With 15 years of experience in watercolor painting and more than 50 years in ceramics, Barbara Sampson has mastered her craft and discovered a love of teaching.

Her paintings and ceramics come together as a lovely body of work, perhaps because she understands the important balance between practicality and taking creative liberties to fulfill her vision.

“When I talk to my students, I talk to them about the development of an artist,” the 75-year-old Westport resident says. “When you first start out you are tied to reality because you’re trying to learn skills, so you’re doing a lot of copying of what’s there. But your goal as you move through the steps is to become a storyteller like a novelist is. … It’s a lot more fun to tell a story my way.”

Sampson has been creative since she was very young, with aspirations of becoming an architect when she went to college. However, she graduated with a master’s degree in art education from the University of South Florida, going on to teach public school, college courses, adult courses at Grays Harbor Community College, and free classes for young children with artistic aspirations.

Photo by Katie McGregor

However, Sampson is currently focusing less on teaching and more on creating her own work in her studio on the Westport beachfront. The inspiration she takes from her coastal surroundings is obvious in the scenes she paints and the motifs and colors she incorporates into her ceramic pieces.

Her beautifully detailed depictions of lighthouses, oceanside cliffs and coastal towns are recognizable and feel familiar. But Sampson rarely paints a scene as it is in real life. She prioritizes composition, taking small pieces of reality and fitting them together into a final cohesive scene.

“The importance is in the composition of the painting, not the reality of the location,” Sampson explains.

Her ceramic pieces, most of which are functional pieces that feature birds or aquatic creatures, have similar themes.

“I always put thought into how the piece is going to be used; what shape it should be to be useful, how it feels in your hands,” she says. Sampson’s meticulous nature also extends to the colored glazes she uses, always making sure that food will look appealing on the dishes she creates.

Barbara Sampson’s work can be found at Nelson Crab Inc. in Tokeland, Tim Rossow & Associates Art Gallery in Ocean Shores, and, occasionally, Stitches Quilt and Craft in Westport. She can be contacted at bsampson@aol.com.