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Tammy Gilbert Has Found Solace in Art

A Navy brat, Tammy Gilbert moved around a lot as a child but eventually settled in Asheville, North Carolina, where her parents grew up and where they retired. She attended Mars Hill University, majoring in computer information science, but has worked in the business field for almost 30 years.

In 2010, she got a job at Anderson University, where she is now the executive assistant to the dean of the College of Health Professions. She likes working with students and to “see them grow from a wallflower to a confident person by the time they graduate.”

She still lives in Asheville, so the commute to Anderson is lengthy but enjoyable. She and her husband were planning to move to Anderson after he retired, but “life changed,” she said. That change was earth shattering—her husband passed away in 2015. During that difficult time, the faith-based environment at AU provided enormous comfort. “It was just what I needed through that season of life,” she said.

She comes from an artistic family where art is a passion. In fact, she has a watercolor painting dated 1928 by a North Carolina uncle. The ladies in her family are multitalented. Her mother designs and decorates with her hands. Her two aunts are artists of their own; one is a watercolorist and porcelain instructor and the other a watercolorist and oilist.

In the summer of 2010, Gilbert thought it would be shameful not to learn their craft. She was gifted her aunt’s first palette, a set of watercolors, and art supplies. Her first months of painting were so exciting. It felt like she was back in school where she learned to paint by numbers. She loved it; the hours were so special because it was time shared with her family.

Later that fall, her husband became sick, and painting became Gilbert’s respite. “I took my paints and the palette from my aunt with me to the hospital,” she said. When her husband came home, she continued to paint while he was resting from chemo treatments. “It calmed the world I lived in at that point in time,” she said. “It was very therapeutic.”

Watercolor is the only medium she knows. “I love watching how the water blends and manipulates the paints,” she said. “It’s almost mesmerizing.”

She tries different techniques, such as using salt and masking, but likes challenging herself in ways such as finding the colors within white snow. But she’s trying to be a purist. “I’m leaning to wet-on-wet techniques but always venture back to wet-on-dry,” she said.

She belongs to the Art League of Henderson County as well as the Anderson Artists Guild. The first time she entered a show was Anderson’s Juried show with a watercolor triptych. The painting was purchased and she was so excited and encouraged. She loves learning, not only from other painters but also from potters and musicians, among others. “I try to pick up tips and techniques from all artists,” she said. “I love when I am able to get my brushes wet.”

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