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Q&A with Award Winner Web Bryant

November Morning by Web Bryant
“November Morning” by Web Bryant

This month’s return of the annual “’Scapes” landscape exhibit, features 143 scenes of our external world — vistas and details, representational and abstract. One such scene that caught juror Jonathan Linton’s eye was November Morning, a watercolor by Web Bryant. Linton awarded November Morning the Potomac Valley Watercolorists’ Award for the best watercolor in the exhibit, praising the piece as a relatable moment and the different elements working together: a figure and a structure within nature.

We asked Web to tell us more about the painting, his background as a newspaper illustrator, and his work in general.

What draws you to landscapes, and what would you say is most important to a successful landscape?
Web: My grandmother’s couch. Really! One of my early childhood memories is the fabric on her couch — a repeated image of a dirt road going through large trees. As far a successful landscape? It has to stop the viewer, and to connect with them at some personal level.

You come from a journalism background — how has that storytelling element informed your work? What role do you think stories play in landscapes, the theme of the show?
Representational art and journalism are based on the narrative. Winslow Homer started out as a newspaper illustrator covering the Civil War. His work always told a story. He is a starting point for me. Landscape painting works best for me when I can see and capture a place and time — say a sunrise on a cold beach.

What inspired this painting — does it depict an actual place or event?
I did this painting for a number of reasons, but the most personal was trying to capture blue sand. I grew up in a beach town, Virginia Beach. Natural dune lines in late autumn in morning light cast a blue shadow. That is what I wanted to capture. It is one of my “I’m going to remember this and paint it one day” paintings.

Read more after the jump!

Detail from “November Morning”

Do you typically work with watercolor? Why do you work in the medium(s) you do?
For me watercolor is fast. Earlier in my career, I used watercolors to paint on deadline. Then in the 1990s we went digital and I mastered painting in Photoshop. Now, with more time, I’ve been working a lot with oils and exploring the glazing techniques of the old masters. I would love to paint in oil the way I can in watercolor.

What was the transition from deadline-based journalism work like?
Newspapers are all about adrenaline. Painting is about capturing a moment. The former lets me chase a point of view or a piece of history; the latter lets me chase a muse.

I guess you could call me the painter of nouns.

What is your artistic process like? Other than landscapes, what subjects interest you these days?
I like to have three paintings working at all times, each in different states of dryness. I try to go to life drawing often, where I use charcoal and conté crayons. Then I seal those drawings with varnish and paint on top with oil. I go out plein air painting at least once a month. I like to paint people, places and things. I guess you could call me the painter of nouns.

Would you say a particular technical element is most important in your work — color, composition, etc.?
I have a list of more than 30 paintings I’d like to do. They all have working titles. If I look at my work of the last two years and that list, I’d say the common denominator would be directional light sources that have a luminous quality.

What do you want the viewer to come away with?
One of my works for their walls. Sorry, that was too easy. My work has a very romantic tilt. If people are going to remember, or even want to buy one of my paintings, they are going to connect with it on a personal level. If they like my paintings they also like part of how I see the world.

What are you working on now?
Urbanscapes of Washington. I’ll have two in the September show celebrating the Target Gallery’s 25 years. I spent more than 20 years on the 16th floor of the old USA Today building in Rosslyn. I looked out over the Potomac River and watched the sun move across this magic city. I want to capture with paint how I feel about this place.

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