By Brian Bixler Florida Today, June 17, 1990|
Pamela Webb's artwork mirrors the watery world around her.
Vividly colored tropical fish swim through her watercolor prints. Wondrous conch shells glimmer with a pearly luster as though they have just been plucked from the surf. A Lighthouse stands tall and sturdy. Gentle waves seem to flow from her paper canvases.
For Webb to paint such scenes is as natural as light reflecting on water.
The 41-year-old artist and her husband Don, 47, live 10 months of the year off the Bahamas islands on the 38-foot sailboat, Oases. The vessel is not just a seaworthy home. It is a floating studio in which Pam's lively watercolor prints have become a springboard for a line of hand-crafted greeting cards sold to free-spending tourists on Abaco and Exuma.
He's a Vietnam veteran who returned from the war with a partial disability. She's a former secretary, who dabbled in painting for a hobby. They married 21 years ago while living in Maryland and shortly after, moved to Brevard County Florida, where Pam was raised. Her mother is author Elaine Murray Stone of Melbourne, Florida.
The Webbs both artists, have lived a quintessentially Bohemian lifestyle for the past 14 years.
"We don't know what's going to happen next," Don says, with a carefree lift in his voice.
His wife echoes the sentiment: "That's the way we live our lives-one day at a time."
And that's how they built the Oases. One day at a time piece by piece. A photo album, tightly tucked away on a shelf that lines the sleeping quarters in the boat chronicles a project that started as two parallel stripes of lumber in the back yard of their Indian Harbour Beach home. A few pages in, the skeletal framework that forms the hull of the boat materializes. Turn a few more, and one sees photos of the massive crane necessary to maneuver the completed hull to an upright position.
"Don had built houses before and figured he could build a boat," Pam recalls.
Don did, indeed, build his ark. But it wasn't as easy as the couple first thought. They laugh now at their naiveté. They estimated six months should be enough time to craft the boat the launch in. The project took five years.
"I think our families got more discouraged than we did," Pam recalls, "But we never lost the dream. We just kept on."
Finally, launch day.
"Of course, all of our friends had been watching the progress. All of our neighbors stayed home from work to watch this," Don says, pointing to a picture of the boat being hoisted out of the back yard in 1975.
Once the sailboat was in the water, the Webbs sold their house and came aboard for the long haul, designing the boat's interior with room for a library of books, a stereo tape player, and extensive collection of cassettes, a television, VCR and computer. This month, a cellular telephone was installed.
With no particular destination in mind, they started sailing the Florida Keys and eventually the Bahamas.
A graduate of Eau Gallie High School, Pam studied art at Brevard Community College and Brevard Art Center and Museum in Melbourne. But it wasn't until the couple's first trip to St. Martin in the Antilles that her hobby became a livelihood. As a means of augmenting Don's government check form his disability, she started paining portraits of yachts for other "cruisers," as they call themselves.
She says the isolation of living on a boat has helped her improve as an artist. Each Mary, the Webbs return to Brevard and Pam studies with such local art teachers as Burt Van Scoy, Marilyn Benson, and Marlis Newman. Last month, she studied with Mona Jordan.
"I really didn't discover my artistic talents until we were silin on the boat," she recalls. "I think that's the main reason why I've been able to develop my talent. Because I had a lot of free time."
"The islands really inspire me. I just see things constantly that would be a beautiful watercolor prints. I just don't have time to paint them all."
To date, her work has been exhibited at BACAM, the Island House Gallery in Miami, The Lyford Cay Art Gallery in Nassau; and her watercolor, "The Purple Rose," is included in the National Museum of Women in the Arts' permanent collection in Washington, D.C., Last month, she was honored as a Distinguished Alumna of Brevard Community College, in Brevard County Florida.
Webb's art teases the eyes and mind with visions of aqua blue water, billowy white sails and dreamy, tropical seascapes. And while her paintings have commanded as much as $2,000 from patrons, a sideline business of making greeting cards has proven lucrative. Don photographs all her watercolors and affixes the prints to recycled line paper. The cards are then signed and tilted by the watercolor artist and sell for as much as $3.50 in boutiques and galleries, such as Kennedy Studios in the Greenpeace shop in Key West.
So far, the Webbs supply watercolor prints to some 40 outlets from North Carolina to the Bahamas.
With such success, the Webbs say they don't plan to chart a new course for their lives anytime soon. They own and maintain a house in Grant, which they purchased for security in later years. But this week, after a brief stay at Indian Harbour Marina, they'll set sail on Oases back to the Abaco Bahamas.
"We wanted this lifestyle more than anything," Don says. "People thought we were nuts for the first four or five years. Now they're all envious."