By Melanie Patterson
The North Jefferson News
A Gardendale artist is making waves in the world of art.
Kevin Webster’s current project is a painting commissioned by collector Jack Warner, owner of the Westervelt-Warner Museum of American Art in Tuscaloosa.
The painting is actually a copy of one that Warner saw during an art show in June at the Jenniferharwellart Studio and Gallery in Homewood.
Warner wanted to buy the painting then and there, but Webster couldn’t sell it because it didn’t belong to him. He created the art while enlisted in the U.S. Army and the painting still belongs to the military. The Army had loaned the picture to Webster for the art show.
“He fell in love with this piece,” said Webster in his studio on Tuesday morning, gesturing to the half-finished copy of the original painting.
The copy is the same size as the original: 54-by-37 inches.
Even though it is not complete, one can clearly see the painting is a contemporary military battle scene. The scene depicts solders in Iraq during the 1990s Gulf War.
Webster, age 43, said that Warner told him he wants the painting in order to fill out his collection of American military art.
Warner’s well-known collection of art contains paintings, sculptures and artifacts from the American Revolution, the Civil War and other significant moments in American history, according to the museum’s Web site.
“He said my painting finished out the story we’re in right now,” said Webster. “It’s part of American history, whether you agreed with the Gulf War or not.”
Webster said he was excited when Warner approached him about buying the painting.
“I am honored to be in his collection,” Webster said.
Warner was scheduled to meet Webster at his Gardendale home on Tuesday, but had to cancel. Warner was also unavailable for comment by press deadline.
Webster is well-qualified to paint battle scenes that will go down in history.
He enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps through the delayed-entry program when he graduated from Gardendale High School in 1983.
The day after his four-year enlistment in the Marines ended, Webster joined the U.S. Army.
He spent a total of 21 years in the military. He served with the 101st Airborne Division and the 2nd Infantry Division, traveling to Korea, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iraq.
In the Marines, he was an aircraft electrician. In the Army, he served as a helicopter mechanic and retired as a first sergeant.
It was in the Army that he began to become known as an artist. Though the Army Artist Program, Webster was commissioned to paint many pictures for the military, many of which are at the Pentagon and at military museums throughout the country.
He called his job as a combat artist “a side thing.”
The only formal art training that Webster has received was from his high-school art teacher in Gardendale, Debra Hudson. He still uses techniques that Hudson taught him, such as how to shade objects to make them look real.
Webster said his talent comes from his grandfather, Lloyd DePratu of Montana. DePratu’s father was good friends with the famous Western artist Charles Russell. Russell taught DePratu to paint, and DePratu in turn taught Webster.
Webster has strong memories of sitting outdoors with his grandfather, who pointed out lighting and shading as the sun shifted.
As for his favorite medium, Webster has painted in oil most of his life. But he has recently expanded to acrylic for certain paintings.
Upon retirement from the military in 2004, Webster got a management job at a Birmingham company, but missed the structure of the military.
He found that structure again in August 2006 when he began working as a police dispatcher at the Homewood Police Department.
“I can paint in my off-time - in the evenings and on weekends,” said Webster.
Webster has branched out from military paintings. One series he’s working on is called “Nosey Cows.” Webster said the paintings are flying off the easels at the Jenniferharwellart Studio.
Another project he’s working on is called Daily Painting. Webster creates a new painting every day and posts it online with comments.
The June 2008 art show where he met Warner was his first art show. He will also have paintings in another art show, called Cow Show, at the studio on March 6, 5-9 p.m. According to Webster, Warner will serve as a judge during that art show.
To learn more about Webster, visit www.kevinwebsterart.com, dailypaintingskevinwebster.blogspot.com or www.jenniferharwellart.com.
To learn more about the Westervelt-Warner Museum of American Art, visit www.warnermuseum.org.
By Melanie Patterson
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