Images of paintings on Vol1, SM 0422

When she was 12 years old, Eileen Scoles — president emeritus for Scoles Systems, a Wall, New Jersey-based distributor — visited the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. with her family.  

“I was meandering around and looking at European paintings, and I thought, ‘Wait! This is exactly what things looked like hundreds of years ago!’ That was the first time I enjoyed being in a museum,” she says.  

In her 20s, Eileen visited the Louvre in Paris, where she saw Johannes Vermeer’s ‘The Astronomer.’ She says that visit is what turned her into a Vermeer groupie. 

Although her appreciation for other’s art stemmed from her childhood, becoming an artist herself is relatively recent. That began several years ago when Eileen attended a party hosted by a friend of a friend.  

“I walked into this house and saw all these wonderful paintings,” Eileen reports. “It was the hostess’s own artwork. She happened to be a teacher and asked if I’d like to take lessons, so I did. I consider myself a beginner-level student — I’m good at following directions.”  

Eileen’s lessons were with pastels — which are paint sticks that look like chalk but are made from 100 percent pigment and produce brilliant colors.  

“Right after I started my art lessons, my husband, Jon, and I had the opportunity to visit a pastel maker in Paris — Sennelier — who used to sell to all the Impressionists in the nineteenth century,” Eileen recalls. “You would think I won the lottery when I bought three little pastel sticks there.” 

With a few of the right tools in hand, Eileen and her teacher started with the basics — where to buy supplies, how to prepare paper and how to create an underpainting. But then the pandemic happened, Eileen’s in-person lessons ended and her YouTube tutorials began. Turns out, the pandemic provided an opportunity for Eileen to venture into something that just happened to enrich her life.  

“I don’t think I’d be as enthusiastic or as far along with my artwork if it weren’t for the pandemic,” Eileen reflects. “I was working from home, so I didn’t have the drive time to/from work, and I had the freedom to improvise. I don’t think I would have had the time to throw myself in to my artwork had it not been for COVID-19.”  

Now, Eileen is focusing on painting landscapes, but looks forward to exploring street scenes as she hones her skills.  

“I need more experience, and then I can really get creative with color,” she says. “I try to use all the colors in nature, but you might find that if you use a little lavender with, oh, taupe, you end up with a more ‘painterly painting.’ A lot of the joy for me is because of the bright, beautiful colors.” 

So far, Eileen has done almost 50 pieces. She finds the hobby to be both calming and joyful.  

“No matter how old you are, you can always start something new,” she says. “I was inspired by something as simple as going to a party and loving the hostess’s artwork. Now I’m creating my own artwork.” 

Gretchen Roufs, a 25-year janitorial supply industry veteran, owns a marketing and public relations company in San Antonio. To suggest someone you think should be featured in "Freetime," contact her at