BERLIN — There are a thousand schools of painting and Shirley Eppard subscribes to every one. Well, almost every one. Over the last four decades, Eppard has taken just about every class she could and as a result has become a student of technique. Some painters, she said, aren’t particularly interested in the technique, focusing instead on the finished product. But while it might work for some, to her it seems as if it is a way of trying to attain an end without a means.
In the late 1960s some friends who were going on a plein air excursion and the notion of a painting trip captured her imagination. She went along and never looked back.
Later, Eppard attended the National Institute of Interior Design and in 1979, founded Butterfly Interiors, specializing in residential and commercial interior design. As an interior designer, finding ways to bridge the gap between the available materials and the final vision calls for an overarching creative thrust.
Being able to borrow from her art classes for her designs and from her design knowledge as she progressed through her art could well be the reason that Eppard’s specialty could best be described as a range of technique.
“A dabbled with it all,” she said.
Because she has discovered the pleasures of focusing on technique, Eppard is, in a way, a professional art student.
She continues to take whatever classes are available as a way of broadening her options when she approaches her canvass even when it is made of something other than canvass. Her current show features works on rice paper, wood and even boxes. Mixing and/or matching the medium to accommodate her vision for the canvass is where Eppard does her most creative work.
For example, one of the works she has on display this weekend is an example of what she calls voidism. Rather than construct a portrait she paints the entire canvass one color and then removes the paint in order to reveal the subject. It’s kind of a negative process but for her, it is the challenge of expanding upon her knowledge.
There is little she won’t try when it comes to mixing the various techniques she’s learned and the various mediums they encompass. Eppard has works in everything from pencil to oil using techniques that include shaking out watercolors to make them drip and using a toothbrush to put a fine spray of paint at various points around a canvass.
String, modeling paste, tissue paper, all of it finds its way into her work depending on her vision for the piece’s texture, color or even just its greater aesthetic feel.
Eppard, mother to six daughters two of whom own Baked Desserts Cafe and Gallery, continued painting all through her daughters’ childhoods. She said, only half-joking, that it acted as a kind of therapy, a way to steel her nerves during long days when the children weren’t on their best behavior.
“My husband would come home and I’d have two paintings going at once,” she said. “ And he’d say, ‘Oh my don’t tell me what they’ve done.’”
More than that, however, it was a productive endeavor. At the end of the day she had something tangible to show for her effort.
As she’s gotten older, Eppard has come to realize the value of being productive in this self satisfying kind of way. To that end, a big part of her show, she hopes, will be the opportunity to get more people to see the value of taking up art as a way of continuing education as well as an outlet of self expression.
As with any accumulation of knowledge, learning to do something gives a person a better appreciation for other’s work.
Eppard, who was flattered to have help from Patrick Henry in getting her prints done, said that as she continues to grow as an artist, her appreciation for art in and of itself has deepened.