Colleen Webster – Keeping it Simple

By Sue Dolamore

Colleen Webster "Sunset Ablaze"

Colleen Webster “Sunset Ablaze”

Colleen studied art in college in the 90’s. There she received the foundations of drawing and painting but had not done any plein air work. At the time, this traditional form of so many masters was considered passé. Then in the late 90’s she made the acquaintance of Linda Cheek, who invited her to paint outside. ( Her passion was ignited and she spent time with Linda, painting and learning the basics and nuances of plein air painting. From the beginning, there was clearly something about plein air work that was excitingly alive. Colleen could see this in Linda’s work and wanted to know how to capture THAT! One notable piece of advice from Linda was “keep it simple”. After many years of practice, those techniques became second nature and Colleen found herself increasingly relaxed. This made way for expansiveness.

Much of direct painting is learning to see and recording the information. Using the tool of observation and training the eyes to see the drawing, value, and color. Starting with a drawing on canvas then moving to painting, Colleen centers herself, gets into the flow and lets the magic happen. Its a bit of a meditation. Seeing accurately and then selective of what the painting will contain.

The physical world is a thin veil. There is so much that happens “behind the scenes” of life. We are more interconnected than it appears on the surface. The magic, the intangible, the poetry, the romance and the ethereal are lurking. Capturing the essence is as much importance as depicting the object or scene. If you remain authentic to your vision and paint from the heart you will allow your own originality.

Colleen considers painting an exercise in personal awareness for her to check, “What is her state of being as she paints and what is her purpose as she begins?” When she is centered, balanced, authentic and paying attention the multidimensional aspects begin to emerge. The awareness of the ALIVENESS is more prominent. In this state, she is able to sift out what is not needed, keeping only the parts useful in depicting the magic. She admits that this is a journey that never ends. There are new explorations and discoveries all along the way.

She does not pick up a brush daily because she does not have a desire to. Her life is a balance of things that she enjoys. She styles hair, gardens, socializes, enjoys her family, takes time for self care and yes, she paints. Each of these things, in balance, feed the other, making all things richer. She gets out and paints a couple of times a month when all the conditions are right.

In choosing her painting location, Colleen looks for subject matter that feels good to her, frequently not knowing exactly why she is drawn to an area. She loves the Biltmore estate and finds places there that have an otherworldliness that is appealing to capture.

Along with her stand up easel, she has an over the steering wheel easel that makes it easy for her to paint in her car in all kinds of places and weather conditions. (Though this may be different from hers, it is one example.

Her palette usually consists of a cool and warm of each of the primaries, along with white and black. She sometimes includes veridian green and is recently playing with some premixed grays.

Once set up to paint, she is not systematic. She works intuitively, beginning that process of editing, extracting the most essential elements. She hopes to pass along to other artists, that same advice that has helped her evolve all through her years as a plein air painter, “Keep it Simple!”