WBS Poster Artist, Angela Tiller

by Becky Billingsley

Everyone who views “Headin’ Home,” the painting created by artist Angela Tiller for use in the 2011 Wooden Boat Show poster, is amazed to learn Tiller has been painting for only eight years.

As a child, the first medium the Myrtle Beach native used to express her artistic nature was inspired by her father, Marion Askins’, penchant for creation.

“My father was a frustrated artist,” she said on June 13 while seated at a cozy private table in the back of Georgetown’s River Room Restaurant. “He was always very artsy and inclined to art. Maybe he would have pursued that had he not had a family to support. During my whole life he was involved in some kind of little art project. He sketched, made candles, did sand art, made cakes.”

It was over cakes where father and daughter’s artistic inclinations meshed.

“My first medium was cake decorating,” Tiller said. “My mom would bake the cakes, and then Dad and I would mess around decorating them. I actually did them on the side as an income supplement, doing things like sculpting people’s heads and making buildings.”

In addition to learning how to decorate cakes, the teen worked in nursing homes and at the former Ocean View Memorial Hospital in Myrtle Beach. That led to private care at Myrtle Beach Manor, which progressed into a career in the healthcare field when she studied surgical technology and earned her Registered Nurse license. She also married an ophthalmologist named Ged Tiller, and they had busy lives with their blended family and working.

In 2003 Tiller retired, and while at a family get-together her sister-in-law suggested an activity.

“She said, ‘Let’s paint. Just copy me and do what I do. Mix this and put it here, add that there,’ and I just did what she did. By the end of the weekend I had three little paintings that were good enough to inspire me to keep going.”

Her interest was ignited, but when attending her first art workshop the teacher said she had to, “figure out what your passion is.”

“He said to look around the houseSigning posters at the artist reception held at Winyah Auditorium. and see what you have. He said, ‘You need to learn art in all areas, but at some point you need to find a focus.’ I started thinking about a portrait artist I like named John Singer Sargent – he paints in a very brushy realism. I like that look, like his work. Then I started looking around at the art around our house, and every one pretty much has a figure in it. I know I really like people because of my nursing career, so it was natural to paint portraits. I have started to really try and focus on figures and faces, and at the same time still try and develop other areas of my art.”

During her eight years as an artist, Tiller has immersed herself in the craft by attending many workshops held by artists such as Michael Shane Neal and Everett Raymond Kintsler, and for four years a major part of Tiller’s development was spent studying with Elizabeth Bronson of McClellanville. As her talent increased, family and friends and neighbors in their community north of Georgetown called Debordieu took notice of her work. Realizing she could handle the task with skill, she was asked by the Wooden Boat Show committee to produce a painting for their annual poster, which is a regional honor.

Tiller’s first reaction was to study up. She and Ged are no strangers to boats – they traveled and lived on a sailboat for three years, and then spent the past five years building and then traveling on a custom power catamaran.

With her nautical and art experience as a foundation, she researched regional wooden boats from 100 years ago. She studied the works of South Carolina artist Gilbert Maggioni, who took bird carving beyond decoys to pieces of art that would sit on a pedestal, and one of Maggioni’s students, Grainger McCoy.

Maggioni had written about and depicted oyster boats used in Lowcountry areas in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Often manned by two African-Americans – one older, one a boy – the flat bottom crafts with sails were scrabbled together from available materials like leftover wood scraps, tree saplings and flour sacks. They had flat bottoms so they could get into shallow water areas where there were oyster beds. Trailing behind the oyster boat were two small wooden bateaux that, once the oyster boat sailed to a likely harvest spot, the two oystermen boarded and used to get right up on oyster beds. When the little boats were full of oysters, they were dumped into a netted hold on the bigger boat.

“There are very few if any photos of these boats,” Tiller said.“I painted this one depicting late in the day, coming home on Winyah Bay at sunset. I wanted to depict the flat bottom oyster sloop because it’s so much a part of South Carolina History. It’s one of the only boats really indigenous to South Carolina, and Maggioni had the studies and drawings and writings about it. It really is South Carolina’s boat.”

Her oil on canvas titled “Headin’ Home” is masterful, and makes people who see it wonder what the next eight years of Tiller’s artistic evolution will bring.

Angela’s painting is from an original by Gilbert Maggioni in Tidecraft: the Boats of South Carolina, Georgia and Northeastern Florida, 1550-1950, c 1995, by William C. Fleetwood, Jr. and may not be reproduced in any form without the express written permission of the author.

Posters are $20 and can be purchased in the gift shop at the South Carolina Maritime Museum.