Doctored paintings: David Eaton shares his artistic talents in local exhibit
WORTHINGTON -- Although he's been retired from medical practice since 1996, Dr. David Eaton still regularly dons a surgeon's gown during the winter months he spends in Arizona.
Instead of protecting his garb from the splatters that occur during surgery, the gown now wards off splatters of paint. In retirement, David has become an accomplished artist, turning out oil paintings that are being showcased this month at the Nobles County Art Center.
Born and raised in south India, David was the youngest of five children of medical missionaries.
"Influenced by our English mother, who was an operating room nurse during the first World War and had witnessed much loss of life and limb, all five of us went to medical school in Edinburgh, Scotland, as our Canadian father had before us," David shared.
Following six years of training in Scotland and England and pursuing a specialty degree in surgery, David emigrated to Saskatchewan, where he met wife Jennifer, a native of Australia. He was in general practice for seven years in Canada before moving to Iowa City, Iowa, where he spent two years in the surgery department at University Hospitals.
David passed the American and Canadian surgical specialty boards and intended to return to Canada, but instead was convinced to join the staff at Worthington Specialty Clinics. He practiced medicine there and performed surgery at Worthington Regional Hospital for almost 30 years before retiring. He and Jennifer raised their four children -- Bruce, Rosalyn, Susan and Peter -- in Worthington and now have nine grandchildren.
In retirement, the Eatons spend the warm-weather months in Worthington and the colder months in Arizona.
"I always thought I'd like to paint after I retired," he explained, "and was fortunate enough to find just the right teacher for me when we spent time in Sun City West. ... Until then, I had trouble getting the colors, couldn't get the colors I wanted. My teacher, Jack Glaser, first had me make a color chart, so when you see a scene that you want to paint you can pick out the color you need."
Glaser, who died last year, was a former architect.
"His vision was very precise," David said. "He always made sure the perspective was right. He was a very good teacher for me. I get teased a bit about my style, which is very precise. ... Someone told me that the way I paint it's like lifting something up from the corner and the painting appears underneath."
Eaton was drawn to oil as a medium because of its workability.
"I wanted something that if I made a mess out of it, I can correct it," David explained. "I have a sister who paints watercolors, and I know how tricky that can be."
"All David's siblings paint or draw," noted Jennifer.
"My dad did some painting in his early years," David added.
Painting has become an "ideal substitute for surgery, with the required eye-hand coordination," according to David.
"It's similar in the sense you can lose yourself in what you're doing for several hours at a time," he continued. "Four hours can go by, and you won't notice in a long surgical procedure. It's the same thing with painting."
As far as subject matter, David is particularly fond of landscapes, although he's also begun to paint images of his grandchildren.
"It's mostly landscapes and places I've been," said David. "I paint mainly from photographs I've taken. I've tried painting on location, but the lighting changes, the scene changes, and I don't paint quickly."
The scenery in the paintings is reflective of the Eatons' lives and their enjoyment of travel, as well as their worldly roots.
"I have quite a few paintings from places around the United States, but also Canada, Scotland, England, India, the Greek islands, Australia," David noted.
Shortly after his retirement, David traveled to India with his brothers, oldest son Bruce and nieces and nephews.
"I hadn't been back for 51 years," he said. "Things had changed quite a bit, but it was fun to be there with the next generation. We went to where my dad worked, then up in the mountains where I went to school, and one of the paintings is from there."
Before he became a painter, David's primary hobby was photography, a pastime he took up when his older brother gave him a camera. Now, those interests have meshed, and David takes many photographs in his pursuit of the right image to reproduce.
"We had a deal when we were in England," David recalled about traveling with his wife, "if I stopped for afternoon tea ..."
"And morning tea," Jennifer interjected.
"Then I can stop and take pictures," finished David.
The resulting photographs are brought to life on canvas in the porch of the Eatons' winter home -- he never paints in Worthington, preferring to tend his garden and golf here -- while decked in that surgical gown.
"It can be a bit cool out there, so the gown makes it comfortable," he explained.
For the Worthington exhibit, Eaton has selected 35 of his favorite paintings -- reclaiming some from family and friends -- to be hung in the Nobles County Art Center gallery.
"It's a humbling experience to be recognized" as a painter, David said. "I never thought the time would come when I would be exhibiting my paintings."
The opening reception for the exhibit of David Eaton's oil paintings will be from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday in the Nobles County Art Center, located in the lower level of the War Memorial Building, 407 12th St., Worthington. The exhibit will hang until the end of September. Hours are 2 to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information, phone 372-8245.