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Finding Inspiration

for Your Art......

Anna Maria Island, Florida



-Talk With Other Artists

One of the things I like to do to get excited about making art is to talk with other artists.  I always learn something new and take away with me a new perspective. The same goes for being interviewed by other artists.  Simple questions can prompt you to see things in your creative process.

Recently, I had the honor of being interviewed by artist, Bob Brown. I've posted the interview below.  You can also visit his site to see interviews with other artists:

Here's the Interview:

Part of our mission at Bob Brown Art is to make art more accessible by talking with artists about their creative process. We’ve also talked with gallery owners to get their perspectives on the art scene. This week, we are lucky enough to talk to someone who can give us insight into both worlds. Deborah Webster is a talented mixed media artist who lives on Anna Maria Island, on Florida’s Gulf Coast. She is inspired by the water that surrounds this charming beach town, and her work is clearly informed by the movement of water. She is also the owner of Artspace Anna Maria Island, a working studio and gallery. Today she shares with us what moves her as an artist and how that, in turn, informs her business.

Tell us about Artspace Anna Maria. What inspired you start it, and
what was the process of opening it like?

Artspace Anna Maria is a working studio and gallery. We're located in a beautiful loft space on the second floor of a large building across from the Anna Maria City Pier. Visitors include local island residents as well as tourists from all over the world. The space is ideal for creating and viewing art. 15 foot high ceilings, french doors front and back with balconies, and a view of Tampa Bay. I feel so fortunate to work in this space and share it with fellow artists and art appreciators.

Originally, I was looking just for studio space because my little beach cottage could not accommodate my larger paintings and I needed a space where I could be messy. After several months of searching, I eventually found this building. It had been empty for three years. I think it was waiting for me! It was so large that I asked a couple of artist friends to join me, helping with costs. After just a month, I realized that visitors to the island were curious about what was going on up here in the loft. Whenever I left the french doors open, people would appear and ask if they could come in.

So….. Artspace was born! I created an LLC, purchased the space, put up a couple of signs, made some business cards and here we are six months later. Visitors love to walk around our studio spaces and see the "messy" side of art. Most people don't realize how art is made and the amount of work that goes into each piece. I have comfy chairs around and a tiki bar with ice water. People come in and end up staying. I encourage visitors to ask questions and make themselves at home. Quite often, they will purchase art, sometimes art that's still wet! We had a grand opening a few months ago and it was attended by over 350 visitors.

Artspace Anna Maria Grand Opening - March 2012


Who are the Resident Artists?

My husband, Lex Halakan and I are the Resident Artists, maintaining a full time studio in the space. We have such a creative atmosphere because we share ideas, critique one another’s work and join together to welcome visitors. Although we work in different media, we focus on water as our inspiration. Living at water's edge, we incorporate colors, textures and moods from our surroundings on our little island of Anna Maria in Florida.

There is a wide range of art in your gallery – you showcase art in a variety of styles and media. Why was this important to you?
I learn something new from the diversity of artforms I see every day. As an example, although Joanne Taylor Brown is a ceramic artist, we share ideas, materials and experiments with one another. We are all becoming better artists from the interaction. My mission is to provide a space that encourages artists to take risks, experiment and produce new work. Artspace exhibits and promotes contemporary visual art produced
by emerging and established artists. All levels of artistic experience are welcome.

You offer more than just a gallery space. You also offer classes, guest speakers and workshops. In your opinion, does this help demystify art and make it feel more accessible to the community at large?
Absolutely, yes. The classes and workshops give people a chance to “hang” out in the studio/gallery and become an artist for a while. Our Studio Associates started as students and now feel comfortable working at their own pace in the studio. Also, the more often a visitor stops in, the more likely they are to bring friends and appreciate thelife of an artist. Quite a few visitors will come back with their grandchildren to share the

I’ve hired a fantastic artist to help me with the classes. Alexi Lillis teaches all the day classes in drawing and painting. The students love her! I teach workshops at night. Usually, a group of friends will get together, bring some wine, and learn a new technique. The most recent workshop was on palette knife painting. We also offer staff development art workshops and encourage visits from local arts groups.

Tell us more about the Artspace Challenges you issue through the gallery.
Several times a year we offer the Artspace Challenge encouraging members of our community to create art inspired by a conceptual challenge. Everyone is welcome. I encourage all skill levels to participate. The atmosphere is non-threatening, so we get a lot of entries.

The first Challenge was to create a piece of work from recycled materials that was less than 5 inches in any dimension. This was difficult at first for our community since theywere used to seeing art made from traditional media. The size limit was small becausethere were so many entries. I offered opportunities for people to stop in and I helped them prepare a piece to enter. We had many people who had never participated in an art show. I also publicized the Challenge on facebook and received many fantastic
pieces from all over the country.

You can see the entries at:
The current Artspace Challenge is: Black & White
Create a Black & White work of art that is less than 8 inches. Any media.
This show will open November 9th. So far, we have received entries from as far away as South Africa, Germany, Croatia and Holland, as well as all over the US.

You are both a working artist and a gallery owner. Do you find it difficult to balance the demands of running a business with the time it takes to create your art?
Sometimes I get a little overwhelmed because I’m trying to promote the gallery and my own personal art, too. So, I have learned to compartmentalize my time focusing on studio time during the day and computer work in the early mornings and evenings. Because I open the studio to the public, I am there already, so I get a lot of work done. Also, I work on several pieces at the same time.

©2010 Deborah Webster, “Convergence”, mixed
media, 36x48”

What inspired you to get into art in the first place?
I have always thought of myself as an artist since childhood. I wanted to be a Walt Disney artist originally. I loved my boxes of crayons! I went to a private elementary school and did not have art (can you believe that?). In college, I was a psych major until one day I decided that I needed a job and wouldn’t it be nice to be an art teacher, even though I had never been in an art class. I transferred to a college that offered art
education and soon after graduating, I got my first job. I made art along with my students and created a large portfolio of work. The students attended my art openings and for thirty years, I walked my talk. I was a teacher and an artist.

©2012, Deborah Webster, “Bubbly”, mixed media, 36x36”

Tell us more about your artistic background.
My undergraduate training focused on psychology and art. I hold a master's degree in painting and have received various grants and awards for arts-in-education programs developed during my teaching career in a New York state inner city high school. I was the recipient of an NEA sponsored residency at the Art Institute of Chicago for two summers and in 2007, was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to study aboriginal art as I
traveled through Australia.

My work has been exhibited in several solo shows as well as numerous juried and invitational exhibits in local and national galleries. In 2002, I was the subject of a PBS documentary, "Horses: Saratoga Style". I lived in Hawaii for several years as an Artist-in-Residence both at the Kalani Honua Cultural Center on the Big Island and the Keapana Center in Kauai. Currently, my work will be featured in an anthology published in Australia, “Love Is” and will be part of an international traveling exhibit in New York, London, Paris, Dubai, Tokyo and Hong Kong. My adventures and experiences in Hawaii, Australia, and most recently, on the island of Anna Maria serve as the inspiration for my work.

©2010 Deborah Webster, “Full of
Things That Have Never Been”,
mixed media, 24x40”

What is your creative process like? From where do you draw your inspiration, and how do you begin to instill that into your art?
My work embodies the unique patterns and energy systems created by the movement of water, air and other natural elements. Abstract images are formed in my imagination as I walk the beach every day. Using multiple layers of various materials in my environment to express the complex energy connection within the water, I combine delicate handmade papers, rich oil pigments, and glass beads with a variety of recycled objects. Surface colors are created using many layers of oil glazes to capture the colors of the water which surrounds me.

As I work with these materials, I focus on the ways patterns interact throughout the layering process until suddenly the image in front of me comes to life. My thinking now has visual form. The result is a richly textured and layered surface that symbolizes the energy in moving water. My current body of work is called, Dancing Water. It addresses the joy and playfulness of sunshine, gentle breezes and, of course, the swirling, concentric patterns inherent in the natural ebb and flow of water moving through the streams of my experience.

©2012 Deborah Webster, “Bustle”, mixed media, 12x12”

Has running your own gallery given you more appreciation for art in general?
Yes, I find myself more open to all kinds of creative expression and have a great desire to help and promote emerging artists. I can see quickly who is serious and really trying to express their ideas. I love when children come into the gallery and always listen to their insightful comments. You never know when you will learn something new! My tastes in art are becoming more eclectic as I listen to artists expressing their ideas and as I welcome all skill levels to be part of my space.

Deborah Webster

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