Capturing the Spirit of the Times
By Gloria Houghland
From the time that Nashville native Sarah Webb was just a girl, she instinctively knew that she was destined to become an artist. At the age of 10, she distinctly remembers sitting at the family's kitchen table drawing while her mother cooked and talked to her breast-feeding sister-in-law. When her twenty-one-year-old brother entered the house and noticed that she was sketching the young mother nurturing the infant, he promptly reported this to their mother. She came over, saw exactly what Webb was drawing and admonished her son to leave his sister alone.
Webb hasn't stopped indulging her passion for figurative art since. To hear her tell it, that has always been her true passion and her greatest gift. Decades later, she remains fascinated by the beauty of the female form. Even today, Webb's realistic nudes comprise the vast majority of the artist's collection.
Following her high school graduation and a year-long wait for new husband, Gary Webb, to return from serving in Vietnam, the aspiring painter and the aspiring attorney who would also later become her manager enrolled together at the University of Tennessee. Their college days coincided with the heyday of the peace movement, so naturally the art major and the pre-law student took to the highways with gusto. Hitchhiking and backpacking extensively abroad, they quickly decided they would return to live in Europe someday soon.
With her name attached to an honors Bachelor of Arts degree and some post-graduate studies at Vanderbilt University, the artist and the attorney moved to London in 1983 and opened a studio. There she continued to explore her passion for figurative art, but also took to painting Europe's contemporary society scenes---the open-air cafes in London and Paris, England's Royal Ascot and the topless beaches in the south of France. The totality of the European experience influenced her, serving as her daily inspiration until 2004, when the world at large suddenly felt less safe.
Temporarily closing her studio in London, the Webbs relocated to Chicago. This move resulted in an unexpected and unique series of Chicago sunsets, viewed from her studio on the 57th floor just off Michigan Avenue, where the sun seemed to delicately balance on the lights, shadows and colors of the city. What Webb likes to refer to as painting the “Face of God.” After a number of years working in the Windy City, the Volunteer State seemed to be beckoning the Webbs to resettle in Nashville. They discovered a brand new Nashville with a far more vibrant artistic culture, vastly different from the city they had departed so long ago. Webb turned once again to her figurative studies of the modern woman. Webb says this collection truly has her heart. “It’s all about empowering women by expressing the beauty from within, not just the outer beauty. I really believe that the female form is one of God’s most beautiful creations, and I love capturing it on canvas,” Webb explains.
A physically fit, diminutive blonde with an outgoing personality, Webb is a master painter whose style is best described as contemporary realism or hyper-realism. While raised in the tradition of American realism, she remains committed to applying academic painting techniques to modern-day subject matter. What makes her style so recognizable is her strong emphasis on composition with a mastery of light, color, depth and half-tones. Her three-dimensional effect captures the true essence of whatever she is painting, imbuing it with enormous spirit and energy.
When asked how she located her stunning young models, she said she finds her models from all walks of life. She also confided that she once found one of her favorite models at the Kroger grocery store.
Webb is one of the lucky ones among us, having followed her heart from a tender young age. She has stayed the course and maintained a singular focus on painting. The rest is, of course, Webb’s own gratifying art history. For information, please visit www.sarahwebb.com.