Tish Inman: Being Herself, an Artist

Decorative artist Tish Inman. Shown here with a croc skin finish she
completed with her son, Jesse Ganteaume.

By Diane Capuano Franklin

As an accomplished decorative artist and muralist, Tish Inman has spent her entire career reinventing walls, floors, ceilings, furniture and décor. Now she’s about to undertake a project that will be the most exciting of all: the reinvention of herself as an artist.

After 30-plus years as a Virginia-based decorative artist, Tish is moving her artistic self to Texas to start a new life with her fiancée, Terry Cougot. Terry has 20 acres of property in a tiny eastern Texas town called Woodlake, which is about 40 miles from any major town. The property has plenty of room for Tish to have her own room “to breathe,” as she puts it, and also includes a new 16-by-30-foot studio space where she is exploring endeavors that involve transforming what other people might classify as “junk” into one-of-a-kind works of art. At the same time, she’ll be pursuing her passion for her own personal pieces which will most likely be in mosaics or glass—anything that requires combining small pieces of anything to create a larger picture/design.

“I guess you could say I’m a ‘picker,’ taking old or odd pieces and giving them a new and different life,” Tish says. She might give one piece a tortoise shell finish. Another might be transformed with a whimsical trompe l’oeil. Yet another piece might inspire Tish to replicate the look of whatever it may “want to be.” Only time in her studio and the freedom of expression will tell how those turn out.

“I don’t want to have to rely on my ‘personal’ works selling,” Tish emphasizes. “I just want the simple pleasure of doing what I want to do now, after a lifetime of providing others what was necessary to live. This is the light that I want to turn on inside of myself, for me to shine.”

Tish and Jesse's Florida project included this beautiful
inlaid onyx ceiling.

As Tish explains, “If it is possible to focus on anything, I want to focus on becoming the artist I was meant to be.”
Complementing Tish’s artistic talents, Terry has a business background that he is using to help her in her endeavors. In addition to setting up her studio, he is helping her find various outdoor art events that attract an upscale clientele where she looks forward to exhibiting her works and accepting commissions.

Tish admits to having some apprehension at moving to the wide-open and secluded spaces of east Texas after living in the challenging atmosphere of the nation’s capital and living on a mountain overlooking the Shenandoah.

“I started off by thinking, ‘What on earth am I doing…here?’ ” Tish says. But after three years of traveling back and forth and relying on much-needed patience from Terry, her new locale in deep east Texas has started to feel like home. “The peace I had been seeking was there,” she says.

Tish anticipates spending hours in her studio, and when not doing that, breathing in the scent of the tall pines, sitting by a nightly campfire, looking up at the stars, or simply enjoying the luxury of doing nothing. “When I’m there (in Texas),” she says, “I have a hard time coming back to reality.”

Talent That Runs the Gamut

Although she has some new digs in Texas, Tish is not saying good-bye to her Virginia base. She and Terry will spend their summers in Virginia to avoid the sweltering temperatures of Texas and to keep her hand in her decorative painting business, which goes by the very catchy name of Gotcha Covered, LLC. Tish worked in the decorative painting business with her son, Jesse Ganteaume, who is a talented artist in his own right as well as a musician.

The innovative finishes that Tish and Jesse have created run the gamut from simple to complex glazing, intriguing murals, clever trompe l’oeil, dramatic floor paintings, Venetian plasters, stenciling, gilding…the list goes on. They have teamed up on every imaginable finish. “There’s not much we don’t do,” Tish says.

Tish and Jesse have done projects all over the country and in other countries as well. One of Tish’s most memorable projects was the renovations for the Prime Minister’s offices in Trinidad, West Indies.

With Tish’s move to Texas, Jesse has branched into business opportunities on his own. One of his recent projects involves the restoration of faux finishes for the Mellon Estate, located in Middleburg, Va., and formerly owned by one of the wealthiest men in the country.

“Jesse is working with the Bill Kaiser, an ‘old school’ straight painter, and their collaborative efforts along with that of other on-site skilled professionals are reviving the original finishes,” Tish reports “He is handling the whole project himself, and I am very proud of him. What was once a mother-and-son team is now moving forward with a new generation inspired by a lifelong trade.”

One of the recent projects that Gotcha Covered LLC completed was contracted by Duce & Co., a talented designer in Destin, Fla. Tish and Terry had targeted the area to launch a new direction for their business and at that time formed a partnership.

“We did some finishes that were way over the top—actual abalone and mother-of-pearl imbedded into slabs of ‘stone,’ gigantic crocodile skin, malachite formations and an enormous inlaid onyx ceiling, all in Venetian plaster,” Tish reports. “Here in Virginia, it’s rare that we get a client that steps out of the conservative box. In Florida, we were able to do finishes that exemplified the range of skills and talent we had to offer.”

This arch features faux malachite formations in cream.

Meanwhile, she expects to see her art take new directions in her new locale. “Texas is a whole different animal altogether, which is very exciting,” she says.

Observing the Trends

Tish has been around long enough to see endless trends in the decorative painting industry come and go. Some may see Venetian plaster as being a stylish finish that had its heyday and is now fading in popularity. However, Tish sees Venetian plasters as having timeless appeal, whether it is applied in an understated and elegant technique or used to emphasize the beauty of the polished finish to imitate rare and exotic stones.

“So many people have seen inadequate applications of Venetian plaster, so now they feel they are passé,” Tish says. “My response is: ‘Perhaps you haven’t seen Venetian plaster in its full beauty.’ ”

While metallic and heavy textures continue to be popular, Tish contends that some of the effects are “in your face” with little to no long-lasting appeal. After a while, clients get tired of the look and want to see finishes that are elegant and timeless in their appeal.

“Trends don’t last,” says Tish. “I strive to create finishes that are so understated or so over-the-top that you don’t even know that they are faux finishes.”

Creating artistic touches is where Tish finds her gratification in her lifetime career as a decorative painter. Creating beautiful finishes that last throughout and beyond our lifetimes is her legacy.

Click on pages 2-5 for in-progress and completed versions of Tish's and Jesse's work.