, but she hasn’t done much of that due to her supply and family demand.

Ethington laughs about paintings disappearing off her walls and kids claiming them as soon as the pieces are signed. She has sold art before and would be willing to again but said, “I’m totally not against selling, I just haven’t done enough pictures really to come to that point and you know art is tangible but, it’s also spiritual and it’s a part of who I am.”

A mother of six with many grandchildren, Ethington is content working towards her best piece while using her beloved warm tones, spending time teaching her favorite students and allowing her family first pick of her work. Ethington encourages people to learn skills and express themselves in new ways. If someone is skeptical to try because they don’t think they are talented, she would say “how do you know? You don’t.”