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Newport artist Tish Epperson stands with a large paper bowl she recently made. Epperson is known for her whimsical and colorful paintings currently on display at the Crow’s Next Gallery in Toledo. (Photo by Susan Schuytema)

A lifelong, local artist has exhibited her work in galleries all over the Northwest, including a gallery where her work was hung alongside famous realist painter Andrew Wyeth and another fellow named Renoir.

Tish Epperson is known for her whimsical, colorful watercolor paintings, as well as a variety of other artistic creations like paper sculptures, monoprints and repurposed lamps. She has been an artist since she was very young.

Her family was very supportive of Epperson’s artistic side and sent her to art tutors as a child. When she was tutored in groups, she was with a group of adults instead of other children. “My family always thought I should do art,” Epperson said. “I was fortunate as a kid to go to art galleries and museums. It was wonderful.” Her family also collected art, so she was exposed to it in her home as well.

Epperson said she was often lost in daydreams as a child and spent considerable time doodling in the margins of her papers. “I was very shy and would just create my own world,” she said.

As she got older, she studied math, science and microbiology at Berkley, but she kept her hand in the art world. She’s an exception to the theory that people are either left-brained or right-brained, meaning that one side of their brain is dominant. If a person is mostly analytical and methodical in thinking, they are said to be left-brained. If a person tends to be more creative or artistic, they’re thought to be right-brained. Epperson excelled in both.

When a math teacher announced the person with the top score on an exam could test out, she took the only A in the class. Her professor said it was a waste to let her have the reward when it should have gone to one of the males in her class. She said that kind of misogyny was common when she was in college, especially in the sciences that were male dominated.

Later, she went back to school for a master’s degree in nursing but dropped out not because she was doing poorly but because she had a hard time balancing the schoolwork with her art. Eventually, through the support of her husband, Larry, her art took front seat.

The doodles she made as a child served as inspiration for her adult work. Filled with details and precision, her art evokes cartoons in a way, but with an acute precision to detail. “I didn’t think anyone would like this style of art. But my family put it in galleries and people seemed to like it,”

About 15 years ago, Epperson was invited to show her work in the Lawrence Gallery in Portland. She was initially disappointed that her work was hung in a back hall until she noticed her paintings were next to Renoir. “THE Renoir,” the French impressionist artist. At the time, gallery owner Gary Lawrence owned another gallery at Salishan, where Epperson’s work was also shown. When Epperson would drive there from her home in Leavenworth, Wash., she and her husband fell in love with the coast. “You know when you are driving north and make that turn off Lincoln City? You know you’re done seeing the ocean and you start feeling sad. My husband quit his job the next day, and we moved here permanently.”

Memories serve as an inspiration when she is creating her paintings. She often takes people she knows and represents them as animals. She portrayed a hair-challenged cousin, for example, as a bald eagle. “It can be funny to try to capture the essence of people. But they always seem to know it’s them.”

For a while, Epperson considered retirement. She used up most of her paints and was ready to call it a day. But her husband ordered her the best watercolors and she was once again, painting. “You’re not done,” he told her. And he was right.

Her work is currently hanging at the Crow’s Nest Gallery & Studio in Toledo, and she will have some pieces at the Chessman Gallery inside the Lincoln City Cultural Center. She has a website, tisheppersonartist.com, which contains some current art as well as some from her portfolio. Meanwhile, she continues to paint.

“I feel so fortunate in life. It has come easier for me than for most people. I just have to create,” she said.

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