Funny…most of my experience around auctions has not been very positive. :0) I remember watching a couple standing outside of the West End Galleries in Edmonton, visiting a large painting of mine titled Off the Wall: Gardens on the West End. They had made the purchase and while everyone else was mingling inside on a cold winter’s eve, they were outside in the quiet. They looked so in love and so ‘forever’. But things happen. Some years later, I found that piece up for auction. Was the piece victim to a divorce, a death, a loss of some sort? There are many reasons why art works end up at auction.
Presently, I’m reading a book, Objects of Our Affection by Lisa Tracy…a book that is influencing my ‘letting go’ of objects and also the complete embrace of what those objects might represent. Filled with a rich story of history, I recommend the above mentioned book for those of you interested in the sorting of your art and objects of great affection. This process is directly linked to the real time experience of auctions and the separation that likely occurs in that process.
I was shocked when I came upon a piece by my dear friend, Bill Webb, at the Levis Auction, the third stop on Wendy Lee’s Love Art in Calgary tour. This is an early piece, one that now shows some obvious neglect. One never knows what happens to a piece of art once it is purchased by a client. It sort of takes on a life of its own. This piece illustrates a very early exploration of some of the things that Bill has tackled over many years as a visual artist. Bill’s work is magical and he is more magical! Our friendship will endure all art, I am glad to say.
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!
like a thread of
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
like a sparkle,
onto my champagne glass.
Take in the
stories, music, wonders
of those at the breakfast table.
Leave, somehow different and bedazzled.
The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes. Agatha Christie
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.”
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.
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.
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.
The colour is applied…rich variety of greens…acrylic paint.
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.
This morning while I sip my coffee, Peanut-the-cat curls up on my lap as I type…his neck melts over my arm so that I feel the purring before I hear it. His head hangs heavy and eyes watch the slow movement of letters across this page.
I am thinking about the art opening yesterday….and feel wonderful about the entire event. Five other artists, all men, were present for the opening and I could only describe our afternoon/evening exchange as ‘magical’.
My dear sister-artist-friend traveled up to Edmonton with me early in the morning and the road slipped under us and away from us as we shared much in the way of animated conversation, laughter and tears. We seemed to have been transported there. It was such a rich and peaceful time for me, something I have not relished for awhile now.
This morning I have been reading little articles and biographies on -line about the artists, who for the most part I only knew by their reputations, but now know in a more personal way. Brent Laycock stood with me and visited about his brilliant painting “Red Rose”. We spoke of many things, but most memorable for me, will be how he turned toward my work and said, “Your paintings are powerful.” I was taken aback when he responded to my work. He explored it, thought about it and asked me questions about my process. This is a man who late in the 80’s presented a workshop for me in a little community painting group called Calgary Community Painters! I respect him for his ethic and his dedication to his art. He is a humble man and his words are like red berries on grey bushes….precious and intense.
Bill Webb. Well…what can I say about him? He is an absolutely marvelous 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 thing to have him pass a hug through the open window and to wish us safe travel. W.H.Webb to Canada and the world……Bill to me.
Glen Semple and his wife Lisa were so wonderful! I had met Glen a long time ago and it was so nice to talk to him about things like gator board and airbrushes… 5-0 brushes. I heard about his transition in subject matter from 1990 to the present. I heard about his University experiences and the different influences on his life and his work. It was interesting to hear him speak about creating a balance in his life with family and dance lessons and such. He ate all of the shrimp off of the appetizer plate. Amazing how detailed and technical his work is. It is such a contrast to my own.
Walter Drohan and his wife seemed to be the most steeped in and knowledgable about this lifestyle. There is such wisdom and experience there! Walter plays poker with Ted Godwin and has quite a bit of history around Emma Lake….and some stories that were just alluded to regarding the Regina Five. We were making light of The Group of Seven, etc as we set our reservations at the Copper Pot Lounge , overlooking the legislative grounds in Edmonton. I spent some time this morning looking at works, both ceramic and painting, by Walter Drohan. He is clearly a master at his craft and it is a wonderful thing that I shared company with him.
Don Toney was so comedic and light-hearted and generous with his advice. I loved his direct approach and appreciated his willingness to mentor me immediately. He had so much to share with me regarding marketing and the ‘business’ side of painting. I will include notes on these things in other documents and refer to them as I go along. He and his wife Verna shared so many delightful stories about family and truly made us all feel a part of his circle. Delightful!
Dan mentioned in the presence of others that he believed my current work was some of the best he has seen for some time. I felt very much affirmed by his comments and very warm to be included in a circle of such amazing artists. He spoke very positively about Len Gibbs who was unable to attend the opening. He also chatted with a large group of us about the history of the commercial artist in Edmonton. Those stories are so interesting and help me to look at all of this within a ‘context’.
The day/evening caused me to feel so enriched, so proud and satisfied with my experience as a woman-artist. I have done well with my life and only hope that my good health will be sustained so that I can go forward in this relatively ‘young’ skin of mine and grow.
On the drive south…..home……I felt so tired…..but so blessed by the day. I had my friend at my side. We quietly chatted all of the way home….grateful for a full rich day!