Driving South Through Forestburg

When Max and I arrived at W.H.Webb Studios late Saturday afternoon, the sky was dramatic and the wind, more than blustery!

Central Alberta has had a good year for crops.  Driving south, the farmers were at various stages of taking in their crops and the rolling hills appeared lush for as far as the eye could see.

But inside the studio, Bill was painting winter and  Max was more than a little interested in the process.  Thanks to Virginia who hosted a huge feast at her home, gathering neighbours together for an evening of good wine, good conversation and wonderful food!

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An Artist and His Cat

I spent the long weekend at W.H.Webb’s studio outside of Forestburg, Alberta…mostly bundled up against the chill and in a yellow wicker chair aimed south.  It was a time of tranquility.  For a while, I archived his work in the studio…his process.  Bill and I have been friends for years now.  It is such a blessing to visit with someone about good books, good music, dancing, wine, faith and spirituality, relationships and loneliness, family.  It is good to update on new photos of children and grandchildren and to spout off about dreams and ten-year plans.

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Begin Your Day With Breakfast

Conversation moves
like a thread of
light
through the sprawling yards
and on, into the house
where it glances over art,
speaking from walls,
ricochets off of polished floors and
onto the table
where it embraces four
new friends
and settles,
like a sparkle,
onto my champagne glass.
Sip.
Take in the
stories, music, wonders
of those at the breakfast table.
Leave, somehow different and bedazzled.

Breakfast

The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes. Agatha Christie

My Friend: W.H.Webb

That’s Bill on the Left.

To most, he is an artist, but to me, he is a friend.  Bill Webb and I were connected by painting during the Alberta Centennial Exhibit hosted by the West End Gallery in Edmonton.  We shared the exhibit with Walter Drohan, Glen Semple and Don Toney.  I wrote in October of 2005, the following…

“Bill Webb.  Well…what can I say about him?  He is an absolutely marvellous person!  He is so interested in hearing from others and he REALLY listens.  He included everyone in conversation and listened with intention.  I knew that Bill was listening to me by the next question he would ask.  Only certain people can do that; keep their focus on others, rather than themselves.  Bill has that gift.  We had great discussion about his grand-daughter Emily-Ann who walked up to one of my paintings and asked, “Why are the leaves turning?”  We spoke of gator board and shipping art and framing art and stretching canvas.  We spoke about transparency and gesso and all things artistic and otherwise.  It was completely remarkable!  It was so very special.  He turned off the road toward Camrose…but had led us to the edge of the city after the event.  It was a warm gesture to share a hug through the open van window and to wish us safe travel.  W.H.Webb to Canada and the world……Bill to me.”

Celebration Dinner

Since 2005, we have shared many wonderful conversations about art (good and bad), books (good and bad) and life (good and bad).  We’ve also climbed Chapel Rock, a beautiful hike that opens up to the Livingston Range, a place close to W.H. for the people who live nearby and the sprawling landscape.

View From Chapel Rock Lunch Stop

Oh!  And we’ve shared lots of GOOD food; let us not forget that!  This weekend Bill is enjoying another exhibit after a couple of months of very concentrated work in the studio.  This is why I’m taking the time to recognize his efforts.  I am very proud of him and want to share some of Bill’s process, archived on a trip up to Forestburg to the W.H. Webb Studio, a place we informally refer to as the northern studio.

W.H. Webb Studio

The thing about going north, was that I learned about the wide open spaces that surround the northern studio.

Red Tractor...where else?  Suspended before a blue screen of Alberta sky.

Red Tractor…where else? Suspended before a blue screen of Alberta sky.

A view, yummy enough to want to paint.

The neighbour’s work place.

I also learned that Bill enjoys ballroom dancing and that he has adopted several cats and a beautiful dog over time.  His cats have a good home with him.

Now an angel…sleeping on the property.

Bill uses the written word to be creative, both in journalling and in writing letters.  He creates photo albums with a twist and belongs to a special Film Society that meets regularly with friends near and on :0) Lumbreck Falls. As well, Bill enjoys many ‘magical’ friendships to the north of Alberta and always has time for an intelligent conversation on history, religion, teaching and all else.

It’s hard to tell, I know, but these two listen to Opera in the evenings, while sharing a sip or two.

It takes some sort of artist to share in these sorts of experiences…calving time, harvest, keeping the driveway clear of snow and keeping the lawns mowed!

Springtime…and new life!

So, it is plain to see that this is a multi-faceted artist, Mr. W.H. Webb.  Sometimes he just amazes, particularly when he took on the challenge to read Moby Dick, cover-to-cover!  Now, on to his process!

Air-brushed sky for that pristine Alberta-sensibility.

The reader will notice right away that this studio is pristine, also…very light on decoration OR clutter, quite a contrast to the southern studio.

Southern Studio

Underpainting vegetation…the small strokes of paint begin with almost an umber underpainting…some cool tones, some warm.  The darkest values first and a very gradual build up to the lightest tints.

Close-up underpainting.

The colour is applied…rich variety of greens…acrylic paint.

Home base.

There are many trips back and forth from this palette to the wall-mounted easel.  There is an exact science to this!

The image is projected…not so easy as you might think.

I know…this might come as a shock to some of you, but honestly, this technique and incorporation of technology has been used for a zillion years (not quite) to master proportions and such…more recently, an approach used by Ted Godwin and others.

The apparent building up of layers.

Max is sleeping, at this very moment on the red chair, just under a W.H.Webb piece.

My boy, Max, 1:00 a.m.

Thursday night the West End will be hosting a lovely wine and cheese event to celebrate Bill’s new work and then an opening on Saturday.  I am sending Bill much success for the weekend.  He is a true friend and I am grateful to know him.  Best wishes, Bill.