Every person perceives the world differently
than the next. The great gift an artist possesses is the
ability to accurately document, not just what the eye sees,
but also what the heart and brain interpret. Perusing the
portfolio of a visual artist is an opportunity to experience
a slice of the world through that person’s eyes.
The vision Carolyn Webb depicts in her paintings is one
I want to live in.
Webb, who paints primarily in watercolor and acrylic, is
difficult to peg into a category since her style and subject
matter range considerably. The unifying element in her
work is the welcome with which each piece greets the viewer.
She achieves this feeling by imbuing her art with strong
color, agreeable subjects and a feeling of nostalgia.
The remarkable feat is that Webb manages to create these
pleasant depictions of people, still lifes and landscapes
without crossing over into cheap sentimentalism. Her paintings
neither put the viewer on the defensive nor do they use
easy tricks to pull on the heartstrings, but rather they
seem to say “isn’t this a warm world, even
when it’s not.”
Webb never had any formal training in art, though good
hand-eye coordination and patience led to jobs involving
design and illustration. The United States Geographic Society
(USGS) recognized this natural disposition in her back
in the 1970’s. Having returned to her native Denver,
Colorado from overseas service in the Peace Corps, she
was employed by the USGS as a topographer, which included
creating painstakingly detailed contour maps.
experience led to other jobs that unwittingly honed her
drawing skills. She worked for an oil company as a geological
draftsman, the only woman within the company who wasn’t
employed as a secretary or receptionist. She also worked
as an illustrator for a land architect during a large environment
study, which included rendering accurate drawings of endangered
When the opportunity to own her own insurance agency arose,
she took it and spent the next twenty years running it
while raising three daughters with her husband, Bill.
A turn of events in her personal life galvanized Webb to
sketch as a diversion, discovering artistic skills she
had inadvertently developed in her early professional life.
She began painting with watercolors, often considered the
most difficult medium, in part because of the difficulty
to control color saturation.
Webb’s first painting, a still life of a bouquet
of flowers against a deep purple background, reveals her
innate ability to create a flow of energy in her composition
and an uninhibited use of color.
This comfort with a wide palette surfaces in most of her
work, and can be seen in the rosy cheeks of the young boy’s
portrait, the plaid underlay of a red rock landscape or
the luscious cantaloupe in a kitchen still life.
Another element that surfaces in these paintings is a feeling
of nostalgia, which appears in the choice of subject or
its arrangement. In a pastel depicting a grandmother touching
foreheads with a baby, the inclusion of the child’s
hand reaching for the older woman’s face gives the
moment life and warmth. In “Silverthorn Church,” Webb
depicts a white clapboard church and steeple in an overgrown
garden, using strong strokes and shades of green that defy
a trite sentimental rendering.
scene implies a story behind the captured moment, and Webb
enjoys calling herself an illustrator. She harbors a great
admiration for one of America’s most well known and
successful illustrators, Norman Rockwell, and what attracts
her to his work clearly surfaces in her own.
In her current series of paintings, and she enjoys exploring
techniques and ideas through series, Webb is intentionally
limiting her palette. When she and her husband moved to
Moab in 2003, they lived in the community of LaSal for
almost a year, where she witnessed a cattle drive that
inspired the paintings she will be entering in the Moab
Western Art Show and Competition that will be exhibited
at the Moab Arts and Recreation Center (MARC) this month.
this series, she has limited herself to using only two
or three colors, diluting, layering and mixing them to
create depth and shadow in the painting. She manages to
evoke the warmth of the sun, the feel of the dust and the
sound of pounding hoofs in these watercolors, illustrating
the energy of the West.
Webb has been active in the arts community, starting in
Denver where she began painting. She is now involved in
developing Moab as a destination not just for artists but
also for admirers and collectors of art. Parlaying the
organizational skills she developed running her own business
for two decades, she is contributing in launching annual
events to showcase local artists, such as the Studio Art
Tour and the upcoming Art-at-Home Show.
Spawned by the success of last year’s use of a newly-built
unsold home on Arches Drive as a venue for an arts show,
this latter exhibit will feature a well-selected group
of Moab visual artists whose works will be displayed within
eight new homes over two weekends.
The list of Webb’s accomplishments, artistic and
otherwise, testifies to her exuberance. This vibrancy and
belief that the world, though not perfect, is perfectly
beautiful, full of light, warmth, energy and tenderness,
permeates her paintings. Seeing through Webb’s eyes
is a pleasant, uncomplicated experience that leaves the
viewer feeling satisfied, not manipulated.