Painted wishes

When Dick and Edie Webb send Christmas cards, they come with a personal touch — from the paintbrush of a sales executive turned artist

Dick Webb displayed his 2021 Christmas card image.
By 
MITCH MAERSCH
Ozaukee Press staff

Just over a decade ago, friends and relatives of Dick and Edie Webb got a scenic seasonal surprise in the mail.

The Town of Port Washington couple’s Christmas greetings didn’t include the usual snowman scene from a box of cards that Edie always picked out.

This time, the card depicted a cozy home in a winter setting, but the small text is what everyone noticed.

At the bottom right was Dick’s name with the month and year.

The artwork was done by Dick.

That alone wouldn’t have been all that unusual, but members of the 125 households receiving the personalized touch didn’t know Dick painted.

“I never was an artist,” he said. “Until 11 years ago, I didn’t do any artwork. We didn’t tell family and friends it was coming.”

He and his wife of 55 years, Edie, even kept it a secret from their daughter.

“When the cards would go out we’d get telephone calls,” Edie said.

In 2010, facing the prospect of another Wisconsin winter limiting comfortable time outdoors, the marketing retiree was rather bored.

“I wanted something to do,” Dick said.

That’s when he signed up for a painting class at the Port Washington Senior Center. He enjoyed the hobby and the camaraderie with others who had the same interest.

But Dick didn’t stop there. He took more classes at the Cedarburg Cultural Center.

Then he got really serious. He continued his instruction under professional artists and teachers at the Peninsula Institute of Art in Fish Creek. Three and four-day workshops required one finished piece of work students developed on their own by the end of each day.

“You learn a lot of techniques,” Dick said. “They teach more in depth.”

 Dick went right to work, using his freshly tuned skill for his new passion.

Before long, a question arose.

“I had a stack of paintings,” he said, “and I thought, ‘What the heck am I going to do with this stuff?’”

 Many of Dick’s 8-by-10-inch acrylic on canvas works were framed and placed around the Webbs’ home.

“We always find room,” Edie said.

Then Dick decided to have the paintings sized down and turned into Christmas cards.

 In 2017, Dick’s subject was a sled, the one he received as a present for his 12th birthday.

The sled has stayed with the family ever since, including at a residence in Illinois.

 Now, it leans on a tree in their front yard during the holidays and is illuminated by a spotlight each night.

“It’s tired,” Dick said.

Edie’s love of snowmen has inspired Dick to include at least one round snowy friend on each card since 2018

He also includes a red cardinal on each card, inspired by the many feathered friends the Webbs see outside their condominium.

Like any artist, Dick has many works that won’t see the light of day — works he started that didn’t come together.

“I’ve got a stack of those, too,” he said. “I’ve even painted over some of them and kept going.”

Some of Dick’s cards take several months to paint and some take a week.

He works in his basement, poring over details such as if and where a shadow should be added.

Sometimes, he has to reorganize his workspace. Sasha the family cat, who mostly lives in the basement, on occasion will rearrange Dick’s art supplies. She also once ruined a 5,000-piece puzzle that Dick was a few pieces from finishing. He ended up putting it all back in the box, Edie said.

Inspiration to start a painting for the cards each season can be a lengthy process, but Dick has a deadline. It takes one week to print the cards, then Edie has to address them and send them out. They usually arrive in early December.

“You’ve got to be motivated to do it,” Dick said.

His wife helped with that this year.

“I had to give him a swift kick,” she said.

Pursuing his creative side is an escape for Dick.

“To me it’s kind of relaxing,” he said, “and the pride of being able to create something.”

Dick, a Grafton native, worked in sales and marketing for decades, both for Bolens Corp. in Port Washington and Tecumseh Products Co. in Grafton.

He considered retiring from painting homemade cards as well, but his customers aren’t buying it.

 “I was saying this might be my last year,” Dick said. “People aren’t accepting that.”

Edie, a retired home economics teacher, has breakfast with her former coworkers once a month. They look forward to the cards every December, she said.

“That’s what Christmas is. It’s tradition,” said Edie, who fills their home with charming Christmas decor and started her holiday baking last weekend.

The couple chooses a different verse for the cards each year. Edie said it’s always one that encompasses all the sentiments of the season.

This year’s reads: “May the beauty of the season bring you peace. May the spirit of the season bring you hope. Happy holidays.”

Dick is happy his hobby can help deliver that message.

His embrace of that avocation is still a source of surprise. “You never know what’s hiding inside you,” he said.

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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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