Char Webster 50 Over Story
CEO to Award Winning Digital Artist
What has been an unfulfilling driving force in your life, now gone or transformed after 50?
The summer I was 14 years of age, I landed my first paying job — detasseling four acres of corn in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, for $100. Riding with a truckload of farmworkers, I was dropped off at the edge of a field each morning at dawn. I vanished for hours, yanking endless tassels from cornstalks several feet taller than I. Through early morning mist late into each boiling afternoon, I became cold and wet, then hot and filthy. Scratches and cuts covered a good part of my body by the end of each day. I didn’t care. Even then, it was all about the money.
Earning money continued to be a dominant focus for decades. I worked through college. I worked in-between college. I had a full-time job the minute I graduated. I entered the corporate world of marketing solutions because that’s where the “big bucks” were. I later bought or built companies for many years, knowing I had more control over the amount of revenue I could earn. Later, I re-entered the corporate world, rising to the top as a Chief Executive Officer. Eight years as a well-paid marketing consultant then completed my career before retirement. I was 66 years old.
Throughout all those years of work, many would say my key attributes were focus and fearlessness. Driven. The fruits of my efforts resulted in progressively higher-ranking jobs, many accolades, bigger homes, beautiful cars and clothes, plus expensive travel. There were endless accumulations, like a $13,000 piano I couldn’t even play. The thought that lots of money yields everything worthwhile in life – including my worth in the eyes of the world and in my own eyes – had been playing out my whole life. I should have been the walking definition of happiness, right? Then why, with the game done and won, did I feel empty, defeated, and devoid of joy?
What prompted a change?
On my first day of retirement, I literally had nowhere to go and nothing to do. There were no business issues to solve, nowhere I had to be, no timelines to meet, and no demands to fulfill. Most disturbing was the fact that I had absolutely nothing drawing me forward; nothing excited me personally. I realized that I had no idea of what to do with myself.
Uncomfortable as it felt, I started to consciously reduce the busyness I had always designed into daily activities, spending time instead completely alone and silent. I eventually realized that what I was missing was creative expression. The hunt for self-discovery began.
How did you go about it?
As a hobby, photography had always provided enjoyment. I was lucky: I had a starting point. I was a precision photographer, which means the end goal was always about perfection. The subject focus, like a tiger, had to be situated in an “ideal setting,” photographed with “total clarity,” and a “true reflection of reality.” I now started looking at others’ work, determining to what I felt drawn and asking myself why. I discovered that what attracted me, again and again, was not an image of reality but an image that artistically depicted a story. I joined local and international communities of photographers who were pursuing like interests. I initiated ongoing dialogues about tools and techniques that the best digital artists used. I tested different software programs to see which effects could help shape an image and its story. I practiced and practiced and practiced.
Now I start every morning doing what I love, as I feel it sets the tone for the coming day. I glance through hundreds of my images, contenders for the “smile test”: if I find myself smiling at one in particular, I begin to work with it. I know there’s something special I’m feeling about the image. My goal is to develop artistically what my inner eye has seen although I never know at the beginning of the process what the outcome will be. I know that the artwork has been completed only when I find myself smiling again.
What difference did it make to you personally and to others?
Presenting a powerful, positive, unique interpretation of what’s good, precious, and magical in our world is my mission as a digital artist. My goal is to entertain, inspire, and educate myself, as well as others. Beyond personal satisfaction, I am thrilled that my art has won awards and even prompted several purchases. I very much appreciate that it brings happiness to others. A Facebook follower recently shared, “Oh, how I love this!! So beautiful and brings back memories of my grandma!” One triumph with this new venture into custom art was a message from another follower saying, “Char, you are inching more and more into artistic originality. I can feel your confidence growing as you master your new skills. It is so fun to be a spectator along for the ride!”
It’s fun for me, as well, to be a spectator along for the ride into my thoughts and creativity. I’m daily filled with joy as I consistently move forward towards creative self-discovery.
What were the keys to effective change?
Beyond those identified, the most critical aspect of seeking personal fulfillment is what I now choose to incorporate into my thoughts and activities every day. I continuously remind myself that my life is simply a mirror of how and what I think. I have total control. I wake up each morning and say to myself, “Good morning, you fantastic artist!” I listen to tapes, read books, and attend courses, all towards empowering myself and shifting the way I look at the world. I actively keep my body fit and healthy. I surround myself with friends who inspire and motivate me to be the best me. And, finally, I constantly glance at two highly motivational signs on my desk: “What do I want to experience?” and “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?”
What support tools do you highly recommend for others?
- Self-help, inspirational and transformational books, and products | Hay House | https://www.hayhouse.com/. I am now listening to One Hundred Empowering Thoughts when I walk every day. I also highly recommend a book by Jeff Olson, The Slight Edge: Turning Simple Disciplines into Massive Success.
- Health | 10,000 steps a day, BodyBlade: https://www.bodyblade.com/, Essentrics online: https://essentrics.com/index.html | Health Coach | Personal Trainer
- Travel and phenomenal photography training | https://spotlightphotosafaris.com/
- Daily motivational messages online | https://www.tut.com/
- Photography, training and digital art inspiration | CreativeLive: https://www.creativelive.com/ and several photography groups.
- Empowerment Events| https://www.sharp.com/womens-conference/