Tison started painting and sketching when she was young to mimic her mother. It was not until she was 40 that she quit her job as a receptionist and started to pursue her artwork as a career.
Tison said she strives to convey the lives of the Gullah people.
“People living next to nothing but living extraordinary,” Tison said. “Taking in what they had because you didn’t have much. They took what they had and made it work, and that is what I want people to see in my paintings. A working community. A community together, bonding together, helping each other out.”
Tison’s work classifies as folk because of the stories and history that she is able to convey through her paintings. Karen Mack of Mike’s Art Truck speaks of the importance of folk art to the community.
“Folk art is simple and whimsical and colorful for the most part,” Mack said. “I think the stories are really powerful and moving. The art is very eclectic among the entire group of people we work with, and the artists are all unique, and it's very interesting to see the humanity of it all.”
Sarah DeGennaro, executive director of the Alliance for Historic Hillsborough, shares the same sentiments.
“All art is worth being exposed to, but I do feel like it's pretty fantastic that my organization, Alliance for Historic Hillsborough — our mission is to inspire visitor and residents to experience historic Hillsborough,” DeGennaro said. “We also want visitors and residents to experience authentic Hillsborough. Folk art is authentic and really fulfills our mission and sort of highlights some of the unique culture we’re interested in.”
Along with including a narrative, Tison’s paintings include an abundance of color.
“My work is colorful, I know it’s colorful — color is in my paintings,” Tison said. “Whatever mood I’m in that day is whatever I’m feeling and I'll paint it. They will come out really beautiful.”
Folk art gives Tison and other artists who paint in this style room to fully express themselves.
“When you do folk art,” Tison said, “You are giving a raw natural part of yourself.”
Mike’s Art Truck gives artists like Tison the opportunity to showcase and share their work.
"We found it inspiring and moving that people seem to have an artist inside of them that hasn’t come to public notice,” Mack said. "I think self-taught artists resonate with the public, and in some respects, all of us have little bit of artist in us or know someone who does. It is a liberating feeling that no matter what your station in life, you can express yourself and have it seen and appreciated by other people.”