Elphinstone: The artists of Pratt Road (part 1)

It recently struck me how many great artists there are on Pratt Road! I mentioned this to the first artist I visited – Karen Webb. She observed that they all lived in funky old houses along this historic road. This is the first in my summer series about these creative souls in our midst. 

Karen lives in a late 1800s cabin that has been added on to many times. After being greeted by her two dogs and two cats, I followed her up a fluorescent lime-green stairwell to an orange art studio piled high with prints, paints and brushes. Although offered an arts scholarship in the U.S., Karen chose to go into teaching instead. She told me her teaching career spanned 35 years; not surprisingly, teaching art was her favourite subject. Her first 10 years as a teacher was spent in Vancouver where she taught in Arts Network Schools that emphasized art, music and performance. 

When her family moved to Pratt Road in 1988 she was soon teaching at Cedar Grove Elementary School. Nellie Gray, a teaching colleague at Cedar Grove, often came into her classroom at the end of the day to admire her blackboards, covered in the designs Karen drew as a way to emphasize concepts being taught. Ten years ago, she began taking art courses with Mary-Jean Brown, who encouraged her artistic talents, and that’s when she jumped in with both feet. Karen paints what she is passionate about, inspired by anything with a story to tell. She mainly paints in acrylics, but uses other mediums like “modge podge,” well named for being a combination of photos and painting. It’s a technique she used for a fun scene inside a bus with unusual icons representing parts of a play that it was used in. 

An impetus that ignited her deeper journey into art was the Pulling Together organization that benefitted her son who paddled with the group. Her gorgeous painting of the tents used by participants on that expedition graces the staircase up to her studio. When I asked her about it, Karen said painting that led her to pursue art “with newfound confidence, learning to embrace my creativity as something positive. It was very powerful and stands as a constant reminder that we need to be open to many journeys in our lives.” 

An eclectic artist, Karen paints everything from buildings to scenes to fauna like cats, crabs and starfish, even people. A large beautiful painting of the gazebo at the Gibsons wharf, inspired by a Dolf Vermeulen photo, presides over her studio. Karen says she found it “particularly powerful as the Chief is centered in the background, looking down on and protecting our wee town of Gibsons.” 

She has participated in the Art Crawl and is considering entering again – she has beautiful art cards that were good sellers. Currently she is working on illustrating her children’s book that combines a Christmas theme and volunteer firefighters. Who knew? (I did, because I interviewed her husband Graham, a volunteer firefighter, for a column last year.) Look for it later this year. I took a sneak peek at some of the illustrations, and they’re great! Contact Karen by email at kwebb@dccnet.com if you’d like to reserve a copy or check out her website at karenbrucewebbart.com 

To get your Elphinstone community news publicized contact me at: author.ggneilson@gmail.com

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