Originally Published: October 9, 2010 10:02 p.m.
PRESCOTT VALLEY - Scotland native John Eckstadt has been painting intricate landscapes and other treasures ever since he can remember, but, interestingly enough, he does not have one specific artistic influence.
Over the weekend at the Fall for the Arts Festival on the main floor inside Tim's Toyota Center, Eckstadt took Best in Show at the Prescott Valley Art Guild's art competition for a pastel called "Tea for Two."
On Saturday morning, he was present at the exhibit to discuss his art and what continues to inspire him as a sharp, witty 79-year-old. While Eckstadt admires most of the early Impressionist painters, he's carved his own niche through the years. In fact, his art is on display at Prescott area galleries and he's not bashful about selling it.
"I was always interested in drawing," said Eckstadt, a four-year resident of Prescott Valley who has been a member of the PV Art Guild for the same span. "And as I get older, I am get interested in seeing other people's work. That gave me more incentive to keep doing it."
Eckstadt describes himself as an "outdoors person" who enjoys painting landscapes with watercolors. In his painting, "Desert Jewels," which was on display this weekend and earned a second place, Eckstadt gives an elegant feel for a common desert landscape complete with rocks, twigs, plants and cacti. The painting accounts for the shadows that the sun casts over those objects.
He also had his pastel, "Goldwater Lake," a famed Prescott landmark, hanging on a separate placard on the arena floor. It, too, won second-place honors.
Eckstadt's "Tea for Two" is another colorful pastel of solid pigments that pictures a tray with a plate of cookies, two cups of tea and a vase with a flower, among other necessities that would be available during an old-fashioned tea time.
"I arranged it (the items in the painting) in the kitchen at home and then painted from it," he said.
John Crane, one of Eckstadt's friends and neighbors in PV, said he appreciates the realism in Eckstadt's art. Crane has a couple of Eckstadt's paintings in his home, including one of a Mexican village and an acrylic of Jerome.
"His art doesn't need interpretation," Crane said. "You can look at it and see the expertise in his work. And if you like the scenery here, especially in this part of Arizona, he captures it as well or better as anyone I've ever seen."
Eckstadt, who was raised by his grandmother in Scotland, attended the School of Art in Glasgow, but he did not major in fine art. Rather, he said he became trained in architectural design so he could earn a decent living.
"I was involved with other guys who were artists in this school, and I saw that they were all struggling (financially), so I decided that wasn't for me," he said.
For most of his professional life, Eckstadt labored as an architectural designer for large American motel chains.
At one point, his mother remarried and moved to the U.S., so Eckstadt eventually decided to emigrate here. He stayed briefly in Chicago before relocating to Phoenix, where he worked for Ramada Inns as director of design for hotels.
When Ramada was bought out years ago, Eckstadt was laid off and opened his own gallery in Scottsdale Air Park for five years. He would later retire after working for Best Western for more than a decade.
Four years ago, Eckstadt moved to PV to escape the desert heat of Phoenix. Now that he's retired, Eckstadt enjoys painting at Fain Park in PV, among other outdoor locales.
As a guild member, Eckstadt helps arrange shows and attracts artists to perform demonstrations.
At Saturday's show, the guild primarily displayed art from guild artists as well as others across the Prescott, PV, Chino Valley and Dewey-Humboldt area. Ann Musarra, president of the PV Art Guild, said there were 76 pieces of art, from paintings to pastels to photographs, hanging double-sided in rows on three separate long boards.
For the first time this fall, the 22-year-old guild's exhibit took place at Tim's Toyota Center, which organizers preferred over its previous location inside PV's cramped Civic Center.
Those wanting to find out more about the PV Art Guild are encouraged to attend one of its meetings at the Prescott Valley United Methodist Church, 8944 E. Sommer Dr., at 9:30 a.m. on the third Tuesday of every month.