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Eppard’s artwork toast of Berlin’s Baked Dessert Cafe

(April 9, 2015) For Prince George’s County native Shirley Eppard, art has been a lifelong love affair.
Eppard is the featured artist at Baked Dessert Café in Berlin during the town’s monthly 2nd Friday Art Stroll on April 10.
Public schools did not offer art classes when Eppard, 80, was growing up. Still, she said, “even in grade school, if they needed artwork done, they’d usually ask me if I wanted to do it, whatever it was.”
“I’ve been painting for as long as I can remember and I just love it,” she said. “The way I feel, I think everybody should have a hobby of some kind and art isn’t just in painting. You’ve got art in cooking, you’ve got art in sewing, and there’s just an art in getting along with people.”
Eppard attended the National Institute of Interior Design in Washington, D.C. and ran a design business, Butterfly Interior, for 30 years in Prince George’s County.
“I’ve seen a lot of change,” she said. “It went from a dirt road to having the World Weather Building and Metro and all that, but it’s a good place.”
Looking for a change herself, Eppard enrolled in community college in Prince George’s County to take drawing classes late in life, reopening a floodgate of passion for art.
“I take every class I can,” she said. “I did my first nude as a grandmother. It was a shock to me, but I learned a lot.”
Eppard worked in oils until she developed an allergy, and then switched to watercolor.
“That’s completely opposite of painting with oils, because you have to do highlights,” she said. “You have to do those first.”
Acrylic paintings and pastel drawings came next, along with silk, and batik.
“Anything I can think of I use,” she said. “One painting has paste and gels and crackling medium and all kinds of junk in it. It’s fun.
“I have found if you have a problem, if you sit down and paint, you have to concentrate, so if you’re concentrating you can’t worry about what’s bothering you up here,” Eppard said. “And you’re usually pretty much amazed at what happens.”
Eppard has seen her share of problems. At 40 she broke her back. Then, less than a decade ago, she discovered she had breast cancer.
“My brother had died in May and I was scheduled for a mammogram, and it’s going to be eight years ago this coming June, and I started not to go because I was depressed,” she said. “But I went, and they found my cancer very early. And I’ve had quite a few friends that have found cancer by mammogram. When people say breast cancer screenings are not important, it’s a bunch of bull. I think it’s very important to be checked.”
This year, for their 57th wedding anniversary, Eppard’s husband, Phillip, had a brick at the local art league building inscribed for her.
“He put, ‘art is my psychologist, by Shirley A. Eppard,’ because that’s what I always said,” she said. “And it’s true.”
Eppard said Berlin reminds her of her hometown of Camp Springs, Md. “when it was a younger town.”
“It’s wonderful here,” she said. “My daughter [Robin Tomaselli of Baked Dessert] has been very successful, and I’ve met a lot of wonderful people. Patrick Henry is the one that got me into making prints. He’s such a gentleman.”
Today, Eppard has six daughters, 16 grandchildren and three great grandchildren. She’s active, for 8 or 80, and has a reputation for stark honesty.
“People say, ‘if you want an honest opinion, ask Shirley,’” she said. “You can’t get into trouble if you tell the truth.”
Of her show, which will remain on the walls at Baked Desserts, throughout the month, Eppard said she wants the viewer “to enjoy the beauty of nature and God’s creations.”
“You can take a raindrop, and if you look at it close you’ll see all kinds of colors,” she said. “If you look at a tree there’s 20 shades of green. Mother Nature is right in everything she does. She can put purple and orange together and it looks gorgeous. I just want you to enjoy life, people and the beauty around you. That’s my motto.”
Berlin’s 2nd Friday festivities feature more than a dozen different art displays in shops throughout the downtown region, along with sales and specials in area restaurants from 5-8 p.m.